Diary of an African Safari
by Skip Berry
I got to Namibia on March 18 and had the thrill of hunting there for 10 days.
After landing in Windhoek at about noon local time, I got my rifle and cleared customs. There I was met by Pieter Stofberg of Nimrod Safaris. Pieter drove me to a ranch about an hour east of the capital city. The ranch was about 25,000 acres and high fenced only at the perimeter, basically to keep the poachers out more than the game in. We got settled in, then went out to verify that my scope was still zeroed in on my Mark V Classicmark .300 Weatherby. Happily it printed 2” high and dead center, just as it had before I left. That done, we went for a drive around the ranch where Pieter showed me some of the large variety of game to be hunted. It was incredible for me to see all the animals new to my eyes. In a couple hours that first evening I saw Gemsbok, Hartebeest, Kudu cows, Warthog, Impala and Springbok. I could hardly wait to get down to some serious hunting!
The next day dawned bright and we went out for real. We would drive to places on the ranch, glass to spot game and then try to stalk into position for a shot. We made several stalks on Kudu and Hartebeest in that first morning without getting a shot. These animals are very spooky and it is NOT like shooting fish in a barrel, believe me. They were as spooky like our whitetail deer, but with better eyesight bred into them from centuries of being preyed upon by Leopards and the like.
Late in the afternoon, we spotted a Hartebeest bull that Pieter was sure would be high in the record book so we took off on a stalk. As we were moving into range sneaking through the thick bush, we spooked a group of Gemsbok that we didn't know where there as our attention was trained on the Hartebeest. They ran off and took the Hartebeest with them, much to our dismay. We had been seeing lots of sign and the area looked like a great place to jump something, so we maneuvered to get the wind in our favor, and then began a sneak along a dry creek bed, peering up over the top of the bank every few yards to see what we could see. We were startled when a Kudu bull "barked"; the sound they make when alarmed like when a whitetail "snorts". It was LOUD and CLOSE. We never saw him in the thick bush, but we heard him take off.
We continued circling the area, heading back in the direction of the hunting truck, when I spotted an animal resting in the shade under a tree only 40 yards to our left. He was facing away from us and not aware of us yet. I knew it was a Hartebeest and could have shot him as he lay there, but did not have enough experience to know if it was a good one worth shooting or not, so I started to whisper to Pieter who was leading our stalk ahead of me.
Before I could say anything, the Hartebeest had seen, heard, or smelled us. I don't know which it was, but he jumped up and ran off, quartering away from us through the bushes and trees. Pieter took one look and yelled "shoot", but he was gone, blocked by the trees and shrubs. Pieter then yelled for me to move around a large bush where there was a clear lane for a couple of hundred yards. Pieter yelled "He might stop and take a look at us to see what spooked him!" Almost on cue, the Hartebeest appeared in the open lane through the bush about 130 yards away. He stopped, but he was facing right back at me, trying to see us. I normally wouldn't like the shot, me standing offhand without a rest shooting with an animal facing me, but when I pulled up the gun somehow the sight picture was rock solid as I looked at him in the scope. On “autopilot” I put the cross hairs at the base of his neck where it joined his chest and the .300 Weatherby ROARED. I lost the sight picture as the recoil shoved me up and back, but when I recovered a second later, there was nothing running and Pieter told me he had heard a solid hit even though he never saw the Hartebeest when I was shooting. We took off walking down the narrow clearing and just as I was sure that we had must have walked too far, there was my Hartebeest...my first trophy in Namibia! The shot hit him square in the front of the chest and the 180 grain Nosier Partition did what I have come to expect them to do. It delivered massive shock and penetrated to the hindquarter of the 350 pound Hartebeest. It was a great stalk, good shot, and a perfect end to my first day of hunting in Namibia. It was time for a celebration drink and to prepare for day two and hunting mountain Zebra.
Day 2, 3 & 4
One of my top desires on my trip to Africa was to get a Zebra skin to hang on my wall. Nimrod Safaris had lined up a hunt for the following day on a ranch about 45 minutes away that had more zebra than they wanted, so the next day we were off to hunt that ranch. It was about 15,000 unfenced acres of very rugged “hills”. To me they looked like small mountains and when Wilhem, my guide for that ranch asked me if I could ride a horse, I quickly understood why.
