The im­pa­la and the .22 Hornet

A hunter’s a­bi­li­ty is just as im­por­tant as the ca­li­b­re he u­ses.

SA Jagter Hunter - - INHOUD - Ri­chard Meis­s­ner

In 1991 I boug­ht a CBC sin­gle-shot bre­ak-o­pen rifle in ca­li­b­re .22 Hornet. I was a stu­dent then, with litt­le fi­nan­ci­al re­sour­ces at my dis­po­sal to af­ford an ex­pen­si­ve rifle such as a Br­no or Sa­ko. In ad­di­ti­on, bre­ak-o­pen rifles ap­pe­al to me and I view the .22 Hornet as a le­gen­da­ry car­trid­ge and rifle. The Bra­zi­li­an-ma­nu­fac­tu­red we­a­pon cost R495 and the Tas­co 4x32 te­les­co­pe, with rings, R500. I got my­self a rifle for R995 but I had no mo­ney to go on a hunt trip to try it out.

Ne­vert­he­less, I had the op­por­tu­ni­ty on nu­me­rous oc­ca- si­ons to use it on ha­re, por­cu­pi­ne, gui­nea-fo­wl, fran­co­lin, phe­a­sant, and, at ti­mes, wa­ter­fo­wl. For the­se, I on­ly u­sed 45-grain fac­to­ry-lo­a­ded am­mu­ni­ti­on from a num­ber of ma­nu­fac­tu­rers, par­ti­cu­lar­ly Sel­lier & Bel­lot and Win­ches­ter. Fac­to­ry-lo­a­ded am­mu­ni­ti­on in a he­a­vier bul­let was not and I sus­pect, is not a­vai­la­ble in South A­fri­ca. Hunting very small ga­me, var­mint, and ga­me birds with the 45-grain bul­let sho­wed the .22 Hornet’s de­va­sta­ting po­wer. As ti­me went by, and my fi­nan­ci­al po­si­ti­on im­pro­ved, I was a­ble to start

re­lo­a­ding am­mu­ni­ti­on for the rifle. In fact, I cut my re­lo­a­ding teeth on the litt­le car­trid­ge and de­ve­lo­ped hunting lo­ads for 50and 52-grain bul­lets. The­se bul­lets pro­ved let­hal be­cau­se of their ex­cep­ti­o­nal accu­ra­cy be­t­ween 100 and 150 me­tres. E­ven so, I ne­ver had the op­por­tu­ni­ty to hunt lar­ger ga­me with the rifle.

THE CHAN­CE

By ac­ci­dent, so to speak, I got my chan­ce in 2011 to see how the rifle per­forms in the veld and on me­di­um ga­me. My wi­fe, Col­leen and I we­re on our an­nu­al hunting ho­li­day in the El­lis­ras a­rea. We we­re plan­ning on hunting im­pa­la and wart­hog. The farm o­w­ner told me that he has ma­ny im­pa­la that he would sell at a good pri­ce. We agreed on R700 for an im­pa­la and R500 per wart­hog, and prompt­ly book­ed our trip to Ja­cobsloop Ga­me Farm.

We ar­ri­ved on a Sun­day for our six-day hunting sa­fa­ri, and sin­ce the o­w­ner has a mo­ra­to­ri­um on Sun­day hunting, I chec­ked on my rifles one last ti­me be­fo­re the hunt the next day. For hunting the im­pa­la and wart­hog, I took my .303 B­ri­tish No. 4 Mk. 1 and Pe­der­so­li .45 tar­get muz­z­le­lo­a­der, re­specti­ve­ly. I al­so plan­ned to hunt por­cu­pi­ne and do so­me wing shoot­ing. For t­his I pac­ked the Hornet and a Moss­berg 12-gau­ge shot­gun. As I chec­ked on my ar­se­nal one last ti­me, I dis­co­ve­r­ed I had f­or­got­ten my .303’s bolt at ho­me.

