Namibia 2009 with Wes Hixon Outdoor Adventures
This is a discussion on Namibia 2009 with Wes Hixon Outdoor Adventures within the Namibia Hunting Reports forums, part of the Hunting Reports & Questions About Outfitters/PHs category; Outfitter : Hans Hunts (Namibia) Booking Agent : Wes Hixon Outdoor Adventures PH: George Deloch Dates Hunted : June 12th ...
Namibia 2009 with Wes Hixon Outdoor Adventures
Outfitter: Hans Hunts (Namibia)
Booking Agent: Wes Hixon Outdoor Adventures
PH: George Deloch
Dates Hunted: June 12th thru 23rd, 2009
Flights: Minneapolis – Amsterdam – Munich (stayed a week) – Johannesburg - Windhoek
Rifles: Remington 300 Ultra Mag using 200gr Barnes TSX bullets.
Species Hunted: Southern Greater Kudu, Hartmann’s Zebra, Gemsbok, Blue Wildebeest, Black Wildebeest, Impala, Kalahari Springbok, Warthog, Red Hartebeest, Steenbok
Species Taken: Southern Greater Kudu, Hartmann’s Zebra, Gemsbok, Blue Wildebeest, Black Wildebeest, Impala, Kalahari Springbok, Warthog
Species Not Taken: Red Hartebeest, Steenbok,
Targets of Opportunity Missed: Black Backed jackal, Baboon
Species Seen: Southern Greater Kudu, Hartmann’s Zebra, Gemsbok, Blue Wildebeest, Black Wildebeest, Impala, Kalahari Springbok, Warthog, Blesbok, Klipspringer, Giraffe, Ostrich, Klipspringer, Blesbok, Common Duiker, Burchell’s Zebra, Baboon, Jackal, Red Hartebeest, and Steenbok.
Let me preface this entire story by saying this is my (and my wife’s) first safari while our traveling companions, it was their second. Lynn and Becky and Mike and Josie, we are all family and had an incredible journey. This story, as I wrote it, is really for me and there are obviously things I point out that were and are new to me and my wife and that many will find ridiculously stupid.
Although we had spent a week in Munich, the first day of the actual safari trip was June 11th, 2009. The day began by making sure all was packed as we were to leave for the airport later that afternoon. We ended up leaving our camera charger and my DVD case (over $2,000 worth of movies – why I took almost every hunting DVD I will never know) at the hotel. We left for breakfast and ate with Lynn and Becky as Mike and Josie had already eaten earlier that morning. We thought it a bit strange when we had to pay for the soft drinks; Lynn told me he had been charged 58 EUR for the breakfast, which was the first time all week in Munich. Being a Marriott Rewards Platinum member has its privileges. We ended up sicking my dad on the hotel to remove those charges as well as sending us the DVD’s. (About an hour after I called my dad, he had them reverse all the charges for both Mike and Josie and Lynn and Becky.)
From the subway, we went the city Central Station and walked to where we were to meet our tour and then go to the Dachau prison camp. That was an emotional but interesting place. It is unbelievable how people could knowingly inflict that kind of punishment on another group for no reason. The tour was delayed, and we really hesitated on going for fear of being late to the airport. I am glad we went; it was incredible in a somber way.
After leaving the internment camp, we went back to hotel to get our luggage. Thank goodness for Lynn and Becky and Mike and Josie as we would never had made it with our 11 bags of luggage!!! Some say we pack to much, but in reality we were traveling with our 6 month old baby boy and had to take a lot of baby necessities.
We did get to the subway station and made the transfer to the airport and thought we made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. We, the guys, left the women to get some food while we went to get our guns from the customs office. When we arrived in Munich the week before, we had them hold our guns in a secure location. At the customs office they had us look at our guns for damage (there was none to the guns, but the cases were now all damaged). Lynn signed for the guns and we waited for two customs officers to escort us to check in our guns on South African Air...
Here begins the adventure of all times, at least for an Iowa farm kid. Lynn had purchased the tickets on his credit card for Himself, Becky and Pam, Tjaden (our 6 month old son) and myself. In the time between purchasing the tickets and us checking in, his credit card had been what they called “compromised” so they reissued Lynn a new card. The problem was that the new card had a different number than the original. South African Air could not find our tickets as they were based on the original credit card number. I don’t understand it, but they somehow link tickets to the actual card they are purchased with. Anyway, after 45 minutes of looking, they found the tickets by looking at our itinerary and finding the old credit card number. They started to check Lynn and Becky in first, but for some reason they also wanted Tjaden’s passport… This seemed strange, more later.
They then started to check us in, they asked to put the gun case up on belt to weigh and tag it to Windhoek. Once tagged, the belt sped it off to the luggage area. Then they asked for bags, the first bag I put up had my ammunition in it. As they already asked how many bags we had to check (which was 4, including the gun), as soon as the bag hit the belt, he tagged it and sped it along off to where luggage goes as I was saying that there was ammunition in the bag. The bag sped away at the same velocity that the words were coming from my mouth. I told them there was ammunition as the gate agent was tagging the bag. But for some reason it did not register what I had said until the bag had gone behind the curtain. At this point they looked shocked and said I should have said something sooner, well duh!!!! They then said the magic words, it would be ok and that they would put the special tag on it when it got to the plane to show that it had ammunition in it. Then they printed our boarding passes, two each for Pam and I and then gave us only one for Tjaden. I asked why Tjaden didn’t get a boarding card for the flight from Johannesburg to Windhoek and they couldn’t answer that question. They said, they would be able to give him a card at the “gate” in Johannesburg, wrong answer!!!
Mike and Josie checked in behind without much difficulty. We each (the three guys) were escorted to a small room with a conveyor belt where we dropped off the gun cases. The customs officers then shook our hands and went on their way as we walked to an elevator to take us up to the security line. As we got off the elevator, my name was announced over the PA system throughout the airport telling me to head to the nearest information booth and wait for information. I won’t deny it is a bizarre to hear your full name being announced over the PA in a foreign airport. At the same time, the individual from the airline that checked us in walked by and said that they probably found the bullets in my unmarked bag and wanted to ask questions. I told Pam to go ahead with the others through security and to the gate and I would catch up.
After a few minutes, two police officers approached me and asked if I were Robert Bixby, I confirmed and they asked for my passport and papers. It really was unnerving to be in a foreign country and be in some trouble with the law and have to turn over your passport. All I could think of was the movie Midnight Express. I told them what happened and they made some phone calls and then told me to follow them. By the way, the two officers barely spoke any English. They led me through a bunch doors to a police area, but the doors were all locked so we went back to terminal and headed to security where I met Pam(with baby in tow), she was literally panicked as she didn’t want to leave me behind so she waited. We very quickly made it through security and I had Pam go meet the others at the gate while the officers led me into the police area. By the way, one good way to get about a 6 pack of diet coke through airport security is to be led through by the Bavarian Police. I was put into a holding cell and told to wait while they (6 or 7 officers) talked amongst themselves and every so often they would look over at me. Just outside my cell, I saw my gun case on the floor which was a sickening feeling, but what was worse was the two gun cases next to mine were Mike’s and Lynn’s. Next to the guns were the three bags that had our ammunition in them. And, a side note, by this time the plane was to leave in 15 minutes. There was no way I was going to make the flight; I just hoped Pam and Tjaden were on with the rest of the group. I sat alone in the cell for roughly 10-15 minutes before I heard some familiar voices coming down the hall, and sure enough both Mike and Lynn were escorted by two officers into my holding cell. At this point, I thought the trip was going into a severe downward spiral… They asked us questions and we answered them honestly and politely, as none of us wanted to spend the night in a German jail. They also asked if these three bags were ours, and sadly they were. I say sadly, as the flight was to have taken off by this point and there sat three guys and three gun cases and three bags all that were to be on the flight that we thought had surely already taken off.
The police, at this point became very talkative and polite, and told us that I was there as my bag had shells in an unmarked bag and they had pulled Mike and Lynn from the gate as their bags with ammunition were tagged incorrectly (apparently there were signatures missing). They assured us that we did nothing wrong but that the airline made the mistakes. This was of little consolation as the flight had already left, but the police assured us that it “could” not leave until they let it go. We hurriedly grabbed our bags and some officers helped carry the gun cases through the airport towards the gate. During the walk, one officer started inquiring about what it’s like to be able to shop at Cabelas whenever we wanted… How great is that?