He explained that we could hunt on foot up from a truck, but that we could cover more ground and be more efficient if I could ride. Now I am no expert horseman, but I have ridden on hunts and pack-in fishing trips out west in the U.S., so I agreed. And boy was I glad I did. I just never had it in my mind that I would be on horses in Namibia.
I had been expecting the zebra hunt to be more of a "shoot" than a "hunt". I had this mental picture of a bunch of striped horses out on a plain that we would sneak up to and then simply pick one out for a shot. I couldn't have been more off base. We were hunting Hartmann's Zebra, otherwise known as “Mountain Zebra” and the nickname was well chosen. This reminded me more of an elk or sheep hunt as we rode up and through rocky canyons, along ridges and across valleys. Frankly I was thanking god for inventing horses after the first hour!
After a couple of hours we decided to cross a valley to get to a far ridge top, so we rode down the canyon wall. As the hunting gods always work it, when we were down in the valley starting to climb back up, Wilhem spotted a herd of 6 Zebra...GRAZING OVER THE RIDGE TOP WE JUST CAME DOWN!!! To make matters worse, as we were sitting there watching the zebra, I spotted a LARGE Kudu bull on the ridge that we had just began to climb. And of course both the zebra and the Kudu was watching us, watching him!
I had a quick conference with Wilhem and told him that I had been seeing lots of Kudu at the other ranch, but that this might be my only day to hunt the zebra. That settled it, so we took off up the canyon wall we had just descended back towards the zebra, keeping a ridgeline between us so we were out of their sight. I cringed as the big Kudu bull bounded over the top of the hill behind us and disappeared, but I tried to console myself with the thought of that Zebra hide I so desperately wanted. We rode as far as possible while staying hidden from the sharp eyes of the zebra grazing on the hillside, and then dismounted. We continued climbing towards them on foot, keeping a large rock pile between the zebra and ourselves.
Using an old hunter’s trick, we had left the horses where the Zebra could see them, hoping the horses would hold the zebra’s attention away from us. The ploy worked. But when we got to the rock pile we were still almost 300 yards away and there was nothing but open, rocky hillside between the zebra and ourselves. There was no way to get closer so I settled in and tried to make a good rest on the top of a large rock. The rest was pretty solid, but I had to contort badly to get behind it. The zebra were nervous, knowing something was wrong, but not really knowing where we were. They were milling around and paced back and forth. Any second I expected them to run up and over the top of the mountain ridge, so I quickly got on the last zebra and when he turned and gave me a quartering shot, I fired. My heart sank when we neither saw nor heard any indication of a hit! I was kicking myself as they ran up and over the top of the mountain.
We rode up to the spot where they had stood and spent a long time looking for hair, blood or any other sign of a hit, but we were convinced that I had missed clean. I was beating myself mentally for blowing what might be my best chance at the zebra I wanted so badly, but Wilhem did what good guides do and said "Let's go find them again". So we mounted up and climbed to the highest hilltop to glass.
After an hour of looking we still hadn't spotted them so we started riding again to an area where Wilhem thought they might go if spooked. It was a "badlands" type of area, with lots of canyons cutting through some large hills and we rode a ridge top above one canyon then the next. Suddenly Willhem stopped and put his hand up? I heard it too, the clacking of hooves on the rocks. Seconds later we saw zebra running up a draw out of the canyon right below and behind us heading for the next ridge. I grabbed my rifle and went to dismount, but in my haste, my boot caught in the stirrup. I was glad that nobody was there with a video camera as I about broke my neck trying to jump off the horse, but I finally got free and got into a sitting position to shoot. The last zebra was about 150 yards out, quartering away and trotting when he stopped for a moment and I fired. I could see no sign of a hit and Wilhem yelled to shoot again so I did as he crossed a ledge and continued toward the top of the mountain. We moved to the top of the hill as quickly as we could and spotted the Zebra again as they galloped away though the next valley. Suddenly I noticed that now there were only 5 zebra running?!? Wilhem agreed and we decided my zebra must be dead somewhere on the side of the mountain. We found their tracks where they had crossed over and back tracked down the hillside until we spotted my trophy! And what a beautiful sight it was!
