A BOW HUNT IN NAMIBIA
A STORY OF TWO TOMS BOW-HUNTING IN NAMIBIA
Concerns about shot placement, angles and penetration, all comes to mind when you draw on any African game species.
It was not different for Thomas either. Not the fact that the 15,000 plus head of game on the 75,000 acres ranch will offer ample opportunities, or the termite hill shaped blinds placed 20 to 25 yards from the waterholes, nor the many months of preparation back in the States, nothing could slow down his heartbeat on that first draw.
This unexplained and uncontrollable phenomenon (Piet Stokvel), or call it what you want that occurs in any bow hunter's life at some stage took hold of Thomas.
What was happening could not satisfy me more, simply because I knew then that I was hunting with someone who has pure natural motives and if an old warthog with one broken tusk could get him this excited, he was in for a great hunt.
Naturally Thomas was disappointed when I indicated to him not to shoot the warthog, for there were many days and many much better warthog to come. The almost constant flow of these somewhat ugly but very likable creatures to and from the waterholes are always entertaining and a source of excitement. Herds of Blue Wildebeest visiting the water and saltlick kept Thomas on the edge of his seat, watching them through a small peephole on his side of the blind as they come and go.
Later, an old but average size Blue Wildebeest bull came in with a mixed herd of female and young. By now Thomas knew what a bull should look like and was up and ready to draw on him should it give him an opportunity. The rest of the herd were doing their dominant drinking order thing at the water and then moving to the saltlick causing the bull never to stand alone or still long enough for him to get a shot. One of the old females decided it is time to go and took her herd including the old bull with her. Thomas quietly watched them as they left and sat down again on the edge of his seat, obviously longing for a shot at something.
Not twenty minutes passed with Thomas suddenly up again and getting in position to draw. The old bull was back and alone this time, typical behavior of territorial bulls, just making sure he did not miss some girls moving unattended through his neighborhood. It headed straight for the saltlick, making things really difficult for me, because I did not want him to shoot this bull.
When they left the first time, I was so glad not having to tell Thomas that there are much better bulls then this one and now I had to stop him.
Poor man, he so desperately wanted to take the bull standing there, only 20 yards away and broadside, but I convinced him to wait some more. Disappointment was written all over his face again and I was definitely not going to get the "old pal" slap on the back from him around the campfire that night.
Tom Pritchard and his son Thomas came to hunt plains game together and the obvious choice for them was in Namibia with Ozondjahe Safaris where Tom himself bow-hunted several times already and took numerous species of which some in the top ranking. As Tom was focussing on a couple of hard to get species this time and Thomas had more than a couple of species to wet his appetite with, it was decided to hunt separately.
Early summer rains were going to be a definite factor, good or bad, usually the latter on a bow-hunt. As clouds started blowing in from the East I opted to change blinds immediately the next morning. After we had breakfast and Thomas shot a couple of reassurance arrows into a target, we were off.
We were barely settled in when the first animals started coming in and although water was not the biggest priority with spring in full swing, the saltlick remains a favorite "rendezvous" for Gemsbok, Impala, Wildebeest, Kudu, Giraffe and even Warthog like to chew on the smaller pieces scratched off the big blocks.
Female Gemsbok of 40 plus inches are fairly common in the area and a couple of them offered Thomas all the angles at close range, but we were interested only in a 40 inch bull and besides that, they were all pregnant or nursing. A handsome bull hung around in the background, checking the females as they came through, not paying much attention to anything else and obviously with no intentions to come closer.
After lunch and a "siesta" at the lodge, we were back in the same blind for the afternoon. The cloudy weather caused the wind direction to be not that constant as we would have wanted it and so we had the opportunity to put the scent blocking spray to the test that Thomas brought halfway around the world.
More Blue Wildebeest showed up soon after with females and young enjoying a thorough mud bath, rolling in a puddle right in front of the blind. For a moment I thought about the scent spray as the wind played around, but maybe the mud in their nostrils helped. We did not see a bull coming in, but maybe he was in the back somewhere with no mud in his nostrils.
Behind us in the West, the horizon started swallowing the afternoon sun really fast and more Blue Wildebeest arrived. Seven bulls lined up behind the water, one bigger than the other and of different ages, looking in our direction. I looked at the scent spray standing in the corner, Thomas was ready should the right one come broadside, but they moved off to the left and then out of range.
Now I was on the edge of my seat, scanning for an opportunity when suddenly another bull came in from behind us passing the blind on the left and shaking its head, showing off. Thomas was still ready to draw and I have seen enough of the bull to make the call, so I gave Thomas the thumbs up. The bull kept on walking to the right and passed the waterhole on the other side, heading for the salt.
I looked at the scent spray in the corner again and at Thomas, ready to draw, he was on his own now. It looked like the bull walked into a wall as he turned back in its tracks at the saltlick and walked to the left again. Thomas drew his bow and then right behind the water it suddenly stopped, looking in our direction into the sun. The bull was slightly angling away, but in good range.