When we arrived at the gate, there were several irritated airline workers trying to get the plane away from the gate but the officers told them that we would be allowed to board. They reluctantly agreed but said our bags would have to wait for the next flight, but the officers again “told” them that they would load these bags on this flight. But here again, my bag caused another potential snafu, as it was not marked for ammunition, SAA absolutely would not allow my bag unmarked and with ammunition on the plane (even though they were the ones that didn’t mark it). Mike allowed me to put my ammo in his bag, and we were good to go. I was hoping Namibia was not going to be as strict as some countries that I read about that only allow for the particular ammunition in bags to match the guns that they travel with. The bags were loaded and we boarded the plane to Johannesburg about 45 minutes late. Impressive that they held the plane just for us that long.
The flight to Johannesburg was relatively uneventful. Tjaden was incredible, never cried or even acted up. We ate a great meal, funny part, as a joke, when we bought the tickets Lynn requested seafood as a joke, and ended up with salmon which I greatly enjoyed. We circled Johannesburg for about 45 minutes because of fog, and that made us potentially late for our connection to Windhoek. We rushed through the airport to get to the gate. We didn’t realize we had to go through a sort of security checkpoint. We did make it through the security without much difficulty, other than our stroller was nowhere to be found. When I asked about it, I was told to go pick it up at the luggage carrousel, right!!! You mean outside of security and then try and get back through in time to catch the flight to Windhoek?
When we got to the “gate” (the place that the SAA ticket agent told me to go), we were within 15 minutes of boarding. I asked if they could give me a boarding card for Tjaden. They obviously said no and directed me to the transfer desk. This was the counter, with ticket agents, just before we went through the security check. I I had to run back through the airport and out the security (through the “in” line) and stand in a line to get Tjaden’s boarding card. As I stood in line I realized I left my wife and 6 month old baby at the gate without any ID or passport and hoped I did the right thing. After 20 minutes waiting, I finally spoke to an agent and told them of my dilemma. They were kind in their response, but said that “there is no ticket or boarding card for a Tjaden Bixby.” I asked how this could be, and they responded because there is no record of any Tjaden Bixby being there, it was as if he didn’t exist. I figured the lady didn’t really want to do any extra work to find him. The first bit of good luck was about to happen as I was trying to explain that he flew from Munich I dropped our passports on the counter and his boarding card from Munich to Johannesburg fell out. She looked really upset when I showed her his boarding card. She was then able to find his “records”, but our flight had already left with Lynn and Becky and Mike and Josie on board (leaving Pam and Tjaden alone at the gate). Actually, the lady at the counter said that both Pam and Tjaden had left as well, but that our luggage had been pulled. She printed new boarding cards for the next Windhoek flight for Myself, Pam and Tjaden (which confused me as she had just told me they had left on the last flight) as well as new baggage claim tickets for everything (including the stroller). I then went back through security and towards the gate (luckily I came across an electronics store and bought two power converters that work in Namibia). When I got to the gate and found Pam sitting there holding Tjaden, I was greatly relieved. Our flight didn’t leave for nearly three hours, so we did a little shopping. Pam bought a couple elephant hair bracelets, post cards and a leather safari hat for me. We bought some pop and candy bars and waited at the gate to make sure nothing else could go wrong… On schedule, we boarded the plane on time and were off to Namibia. We were later told that the plane waited nearly a half hour to allow us to board, until the called the transfer desk to see if I (Robert Bixby) was making any progress. The transfer desk told them that no passenger by that named had been there so the plane left. I was already back to the gate by the time this call had occurred…
We arrived at the Windhoek airport on time, but really four hours later than we had planned. We had to go through customs to enter Namibia and collect our luggage. We over heard a police officer ask a woman if her name was Bixby. After what we went through in Munich, let me tell you there were a million things running through my mind and none of them were good! My wife assured me that we must have misunderstood what was said. As it turned out, it just that our PH was making sure we made it. He had told the Police Officer to look for a red headed woman with a baby. Funny as it may sound but what are the odds of two women with red hair pushing strollers with babies can there be on a flight from Johannesburg to Windhoek? We told the police officer who we were, and she informed us that our luggage had already been picked up. Apparently our bags did NOT get pulled from the previous flight and arrived with the rest of our group. Rather than having our luggage sit there our host grabbed our bags and got a form to have Lynn fill out to collect my gun along with his and they left for the camp. So to clarify, one cousin had in his possession one gun and two different calibers of ammunition, and another cousin that had two different guns with one caliber of ammunition.
My wife and I were told, that this was the first time ever that the hunter’s baggage and guns showed up in Windhoek without the hunter to claim them. I am sure this was a joke to lighten the mood. He later told us that we were also the first group he had ever had that spent time in a Munich jail as well…
Since we had no luggage to claim, all we had to do was take our carry-on bags to the truck. We loaded quickly and I notice that the steering wheel was completely on the wrong side of the truck! We drove to a liquor store and picked up soda for the 10 days and then left for Berlin Farm (the name of his camp). After a couple check points, left and right turns and two hours we pulled into camp just before sunset to see the rest of the group waiting for us.
It was a relatively mild evening as we ate supper and went to bed early to get up early for breakfast and to then site in our rifles.
Day 1 – June 13th, 2009
The first hunting day began with an early breakfast and then to get everything loaded into the truck for a quick drive to the shooting range. As the old saying goes, sometimes even a blind squirrel finds a nut; I was able to hit the center of the target from 150 hundred yards on the first shot. Needless to say, I stopped and said “it’s good enough for me”. Lynn and Mike were spot on as well. So the hunt began, so I thought. We didn’t know until getting to camp, that one PH had three Croatian hunters extend their hunt for an additional three days so he wouldn’t be joining us at our camp until the 4th day. Of all the worries I had, specific to the hunt, the main was not having my own PH. So, as usual, I drew the short straw and my first African hunting experience was with two trackers (Gotleib and Joseph). Gotleib actually was with me for almost the entire hunt and proved to be a great tracker. Joseph is the main tracker and he drove the Truck. Gotleib could speak English well, but Joseph could not, so most of the communication between the two was in the Damara language. Most blacks in Africa can speak English but their primary way to communicating with Whites is using the Afrikaans language, and between themselves the blacks use the Damara language. It is a strange but interesting language made up of various pops and clicks along with words. Gotleib tried to teach me a few words and sayings without much success.
We left camp going, I wish I could say with any assurance, in the western direction. We started up the mountains. A quick tangent here, for two and a half years I had been preparing for hunting the great Serengeti plains of Kenya like scenes from the movie “The Lion King” and was in NO way physically or mentally prepared for what lay ahead. The terrain was difficult to say the least and almost impossible to say the truth. But as difficult as it was, it was incredibly rewarding when an animal was finally harvested after a long stalk. Nothing that happened matched what I thought about or watched on videos… but more on that later. We drove almost straight up what I thought was the highest mountain, only to realize that they all seemed to get higher. The highest peak turned out to be just at 6600 feet. The first African animal I saw was a male Klipspringer sitting on a precipice just watching us drive by. We drove for a long time after that without seeing anything until about an hour before lunch I saw a female Klipspringer and off in a distance 3 herd of Zebra. Two were bedded down wind of us while the third was climbing a mountain with the wind in our favor. We tried to stalk that group only to get close and have them spook and run off. This was an occurrence that was repeated about a thousand times with zebra… After lunch we went back to the same area and saw a very nice Steenbok in the road, at the time I didn’t want one so I passed (a decision I would later greatly regret). Actually my primary animal to hunt was an Eland, but to do that was a two day away from camp trip, so I adjusted my priorities a bit and added a couple new animals and Kudu became Item number one. In case you are wondering it took 6 days to see a mature bull and seven to actually harvest a good representation, not great but a good bull. Back to day one, after the Steenbok, we saw a few Kudu cows, but not a single bull. Then in the distance I saw a herd of Blue Wildebeest (a poor man’s Cape Buffalo) and really wanted to go after them, but the priority was on Kudu and Zebra (as to me they were the most difficult animals to hunt). As we left the Blue Wildebeest behind I saw five Oryx or Gemsbok being chased by a single young Blue Wildebeest bull. We walked a long way that afternoon, climbed a mountain or two. So much, that Gotleib had to carry my gun for some time. Some of the climbs were almost vertical and I was covered completely in sweat and breathing so hard my lungs may have actually come out of my mouth a bit. On one of the walks, Gotleib almost stepped on a Puff Attar sunning on a sort of road. He would have a closer encounter later in the hunt… Luckily it was cool enough in the winter that the snakes are a bit more sluggish. At the bottom of one of the descents, we saw a huge snake track, one so large it looked like a motorcycle had driven through the sand that one really freaked me out! We got close to a herd of Gemsbok towards the end of the day and tried to get close enough to attempt a shot. We watched them get closer and feed but never close enough to get a shot. That group of Gemsbok, we watched for a long time, and as the sun began to set we started back for camp. I should rephrase that a bit, because I don’t think the sun actually sets in Africa. It drops slowly to the horizon then in about 30 seconds it is totally dark. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but it does go from sunset to dark in a very short amount of time. At camp, there was a fire burning on the fire pit and we sat and talked for the couple of hours while we waited for supper. One of the most amazing things about the African night sky is the incredible number of stars. Not only in number but they are much brighter than those we see in the northern hemisphere. After supper were went back to the fire, smoked “another” good cigar to celebrate the beginning of a great adventure and went to bed in hopes of day two being a bit better than day one. Just after supper, our host (George) told me he was going to take me to a place to look for Impala and Burchell’s Zebra the next morning. George has the Hartman’s or Mountain Zebra but not the other. I slept well in anticipation of getting my first African game animal ever!!!