As the trackers skinned the zebra, we followed the blood trail and traced him back to my first shot. Many people say zebra are the toughest plains game in Africa and after examining the scene and looking at the zebra as it was dressed I have to agree. My first shot had entered through the ribs and angled into the off shoulder, tearing off the top of his heart and shredding both lungs. This was at 150 yards with a .300 Weatherby shooting 180 grain Nosler Partitions. That zebra gave no indication of a hit at all when I shot, ran 200 yards UP a mountainside, then turned and ran 50 yards back down a canyon before collapsing! I had missed with my follow shot, but the zebra was already done for, he just refused to admit it! The zebra was over 500 pounds and was the toughest hunt I had in Africa. A lot of people have said things like "how can it be any fun to hunt a "horse", but they have never chased zebra in the mountains!
The next day was overcast and we spent the morning chasing a band of 3 Kudu bulls over the rocky hills of the main ranch. One of the bulls was HUGE, but they always managed to just keep one hill or group of trees between us until they finally gave us the slip for good. We broke for lunch (we usually sat out the time from 12-3 pm to avoid the most intense heat of the day) but as we ate lunch, a storm came in. We spent the rest of the afternoon watching a downpour in a desert country and drinking cold ones!
The next day started off with more rain, so we decided to take advantage of the downtime and traveled the 5 hours south to Nimrods tent camp in the Kalahari Desert on the Botswana and South African border. This is where we would chase, Impala, Springbok, Kudu, Eland, and the biggest Gemsbok in the world!
Day 4 & 5
We got to Nimrod's tent camp in the middle of a large ranch in the Kalahari Desert. We got there in the afternoon of day 4 and Thomas our cook and camp do everything started working on dinner. This was a DELUXE tent camp with tents housed under permanent shelters and a wood fired water heater for HOT showers in the bathroom with flush toilets!
After unpacking, Pieter and I took off and looked around the ranch for a good Gemsbok or Springbok. The Gemsbok in this area are generally larger than anywhere else in Africa, because of the soft sand there. They do a lot of digging etc. with their horns, so in many areas, the horns are constantly being worn back as they grow. In the Kalahari they just keep growing. In case you doubt the "largest Gemsbok in the world" claim, understand that Pieter has guided the #3 & #4 SCI Gemsbok out of his camp and believes that he will guide one of his hunters to #1 in the next few years. (Dave Petzal and Jim Carmicheal are hunting with him later this summer and I would bet that F&S and OL will have Nimrod articles by year end and I would bet that one or both of those guys drop REAL BIG Gemsbok). We saw a herd of Gemsbok and some Springbok, but nothing that got Pieter excited trophy wise.
We got up early on day 5 and drove 1 1/2 hours to be at a ranch that bordered Botswana. This ranch held good Eland and lots of Kudu along with Gemsbok. Pieter felt he could do better on the Gemsbok near our tent camp so we were mainly there for Eland and hopefully another crack at the Kudu.
We had some breakfast with rancher and just after daybreak left the ranch in the hunting truck. We hadn't gone 200 yards when the driver stopped and pointed toward a water hole in a valley behind the ranch. There were two bull and three cow Eland at the water hole. We slipped off the vehicle and stalked behind some hills and a group of trees, but the bulls were young and the rancher had told Pieter of a very old bull Eland he had been seeing so we left them to grow. We drove further into the ranch when one of the native boys spotted tracks crossing the road and shouted "buw". The only two words he spoke that I could understand were "buw" (bull) and "coie" (cow). This boy would astound me with his eyesight and ability to pick out individual tracks before the day was done. We followed the tracks and 400 yards ahead of us we spotted the old bull eland with 6 cows. We stalked them, but they spotted us and took off. A bull Eland is the largest antelope on earth. They can reach over 2000 lbs., heavier than most cows but you would be amazed at how agile they are. Watching them run and jump fences was just amazing given their size. When an Eland "gets the trots" as Pieter liked to say, you will never catch up to them on foot. They can trot for MILES at a pace you can't keep up with running on foot. Since we wanted that particular old bull, the only course of action was to get back in the truck and circle ahead and try to pick up his track somewhere else on the ranch Pieter explained. It sounded like looking for a needle in a haystack to me, but what the hell...he was the PH so I went along with him.
