Hunting with Engelbrecht Safaris
After much consideration and with high expectations, in late September 2011, we boarded a British Airways plane and headed off into our first off North American continent adventure! We planned very carefully, but as always there was hiccups. At the Toronto airport, the British Airways staff desprite reassurance from the call in center which considered a compound bow as sporting equipment but the front line staff considered it a fire arm. So after a 48 minute wait to get it tagged and put through special handling, we were on our way! Heathrow is huge, and just a tip, if your layover is long enough consider the Yotel hotel in terminal 4. We booked it for 2 blocks and got a decent sleep before the long haul to Johannesburg. Tip: clear customs in the terminal you landed in as the hotel is landside. We learned this from a gracious customs agent who took pity on us and provided the first ever stamps in our passports!!
The flight to Jo-burg was good and the layover was shorter so we people watched most of the time. Watch out for the escalator to the ground flight deck, it is the longest, steepest one I have ever seen. The buses out to the plane were full and there was slight delay and a hum started which we didn't understand until half way to Windhoek. Apparently the band West Life was on our plane!! There wasn't a female staff member anywhere who didn't want a photo with the band, while all they wanted was a hotel bed and quiet as they had been travelling a very long time! Despite Terry's fears all the luggage made the trip and awaited us in Windhoek, through the big doors and smiling at us were Tobie and Lizelle Engelbrecht, we loaded our gear into their white Toyota Hilux 4x4 ( the vehicle of choice it seems here) and headed out for the 6 hour ride to the farm. We, both being firefighters, couldn't get over the huge wildfires that were burning for miles. With water being so scarce, that is the way it works here. Totally opposite to our way of thinking! Of course so was the traffic, as they drive on the left side of the road here! When we arrived at Mylpaal, it was too dark to appreciate much landscape, though there were eyes glowing in the dark, and we did know it was a long way from the gate at the road to the house (6.4 km) We had arrived!
After a great sleep, we had a tour of the trophy shed the next morning, where various sizes of each species were located so we could appreciate size and trophy quality and to ensure we were competent in species names. Then it was off to our first blind with a cooler of food and excited expectation. While it was late in the morning, we got all set up, he with his bow and I with my camera and the wait was on. It was all quiet for quite a while; the temperature was hovering in the high 30's . Then the birds came for a drink at the waterhole that was 17 yards out. After the birds, an ostrich or 3 wandered in and then finally a giraffe came for a drink! Oh the pictures Carrie took of this gorgeous creature! It was pretty cool, to be that close. Some small kudu came in and 3 or 4 warthogs. It was amazing to see even if none of them were hunting quality, the Nikon was busy! At dark, we went back to the farmstead and it being Friday night, we got to meet Sune and Frikke, the Engelbrecht children home from school for the weekend. They are awesome kids, and we felt right at home as one of the family. Tobie employs an apprentice PH named Emile and he stayed with at the farm with us also. Our first sun downer was an enjoyable night of Toffle and Windhoek Lagers, and BBQ outside was amazing, the firewood goes right to charcoal, its so cool, then the meat is bbq壇 and the meals( all week) were top shelf, off the chain cooking. Kudo's to Lizelle for the meals, the coolers and the variety. Never did we go hungry, and Carrie has been called a picky eater!
Day 2 started early 5:30 up and brekkie note, dunk the rusks in your coffee before you bite into them. Cooler, gear and off to blind. It was a quiet day. We didn't see too much other than birds. That night we went for a game drive and saw lots of wildebeest, kudu and hartebeest. There was a rogue leopard in the area, but we didn't see it, only tracks in the dust.
Day 3 brekkie, coffee and cooler and gear to the blind. It was a hot hot day. About 39 degrees, unseasonably warm for this time of year. The winds were high and swirled all day. We tried different blinds, but no luck. The conditions were just not conducive to blind bow hunting.
Time for Plan B, Tobie, Emile and Terry went out with the rifle at first light, Carrie stayed at Mylpaal for a restful day of reading and relaxing. We went to visit the neighbours and saw a huge baobab tree! Meanwhile back with the hunting division, they were stalking an impala and were paralleling it on the road as it grazed along the bush line. Suddenly, a group of does stepped out and pinned us down approximately 120-130 yards in the open. Tobie set up the sticks and finally a male impala had come out. We had to stand motionless for about 40 minutes before a shot presented itself. The opening came with a small shrub in the way, while I hit a branch I was able to hit the impala too. It took off into the bushveld and we went over and found the blood trail. Tobie decided to wait an come back to get the trackers and dogs and about an hour later, we took up the track and found it. I hadn't realized how much went into setting up for a trophy picture, but finally we were able to load the impala and the trackers took it from there and butchered it back at the farm.