Day 2 – June 14th, 2009
Day number two of the hunt, began with six o’clock breakfast where I found that I really like Grape Nuts type cereal. Anyway, after breakfast, Mike and Josie loaded up with Deitmar (2nd PH) and Lynn took off with Gotleib and Joseph. They both would take fine Hartmann’s Mountain Zebras that day. George and I left for Okahandja to try and get a Burchell’s Zebra and an Impala. The drive took us through the back hills and mountains for a couple of hours. The roads were very treacherous and winding through the mountains. About 15 minutes before arriving at our destination, we stopped in Okahandja to fill the vehicle with gas and found the price to be 2.60 Namibian dollars per liter or roughly $2.00 US per gallon (I will have to check my conversion rate when I get home to be sure). After a snack and a water at the gas station we were off and 15 minutes later we entered the game ranch. George’s farm totals 18,000 hectares with an additional 24,000 hectares that are exclusively his to hunt. This ranch was nearly as large, 15,000 hectares I believe. As soon as we were in and driving down the main lane, a pack of jackels (six of them) ran in front of us and down the road. I was depressed as my gun was still unloaded and in its travel case. But that is the safe way to handle fire arms and how things go sometimes. Then about one minute later a bore, sow and five little warthogs ran across and in front of the truck for a bit. Those animals are so ugly that they are cute. Actually, the little ones are cute, didn’t really have an intention to shooting a Warthog that day so we let them pass. They stood and watched us drive by as if they knew I wasn’t interested.
As we approached the ranch house about ten Ostriches ran in front of us and led us to the main gate, and there they waited almost as if they were pets. At the time of booking, I didn’t realize (actually I didn’t know until this very moment) I did not put on my paperwork that I was interested in harvesting an ostrich, so that animal was left off my hunting permit. Again, African animals are very intelligent and it was like they knew that they were not on my list so they stood there and I thought I saw one stick its tongue out at me…
We met the owner, his name was Erik, and George had hunted that land for a very long time with the previous owner. Erik had retired from South Africa as he had been deathly ill but treatment cured whatever ailment he had and he got tired of sitting around. He found the property in Okahandja and bought it and George was allowed to continue to bring hunters on the ranch for the more common plains game. He called in his head tracker, his name was Arafat. Very nice individual but spoke only Afrikaans. Nearly 5 minutes after leaving the main house we crossed a river bed. Now a river back home is something with running water that you can get wet in. A river in Namibia is a bone dry sand bed that once or twice a year will have running water (a lot of water, but) for only a few hours at a time. In this river bed, there was a herd of Red Hartebeest. The Red Hartebeest is about the ugliest of the African antelope. They do have a beautiful color and hide, but the face is like a bad cross between a horse and a goat with great big eyes. It is too bad, as their horns are incredibly beautiful. I am told they are one the fastest of the African antelope as well. But when asked if I wanted to harvest one, a huge old mature bull with fantastic horns, I hesitated, debated with myself and by the time I said yes and got the gun in position and the cross hairs pointed on his shoulder, he ran off. I wasn’t too disappointed as I was there for other game. Not 15 minutes later we saw a herd of Blue Wildebeest. Now here was an animal that before I saw them I didn’t think I would want, but he said lets go stalk one if I was interested. He didn’t complete the question before I had said “Absolutely” and was climbing out of the truck. We got close twice, close enough to shoot, but they were in a pretty tight group and we had difficulty finding the big bull and when we did there were cows or young bulls in front of or behind him so no shot could be made. We stalked them for a bit, and got close enough for a shot then wind would shift or something like me making a noise and the herd would be off, wow they could run… We finally stalked up close to the big bull, close enough we could hear him snorting at what I thought was us. But the whole herd appeared to look straight through us. Then I heard it, probably the most exciting thing ever outside my marriage and birth of my kids, there was this (and my words will not be able to adequately describe) guttural “Hurha-hurhu-hurha-hurha” from behind us. George turned to me with a huge smile and asked if I heard that. I obviously did and replied in the affirmative and asked what it was, and he told me it was a leopard and he (the leopard) was laughing at us. He was in a tree about 200 yards away and was just letting us know that he was there and it was his “bush”. I am certain the Wildebeest knew he was there as well and that is why they were nervous and they finally ran off, we decided to let them go as to not spook them too much.
We then chased herds of Impala for the next two hours or so, one culminating into an almost blind shot into a bush where a big ram stood. After the excitement of the shot wore off, we worked our way to the area where he should have laid, and nothing was found, we looked and looked and found no blood and definitely no trophy. We then drove till we spotted a small group of Springbok in the distance . George asked if I was interested, and I answered yes (mainly for fear that I would never actually harvest an animal on this trip – hunting in Africa is way more difficult than I had envisioned). At that time there wasn’t a real good male but another small group came in as we were glassing the area. This group had a leader, he was running all the other males off and even running the females back into the bush. It was amusing to watch him go at it for so long. Eventually he moved into an acceptable shooting range, approximately 190 yards and presented a good broadside target, I aimed took a deep breath and started to exhale…. With the crosshairs on his shoulder I pulled the trigger and WAM…. I had missed him completely; I think I hit about 14 feet in front of him. The herd obviously spooked and scramble but calmed pretty quickly, so I reloaded. George was pretty excited as the big male sort of switched places with a smaller one, so my gun was pointed at the wrong Springbok and he tried to tell me which one to shoot. I, for the life of me couldn’t find him in my scope. I had to use the binoculars to find him and then repeated the process. Aim the gun, this time a little further back (I was completely terrified as I missed completely the last time), took a deep breath and then on exhale I pulled the trigger. This time I saw him lurch and leap up and stumble. Just to make sure I asked George if I had hit him and he confirmed and congratulated me. We sent the tracker for the truck and George and I walked from the blind towards the downed Springbok. When we got close, George noticed that I hit him on shoulder and the exit wound came out the neck leaving a large hole where his throat used to be but he was still alive. It is true, what they say, that African game is tough! They fight every day to survive and this day was no different. We walked up to about 40 yards and to prevent him from suffering a slow death I shot him one last time, this time back on the ribs finished him off. So my first African animal took me three shots to harvest, one was a clean miss, one was through his throat and the last was in back of the chest cavity. None were great shots but there he was my first ever African trophy. It was not huge, roughly 14.5 inches in length and I believe just over 6 inch bases, but it was mine. All the dreaming and planning for the two and a half years now I finally had a trophy. The excitement was almost unbearable, I shook hands with George and said a small prayer of thanks and we walked to the downed animal. After closely examining my Springbok and walking around it several times the truck showed up and I grabbed the video camera and the camera as well.
I took a lot of pictures and video and George took the obligatory trophy pictures of the downed game with the hunter. One good thing about traveling with relatives that have been to Africa before, and they both shot Springbok, is that they told me of the bizarre ritual that takes place moments after the animal expires. SO I was minimally surprised when George asked me to run my fingers through the flared hair and then smell my fingers. On its face, it is a ridiculous request, but I complied and I thought it smelled sweet almost like cotton candy. It was now exactly lunch time, so we headed back to the main house and dropped the Springbok off to get skinned. We had lunch on the dry river bed, a good cold meat sandwich and an apple to go with a good old can of cold coke!
After lunch we went back out and found some more Blue Wildebeest and unsuccessfully stalked them several times. Then we drove through a herd of Giraffe, we stayed there for some time to take video and pictures. They are an awesome animal, one that Lynn would soon hunt.
We chased several herds of Impala but never could get into a position. Then towards the end of the day, we stalked up to a watering hole and a small group of Waterbuck were approaching from the opposite direction. There were only female and a couple young males. While the Waterbuck drank, a large group of Impala approached the water hole. They came to the water from a direction that only I could see, so I had to tell George what was happening, and he had to move in order to get a better view. He looked at them through his glasses and said one was a big one. We had to move around a group of trees for a better shooting angle to where the Impala were at. They were at about 245 yards when we got set up on the bigger of the two. Trying to forget the mornings missed shots, I waited for a broadside target, held the cross hairs over his right front shoulder, took a deep breath and on exhale I pulled the trigger. This time my aim was true. He jumped once and ran a few circles and laid down dead. This impala proved to be my best trophy of the hunt with each horn length being almost 23.5 inches long. I have no idea if that is actually good by SCI standards, but he seemed large to me. By the time the video and photos were taken it was nearly dark.