We took the truck around in a large semi-circle that would intersect the direction the group of Eland went. We drove slowly looking in the sand for tracks where the Eland had crossed. All of a sudden there they were, a group of tracks crossing the sand. Even I could make out the tracks of 7 1500-2,000 pound animals in the soft dirt, but I was amazed that Pieter and our boy tracker agreed that this was definitely the same Eland? We got out and started after the Eland. We tracked them for over an hour when I really got a lesson. I was completely amazed when the group split from 7 to 4, 4 to 2, then 2 to 1 and the tracker stayed on 1 track. How could they be sure this ONE was the bull we wanted? I was a little skeptical, but I went along with them since that’s what I was paying them for! 20 minutes later we spotted THE bull up ahead of us per the script! We did not want to spook him again, so we were very careful. An hour later I was watching him slip inside 50 yards of me angling slightly away. He was a huge beast and this was the only time on my trip that I was wishing for “more gun” and thinking about my .375 H&H back home. Even more so when Pieter whispered "make it good, a wounded Eland can go for miles and DAYS before we get him". I checked my breathing and when the Eland stepped into a shooting lane I slammed him in the lungs with the .300 Weatherby!
The Eland flinched but did not go down. I shot two more times as he stumbled off through the bush. Basically I was going to shoot until he dropped or I was out of ammo, but after about 100 yards he stopped running then crashed to the ground!!! My first shot had gone through the lungs, split his liver and came to rest in the off shoulder. So if you make a good shot, yes a .300 Magnum is enough for an Eland, but if you make a bad shot, a .375 probably wouldn't be ENOUGH!!
We took pictures and then winched the Eland into the truck. He really didn't fit into the compact pickup that is Pieter's hunting truck but we secured him with ropes to hold him in place. Pieter measured him and declared him solidly in the SCI book, so we went back to the ranch house to eat lunch and celebrate with a cold one!
After lunch, Pieter and Hendrich (the ranch owner) ask if I was “ready to go get my Kudu?” I thought to myself, the Kudu bulls had been giving me the slip since I got to Africa and to hope for a book Eland and good Kudu in one day was a little cocky, but of course I said "Let's do it!" Only I sounded a little more confident then I really was. We headed out and this is where the tracker boy’s eyes really blew me away. I always considered myself to have pretty good game eyes and held my own with Pieter on our trip, given the animals and area were all new to me. But this boy astounded me. We were heading out across the ranch when he shouted "buw". We stopped the truck for a look. With the naked eye I couldn't even really make out an animal. I pulled up my 8x binoculars and then could see a Kudu under a tree...800 yards away. With the binoculars I could make out it was a bull (has horns) vs. cow (no horns). With my naked eye I wouldn't have even noticed him. Hell, I could barely see him when I knew where he was after looking at him in the binoculars and this boy had spotted him while we were moving and could tell he was a bull not a cow with just his eyes!
We got out and started stalking. As we got closer, we could see that there were 2 other bulls with him. They spotted us when we were about 350 yards out, moving to get a good shooting angle on them as we slipped from tree to tree in relatively flat area. It was mid-afternoon and the animals were mostly under trees in the shade, but they spooked and took off to the next time zone, so we had no choice but to let them go.
We jumped back on the truck and moved to another part of the ranch. Once again from behind me came "buw" and once again I could see nothing with my naked eyes. But through the binoculars I saw a good bull in the shade of a tree about 600 yards away. Another "attaboy" for the tracker! We circled for the wind and began our stalk. This time we lost sight of the Kudu, but kept moving from bush to bush in the area we knew he must be. The bull had moved from the tree where we first spotted him, but we hoped he was still in the area grazing.