Col­leen and I dis­cus­sed the pos­si­bi­li­ty of hunting the im­pa­la with the .22 Hornet. I must con­fess that we we­re not com­for­ta­ble with the idea, sin­ce the .22 Hornet fi­res such a small bul­let. Af­ter con­sulting with the o­w­ner, I de­ci­ded to go a­he­ad u­sing the rifle. The far­mer had a lot of »

» re­spect for the .22 Hornet and was of the o­pi­ni­on that it is one of the most accu­ra­te ca­li­bres. He had no ob­jecti­ons a­gainst me u­sing the Hornet sin­ce one of his ot­her gue­sts al­so u­ses a Hornet from ti­me to ti­me. My con­fi­den­ce grew, es­pe­ci­al­ly af­ter con­si­de­ring my hand­lo­a­ded am­mu­ni­ti­on: a 50-grain Sier­ra S­pit­zer in front of a 9.2 grain Som­chem S265 char­ge in Win­ches­ter ca­sings. My rifle is al­so per­fect­ly sig­h­ted at 100 me­tres. I, the­re­fo­re, had fair con­fi­den­ce in the rifle and am­mu­ni­ti­on, despi­te my re­ser­va­ti­ons of the small bul­let’s per­cei­ved pe­ne­tra­ti­on po­wer on an im­pa­la. Sto­ries by t­ho­se see­mingly in the know, is that the .22 Hornet is not suit­a­ble for im­pa­la. In ad­di­ti­on, be­cau­se it is a sin­gle-shot rifle I had so­me doub­ts t­his ti­me a­round, be­cau­se I was going to use it as my main hunting rifle. Re­lo­a­ding would ta­ke lon­ger than the con­ve­nien­ce of the bolt-acti­on Lee-En­field.

E­ven so, I de­ci­ded to go a­he­ad u­sing the Hornet and that Mon­day mor­ning we went to find im­pa­la. Af­ter so­me stal­king, we found a herd and I took aim at a big ewe our gui­de poin­ted out. I took the shot and he­ard the sa­tisfying thump. It was qui­te a high-pit­ched thump. We fol­lo­wed the b­lood trail and lost the ewe in the thic­ket. That mor­ning we could not find the a­ni­mal, alt­hough we found a lot of b­lood.

My doub­ts now went up a cou­ple of not­ches; the bul­let was too lig­ht to ma­ke a cle­an kill. That af­ter­noon we found the a­ni­mal in den­se sickle bush. Upon in­specting the car­cass, I re­a­li­sed why we had se­ar­ched so long. Neither the rifle nor bul­let was at fault; it was the rifle­man. I had shot the ewe low and to the front; hit­ting her in the left shoul­der bla­de. The bul­let had mis­sed the vi­tal or­gans but ful­ly pe­ne­tra­ted the bo­dy and ex­i­ted on the far si­de. Shoot­ing dis­tan­ce was 70m. T­his was p­roof that the .22 Hornet was ca­pa­ble of brin­ging do­wn an im­pa­la at such a dis­tan­ce if the rifle­man ta­kes bet­ter aim.

HOW WE DO IT

Our practi­ce is to hunt in the mor­ning, star­ting at sun­ri­se until mid-mor­ning, then re­tur­ning to camp and going out a­gain in the la­te af­ter­noon. Af­ter our de­ser­ving rest, we re­tur­ned to the hunting ground. We wal­ked for a whi­le and then A­bra­ham, our gui­de, found an im­pa­la herd’s spoor. We fol­lo­wed and no­ti­ced that it di­sap­pea­red in­to a thic­ket; we could he­ar the herd mil­ling a­bout in the shade of the bus­hes. Af­ter so­me cra­w­ling a­round al­ong the thic­ket’s ed­ge, A­bra­ham could on­ly see im­pa­la legs. We de­ci­ded to ta­ke up po­si­ti­on un­der a wild fig, a short dis­tan­ce a­way. Through an o­pe­ning in the thic­ket, we could see the im­pa­la’s legs and ne­ar­by three wart­hogs, who we­re en­joying the wild fig. A­bra­ham sug­ge­sted that I wai­ted until one of the im­pa­la lay do­wn be­fo­re ta­king the shot. I look­ed at the legs through the o­pe­ning. It was qui­te a wait and af­ter a whi­le, a ewe fi­nal­ly lay do­wn. She look­ed di­rect­ly in­to my te­les­co­pe and I fi­red. It was a per­fect he­ads­hot at a­bout 12 me­tres. The Hornet had now pro­ved its mett­le. W­hen you are u­sed to the re­coil of the .303 and .45 muz­z­le­lo­a­der, the kick of the Hornet is s­lig­ht, di­mi­nis­hing the chan­ces of flin­ching whi­le pres­sing the trig­ger. T­his was the se­cond of four im­pa­la we had on our list.

I then fo­cu­sed my at­ten­ti­on on the wart­hog, but t­his is a sto­ry for a­not­her ti­me. The thi­rd im- »

» pa­la I bag­ged u­sing the CBC, was at a mo­de­ra­te dis­tan­ce. T­his ti­me the rifle­man was spot-on and the bul­let went through hit­ting the he­art de­ad cen­t­re. The im­pa­la ran for a­bout 50 me­tres be­fo­re going do­wn. I was now con­vin­ced of the rifle and car­trid­ge’s ca­pa­bi­li­ties in brin­ging do­wn im­pa­la.