We headed to the skinning shack to take care of the Impala. After about an hour we loaded the cape and horns of my first two African game trophies and we headed home. The trip home was awesome; George almost ran down four jackals and avoided six rabbits.
The fire was again burning when we arrived back at camp. We talked about our days and their zebra and my two antelope. The cigar never tasted better than that night. I think Pam even enjoyed that night.
Day 3 – June 15th, 2009
The third day began like the rest, with an early breakfast. I went out this time with Deitmar. Deitmar is the land owner adjacent to George. In the short distance between the two ranches, the land and terrain changes dramatically. This is not in any way to say that George’s land is easy, but more to say Deitmar’s was much more difficult. Deitmar has two ranches one in the Khomashochland Mountains and the other in the flats near Okahandja. George had established and well maintained roads on his land and Deitmar’s was very rocky and much steeper and less hospitable as he does not maintain the property as well. We left George’s again in search of Kudu and Zebra. We picked up Deitmar’s trackers and began the search. We drove quite a ways until we reached a point. My PH felt this was a good place to begin a stalk. We hiked up and around a mountain in hopes of catching a herd of Zebra with the wind in our favor. The stalk would prove to be a three hour death march for me (just kidding but the thought did cross my mind as I was so tired). We went up and up and up until I thought I couldn’t go any further and then we pushed on only to find signs that they (the Zebra) had moved on already. Now we were at the top of the mountain and had to come back down. We could go back the way we came up, but that would cover ground we had already seen or we could go down a vertical path and try and cut the Zebra off on their descent. We chose the latter. We trekked almost straight down for a long time, I only watched in front of me as I didn’t want to lose my footing and tumble off the face of the Earth. It wasn’t quite that bad, but it was a really steep decline and the grass covered every boulder, rock and stone that my feet had to navigate. By the time we got down and found the Zebra had gone a different direction, it was nearly lunch time so we headed back to George’s for a well deserved meal.
The lunch was good as usual and to top things off, George said he was going to take me out that afternoon in search of that elusive Greater Kudu. I was extremely excited and to top things off, Becky had asked if she could watch Tjaden as to allow Pam to ride go out with me after lunch. We loaded up with George, Pam in front and I was in back with Gotleib again. We left camp and drove straight west; just about a mile from camp George showed Pam a small group of Kudu cows and calves. We then turned south into the mountains. After working our way up for nearly an hour, Gotleib spotted and pointed out to George a herd of Gemsbok numbering about 15. We looked at them for nearly 15 minutes trying to determine if one of them was a bull and if so, was he a good mature representation. After carefully examining the group, George said there was not a worthy candidate in the group. We started to drive and then another Gemsbok stepped out from a spot we couldn’t previously see and George slammed on his brakes and threw his binoculars up and studied our new found Gemsbok. He quickly stated that that was a “Big One”.
Pam was busy trying to video the scene but was struggling to get the camera going and to find the animals on the view screen. We jumped out of the truck and ran down a path to get a good shooting angle. George put up the sticks for me to take aim and shoot. George’s shooting sticks are quite original, scissor like in shape and they have a pocket where the guns fore-end rests like all shooting sticks, but it also has another pocket to rest not the butt-end but the shooting elbow for support. I had trouble getting lined up for a shot in his sticks and when I finally did, the Gemsbok I was aiming for had moved behind some bushes. We then ran further down the path to get another clear path and we repeated the process but this time I found him quickly and put the cross-hairs on his shoulder and without hesitation pulled the trigger. After the congratulations were over, we headed back up to the truck excited to know that not only did I harvest a quality Gemsbok but that Pam was there to see and record the whole thing. When we got back, I found Pam still sitting in the truck. She apparently couldn’t get out her door for fear of making noise and tried unsuccessfully to climb over and exit the truck through the driver’s side door that was left open. She did get some of it recorded but lost it when the Gemsbok moved the first time. We loaded up and drove back to camp to pick up more workers to load the Gemsbok as it fell in a spot where no road ran near. We picked up Moses and Jacob and drove back to where the road ended nearest the spot where the Gemsbok lay. The workers then jumped out and started moving wood and stone to make a pseudo road for us to get close. We quickly found him fallen on the other side of a fence from where the truck had stopped. We had to cut the fence (later to be repaired) to get to him and winch him onto the truck. George was the first to him as Pam and I were a bit behind. I was taking pictures of the animal and Pam was busy videoing the scenery, everything but the animal… George pulled a tape out of his pocket and measured him to be 36.5 inches and he told me that was one of the largest ever taken on his ranch.
Again, I have no idea if 36.5 inches is big or not, but it was the best Gemsbok I had ever harvested. We took a lot of pictures of the animal and then Pam and I posed for the pictures with the Gemsbok. This was a perfect end to a great day to have my beautiful wife for such an incredible adventure. Well end wouldn’t be telling the whole truth as there was about an hour more of dragging pulling and struggling to get that big ole animal into the back of George’s truck. We took him back to the skinning shed and watched and videoed the whole thing. Becky met us with Tjaden and we all watched together. This truly was the perfect end as we were all together. That night around the fire was great, everyone had harvested two more animals and the excitement level was high. The cigar that night was just a little better than the one from the night before!
Day 4 – June 16th, 2009
Day number four began like the others with an early breakfast prepared by George’s wife Riki. This morning I tried a cereal they called Wheat Bix, it looked a lot like Shredded Wheat, but tasted more like Wheaties. After breakfast we made plans to go out, this morning Lynn went with George and Joseph. Mike went with Deitmar to his other ranch and I went out with Heinert and Gotleib. Heinert is the PH that had his last hunt extended and wasn’t able to be at our camp until this day. We started out going southeast from camp and immediately spotted a large group of Kudu cows and calves but no bull was present. We glassed the group from about five hundred yards for nearly an hour in hopes of spotting a mature bull, but none showed up. We continued up the mountains again heading southeast until Gotleib spotted another kudu cow. We stopped but found nothing more than the single cow. Moments after spotting the cow, we heard the sounds of a large zebra herd running the side of the mountain opposite to where we were. It ended up being some 35-40 zebra strong as we would later see. The sound was as loud as if they were running next to the truck as the sound reverberates of the mountainsides and is amplified. When the sound stopped, we continued up the mountain looking for any sign of game. Once again we spotted a single kudu cow, this seemed odd to Heinert and Gotleib. We sent Gotleib in to circle the spot where we saw the kudu cow to hopefully drive a bull out into the open. This worked in a way, as several other cows and calves ran out in front of Gotleib. Again we climbed further and further up, now at almost the top, we could see the massive herd of zebra well above us at the top of the larger mountain adjacent to us. It seemed as though the zebra and kudu were as elusive as all the old time hunters said they were. After working our way down and glassing a troop of baboons we headed back to camp with the spotting of several nice Gemsbok along the way.
After lunch we headed out in the opposite direction, this time with Pam riding along in the front of the truck with Heinert. We no sooner left the camp, and spotted a very nice Warthog. The sighting was quick as he never slowed from a fast trot and disappeared into the bush. We headed up a road that Joseph and Gotleib had taken me on the first day of the safari. I am pretty sure it was the steepest and highest of the mountains I hunted. We saw a lot of zebra, but they were always one step ahead, busting them when we got to close and sending them higher into the mountains far from a good shooting distance for me. On the decent, It was a bit unnerving (how steep it was) navigating the various switchbacks. On one particular one, the road had dropped on each side of a massive piece of mountain that was left behind. Heinert slowly crept his Land Cruiser over the big rock and had no problem getting the front tires up and over. The problem was that when the front wheels dropped off, the rear springs ground solidly into the stone leaving the left rear wheel completely off the ground. Heinert tried to rock it back and forth hoping to get some grip and drive it off this precarious position. This was done with no success. Gotleib got out and put the jack under the back bumper behind the floating tire. As he jacked up the bumper, the spring started to free itself and allow the truck to drive off. That sounds good, but as the springs began to lift the jack began to fall and the truck slid substantially downhill. We repeated the jack process and when the spring was totally clear of the rock and just before the jack fell over again, Heinert drove off the rock. I forgot to mention that Pam and I watched all this from a safe distance, as all we could picture was that the truck would gain traction and shoot completely off the mountain leaving us there all alone… By the time we were free it was beginning to get dark and we needed to get off the mountain, se we kept the pace to get down. We reached the bottom with no other incidents and headed for camp. About halfway back to camp we spotted a big bull, well big to me. He was a good distance from the truck and we watched him for a while trying to figure out how big he was. To me he looked the part of a 60 plus inch bull. His horns were extremely long, it was like they extended clear past his rear when he looked up. I was shocked when Heinert said he thought he may only be 44 or 45 inches in length and added that he had very little if any curl, and that his horns just spiraled about themselves. They may have looked long, but in fact, were really quite short. Perhaps on a later safari, he would be a grand trophy as he was extremely unique. We watched him walk slowly into the sunset and disappear before moving on. We saw a lot of birds and even a small herd of Blesbok on the ride home. All in all, it was a great night for Pam to be with me. I didn’t harvest an animal that day but it still was a grand day. I guess that is why they call it hunting.