Suddenly, as we quietly stepped around a bush…bam. There he was 50 yards away! His butt was facing us as he nibbled on the branches of a bush facing almost directly away from us. We stopped and I swung my rifle up and put it on the little bit of shoulder I could see. I probably should have waited for a better angle, but the Kudu had given me the slip so many times that I was ready to hit him before he spooked and got away. Because of the severe angle, the Nosler went through his near shoulder and into his neck, dropping him in his tracks. I was jumping up and down and high fiving the tracker boy who couldn't speak a lick of English. He had no idea what a "high five" was, but he was happy too and "high fived" me back!
We took pictures and Pieter measured him...3 turns...51 inches. Short of the record book but he was heavy and very pretty! A beautiful trophy no matter what he scored. So that was the day that I dropped more pounds of game animal (2000# Eland and 550# Kudu) than any other day in my life!
When I went to pack my hunting duffle bag to leave for Africa, my Hydro Fleece jacket and pants where in the bag. I almost took them out since Pieter had told me I wouldn't need rain gear in the Desert. I decided to leave them in my bag since they took up little room. I figured the jacket would be good for around the campfire at night and the pants, hell I just figured Murphy’s law would come into effect somehow...and it did.
I woke up before daylight on day 6 to hear rain POUNDING on the tent! I had 3 days of hunting left and was not about to sit out another day because of rain. In North America we get rain, snow, sleet, sun all of it and since our seasons are short, you hunt when you can hunt, screw the weather. So I pulled on the rain gear and went to breakfast. Pieter was the one who was really in for it because he usually never gets rain during hunting season so he just had cotton cloths and a light cotton jacket. But he did what good outfitters do, gritted his teeth and said "let's go get your Impala!" Pieter had made arrangements for us to hunt a ranch that would normally be about 45 minutes away and we left to be there at daybreak. This ranch had a large Impala population, so that was the prime target for the day. This morning the roads were washed out from the freak storms and were so swampy so it took us an hour and a half to get there a little after daybreak. It was still raining steadily when we got to the ranch. After drinking some coffee offered by the ranch owners (everywhere I went to hunt in Namibia, the ranch owners wife’s almost took it as their personal duty to see that their American guest was fed and taken care of), we moved out to look for a good Impala ram. We started off across the ranch heading for a rocky area known to hold lots of Impala, but about 3 minutes down the road saw a large group of Springbok, an animal I hadn't collected yet. We stopped to evaluate the Springbok, when I noticed a brown animal under a tree off to the right of the group of Springbok. Pieter confirmed that it was an Impala ram, about 450 yards away. Through the rain and because of the overcast sky, Pieter was having a hard time judging the Impala. They have single black horns that curl up, out and back and the difference between record book and average is about 5 inches. Pieter told me that he thought it was a pretty good ram, but couldn't be sure. It was definitely not a juvenile, was mature, but he couldn't see if it was better than average.
We got out and started working up the hillside to get a closer look. As we got close to 300 yards out, the Springbok spotted us and moved out. The Impala hadn't seen us since we left the truck but got nervous when the Springbok left, so he got up and moved a ways. He acted like he would bolt at any second. I decided that I would take him, that he was a good, pretty Impala, if not great and got a rest on a large rock. “He's a little over 300” whispered Pieter. For me, that is a pretty long shot on a 100 pound animal and he was quartering toward me, looking for us. But I had a good rest and felt confident I could take him. I knew the .300 Weatherby would hit about 3-4" low at that range, so I held high on his chest and squeezed the trigger.
That was when I made the worst shot of my trip. As the roar of the shot echoed through the hills, I could hear the "smack" of the bullet hitting the Impala. I don't know if I pulled the shot or the howling wind pushed it. Most likely it was “operator error” and I just pulled the shot, but the bullet hit low in the body and well right of the target. Instead of the chest, I hit him behind the stomach just in front of the near hindquarter and out through the far rear leg. He bounced away without going down but was hurt badly. This was one of those times that the high velocity/high energy thing that gets debated on the internet about every other week came into play. Even though he was not hit in a vital area, the shock of the bullet had blown a big hole in the animal’s abdomen. It was not a pretty sight as he stumbled away over a ridge into the next valley. He would die for sure and on the open, rocky hillsides it was not likely we would lose him, but I wanted to end it quickly and finish him before he suffered more. We quickly moved up on him and as we looked over the hill, there he was about 80 yards away. He was walking slowly and quartering away from us. I quickly shot him behind the shoulder and had the most visible evidence of how fast a .300 Weatherby is. I can't really explain it well, but in the same instant I pulled the trigger, I could "see" the bullet plow into the hillside in front of him after tearing through him and out the front of his chest. The Impala just dropped straight down in a heap. He ended up be a nice mature Impala ram that will look good on the wall, but was very average. I was pleased none the same since they are very pretty.
