My 2020 hunting trip to Africa was postponed due to Covid, but earlier this year as vaccines became more widely available and South Africa started opening back up, the Marupa Safari hunt was back on for June 2021. Unfortunately, due to Covid concerns and life events, several of the original party could no longer make the trip, so some new faces jumped on the flights to experience this epic adventure.
Larry was one of those new hunters, he wanted to go but said he didn’t have a rifle and had never hunted with one. He is an accomplished shotgun shooter but had never hunted big game with a rifle. So, at 74 years old he decided to check the box on what most lifelong hunters consider an ultimate bucket list experience.
When Savage Arms released their Impulse straight-pull rifle in early 2021 I never imagined my 6.5 Creedmoor might be the first one to make it to the plains of Africa, or that my first-time hunting friend would claim first blood with it.
I did a full review article on the Impulse earlier this year and found it was very fast to operate and extremely accurate, so I ended up buying it. The 6.5 CM Impulse was very soft shooting and I thought it would be perfect for Larry to shoot from the blinds or Land Cruisers on the safari. It also gave me a rifle that I had confidence and experience with shooting out to 500 yards.
Larry came out to the range several times before the trip and we went over the operation of the rifle and started working on targets out to 300 yards. He put in the time and built confidence in his ability to make the hits when needed, and then off to Africa we went.
I took two rifles on the trip so Larry started out with the Impulse. GC, the Professional Hunter (PH), set him up and waited with him in a blind overlooking a water hole. Larry and GC teamed up for the entire 10-day adventure and it was a tremendous amount of fun and a huge success.
After several hours waiting on that first day for the right animal to come in for a drink, the large wildebeest approached the water hole on the same side as the blind. This would put the shot at a comfortable range of about 45 yards. Then came those slow-going moments waiting for the animal to move to get a clear shot and present a good target.
Larry handled the pressure of waiting for the perfect shot like a pro and pressed the Impulse’s Accutrigger straight to the rear launching the Federal 135 grain Berger Hybrid Hunter toward the waiting wildebeest.
Larry’s shot hit the massive wildebeest just behind the shoulder and that was all it took. The animal bolted as Larry pulled the action on the Impulse, but a second shot wasn’t needed as the trophy was down within 40 yards. Larry had dropped the first South African trophy to be taken with the new Savage Arms Impulse straight-pull rifle.
To say he was excited would be an enormous understatement, but I’m not sure who was happier; him, me, or GC. The first animal in South Africa taken with the Savage Arms Impulse was now on the ground, a massive wildebeest taken by a new hunter with the straight-pull 6.5 CM.
The fact is Larry took all four of the animals on his hunting adventure list with one shot each, with none traveling more than 50 yards after being shot. He told me he did exactly what we had talked about and practiced. Larry transformed from a first-time big game hunter to an African veteran in 10 days, gaining confidence with each shot and new obstacle.
I also took my turn hunting with the Impulse and it performed just as it had in my review article, fast and accurate. I had actually brought the Savage 6.5 CM because I wanted to hunt baboon and they said you had to be able to shoot them from a longer distance as they were smart and wouldn’t let us get close.
Unfortunately, no baboons were to be found on the property, so demonstrating the long-range potential of the Impulse would have to be accomplished out on the plains. Larry and I both took Blesbok out on the open brushy plains.
Both Larry and I ended up taking those shots from the roof of the Land Cruiser that we were scouting from. The Harris bipod I had brought along was priceless in getting a stable shooting position.
My Blesbok was with several others out beyond 200 yards moving through the broken brush. Once the best one was identified it was all about waiting for the right angle and an opening in the brush for a clean shot. The big male stopped to take a look back at us with a break in the brush revealing his body. I dropped it with one well-placed shot from the Impulse.
As it turned out, I may have done the big male a favor. When we started to carry the animal from the brush we found it had a serious puncture wound probably from fighting another male. The clean shot from the 6.5 was potentially better than the slow infection or a prowling leopard.
Larry’s Blesbok story has an amusing twist. We had been out sight-seeing that day and gotten back just before sunset. One of the PH’s said he had seen a nice Blesbok fairly close to the camp so we all loaded up in the Land Cruiser to see if Larry could bag him.
Of course, Larry is still nicely dressed from being out sight-seeing so instantly started getting the best-dressed hunter award before we even found an animal. Our entire hunting group including the PHs was a fun-loving bunch, give each other a hard time group, but always highly supportive.
The PH was right and we found the Blesbok that had been seen earlier and maneuvered to get in range for Larry to make a shot. It saw us as well and was determined not to present Larry a clean shot.
Larry set up on the roof of the Land Cruiser and demonstrated the patience of an experienced hunter waiting for more than a few minutes in the standoff with the animal. We finally had to move again to get a good angle and clean shot on the animal.
Larry settled the Nightforce reticle just behind the shoulder and broke the shot with the animal at about 160 yards out slightly quartering away. Under recoil, he lost sight of the animal and asked where it went as he scanned the area to find it.
It had dropped straight down in its tracks and never taken a step; he beamed as he was told and congratulated by the PH and the crew in the cruiser. He had graduated from the short-range shots taken at the blind to the openness of the plains. He commented at dinner that “camouflage is overrated” when shooting from the vehicle.
The other trophy I took with the straight-shooting Impulse was not the biggest animal but was, in my opinion, the most elegant and graceful of all those running the plains – a Black Impala. At the Limpopo province farm where we were hunting, they had a number of these beautiful animals that I hadn’t seen when hunting the Northern Cape on my last trip.
Dolf, my PH and I had hunted together on my 2019 trip with Marupa Safaris. His ability to spot and find the best animals is nothing short of amazing, he never disappoints. Dolf and I tracked several nice Black Impala that just would not stay still or stop while in sight; they didn’t get their nice horns by being stupid.
That’s why they call it hunting instead of shooting. We were patient, stayed in the area and kept looking, and our persistence was rewarded, we came back upon one of the best ones we had seen and Dolf gave me the green light. I took the shot without ranging at about 100 yards and to my surprise, the Impala bolted and ran rather than being blown over by the 6.5 CM.
I questioned my shot, but everything had been right about it and we found the animal dead within 40 yards down the trail. Everything in Africa wants to survive so sometimes the animal still runs until its body tells it that it’s over.
The Savage Arms Impulse straight-pull 6.5 CM did an awesome job on all the game we shot in Africa. I already knew it was accurate and fast to operate, but we never even needed a second shot with the Federal ammunition loaded with the 135 Berger hybrid Hunter bullets, every animal was a one-shot kill.
The only maintenance I did was wipe down the bolt and action a couple of times over the 10-day trip to remove the African dust from the bolt to ensure it was slick in case that second shot was ever needed.
The Impulse’s integral Picatinny rail made mounting the Nightforce NX8 2.5-20x simple. The Nightforce was a great choice for the varied hunting distances we encountered. It provided the wide field of view for close range shooting at the water holes and also the power to zoom in on distant animals to check out size and make those shots.
Africa is no stranger to straight pull rifles; the European ones have been over there for decades but this was the first trip for the American-made Savage and it performed flawlessly. It left no doubts of its accuracy or its ability to make one-shot kills. This was the first safari hunting trip for the Savage Arms Impulse but I’m sure it won’t be the last.
For more information on the Impulse models click here.
For my full review of the Nightforce 2.5-20x click here.