Like the nights before, a fire was waiting when we arrived back at camp. We sat by the fire reminiscing about the day’s events and smoked another cigar to celebrate the day.
Day 5 – June 17th, 2009
Day five would prove to be a lot more gratifying as I would finally get my zebra. It was gratifying, not because of the harvest but because of the culmination of the previous days hard work stalking, chasing and tracking those equine running machines. It began with a later than normal breakfast and when we got to the trucks we left camp and very shortly spotted some zebra moving up a nearby mountain. This was a good sign that we saw them but not so good that they were already so high. One of George’s workers, who drives the bulldozer, said he had seen a big kudu bull on his way in that morning if that is what we were going to be looking for. So began the fourth straight day that I was looking for Kudu. We again headed east from camp in the direction given to us by the dozer driver. After looking for some time and not seeing a kudu we headed up a mountain road to scout and glass. When we got close to the top, we stopped short as to not spook any potential game that may be close. We walked the rest of the way up and immediately spotted a couple kudu cows. We watched them for a bit until a herd of zebra started feeding down towards us from the mountain next to us. We watched them for nearly two hours as the grazed closer and closer until the stallion moved out of our sight underneath us and never returned. After another 30 minutes Heinert sent Gotleib to see what was going on. When he returned Gotleib said the stallion was sleeping just below us. We watched the group, 5 female with 5 foal and two other male zebra, feed in a clearing about 200 yards way. We knew as long as they didn’t spook and run off that the big stallion would walk right through a good shooting lane. Gotleib set up the shooting sticks, not how I imagined them in my dreams, but horizontal between two trees where we were sitting. I took my sweater off and put it across the horizontal sticks to give me a bit wider place to support my gun. I rested my right elbow on Heinert and was ready whenever the zebra walked into range. We watched the group feed for another what seemed to be hour until they began to move off, and as if he were programmed to do so, he followed them and walked right into a perfect shooting lane about 150 yards away. My only problem was the wind, as it blew, the trees swayed and so moved my shooting rest. I did my best to hold the cross hairs over the special target that god provided us hunters on a zebra. A zebra’s stripes form a perfect triangle directly in front of his vital organs and a shoulder. I took my deep breath, relaxed and then started to exhale and pulled the trigger. With a crack, the rest of the herd ran like mad. My stallion ran but 30 yards and fell dead. Excitedly I thanked both Heinert and Gotleib. I followed Gotleib down to the zebra now 180 yards from where I shot but about a million yards from the road below. Heinert went back to the truck to get the camera and skinning materials as well as call George to get help in skinning and quartering the zebra in the field. By the time Heinert made it down there, Gotleib and I had already moved the zebra into a better position to both photograph and skin.
Gotleib was very excited to show me that not only did I hit the triangle of the zebra, but I hit the black strip in the middle of that triangle which for the taxidermist is a good thing I am told. We took a ton of pictures and video and Heinert and Gotleib started to skin the zebra. After about 45 minutes a shout came from above, from where I had made my shot. George had brought Joseph and Jacob to help skin and transport the zebra back to camp. Those two walked down to us and started to help skin, while George drove his truck to the bottom of the mountain where there was a road. When he got there he left Lynn in the truck and hiked up to us and made a few jokes about my gun. He liked to call in an atomic bomb as it shoots so hard and fast that it leaves a mushroom cloud behind. He was dead serious when he told me I didn’t shoot him right. I said I hit him in the triangle and he joked, if I had hit him further back he would have ran the 800 yards to the road below making the packing job a lot easier.
Cleaning the zebra took nearly two hours in the hot sun fighting off the red wasps and heat. Heinert packed the head and hide and he and I walked up to his truck. The rest made two trips carrying the meat down to George’s truck. George even carried one front quarter of the zebra to his truck. By now it was already after one o’clock and we hadn’t started back for camp. It was half past one by the time we got back to camp and nearly two by the time George and Lynn returned. We had a late lunch and rested a bit before going back out. Pam joined us again that night and the hunt turned solely to the “Grey Ghost”. I had my Springbok, my Impala, and my Gemsbok and now my Zebra everything left paled in comparison to the Kudu. We looked hard, saw a lot of single cows some cows with calves and even groups of cows with calves. But for four and a half days now I had yet to see a shootable bull. It wasn’t for a lack of trying on anyone’s part, I guess that is why they call it hunting. It just wasn’t in the cards, to that point, for me to harvest a Kudu and that’s ok as I was having the greatest hunting experience of my life. We drove a lot that night; Pam took a lot of pictures of Weaver Bird nests and various flowers or rock formations. I didn’t care, I took my zebra earlier, anything else that day would be icing on the proverbial cake. To be honest, I don’t remember seeing anything that night but a Jackal and a couple of female Steenbok.
It was nice at the fire back at camp that night. By this time I had a Springbok, Impala, Gemsbok and Zebra and Lynn had a Warthog, Giraffe, Zebra and a Blue Wildebeest. We were both extremely excited about the hunt. Mike and Josie were still gone, but we still enjoyed ourselves around the fire that night. Oh yea, and we had another really good cigar. At this point it has been Drew Estate Java, Kuba Kuba, Tobaq Especial Dulce and tonight a Natural Irish Hopps.
Day 6 – June 18th, 2009
Day six would prove to be very much like day’s one and five in that they all were exciting and disheartening. I understand that not harvesting game and not taking a shot or even seeing game is all part and parcel for the sport, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult when it happens. After breakfast we (Heinert, Gotleib and myself) headed east from camp to where George and Gotleib thought there would be good sized and mature bull Kudu. We drove all morning and even set out on a couple stalks only to come up empty. We saw plenty of game, lots of Kudu cows and calves, Gemsbok, and even the Zebra seemed to lose fear of me as I had my zebra already. Lynn had gone out with George to look for a Gemsbok but they probably did more scouting for Kudu than anything. We met up with them just before 10:00 am. The morning was very cold and very windy and game seemed to not want to move. George drove us to several herds of Kudu all with cows and calves but lacking that big mature male. We were heading home when out of the blue, a troop of baboons walked across the road about 40 yards in front of us. I think it was so windy that they couldn’t scent us or hear us until they were right on us. As soon as they saw us they ran. Lynn scrambled from his truck and I slammed my gun down to take aim. The big one, the sentinel if you will, took perch on a rock and started to yell at us. Burahk is what it sounded like, too funny. Anyway, I had him in my crosshairs and Heinert was right behind me and calmly said “Let it go”. Stupid me, I mistook that to mean don’t shoot and let the baboon go, and what he really meant was to pull the trigger and let her rip. As soon as he said that, he ran and that didn’t give Lynn a chance at a shot either. As they ran across the road, we saw something that only a camera could have done justice. Like a panhandler, there came a baboon shifting across the road using its arms as legs because it didn’t have any legs. We all laughed after that. They moved quickly across the valley and up the far side mountain. We took several shots at them, Lynn nearly taking the big one from 460 yards and me taking a joke of a shot at over a thousand yards. George joked that he didn’t see the bullet hit anywhere on the other side and that apparently I couldn’t hit the side of a mountain with my gun… Ha Ha.
We headed back for an early lunch and went out later that evening in hopes that the wind would calm a bit and the game would be moving again. It didn’t happen, no Kudu bulls that night, a lot of cows and calves and even immature bulls but nothing to shoot at. Gemsbok were everywhere. Zebra now almost come up to the truck but still no “Grey Ghost” sightings. On the trip back to the camp, I seriously thought that I was not going to get a Kudu on this trip. I was pouting, a bit depressed but still happy for the trip in general (if that makes sense). We made it back to camp in time to enjoy the fire with Lynn and Becky as well as Pam and Tjaden. Mike and Josie would return for dinner that night and finish the safari with us and Deitmar would leave the group in the morning. The latter would prove to displease George greatly. We had a great supper and retired to the fire where we smoked a cigar or two and talked about all the great things we were experiencing. No one wanted to go to bed, but we all knew morning comes early in Africa.