The next animal we put a short stock on was a big bull black wildebeest. I waited and made the shot, but I knew I had hit it high. We followed the track for a long ways and there was little to no blood. I was almost sick to my stomach. Tobie told me it would be ok, but I wasn't so sure.
Emile and I went to another location and setup a portable blind for a warthog hunt on a natural waterhole. Holy cow! I have been inside structure fires that were not as hot as that ground blind! There were 4 small pigs there and they hung around for a while, but then one small pig got to within 20 yards and smelt us or something and took off. A group of jackals came in and circled all around the blind. I took a shot, missed it and jumped the string. Meanwhile, Carrie has been taking excellent pictures and has been having a great relaxing vacation, enjoying the heat!!
With three days left of hunting, my luck finally changed. Early in the morning, we were out scouting for game when we (or Tobie and Emile) saw some hartebeest. The wind was in our favour and we started a stalk on them. They kept moving off but the wind was still good. Then about 20 springbok and a gemsbok came across our path...we stopped and finally were able to move on the hartebeest again. Suddenly, it looked like the springbok would bust us. I looked around and saw the tail of a gemsbok and pointed it out to Tobie. He found it and said it was big one and we moved into a better position. Tobie set up the sticks and I looked through the scope it was about 150 meter shot through the trees. I didn't want to screw up again! So i slowed my breath and shouldered the Savage 308 with the Moose suppressor. What a sweet rifle, not even the sound of a 22. I hit the gemsbok with a lung shot and it fell over right there. Tobie estimated it as a gold medal right there in the field. Emile went to get the trackers and after the photos from all angles we had it in the truck, after the trackers literally cut a trail into the animal so the truck could drive right up!
Tobie called his neighbour who had said he had a lot of warthogs on his farm and it was high on my priority list, There might also be a chance for a kudu, We drove around the farm scouting for different spots and hides. As we pulled up to the gate into the house compound, Emile spotted two kudu bulls. We parked in between some logs and glassed the bulls, and then we stalked about 75 yards. The kudu were standing about 125 yards away. Tobie picked out the bull and set the sticks, I placed the crosshairs on the front shoulder and squeezed the trigger. It sounded good and the kudu went maybe 30 yards and fell over. We made our way to it and it was magnificent! Tobie said it would go 50 inches and was very old, likely his last year. After the trophy pictures, the farm workers helped load it in the truck and we were off to look for warthogs. In a section across the road there was a blind on a water hole, and we sat there for a while but there was no action, so we packed up and headed to a big field. Emile scouted ahead of the truck before we entered the wide open and he came running back and said there was a big pig in the field! We began a long stalk down the road beside the field with a kudu and 4 pigs watching. Tobie put the shooting sticks over his head and we looked like a 6 legged gemsbok with world record horns but it got us to within 250 yards and set up on a warthog. It finally turned broadside and I got a good hit on the pig, It took off and I reloaded and when it stopped I sot again and down it went. It was truly a great day of hard hunting but success was ours 3 trophies in one day! The Windhoek lager tasted good that night and we all slept good that night! The Friday before we left, Carrie and Emile went to Etosha Park, they left at the same time Tobie and i did for yet one more day of hunting. Carrie was really hoping to see some elephants and zebras and lions. She was not to be disappointed and the pictures are amazing.
Tobie and I started out to look for a hartebeest and there were normally some in a field a couple of kilometres from the house, At first light, we drive to the west end of the field and put a stalk on, when off to the right there were 2 males fighting hard. Tobie put the sticks up and they were so busy fighting, they did not notice us! At 200 yards out, after moving once for better position, Tobie pointed out the best of the two and I squeezed off a shot! It was a good hit, it went for a bit, I fired again and it went down. 4 great animals in 24 hours WOW!! The sun had barely come over the horizon.
I had really wanted to get a trophy with my bow, so I went to a blind for the afternoon. 5 giraffe came in and then bunch of hartebeest, but they were all females.
On my last day, I went bow hunting in the morning, but saw nothing, we drove around and looked for the wildebeest i had wounded earlier in the week, but still didn't find any trace.
The high winds, unusually high temperatures and the rogue leopard all combined to make it a tough go, but Tobie had a plan B and it made my trip one on a lifetime and I will return someday. Tobie and Lizelle were wonderful hosts, Emile is a great kid and will be a good PH when he gets all the certifications. The kids got an eagle eye when spotting game.
Carrie and I have truly enjoyed our time and have made some strong friendships with Namibia. We will return someday and explore more that this wonderful country has to offer!