This Texas heart shot founds its way into the vitals and we had our trophy.

By Ricardo Leone


While a respectable number of hunters may wish to debate the ethics of taking a Texas heart shot as your initial shot on big game – few will dispute the effectiveness of this infamous shot as a follow-up. For those who do not know what I am referring to, a Texas heart shot is simply shooting an animal in its’ south end as it is heading due north – yes, in the ass while the animal is facing away from you.


The first time I was party to this tactic was on my first safari, when my Zambian PH instructed me to shoot the third of three running greater kudu at about one hundred yards out while they ran past a small opening in the bush. While drawing blood, my shot was a touch low and barely slowed the kudu’s stride as it ran for cover. Before I could even discuss our next move, my PH raised his double barrel .470 Merkel and sent a 500-grain bullet directly up the kudu’s backside at about one hundred yards. The kudu ran another seventy-five yards and dropped. My PH pointed to the steep hills on our left and explained if he did not shoot then, we would be climbing those hills, in the heat, for the next few hours tracking blood and if lucky enough to find my kudu, we would then have to carry the trophy back down. As I was a novice at the time, I was grateful to have my trophy in front of me and did not mind my PH making that executive decision.


For those doubters of the effectiveness of a Texas heart shot, I can personally attest that a well-placed bullet will either find its way to the vitals if shot directly up the backside as was the case with my kudu or it will do enough damage to stop the animal for a quick mercy shot. In fact, this past year I had two such examples myself.  In both cases, instead of watching my PH shoot my trophy, I had no choice but to use a Texas heart shot or risk losing my trophy all together. In the most recent case, it was shoot fast or watch the animal run into an area where the guide had pre-warned, we could not track an injured animal.


Allow me to set the stage. My dear friend Pete and I were in West Texas chasing aoudad. Aoudads are also known as Barbary sheep which, despite its name, are neither a sheep nor a goat – it has its own genus. This may sound odd chasing African game indigenous to the mountains in North Africa, in Texas. However, aoudads were introduced to West Texas in the 1950s and have thrived ever since. A sizable number of hunters, ranchers and wildlife management professionals would say they have done too well, both crowding out desert bighorn sheep and threatening wild sheep by passing on disease. Aoudads are now considered an evasive species and can be hunted year-round. Unlike other African species in Texas that are referred to “Pasture Art” for the rich and famous, most aoudad are free range and make for a challenging hunt, where one often has to climb steep hills like when chasing desert bighorn sheep.


Enough about the origins of African animals in Texas – let’s relive the hunt. My initial shot was taken late in the morning with my Griffin & Howe Highlander .300 Win Mag off my small tripod while sitting with my pack in my lap for stability in a howling wind facing downhill at 350 yards. The wind was welcome as it let me fumble around in the rocks while I set up as the aoudad stayed bedded down below out of the wind and oblivious of me. When they finally moved, the guide had me follow three big rams in the herd that were grouped together. The guide initially instructed me to follow the second in line. However, when the lead ram stepped up on a rock in the open sun, I found him more appealing. In the end my guide said to pick the one I most fancied. I kept adjusting my scope for more distance as the rams meandered away from us and when the lead one stopped and turned broadside with its long chaps glowing in the sun, I took aim on its front left shoulder and squeezed the trigger. I could hear the bullet hit it, making a loud noise that sounded like the crack of a whip. My guide confirmed it was a solid hit. Before we could even think about retrieving the ram, the guide quickly turned his attention to the running herd knowing we had to get Pete a ram too. My guide told me he could see my aoudad walking off clearly affected by the shot. “We will come back for him later, he said. I was not bothered given his quiet confidence.


We spent the next hour or so chasing the same herd trying to get Pete an opportunity, but unfortunately there were too many eyes on us, and they could feel the pressure. We needed to back off and let them settle. We turned back towards the cliffs from where I had made my shot. From the ledge, our guide pointed way down and across the ravine to a light green bush.


“It is the one with the dark green tree just below it at the bottom,” he pointed out. After I confirmed I could see where he was pointing, he said the aoudad would be down somewhere near that tree. Again, I appreciated his confidence. My guide lightened his pack and Pete left his pack and rifle in the buggy. I took my pack, shooting stick and my rifle which still had two bullets in it – do not ask why I did not load a third bullet. I did remember to open the scope aperture back up and dial the distance turret back to zero. Off we went to make our way to the bottom picking our way through the loose shale. At least an hour and 45 minutes had passed since my initial shot. I walked along the bottom of the ravine, and my guide crossed it and stayed higher up than me for a better vantage point. He told me to get ready, he could see the aoudad under the tree as predicted. As he alerted me, I caught sight of the horns under the tree, and I could see the ram start to bolt.


This was one of those hero or zero moments. I had a small window to the right of the tree as the ravine hooked left and out of sight after the tree. I shouldered my rifle as if I were pheasant shooting, and through the scope I could only see the tail end of the ram. Without hesitation I pulled the trigger at the moving animal. I quickly moved down the ravine past the tree and could see I had dropped the ram taking out his hind legs. With my last bullet I quickly applied a mercy shot. I had my trophy. Thank goodness that my scope was reset, and I did not need a third bullet.

A fine aoudad trophy with horns more than 30 inches – note the beautiful chaps.

A fine aoudad trophy with horns more than 30 inches (note the beautiful chaps).

My second example happened less than two months prior, when I was in the Selous Game Preserve in Tanzania. After successfully chasing Cape buffalo, greater kudu and Nyasa wildebeest, we set out to find a Roosevelt sable, the smallest of the three sables, only indigenous to the Selous. On our second long drive looking for them in the hills, we followed a dried riverbed for a long while until the terrain transformed into a sea of long grass. Our head tracker spotted a set of sweeping horns within the grass. My PH instructed the driver to stop. I grabbed my Griffin & Howe Highlander .300 Win Mag and hopped off the Land Cruiser. My PH set the sticks next to the vehicle and I aimed for a neck shot given I could not see the body of the animal within the dense grass and our angle was not ideal. The sable turned and started to move away from us uphill. If sable start to run, they will keep running for a long distance, so my instinctive action was to administer a Texas heart shot in the small window I had within the grass which stopped the sable in its tracks. A final mercy shot finished the job and I had my Roosevelt Sable. It was a spectacular trophy, I must say.


While we are all taught how to shoot a broadside animal and, in some cases, a frontal shot, there are other shots that can be used. Again, without debating whether a Texas heart shot should be your initial shot on an animal, it is an essential shot to know if you have an injured animal that may take flight.