We were back at the ranch less than 45 minutes after we pulled out and the tracker started skinning him. While we were watching the tracker skin the Impala, the rancher informed us that there was a very good Blesbok ram that had wandered onto his ranch some time ago. It seemed that he had taken up with a herd of Impala does and had decided to make this ranch his home, even though he was the only Blesbok there as far as anybody knew. Pieter asked if I wanted to try and add the unexpected Blesbok to my list of animals and given that it was only about 9am and we had driven so hard through the muck to get there! Plus it had stopped raining by then and waiting a while would give the roads time to dry out. It sounded like a plan to me so off we went again!
That Blesbok turned out to be quite a challenge. It took us two hours of moving about the ranch, stopping to climb hills and glass, but we finally spotted the large group of Impala does and the Blesbok Ram. We stalked him several times that day and even tried to ambush him by setting up on a hillside and sending the trackers with the truck to a point past where we had glassed the Blesbok. Our in hope was to "spook" the herd past us for a shot. We were foiled at every attempt and finally retired in defeat for the drive back to our tent camp for dinner. Throughout the day we spotted several nice Impala rams, but none much better than I had taken so we had stayed focused on the Blesbok. It had been a fun day with the quick success on the Impala and plenty of stalks on the Blesbok, but this time the Blesbok won.
Keep that in mind if anyone tells you that hunting in Africa is a sure thing! If we wanted to spend another day on him I am sure we would eventually get the drop on him, but he was fun to hunt while I was at that ranch and not a top priority of mine. I wanted to focus the last two hunting days I had on the Gemsbok and Springbok back at the tent camp.
After hunting the Impala and Blesbok in a driving rain, my spirits soared when I woke up on day 7 to see the sun coming over a dune to the east and that the day was dawning bright and clear. It was a beautiful morning and we were going to hunt Springbok in the dunes near or tent camp. We had seen lots of animals as we came in and out of camp, but today we were going to get serious about getting one of the pretty little antelope with the funny "bounce".
We started hiking down a road that ran between a couple of large dunes, glassing as we went. Time after time we spotted Springbok, but it would turn out to be a group of does or a small ram. The sky was clear and the day was getting hot, so I was thankful for the Camelbak system on my back and the large hat I had borrowed from Pieter to keep the sun off my ears and neck.
As we came around a bend and over a dune, I spotted a large herd of Gemsbok. Never one to pass up an opportunity, we glassed the herd. There were lots of pretty animals, but Pieter felt we could do better than the biggest animals in this group, so we watched them for a while, then slipped back off the dune and circled so as not to spook them. As we approached an old windmill powered waterhole, a Springbok jumped up from the tall grass and stared at us for what seemed like a long time, but was really probably 5 seconds. He was only about 50 yards away, broadside and I had the scope locked on his lungs, but I waited to get Pieter's judgment on his quality. It takes some experience to judge a good Springbok from an exceptional Springbok, and since we had seen so many, I had instructed Pieter that I wanted to hold out for an exceptional Springbok.