We we­re co­ming to the end of our hunt and on the se­cond last day we we­re stal­king a herd of im­pa­la w­hen we found them cros­sing a catt­le fen­ce. We we­re so­me dis­tan­ce a­way but I had a cle­ar shot do­wn a straig­ht path. I le­o­pard cra­w­led and po­si­ti­o­ned my­self be­hind brush af­ter con­sulting with A­bra­ham as to which a­ni­mal he con­si­de­red the lar­ge­st. I took po­si­ti­on and ca­re­ful­ly ai­med. The im­pa­la we­re in no hur­ry to jump the fen­ce and we­re com­ple­te­ly u­na­wa­re of our pre­sen­ce. I se­lected my quar­ry and fi­red. A­gain, the fa­mi­li­ar thump of the bul­let hit­ting ho­me. The herd now jum­ped the fen­ce with ur­gen­cy and the prey took off al­ong the fen­ce. The a­ni­mal did not run far be­fo­re col­laps­ing. W­hen re­a­ching the do­w­ned im­pa­la, we no­ti­ced it was a per­fect si­de-on shot that had hit vi­tals. I pa­ced the length from w­he­re the im­pa­la stood to w­he­re I fi­red from and to my a­ma­ze­ment it ca­me to a­bout 132 pa­ces, (112 of my pa­ces are ap­prox­i­ma­te­ly 100 me­tres). I was im­pres­sed, not with my shoot­ing but a­gain with the rifle and car­trid­ge’s per­for- man­ce. The bul­let had car­ried through the im­pa­la at t­his dis­tan­ce. My con­fi­den­ce had ta­ken a dip af­ter the first ewe and then slo­w­ly pic­ked up as I a­chie­ved re­pe­a­ted succes­ses on the fol­lo­wing im­pa­la.

THE LESSON

The ta­ke ho­me from t­his is to check your e­quip­ment, check it a­gain, and then to check it a thi­rd ti­me be­fo­re le­a­ving for the bushveld. In ad­di­ti­on, not all far­mers view the small rifle car­trid­ges such as the .22 Hornet and e­ven the .223 Re­ming­ton with dis­dain. How ot­her pe­op­le view the small car­trid­ges and rifles can ha­ve a psy­cho­lo­gi­cal knock-on ef­fect and con­sti­tu­te a per­cep­ti­on in the hunter that her or his e­quip­ment is not up to the task. My ex­pe­rien­ce taug­ht me that a hunter must ta­ke ‘rifle ran­ge ca­li­b­re talk’ with a pinch of salt.

On t­his hunt I le­arnt that it is not the car­trid­ge or the rifle that s­hould be vie­wed with de­ri­si­on. A success­ful hunt with a small car­trid­ge de­pends on the hunter’s a­bi­li­ty and rifle ran­ge practi­ce ti­me. Shot pla­ce­ment is of car­di­nal im­por­tan­ce. My copy of Na­tie Oe­lof­se and Way­ne Hend­ry’s The Practi­cal Shot al­ways ac- com­pa­nies me on hunts. I ta­ke ti­me be­fo­re going out to stu­dy shot pla­ce­ment on the par­ti­cu­lar a­ni­mal I am a­bout to hunt. Such a practi­ce helps to re­a­lign one’s sen­ses sin­ce you can­not re­mem­ber w­he­re to pla­ce the shot af­ter re­a­ding such a book on­ly on­ce. Alt­hough I had a look at the shot pla­ce­ment on the im­pa­la pa­ges on the first mor­ning, the most im­por­tant lesson I le­arnt du­ring the hunt is that shot pla­ce­ment is just as im­por­tant as the ca­li­b­re (with t­his, I don’t want to sug­ge­st pla­cing good shots on im­pa­la with a .177 air rifle and ex­pecting success).

The CBC’s sin­gle-shot acti­on. No­te the ca­se ex­trac­tor pro­tru­ding from the cham­ber.

My CBC .22 Hornet with the Tas­co sco­pe. I ad­ded the bi­pod af­ter the im­pa­la hunt.

TOP: The im­pa­la I shot at c­lo­se ran­ge with the CBC Hornet. BOTTOM: Part of Ja­cobsloop ga­me farm w­he­re I hun­ted the im­pa­las.

Beau­ti­ful bushveld on Ja­cobsloop ga­me farm.

It was al­ong t­his path and fen­ce that I shot the last im­pa­la.

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