For three straight days I had been hunting coyotes in the South Texas brush country. Throughout the hunt I had been using a .375 H&H Mag. bolt-action rifle in preparation for my trip to Africa.
Toward the end of the hunt, the ranch owner excused himself, reappeared, and handed me a Ruger Super Redhawk in .480 Ruger topped with a 2x Leupold scope along with a box of Hornady’s 325-grain XTP ammo.
“Make sure it’s sighted in,” he said. “Shoot it a few times, then I’ll tell you about a chore I want you to do.”
He knew I dearly loved hunting with handguns.
I had long been hunting with a variety of handguns, usually a Thompson/Center Contender or Encore, or one of my several Ruger Blackhawks. I liked what I saw in the double-action Ruger, even though I prefer single-action revolvers. At the range next morning the Ruger shot tight groups at 25, 50, and 100 yards.
Back at headquarters, my host explained: “I’ve got a zebra stud in the back pasture that’s been killing foals. We’ve tried to dart him, but can’t get close enough. I want you to shoot him with the .480. I called several ranch hands to follow you around. They’ll skin him and take care of the meat once he’s down.”
I spent the next several hours trying to approach within 125 yards of the zebra, a comfortable range for the big Ruger revolver.
We saw the zebra several times inside the fenced pasture that sprawled over some 10,000 acres. I crawled on hands and knees through dense stands of mesquite and cactus but could not get closer than 250 yards before the zebra saw me and ran off. Each time the zebra spooked, I followed.
Thankfully, he had a notch missing from his left hind hoof, which made his track easy to identify and to follow. Later that day the zebra walked into a long food plot and stopped at the far end, standing broadside. I looked back at the 11 men behind me.
“Bet you can’t even come close to him from here with that revolver!” taunted one of the ranch hands.
I raised the pistol and looked at my striped target through the scope. The zebra was little more than a tiny speck with the 2x magnification. I estimated the distance at close to 700 yards.
I didn’t know the ballistics of the .480 Ruger, but I thought, What have I got to lose. I cocked the hammer, then held the vertical crosshair more or less halfway between the bottom of the scope and where it met the horizontal crosshair above the zebra’s withers. I gently pulled the trigger. At least a couple of heartbeats later … the zebra dropped in his tracks.
I did my best to act like I made such shots with my handguns every day. Before I could utter a single word, I heard my rancher friend say, “Ranged him at 783 yards … nice shooting!”
At the zebra’s side, I found that my bullet had struck just below and behind his ear, severing the spine.
I’ve made numerous “interesting” pistol shots in my hunting career, but none quite so amazing or sweet as that one.
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