For once, our plan was working to perfection. The wind drifted gently in our face and the sun setting behind us. After sneaking through the bush for some time, we positioned ourselves to intercept a herd of seven eland. Peeking through the bush, I could see the eland strolling slowly our direction. If they stay on this course, they should be broadside within 100 yards shortly.
There was one very big, old bull in the group. His face was black and it was easy to spot him in the crowd. Much to our surprise, suddenly a group of kudu spooked for some reason, running right past the eland. Now the eland are upset and they take off! They came hurrying along within range when Kempy told me the big bull was bringing up the rear. I had a good rest on top of a boulder when the bull trotted into the shooting lane. The crosshairs moved all over the big bull’s shoulder as I started to squeeze the trigger on the moving target. My subconscious whispered, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
The African hunting experience is one of the greatest opportunities available for hunters to cherish. This unique safari had all the ingredients to be a real dandy. Four gun scribes, three Benelli gurus and a sharpshooter slash ballistician from Hornady descended on the Dark Continent with a mission – field test the new Benelli bolt-action rifle.
I thought surely I misunderstood the message when it came across my desk – Benelli was manufacturing a rifle? Perhaps just a misprint as Benelli is well-known for premium semi-auto shotguns – surely the message intended to convey a new scattergun in the works. Well, sure enough, Benelli is manufacturing a bolt-action rifle. If there is a better place to see how well this creation works than an African safari – I’d like to know.
If you’re familiar with Benelli shotguns such as their ever-popular Super Black Eagle or any of the variations in their Performance Shop models, you know the company produces top-shelf firearms. My curiosity was about to reach full speed just wondering about this new rifle.
When the test gun arrived, it appeared a bit utilitarian. It is a serious hunting gun so the black synthetic stock and blued barrel are most logical and practical. The new rifle is dubbed Lupo – which means wolf in Italian and is loaded with features. This firearm has been designed with the best criteria of quality, precision and modularity with a respectful focus of classic Benelli style. All of the hunters on this safari would be shooting a .30-06 with Hornady’s 180-grain GMX loaded in their Outfitter Ammunition line-up. The rifle will also be available in .270 Win. and .300 Win. Mag.
Many of the features on the Lupo allow the shooter to customize the fit to individual needs. Take for example the Progressive Comfort recoil system, allowing the length of pull to be adjusted. By the way, this recoil system is most effective in recoil reduction. The soft cheek pad can also be adjusted by installing different inserts. This provides the ideal comb height for a custom fit. If that’s not enough, there are trigger reach spacers provided so you can custom fit the ideal trigger position for your finger.
The Lupo features a sleek profile with well thought-out ergonomics. While I appreciated all the attributes of custom modularity, I was mainly interested to see how well this rifle performed in the accuracy department.
In preparation for this hunt, I took Hornady’s 180-gr. GMX ammo to the range. The first three shots from 100 yards landed inside of one inch – two of which were touching. One contributing factor was a great trigger. The trigger is also adjustable from 2.2 to 4.4 pounds. After speaking with the other writers, I discovered all of them experienced the same level of accuracy with their rifles. Now I have the confidence needed to pursue African game without reservation.
The Lupo was fitted with a Steiner 3-12×56 scope. This would be my first opportunity to peer through Steiner optics and I sure wasn’t disappointed. The scope ideally matched the rifle and with its wide field of view and light gathering capability, made for a perfect optic for hunting.
During the first couple of hunting days I had the privilege of hunting with Jayden Quinlan, Hornady ballistician and serious hunter. When a dandy impala ram was spotted the first morning, a long stalk ensued and finally the sticks were set-up. The ram was feeding with several others and never knew we were in the same time zone.
One well-placed shot and Jayden had his first African antelope. There is nothing like your first safari. Jayden had a taste of Africa and it was only the beginning. Later on, as luck would have it, an old warthog was caught out in the open, feeding with two other pigs. Our PH and Jayden crept up a slight incline just enough to get a clean shot. It became obvious Jayden and the new Lupo were getting along fine. The warthog was headed for the skinning shed.
Later in the afternoon I got on the board with a nice impala. One shot from 95 yards sealed the deal. As we continued hunting, I told Jayden it was his turn regardless what we encountered. I guess all that clean living paid off for Jayden as the next animal spotted was a mature roan. We didn’t have time to set-up the sticks so Jayden dropped down in kneeling position and took a rest from his knees. When the 180-gr. GMX struck the big bull directly behind the shoulder, you couldn’t surgically remove the smile from Jayden’s face. Who wouldn’t be smiling with a roan?
When we arrived back at the skinning shed that evening, it was obvious this group was serious about hunting. Everyone had enjoyed a great day in Africa – thanks to Wolma Kemp and his crew at Africa Anyways Safari. Not only was the hunting great, but the camaraderie was superb. Sharing stories around the campfire lingered after a few adult beverages. It’s Africa – what else would you expect?
To be honest, the days go by all too quickly. I probably got as much enjoyment observing Jayden in action as I did pulling the trigger. It was especially euphoric when I watched him make a 517-yard shot on a monster springbok. You see, Jayden is a serious, long-range competition shooter and his success on this safari was inextricably linked to his skills on the range.
As the days passed, I, too, enjoyed some quality, rewarding time afield. A roan taken from 200 yards with one shot confirmed a cartridge over 100 years old still works. It may not be the sexiest, fastest, biggest or most popular, but the .30-06 with the right bullet harvests game today as well as it did a century ago.
With advancements in modern bullet technology, many cartridges, including the .30-06, are better today than ever. A few days later Lady Luck really shined when I found myself within 100 yards or so of a big sable. A sable bull over 40 inches has a tendency to accelerate one’s heart rate. He was feeding along with a group of juveniles and it was easy to spot him. Those long horns curving way over his back stood out distinctly. Unable to calm my nerves, the sticks did help steady the rifle for another one-shot affair.
Apparently the previous one-shot kills from this hunt gave me confidence and influenced my decision to shoot the huge eland trotting along. The crosshairs followed the moving bull as I tugged the trigger. When the shot broke, the rest of the herd kicked it in high gear. Quickly I bolted another round in the chamber. It was apparent the bull was hit but I placed another 180-gr. GMX monolithic constructed bullet through the vitals as he hit the ground abruptly. We all were ecstatic! Walking up to the bull revealed no ground shrinkage whatsoever. He was not only old, but huge. It was a great way to end another memorable African adventure.
When the smoke cleared on this hunt, some interesting facts surfaced. There were eight prototype rifles involved, all chambered in .30-06. A total of 52 head of game was taken over the course of the safari, some culls included. The area we hunted was suffering from a drought so the PH requested several springbok be taken from an over-populated herd. The group took a wide variety of game throughout the duration of our safari, including springbok, impala, warthog, zebra, wildebeest, roan, sable and eland. Not one malfunction was encountered even though the Lupo experienced a lot of dust and some abuse. Several GMX bullets were recovered from some of the larger game, with most appearing as if they had been shot in gelatin, mushrooming perfectly. The field testing of guns was just as successful and rewarding as the overall safari experience. Africa is truly a hunter’s paradise. I’m ready to return. –Mark Hampton