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The .35 Whelen in Zimbabwe - Al Borchardt

Over a period of several days, seven baits were taken by five different leopard - as far as we could tell. We sat up many afternoons and evenings, but no luck. After eight days of trying, a big male leopard came. It was on July 18. We let him feed for a few minutes, which was a time of almost unbearable excitement and tension. Phillip touched my arm twice: this was it! After the shot the leopard moved about 15 yards up a small embankment into heavy bush and high grass. We found him dead. The bullet went through his left shoulder, destroying everything in between and exiting on the far side: good bullet performance. A feeling, hard to describe, took over. It was a happy but also sad moment. There lay that magnificent cat, a big male, weighing in at 160 lb later on a scale. Needless to say it took me a long time to fall asleep that night.

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It was a long, beautiful drive north to Matetsi. After arriving at the Matetsi river camp, we proceeded to secure baits and scouted the area for lion signs. One of the baits was taken overnight, and we sat over it the following afternoon. It was very exciting to see a pride of lion approaching. Among them was a large, old lioness. Phillip whispered, “You better take her, before it gets too dark to shoot!” I knew which one he meant. The bullet hit in the left shoulder. The 250 grain Nosler exited after penetrating diagonally through the animal. I was glad about the clean kill. The rest of the pride left reluctantly, with a few rounds fired over their heads helping to make up their minds.

What a wonderful end to my safari: a feeling of gratefulness to have been privileged to hunt these magnificent animals in Zimbabwe overcame me. This safari is so memorable, not just in terms of good hunting, but because of the excellent organisation by Barrie Duckworth. Last, but not least, it was my good fortune to hunt with an outstanding professional hunter, Phillip D. Reed. He knows his craft extremely well and has become a good friend. I saw quite a bit of Zimbabwe, met some wonderful people, including Polami, our tracker, and had a glimpse at another culture for which I am very grateful.

On this Safari, five animals were taken with seven shots fired. In each case the rifle, a Ruger M-77, and bullets Speer and Nosler 250 grain performed excellently. Even my limited experience with this cartridge, indicated to me that the .35 Whelen with good quality, appropriate bullets for the game to be hunted, is a very fine choice for hunting in Zimbabwe, if the shots taken do not exceed 200 yards or so, which is the case in many areas. If it looks too far, one should get closer. If not possible, another opportunity may come up on another day.

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In the USA the .35 Whelen is considered a good elk cartridge within reasonable range. I see no reason for it not to be appropriate in Africa for kudu, waterbuck or even zebra and eland, if the hunter does his part, and the range is not more that 200 yards. Of course, one could load 225 grain bullets and stretch that range a bit, but my choice is the heavier bullet.

P/S: The reloading data included was taken from the April 1988 American Rifleman Publication and developed by Mr Finn AaGaard, who is a well-known writer and former Professional Hunter.

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African Hunter Vol.5 No.1 February 1999
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