At the same instant Pieter calmly said "Take him", the Springbok decided he didn't like what he was seeing and he bolted. Not wanting to risk a running shot, I tracked him in the scope to see if he would stop and give me a shot, but he continued over the top of a dune and was gone. We figured that since we hadn't shot, he might not go far, so we took out after him and tracked him over one dune, across a valley then started up the next dune. We hoped we would find him in the next valley, so we crept up the second dune and peered into the valley ahead. We saw nothing and as we were about to move over the top of the dune, I saw the Springbok off to our left and about 175 yards away. I tugged at Pieter's shirt (my signal to him that I had seen something as we stalked along in Africa, me following closely behind Pieter. I pointed and Pieter quickly set the shooting sticks in the sand. I sat down and settled in the shooting sticks, but the Springbok was facing me head on looking at us and trying to decide if we were "trouble". When a 90 pound animal is staring at you head on from 175 yard away, there is little margin for error. I held my fire waiting for him to turn and give me some "shoulder". He decided he didn't like what he was seeing, so he turned in a swift movement and took off again before I got a clean shot at his chest/shoulder. He ran down the valley between two dunes and around a clump of trees.
We started off after him again and as we worked around the trees, my patience was rewarded. We spotted the Springbok about 200 yards away, standing on the side of a dune, scanning for danger (us). He was broadside, but there was nothing to rest on and the grass was too deep for a sitting shot. So we "Leopard" crawled through the waist deep grass for about 50 yards to get to a tree that provided both a rifle rest and gave me the opportunity to move into a shooting position undetected, along with knocking the distance down to about 150 yards. The Springbok never knew what hit him when the 180 grain Nosler Partition hit him square in the lungs and bowled him over. He turned out to be 15 inches and would make the book. Once again Pieter had led me to another trophy and a stalk to remember for a lifetime!!!
That afternoon we set off after a big Gemsbok, hunting on the neighboring ranch. We spotted a large herd and glassed a couple of animals that Pieter felt were real good. They were in the middle of a large valley, so we planned a stalk along the dune bordering the valley and hoped to close inside 300 yards.
As we got close to being in range, the herd was milling around. Somehow one of them must have spotted us, and even though we had enough time to settle into a prone position on the top of the dune, the only animals within range were a couple of the lesser animals so we elected to leave them alone. They spooked and moved into the next valley and headed out.
We could see another thunderstorm moving toward us and it was getting darker by the minute, so we decided to let them go and try and find them again tomorrow. We had all day to find a Gemsbok on Day 8 before I would have to leave, so we left the herd alone for the afternoon.
On the way back to camp, we jumped two Steenbok, one of Africa's smallest antelope, adults being about 2ft high and weighing about 35 lbs. They took off bouncing away through the grass and never stopped until they were out of sight. A running shot through tall grass at a antelope that is half the size of a black lab would be a waste of ammo, but when we jumped a third one, he ran about 50 yards and stopped broadside in a small clearing to look back at what had spooked him. That was a fatal mistake on his part as I was ready and waiting for just such an occurrence. It was lights out as the .300 pounded my 7th trophy of the trip. As we walked over to pick up the little antelope, Pieter joked about wondering whether the .300 Weatherby was “enough gun” for that antelope.
Minutes later, the storm hit, just as we got back to the truck and day 7 came to a close with me still waiting for my Gemsbok, but happy with the days events, especially the mornings stalks on my Springbok.
When Tomas, our camp "do it all" woke me up, I could see incredible streaks of red and blue over the large dune to the east of camp. I grabbed a cup of coffee and walked to the top of the dune and watched what was probably the best sunrise of my life, but I was sad to know this was my last one in the Kalahari.
It had rained most of the night and was a little chilly, but the day was dawning bright and clear and the coffee was hot, so we would have a perfect day to try and find one of the large Gemsbok that the Kalahari is famous for. We drove 1/2 hour to the far end of our ranch, and started looking for the herd of Gemsbok we had spooked the day before. Pieter got the "eyesight badge" as he spotted a lone Gemsbok skylined on the top of a dune a very, very long ways away. After watching for a while, the whole herd grazed over the dune and we were able to get an idea of which way they were headed, so we bugged out to head them off.