Day 7 – June 19th, 2009
The seventh day was my parents anniversary so a quick call to tell them Happy Anniversary and we were all ok. Breakfast early and we all met at the trucks. Set a plan and head out. Today though, Lynn would accompany George to town as he took all the meet from the cooler to the butcher (as the cooler could hold no more) and Mike and Josie would go out with me in search of a Kudu. Deitmar had left and we were down to two PH’s and with George gone, that left just Heinert. Right away we saw my first mature bull. We watched him for about 15 minutes and tried to drive around to get in position to make a stalk, but he changed direction and moved away from us which if we would have stayed where we were, he would have come right to us. We watched him until he was out of site then changed our direction and again tried to drive around and in front of him so that we could make a good stalk. We made it to a point that Gotleib felt was enough in front of him that we could get to a position that could present me with a shot. When we got there, we glassed without luck and after 30 minutes or so thought we lost him. At that 30 minute mark, we saw a herd of Kudu cows and calves on the other side of a ravine. We thought, maybe, the bull would try to catch up with that group so we just watched. I looked a bit left and spotted another mature bull walking down towards the herd, in the opposite direction that we thought the other would be traveling. We watched this male for at least 45 minutes as he slowly walked and grazed towards that group. At the 45 minute mark the first bull came into site walking up the hill towards the herd and in a matter of minutes would directly intersect the second bull. When they saw each other, they got into a tremendous battle. Well tremendous and battle may be overstatements. It was intense but very brief, but they did fight and the smaller of the two bulls (the second one we saw) won the battle. It was short, about 10 seconds maximum, but something I will remember forever. The loser was vanquished from the territory and was driven off. Like a miracle, he started to walk directly at us. We were set up on a rock formation directly across the ravine. At first he moved steadily towards us but kept a bush and trees between us and him the entire time. Then when he got to within about 80 yards he walked clear of the bush and presented a nice quartering towards shot. This time I wasn’t nervous at all, I put the crosshairs on the left side of his neck and pulled the trigger and the bullet hit the mark. The bullet entered on the left side of his neck and exited just behind the shoulder, taking out his heart and lungs on the way through, as well as breaking his neck. He fell in a pile, as if he were shot in the head, he didn’t take a single step, just dropped in his tracks. After the recoil and trying to find where he went, the initial reaction was that he somehow ran away but in reality he simply dropped to the shot. Mike had left the truck with a video camera in hopes of seeing something, and had he known where to look, would have been able to see the entire thing from the truck. We all trekked back to the truck and talked briefly about the skirmish and then the shot. Mike and I followed Gotleib to walk back to the downed beast, and Heinert went back to camp with Josie to get help and drive to where the kudu lay. Mike videoed the walk and helped take pictures.
Kudu may very well be the most beautiful antelope in all of Africa.
After all the picture and video, we started to make a clearing so that the truck could drive down and be loaded into the truck. Heinert brought back all the workers in case we couldn’t get the truck to the Kudu. Luckily we were able to throw rocks and bush out of the way to make room for the truck. When the truck got there we loaded him in as I took video and still shots. Not that numbers mean anything more than documenting something to remember, 49.5 inches on both sides made him a great representation, all I could have hoped for. We quickly drove back to camp and then to skinning shed. Pam met me there and we watched the guys go to work on him. Joseph had complained to Heinert the whole time about how the blacks had to do all the hard labor while the white hunters got to sit back and do very little if anything. Heinert replied that the hunters were like the engines that make the whole business run and the black workers were the petrol that makes the engine work. Joseph didn’t buy it and snapped back that George needed to change the oil in the engine form time to time. By the time they had finished; it was still quite early but yet too late to go back out. We decided to wait till after lunch to go out again. That was okay with me, as I had taken the biggest of my target animals that morning and was lucky enough to have Mike and Josie around to experience it with me.
My original list had Eland as my primary animal, but I didn’t want to leave Pam and Tjaden for two full days. Kudu obviously became the #1 target, and now that he was in the bag I could move on to other priorities. Originally I wanted a Giraffe, if I couldn’t get an Eland that is. But that proved to be too expensive in the shipping and we really don’t have a good place for one at this time so I passed. So I was left with three and a half days and I wanted a Blue Wildebeest, Black Wildebeest, Warthog, Red Hartebeest and a Steenbok. I didn’t want them all, just three of the five. I did really want the Blue Wildebeest though.
That afternoon, I went out with just Heinert. The main goal for the night was to go after the Blue Wildebeest. George had, I believe 10 herds of both Blue and Black Wildebeest. We left camp as if we were leaving towards the west. Just before leaving the property we turned south. We went some time seeing several herds of Gemsbok and probably 250 Mountain Zebra. That is a bit of an exaggeration, but after taking one they have now come out of the woodwork. There were several Steenbok just off the road, but none were all that mature. George also raised beef cattle on his ranch so he did have some low internal fences on his property that kept the cattle in specific areas. As I had harvested most of what I had wanted, I didn’t mind taking some time to check the livestock water takes and to make sure the fences were still intact. We were still able to glass for both the Blue and Black Wildebeest.
After checking one large watering station, we headed in the direction of a high mountain point. On the way, we spotted one herd of Blue Wildebeest in the ravine or valley between two large hills (or small mountains) that were on the way to where we were going. We stopped, I am guessing, at about 800 to 1200 yards from the herd. We worked up to them, as the wind was in our favor. We got within 300 yards when the tracker Gotleib almost jumped out of his shoes and screamed as he jumped to the side. As the line goes, Heinert was leading with Gotleib second and me bringing up the rear. I was very close to Gotleib as he jumped to the side and it happened so quick I actually continued forward until I saw a somewhat large snake slither into the grass. I never saw the head, but Gotleib was all too willing to tell me what it was. We kind of caught up to it and took some great pictures. By the way, this was the second time Gotleib almost stepped on a Puff Attar.
It took a little bit to gather our nerves. We continued on after the Blue Wildebeest. Before the snake we had gotten to within 200 yards of the group but we were never able to make out a mature bull from any of the others in the group. The group was around 20-24 in size and were milling around feeding around one another as we watched them for 20-30 minutes. After a half hour or so watching them, they ended up moving off over a ridge and we moved to follow. This time when we got relatively close, they either caught wind of, saw or heard us and they ran off over the next ridge in the distance.
We headed back to the truck to work our way to the larger mountain where we had seen Blue Wildebeest a few days earlier. As we approached, we saw the heard in a clearing at the top. It was immediately clear that we had been spotted by one of the wildebeest. When we stopped the truck and put the glasses on the group, specifically what looked to be the lead bull (to me anyway) it appeared as if he was watching our movements. When Heinert started to move the truck closer, the wildebeest reacted and started to move off. When we stopped the herd calmed down. We would move towards them, they would get agitated and move and when we would stop, they would stop… With us at the bottom and them having the higher ground, there was no way we were going to be able to move on that group so we simply drove past that herd and continued on to try and find yet another group of Blue Wildebeest. After about 30-45 minutes of driving and glassing the mountainsides we spotted a group of Blue Wildebeest off on a ridge about a mile away. We drove as close as we dared, as time was no longer in our favor we were a bit more willing to be aggressive and take a small risk. We started the stalk at about 800 yards. As we worked our way behind the group trying to stay in a wash that was low and kept us mostly out of site. We struggled through the bush and thorns maintaining the wind in our faces and the wildebeest above us. We came to a spot where we were about 150 yards from the herd and found a clearing between us. There was no way to get across it without being seen and to this point we hadn’t been able to see a mature bull. Heinert had me set up for a shot as he and Gotleib focused on finding a mature bull. They did spot one and relayed that info to me, I was able to find the animal in my binoculars but not yet in my scope. As if the bull knew we were there, he never moved into a position that would allow me a shot. We remained as motionless as possible in hopes that the bull would present himself. As it turned out, the sun set and the wildebeest moved in the opposite direction allowing us to work our way back to the truck in the dark.
We headed back for camp, pulling in well after dark. A welcome site was the fire and everybody was there waiting. I gave my wife a big kiss and hugged my son! We talked and laughed about things that happened that day and smoked another great cigar.