I did not see the arrow fly, neither did the bull and when it heard the bowstring it was already too late for only the fletching was sticking out, low and just behind the shoulder. Needless to say, the bull did not go far and went down soon after.
Thomas had a smile on his face again and he had good reason too. I gave him the "Well done old Pal" slap on the back.
Located in the central region of Namibia, Ozondjahe Safaris neighbors the well known Waterberg Plateau. The territory consists of a variety differing habitat for game including bush land with open savannahs and an entire mountain range. A Magnificent array of wildlife may be seen grazing on the open plains or congregating in their hundreds every day near the numerous waterholes. Found amongst this profusion of game are over 20 hunt-able game species, an ideal spot for bow hunting.
While we had such good fortune with the wildebeest, it would be wise to return to the same spot and so that is what we did. The weather was improving a bit too and the more the sun broke through, the more game came in. Later in the day a warthog boar with good even sized tusks came in from the right, under our wind and surprisingly walked straight up to the water. I could not help looking at the scent spray again. A warthog's nose, especially that of a big boar is very hard to fool and they usually circle the water to make sure there are no predators lying in wait for them.
I was not over excited by its size, but Thomas would have nothing of my criticism, he liked it and wanted it, so I gave him the go-ahead.
Thomas and his father both use top of the range modern compound bows with carefully selected and tested arrow combinations. Fast, quite and very effective.
As Thomas released the string, the boar took off in a determined dash as fast as its legs could carry it and after about 60 yards it stopped for a moment to look back at what just happened. It was clearly visible then that the arrow passed right through it and as it turned again, the front legs suddenly started giving in.
The day was not over yet, so after we took lots of photo's of Thomas and his fine trophy, we dragged it deep into the shade where it went down and returned to the blind for the hour or so that was left before dark.
Another boar of about the same size came in shortly after and on its way out it picked-up the tracks of the fallen one, obviously tracking it into the thicket. For a moment I thought I heard grunting sounds and other commotion in that direction, but did not pay much attention to it any further. Later when we went to pick-up our boar, we were surprised to find out that the other boar not only tracked down and found his supposed fallen rival but also viciously attacked it, leaving it full of holes around the backside and a couple of yards away from where we have hidden it. Fortunately for Thomas the tusks were not damaged, so he got his hog and the other boar its revenge.
Impala are well known for their lightning fast reactions and good sense of smell among others, thus making it a bit more challenging to get a clean shot at a big old male, especially when surrounded by watchful female eyes. With this in mind we had to get close to a solitary old ram and with the wind in our faces.
Early morning on our way in to the chosen blind an unexpected opportunity arose on a Steenbok at close range. Stopping only briefly to look back at us, the ram presented a sharp quartering away shot. Thomas released a quick snapshot, elevation perfect, but literally hair shaving off to the left. The recovered arrow confirmed that there was no harm done and although a little disappointed, Thomas agreed it is better than having a wounded animal out there.
Upon arrival at our blind, a fine lone, old Impala ram somewhat reluctantly moved away from the saltlick into a nearby thicket. The red tape that Thomas hung in a tree next to the blind confirmed a perfect wind in our faces. Another distance check to the salt that we placed close and almost against a tree to have an animal broadside and we were ready to wait and see what we shall see.
I had high hopes that the Impala might return later, but I did not expect us to have luck so soon. The same Impala walked in only a few minutes later, determined and with its head down, straight to the salt. Thomas needed only an approving nod from me and that was about all I could dare to do as the ram was standing very close to the blind, alone and alert. As Thomas draw and moved closer to the shooting port, the ram immediately looked up and straight into the blind. Thomas froze briefly, luckily the ram relaxed, giving him a gap to come to full draw and then the arrow was on its way.
The modern bows are so fast that as a bystander you sometimes have to rely on the reaction of the animal and sound to know if it was a good hit. Thomas confirmed my thoughts with "I got him good !" and as we watched, it got slower before reaching the thicket and went down.
With a few days of experience on different African game species, Thomas was now tuned to patiently seek out the perfect opportunity and with ease place a fatal arrow in the vitals.
Towards the end of the hunt, Thomas got another chance at a Steenbok and a very good one it turned out to be. Another quick shot at short range, but this time the ram stood broadside just long enough for a perfect placed arrow. It demanded twenty minutes of skillful tracking through knee-high grass to find the Steenbok. What made it even more difficult was the little or no blood we found over long distances, surprising for such a small animal, shot right through the vitals. Finding the arrow was almost impossible if it was not for the luminous knocks we could look for when it got dark. It is always good to come well prepared.
Thomas concluded the safari taking a fine old Hartebeest bull out from between two other bulls, while walking away almost out of range. In my opinion he proved himself a very good archer and I am looking forward hunting with him again.
Helgaard van der Vyver
Great story. Thanks for sharing.
Originally Posted by RickB
good story and great pictures.
Thanks for sharing great Read and Pics.
Very nice read and some great photos too! Thanks Helgaard!
Thanks for sharing this story. Well done.
Nice pictures and great stories!