We circled ahead a couple of dunes in the direction they were headed, after getting the wind in our favor. We then skirted behind a large dune until we felt we were directly in their path and climbed up, finally inching over the top to peer into the valley. Everything was going according to plan, we were on top of the dune directly in the path of the herd. 300 yards in front of me was a dune, with the valley below, so as the herd crossed over the dune, they would be in the valley below me, and all within range for minutes as we would pick out the biggest animal for a shot. I was prone, dug into the sand, and had a rock solid fire zone over the whole valley, so my confidence was high! But as is so often is the case, the animals forgot to follow the plan. We waited for quite some time, scanning with binoculars watching for the first animal to appear over the dune in front of us. It seemed like forever when Pieter said something in German that I didn't understand, but was pretty sure was a curse of some kind. The herd had changed path somewhat and had skirted around the dune in front of us and was now about 200 yards away, off to our right. If we moved to get into shooting position they would surely spot us.
Gemsbok 40" Male
"Be very still now Skip" Pieter had whispered. Even though I could not see the animals and was dying for a look, I just lay there in the sand not moving. Meanwhile ants crawled on me, increasing the temptation to move, but I knew that if I did, the sharp eyes of these animals would surely pick it up and they would spook off...so I just lay there for what seemed like hours, ignoring my urges to move.
Pieter tapped my arm and made some slight hand motions and I knew what he was thinking. The herd was going to skirt around the edge of the dune that we were on, so that there would be a short period of time where they couldn't see us, then they would be in the valley BEHIND us. I would have time to sit up, spin around, and get ready for a sitting shot at the herd behind us, but since the wind would then be blowing toward the animals, we wouldn't have long to pick the best one and shoot before they would scent us, not to mention that we would be sitting on the open hillside and an animal might see us spook.
All of a sudden Pieter whispered "now" and we both sat up and spun around. Now I could see to the end of our dune and into the valley below us. I settled into a sitting position and Pieter slapped the shooting sticks into the sand in front of me. Seconds later, the animals started appearing around the end of our dune and feeding into the valley. We held our fire, waiting to get the whole herd into the valley so Pieter could see the biggest animal, but we were racing against the clock before they got directly downwind of us and spooked. After scanning the herd with his binoculars, Pieter whispered "take the 3rd animal from the front, she is the tallest", but when I got on her, she was surrounded by other animals and the animal never was in the clear. I was starting to think we were going to lose the chance, because the main group was now around her and they were ambling farther and further away, the lead animals having moved past 200 yards and getting farther by the second. Pieter quickly looked again and said "get on the 4th animal from the back, he's a bull, but very good length and nice and heavy!", so I got him in the scope and tracked him as he walked. Another Gemsbok was walking with him and blocking the front half of his body! We were racing against the clock, trying to get the shot before the animals moved too far out into the wide valley behind us or they smelled/spotted us and spooked, when my animal stopped for a couple of seconds to chew on some grass. The other animal continued on, clearing the body of the Gemsbok we wanted. Pieter barked "now" but I was already squeezing the trigger and the roar of the .300 Weatherby drowned him out! When I came out of the recoil, the whole herd was scrambling away. I couldn't tell which was my animal, so I couldn't follow up with a second shot. Even though the sight picture had looked solid and I thought I had made a good shot, I got that feeling of panic, the feeling of "damn I missed". But I had done my job, as had the 180 grain Nolser, because seconds later, one Gemsbok stumbled a bit and then crashed to the ground!!! My trophy was down and Pieter and I high fived each other and took off down the dune towards my 8th trophy of the trip.
As we walked, Pieter told me that he was sure he had heard the "smack" of a solid hit, and when we got to the animal, he was proven right. The bullet had entered high on the near shoulder, crashed through it and both lungs, then exited low through the off shoulder (because of the downward bullet path as I shot off the dune and down into the valley). The Partition had delivered massive shock and penetrated through both shoulders ending up in the sand somewhere. I couldn't have asked for better bullet performance. The bull was very heavy and measured right at 40", putting him well into the record books, and very high for a bull.
As our tracker brought the truck around the dunes for pictures and to winch him up, I was elated at the excitement of the hunt. The animals showing up where they weren't supposed to and the race against time to find the good animals and get one before they got out of range or spooked. I was as happy as could be, but then a feeling of sadness came over me as I realized that the best hunt of my life was now over.
Note: This hunt took place in 2000. Since then Pieter Stofberg has formed a new company called “African Days” having expanded into fishing and adventure trips. www.africandays.com