Day 8 – June 20th, 2009
The eighth day, like the others began with a great breakfast. This time, Pam would join me for the morning hunt. Becky again offered to watch Tjaden and we left camp the same way as we did the day I harvested the Gemsbok. We saw some small Kudu about ten minutes out of camp. Saw some Gemsbok and Steenbok as well. About 30 minutes out of camp, we drove up on Georges truck. George had Mike and Josie and was looking for a Kudu. Mike had taken a really nice bull at Jan Olefse’s three years earlier. It wasn’t as if he was specifically looking for a specific number, he was just hoping to harvest something in the same range or larger. As we approached, George walked up to our truck. We discussed the herd of Black Wildebeest that they had seen. The herd was in an area that he had never seen them in before and was a bit surprised. We set up a plan to allow Pam and I to stalk up as close as we could get and have Pam film the entire thing. The herd was actually where I shot the Gemsbok. We drove towards the herd and circled a mountain that they were in front of while George took Mike and Josie in the opposite direction. We stopped the truck on the opposite side of the hill from the wildebeest. We exited the truck loaded up camera and video for Pam and gun for me. We hiked about three fourths of the way up the back side of the hill as the plan was to gain the higher ground then work our way around to find a spot to be able to make a shot from. It was great helping Pam up the mountain. She really was a trooper only getting to come out with me 4 times on a 10 day hunt. Our son was sort of a surprise, we wouldn’t change a thing, but when we signed up for the hunt two years previous our youngest was 6. Tjaden did great but it locked Pam into staying at camp more than we had planned. Anyway, Pam was great this day, she marched right up, kept the pace and didn’t make a sound. When we got close to setting up for a shot, she kind of slid off to the side to get a good camera angle. She was filming the group of Black Wildebeest as I set up. There were probably 30 wildebeest in the group and she was great in that she was able to discern which one was the bull I was going to shoot at. I was extremely calm this day, I had my wife with me and was truly happy. Heinert gave ne the distance to the bull, 195 yards, and I put the cross hairs where they needed to be. As I shot, she kind of screamed at the noise, and I saw the bull rear up and kick, run a few circles and disappear behind a tree. Both Heinert and Gotleib confirmed a good hit. Heinert headed back to the truck while Gotleib, Pam and I worked our way down to where we thought the bull would be. When we reached the plateau where the herd had been, they had circled back after the initial scatter and they were all watching us from just into the bush. This really disturbed Pam, as she had watched so many hunting shows where they talked about bull charges. It was kind of cute. We did find the wildebeest behind a tree about 20 yards from where he was shot. Pam took all kinds of pictures of the wildebeest and the surrounding flora. Heinert was kind enough to take some pictures of Pam and I with the wildebeest.
We were able to get the truck relatively close so we were able to quickly load it and head back to camp. When we got back to camp, we took Tjaden to the skinning shack and watched them go to work on the Black Wildebeest. Before this trip, I would have thought the Black Wildebeest as the more attractive of the two types that George had on his ranch. But when I first stalked the Blue Wildebeest on the second day, I came to believe the Blue to be amuch more beautiful animal.
After a great lunch, Pam decided to stay back with Tjaden and Becky. We left camp to head back to find the group of Blue Wildebeest that we lost at dark the night before. With time now in our favor, we drove back towards where we left the truck. As we approached the location, we again saw that herd of Blue Wildebeest at the top of the mountain and still they were watching us as we approached.
We drove past them and to the spot we stopped the night before. We got out in the same spot but this day we couldn’t see any wildebeest. We started to walk down that ravine we took the night before; we worked our way so we could just see over the ridge. There was a herd of wildebeest just on the other side of the ridge. It couldn’t have been more that 50 yards between us and the wildebeest. They had no idea we were there, and in my binoculars I saw up close how beautiful the blue gnu really is. We waited in that spot for an hour as they fed off a bit giving us a bit of breathing room to be able to move to a better spot to assess the situation. We sat and watched the herd again for an hour or so waiting for them to get where I would be able to take a shot. As happened many times before, there always seemed to be something in the way. When the bull was clear of the other animals, he would walk behind a bush. Something spooked the group and they ran full speed directly towards where our truck was parked. What was earlier an advantage now was quickly becoming a liability. We had spent most of the afternoon sun watching this herd that had just recently vanished. To be honest, I was a bit depressed as less than an hour ago I had the bull in my scope about to pull the trigger when another wildebeest walked into the way. And now there seemed to be nothing in site. As quickly as things can go from good to bad, they can go just as quickly from bad to good. Gotleib spotted a herd of Blue Wildebeest feeding over a ridge towards us. It almost was like we didn’t have to move and they would still come to us. I knew the reality though, and things can change very quickly and we couldn’t leave it to chance.
They were far enough that we could walk a bit more at an easy pace without fear that we would be seen or heard for a bit. When we got within about 300 yards we really slowed down and watched the noise. The wind was blowing briskly, in Namibian terms, in our faces. The wildebeest were feeding in a green space sort of flat area. We were able to work into 175 yards without them noticing our presence. We set up the sticks, low to the ground as I was going to need to shoot from a seated position.
Heinert quickly spotted the most mature bull in the group and pointed him out to me. It took nearly 20 minutes for the bull to work his way into a position for me to take a clean shot. When he finally moved into the clear shooting lane, I put the cross hairs just above and behind his shoulder and took the shot. This shot was a bit different than all the others. After the recoil, the gun came back and I was able to see the wildebeest and follow it in the scope. I knew it to be a good shot and watched him run 20 yards and expire in view.
At this point it was at last shooting light. Gotleib and I went to the wildebeest and Heinert headed back for the truck. By the time Heinert arrived with the truck, we had moved the wildebeest into a spot to be able to take pictures. By this time it was again well past sunset and was almost “very” dark. And as Murphy described as law, my camera went on the fritz. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get any good pictures.
We headed back to camp to a welcome committee of my wife and son excited to see the Blue Wildebeest. The Blue turned out to be my wife’s favorite animal.
With the fire already burning and the group gathered around, we joined the conversation. We all told stories about the days hunts. Pam told of her video of the black Wildebeest hunt and how she tried to keep as still and quiet as possible while still sliding around to get the best possible camera angle. We smoked a good cigar and reminisced the previous 8 days we have been here and started to feel a bit depressed that there were only a few days remaining. So to this point, I had harvested a Springbok, Impala, Gemsbok, Hartmann’s Zebra, Kudu, Black Wildebeest and a Blue Wildebeest. I still had two days left and had interest in a Steenbok, Warthog or a Red Hartebeest. I couldn’t afford all three, but wanted one of them in the next two days.
Day 9 – June 21st, 2009
The ninth day, we woke up early to join the group for breakfast. We were down to two professional hunters at this point so Mike, Josie and Lynn all went out to continue the quest for Mike’s Kudu. I left Pam and Tjaden and went with Heinert to look for one of the three animals left on my list. We left camp in a westerly direction, not with any real purpose but to just try and find a mature representation of a Red Hartebeest, Steenbok or a Warthog. We really hadn’t drove that far, maybe 30 minutes from camp and we spotted a Steenbok, but it was a young one short in the horn. He ran as we approached and a female with him. They really are cute little buggers.
We continued for another 30 minutes or so and we came up on a group of Kudu feeding in a dry lake bed, or what had to have been a water collection pit. We stopped well before the area having seen them and decided to stalk up to them to see just how close we could get and what they looked like in case there was a real large one for Mike. We got in real close, probably within 35 yards and stood on the back side of a berm and peered over the top and watched them. It was one of the more interesting things I had done; I just wish I had taken the video camera along. We watched for a half of an hour to an hour.
On the far side of the herd, I could see some of the Kudu being disturbed by something. They were moving about, kind of jumping to the side. It didn’t take long to see what was happening. An old male Warthog was running, no trotting would be a better description, right through the herd of Kudu making them move out of his way.
He started through the herd, I am going to say at the far side and the left most part of the flat and was running through the herd to our right. I didn’t have to be told twice to take him if I wanted him. My gun was already up and took two steps up the berm and I aimed at his shoulder and pulled the trigger.
I am not a horrible shot, but I wouldn’t describe myself as a great shot either. I told Heinert and George that I wasn’t comfortable with moving or real long shots. I think my longest was only 245 yards and to this point they had all been still shots. The Zebra was walking really slowly, to slow to count as moving in my book.
The shot was really quite instinctive, as I raised the gun and got the Warthog in the scope and led him ever so little and he was down immediately to the shot. One thing that did disappoint me throughout the whole hunt is that so many people I talked to (including Lynn and Mike) they always describe the loud slap they hear when the bullet hits the animal. I never once heard that sound…
At the shot about 12 Kudu erupted and ran initially ran in every direction, then modified their respective courses and somehow ended up all running out of the flat in the same direction. After the field had cleared, not that we waited for it as it happened instantly, we walked the 35 yards to the downed Warthog. The shot placement was a bit back of where I thought I had aimed, but hey it was an offhand shot at a moving target We took pictures, including Gotleib and Heinert.
I do have a few regrets, and I hope I am excused in part as it was my first African Safari. The regrets are that during pictures, my PH always did a really nice job. I wish I had taken more pictures that included the PH and Trackers.
As we were loading him into the truck, Heinert showed me how infested the Warthog was with fleas. It took nearly an hour to get back to camp and by that time it was time for lunch, or at least to spend quality time with my wife and son. We sat around the fire pit and just relaxed. Becky and Pam read while I played with Tjaden.
