NAMIBIA: It's about time I posted on our Sep 10 Safari
Just today I brought home the first of many of our trophies - but more on that later.
My father and I hunted with Uitspan safaris in the Kalahari region of Namibia in September 2010. It was a first trip to Africa for both of us. We found Uitpsan through Ray Atkison. I'd like to send a huge thank you his way for the recommendation. It was fantastic in every way.
We flew from SLC to JFK on the red-eye, to Johannesburg direct and then to Windhoek. We arrived, got the guns through the checkpoints (very simple) and met our travel companion, Stiaan. The 4-hour drive to the camp passed quickly despite our travel-weary stupor. Seeing baboons cross the road reminds you very quickly that you're not in Kansas! The next morning we did the "can these guys hit anything?" sight-in session and set out hunting.
The first day of hunting was my birthday and the PH, Michael got me into position for a try at a very old blesbok. We were very quickly to find out if I was shooting well or not, since the blesbok got nervous and ran out to about 250-300 yards. It would be the longest shot I would attempt during the hunt. At that moment I was fortunate to have the bipod on the rifle. I moved forward to a small mound to get above the grass, sat down, and got the bipod into position. The result was very satisfying and Michael jumped up and down with excitement. I took that to be a good sign and a good omen. A few minutes later we went on a short walk to see the trophy.
Needless to say, I was liking this African hunting stuff!!! In the afternoon we stalked to within 100 yards of three bull kudu. They bedded down in an area where we had no choice but to wait them out. We could see the two smaller bulls, but the big guy we were after couldn't be seen. We sat down and swapped stories for a couple of hours. Unfortunately a passing truck in the distance got their attention and they bolted immediately. On his way out we could see that the big bull had heavy and wide horns. We walked back to the truck. The PH and I were a few yards apart. I looked slightly back and amazingly the three bulls stepped out to within a FEW FEET of me. Before I could react they bolted again, but how fantastic it was to be so close to such an animal. The PH never saw them. I'm pretty sure he believes that they were there, but he has no idea that they were so close.
The following day we cut the tracks of a herd of blue wildebeest. These guys were nervous from the get-go and every time we almost got within a few hundred yards they would spook and ran another half mile or so. After two or three hours we finally got to where we could see the top few inches of a single bull. It was a small target but I was fortunate to hit him well in the spine. He dropped immediately and we rushed forward to put a finishing shot in behind the shoulder.
Later that night we spent a few hours playing cat-and-mouse with a herd of about 20 kudu. There was a reasonable bull in the bunch, but we could never get a good look at him without either bushes or cows in the way. We sat there for a while until it got too dark to see. At one point a cow came within about 20 yards of us and couldn't quite make out what we were. She let out a bark so loud that I almost jumped out of my skin. Nobody warned me that kudu could talk!
Some of the days in the middle of the hunt are a blur. We eventually bumped into a nice bunch of springbok and I made a decent shot at an old ram. We had another three of four unsuccessful stalks on kudu. I was starting to worry about my hunting karma. I had been dreaming of a big kudu for years and it was by far my number one priority. Time and time again we came up short, despite seeing a number of acceptable bulls which were probably in the 44-48 range. Up to that point in the hunt I hadn't seen a single gemsbok. Every night around the fire my dad would tell of the dozens and dozens of big gemsbok they were seeing. He hadn't seen a single bull kudu. It's funny how it works.
One day we were tracking some hartebeest and the assistant PH suddenly stopped. He leaned over slowly and said "There's a nice duiker behind that bush right there." It was about 20 or 30 yards away. With some effort I was able to make out its head with through the scope, but I wasn't really sure about where the body should be. Stiaan told me he was lying broadside, facing away, and that his body ran to the right. I sortta figured out where the body should be and send a round at what I figured was a point midway back in the center of the body. Well, suffice it to say that a .300 Wby with 180gr Barnes TTSX is plenty adequate for duiker. They also make for some delicious stir-fry.
While all of this was going on, my father was making a try at a large eland bull they had seen the day before. It took them all day to locate him again. He finally got into position for a shot, but the bull jumped a small stock fence just as the bullet flew. The bull flinched, but was obviously not hit hard. The next two days were spent tracking him down and finishing him with three more shots from my dad's .340 Wby. The size of the bull was impressive! My father also took a couple of nice female gemsbok, with the largest measuring 42". To this point I still hadn't even seen one! We only had a couple of days left and I still didn't have either a gemsbok or a kudu - my first and second priorities.