After lunch, as I had filled my “Bag”, I went out with Mike, Josie and George. We left his area to hunt an adjacent property in hopes of getting that elusive big Kudu. We drove for at least an hour to get to this other property, which was still family land, and as soon as we drove into it we saw a large group of Gemsbok. When they finally saw us, at about 100 yards, they exploded in full panic mode. There was a pump house near where the group had been feeding and when they all started to run, this one Gemsbok wasn’t paying attention to where he was running as he ran smack into the pump house and bounced off, fell down, got up and ran off in the opposite direction as the rest of the group. It was really funny!
We drove past where the Gemsbok had been feeding and just past that point, Gotleib spotted a Kudu. He and George looked at it and studied it and said they thought that he would run in the 55”-56” range and that he was a really old bull. We parked and Josie and I stayed with the truck. Mike asked if I would go with, but I declined as I told him I would have to have something I did bust the Kudu and prevent him from getting it. He understood, and I was disappointed as I REALLY wanted to go with him!
From the truck, Josie and I could watch the entire stalk. I could see so well, in fact, that I videotaped the stalk for him. George wanted to get set up quickly as it was a really nice Kudu. They left the truck in a run, not sprint, but a definite run. I could see the group running towards where the Kudu was and I could also see the Kudu walking towards where Mike was heading. I could see a point in the middle where the Kudu and if it kept going in its direction, it would drop into a ravine and would be hard to get a good shot. They were running to get to a spot to take the shot before he dropped into the ravine.
I could see all of this in real time, but it wasn’t until that night that I talked to Mike to get the information that they shared while running after the Kudu. Mike was in good condition, not Olympic shape but good enough to run a couple hundred yards. I do have to add though, that there is a difference in running 200 yards in shorts, t-shirt and running shoes on a track than running those same two hundred yards at altitude over rough terrain in hunting boots and jeans and at the finish line have someone throw up the shooting sticks and say “Take Him!”
Mike said he could hardly see let alone catch his breath…. He did get his gun up and found the Kudu and took the shot. I had this all on camera and was fun to watch. The shot hit the Kudu but not where Mike had wanted.
Josie and I watched George and Mike follow after the Kudu and Gotleib returned to the truck to drive it in the direction the Kudu ran. We parked on a road somewhat near where Mike took the shot but probably much closer to the direction they thought the Kudu ran. After a while, George appeared out of nowhere and walked up to the truck. He instructed me to load my gun and shoot the Kudu if it ran across the road. He said Mike had hit him, but it was not a kill shot or at least an immediate kill shot. They followed blood and found twice where it had laid up and moved on when they got close. He was bleeding pretty heavily.
It wasn’t five minutes after George left that Josie and I heard this crashing noise, like something clumsily stumbling through the brush. It was getting close, real close, like 10 yards in front of the truck but off to the left (the same direction George left). Then all of the sudden this huge Gemsbok burst out of the bush and trotted across the road. I have no idea how I didn’t shoot that darned thing! Every instinct in my body was saying to pull the trigger when it’s clear, and wam… it was clear but wrong animal. Josie and I laughed about that for nearly 10 minutes.
At that time Mike came running out of the bush in the same spot George did. Poor guy was soaking wet of sweat and totally out of breath. He tried to explain what was going on. How they would follow it get close and it would run off. You could tell he was depressed as he didn’t get as good a shot as he would have liked.
Then came a series of shouts from George. The shouts came from deep in the bush, well maybe not deep, but definitely in the bush. He was calling for Mike to get back over to where he was.
With a dejected look on his face and a poignant comment “You have got to be KIDDING”, he ran back into the bush. It was now almost dark and we didn’t see or hear anything until about an hour later. Now in almost total darkness, they all came walking out of the bush towards the truck. They had been unable to find the bull, but would now have to wait till morning and better light to find him.
It was a rough night for Mike. He kept his composure well though. We joked about it around the fire. I even showed the video I had captured of the ordeal. Having seen it, I was confident that they would find the bull early tomorrow. With one day left of hunting and my bag completely full, I was able to just enjoy the surroundings and even considered sleeping in with Pam the next day.
Day 10 – June 22st, 2009
The last day of the hunt started with me rolling over and asking if Pam wanted me to go get breakfast and bring it back to her… I figured she had not really been able to enjoy the safari as much as we hoped as she was watching a 6-month old baby the whole time. I got up and brought back breakfast for her to have in bed. I fed Tjaden and let her go back to sleep for a while, luckily Tjaden did as well, so I napped with the two of them until mid morning. It was the sound of Georges truck that woke us up the second time. It was Mike, Josie and Lynn retuning with the Kudu Mike had shot. They had found it on the other side of the road bedded down in some brush. Another shot had to be taken to finish him off.
He was beautiful, not quite as long as they thought but around 54 inches. He had a really dark coat as well and will look incredible when mounted.
So at this point, we as a group had taken:
Me – Kudu, Gemsbok, Blue Wildebeest, Black Wildebeest, Hartmann’s Zebra, Impala, Kalahari Springbok, and a Warthog.
Lynn – Giraffe, Blue Wildebeest, Hartmann’s Zebra, and a Warthog
Mike – Kudu, Blue Wildebeest, Black Wildebeest, Hartmann’s Zebra, Red Hartebeest, Steenbok, Baboon
Not a bad haul and we still had the afternoon if anyone wanted to do anything special. We all as a group decided to go out and try and shoot some Jackal. After lunch we loaded up, left Pam and Tjaden at camp, and headed back to where the field dressed Mike’s Kudu.
Gotleib got out and tied the end trails to a rope on one end and to the truck on the other. We drove off down some trails leaving behind some nice smell if you are a predator I guess. We stopped and took a picture near a butter tree, or what George called a “Grandma’s Legs” tree.
We did a bit more gut dragging and we set up to ambush any predator that would come in to play. We all sat in the back waiting for something to happen. I had not shot a Jackal and both Lynn and Mike had, so I had the first opportunity at whatever was to come in. After about 30 minutes of just watching and talking quietly amongst ourselves, we saw something coming in from the distance. No one could immediately make it out but it was coming at a constant (not fast) pace. We soon realized it was a nice Warthog and both Lynn and I had already taken one, the question went to Mike. He thought about it, got up switched positions with me and was going to use my gun to take the Warthog when it was available. As we watched it come in, it came to within 75 yards but somehow kept things between us and him preventing a shot. After a few minutes, you could see Mike change his mind. We watched that guy forage around for food for the better part of an hour. It never knew we were there and as quickly as he came in, he walked off into the bush.
By then it was getting dark, and a real cold front had moved in. Most of us were cold and uncomfortable so we decided to call it an early night to regroup around the fire and talk about the conclusion of this ten day affair.
It is hard to believe that ten days can come and go so fast. We planned this thing for almost three years. I looked forward to this for that entire time period as well, and now in a blink of an eye we had reached its conclusion. There were no regrets, just a bit of sadness that it was over. We made great new friends during the stay and new plans to return to Africa in 2012.
After a two cigar conversation at the fire, we all reluctantly retired as we had to get up early the next morning as our trip now shifted to spend a week in Swakopmond.
Day 11 – June 23rd, 2009
Our last day in camp started with breakfast with pictures with our hosts. Then a mad dash back to our chalet to get things packed for the trip. We didn’t want a repeat of Germany and leave stuff behind. Although, the hotel did find my DVD case and shipped it to our home address in Iowa.
After the packing was done and loaded into the truck, we made the rounds one last time to take pictures and video. I will miss the place and it will always hold a special pace as it is my first African Safari experience. We said farewell to the PH’s and Camp staff and left in two vehicles to meet a van transport we hired to take us to Swakupmond. We stopped at the entrance to George’s property to wait for the van. In the time we waited, we were able to take a few more pictures of our hosts and the camp entrance.
The van arrived and we solemnly loaded our bags into the vehicle and trailer. As the van drove off, we all looked back with a sense of sadness and pure enjoyment as to what had transpired. We had an incredible time, one we hope to duplicate in the summer of 2012 but will always remember what the place looked like as we drove away.
08-25-2010, 08:17 PM #2
Hi Robert ,
Congrats !!!! on taking these grand class trophies, exquisite pictures & brilliant hunt report , thanks for sharing .... You did have quite a troublesome time at the airport .....
MonishITS NOT THE RIFLE BUT THE MAN BEHIND THE RIFLE
08-26-2010, 08:07 AM #3
very nice musta beeen lotsa fun
All the best
Ibie!Check out my profile
08-26-2010, 09:38 AM #4
What a journey Robert! Thanks for sharing your hunting safari in Namibia with us, very much enjoyed your story and pictures.
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