The next morning we set off again. After a while, we spotted three gemsbok. Michael thought one was a nice bull. We started following. After maybe 30 minutes, Michael came back a few steps and says "There's gemsbok up ahead with a badly deformed horn. I want you to shoot it." I'm always willing to lend a hand, especially when the needed medicine involves me shooting at a big critter. I made a nice shot at a little under 100 yards. The horn is very strange indeed.
After radioing in and waiting for a truck to pick up the gemsbok, we got back on the track of the original three. A couple of miles later we finally got to within a few hundred yards of them. We spent an agonizing eternity crawling on hands and knees in the hot sand. Eventually we were able to get to about 100 yards away. Michael pointed out the bull and I got ready. They were partially obscured by cover and the bull was almost directly facing me, slightly quartering to the right. They were very alert and I was expecting them to bolt at any second. I got up on the sticks and did not like the rest at all. I steadied myself as best as possible and fired at forward shoulder. The bull jumped and took off. Michael asks "Where do you think you hit him?" I wasn't sure, but the sight picture at the time of the shot was decent.
We cut his track and found a good blood trail. It looked like a high lung shot. We proceeded carefully and found his first bed. A huge pile of blood was all over an area as big as a living room. We followed the tracks and found several more beds and piles of blood over the next hour or so. It soon became apparent that he wasn稚 as sick as we hoped. We eventually saw the back half of him about 300 yards away, behind a bush. Michael told me to put another shot in him anywhere I could. I fired and missed the whole animal. By now I was pretty discouraged, tired, hot, and frustrated. We called in the trucks and used their help to cover some ground as the gemsbok showed no signs of slowing down. We eventually got back on to him and I witnessed something that still amazes me. I put a shot into him right behind the shoulder and waited for him to topple over. He just stood there and watched us. I could see the entry wound. I could see blood coming out, but the animal just wouldn't die. I shot him again in the shoulder and still, he just stood there. He was obviously tired of running, but his toughness was amazing. He eventually did topple over and we went over for the usual back-slapping and photos. What a gorgeous animal! I now have a profound respect for these antelope, their wariness, and their tenacity.
By now it was a little after lunch. We took a much needed siesta, since it was probably over 90 degrees and I was dead tired. That evening we went to look for kudu. We detoured so my dad could get a blesbok and by the time it was loaded up, time was running out. We then drove to a different area where we saw a group of 13 bull kudu, all together!
They saw us too, and away they went. The bulls split up and we decided to follow the group that we thought had the largest bull. We moved along very rapidly, trying to track, watch ahead, and keep up, all at the same time. Right about then I saw Michael jump about three feet in the air and about ten feet sideways. My brain was trying to process all this when I looked down and saw a cobra in the grass - raised up, hood flared about two or three feet away. Suddenly I became airborne too, performing the same aerial dance I saw the PH doing a few seconds before.
No time to think about that?. We got a few glimpses of the kudu and followed them for probably a mile or so. By then the light was just starting to fail. We cut in front of a group of three or four bulls and got into position. There was a bull with longer horns, but Michael was very insistent that I shoot instead at a darker bull. When they stopped running I got him in the crosshairs and did not like what I saw. They were dancing all over the place. At that moment, I forced myself to concentrate, took a 2 second break, and got back on. The bull was about 200-250 yards away. I aimed for the front quartering shoulder and BOOM, he was on the ground kicking sand 20 feet in the air. Apparently I got a little excited after that. My dad said my Indian war whoop was almost as loud as the rifle. They could hear it from the trucks. The photos speak for themselves. He's a magnificent trophy in every way, and now, almost a year later I can still recall almost every detail of the stalk. The horns measure 49.5" and 50.5".
The next day my dad got his kudu and I shot a cow red hartebeest as a cull animal. The trip drew to a close and exceeded my expectations in every way. I can't say enough good about the PH, Michael, his wife Tienie who keeps a great camp, and the rest of the gang at Uitspan. Michael and Tienie are now great friends and we exchange email and stay in touch via facebook. The trophies arrived in great shape and the taxidermist is working his way through the pile.
It was so much fun we'll be going back in April to hunt with Uitspan again. The menu this time includes mountain zebra, warthog, impala, and whatever else the hunting gods favor us with. I can't wait.