Namibia Hunt Report - pre-trip report
I thought some of you would enjoy this as it chronicles everything I went through prior to the hunt, my thoughts and reasons for doing this, and a myriad of other useful (and useless) knowledge. Enjoy!
My name is Eric, and for as long as I remember, Africa has called to me.
Oh, there have been times when I have ignored the call. There have been times when I have forgotten it and it has been naught but a whisper passing me by as the gale-force winds of my life, career, and personal troubles have howled and drowned it out. But somehow, somewhere, it has always remained. And this year . . . this year, the call will be answered.
I was born 41 years ago, to a good but troubled man, and a gentle, devoted woman. My father, who once hunted and enjoyed the outdoors, had by my birth become disillusioned of killing. Three tours of duty as a Marine helicopter pilot in Vietnam affected him greatly, and when he returned, 6 months after I had been born, he was a changed man. He locked up his hunting rifles and never touched them again. As I was raised on different military bases around the world, my quest for knowledge would lead me to the solitary pursuits of books and libraries, and my desire to learn more of history would eventually cause me to discover geology, science, and the realization that we all derived from Africa countless eons ago. I would also discover a thirst for adventure, the outdoors, and the skills necessary to enjoy and survive various outdoor pursuits.
But I was blocked by my parents refusal to allow me to hunt, shoot, even own a BB gun. In frustration, I returned to my books, devouring tales of adventure, safari, and the wild west. History, especially that with a martial bent, allowed me to live vicariously through others, and I dreamed of a day when I, too, could count myself among them. And my favorite historical figure, seemingly larger-than-life, but upon further research all-too true and honest, was Theodore Roosevelt.
As the years rolled by, I found myself trying to keep my dreams and desires alive, but all too soon discovered "real life" - high school, college, marriage, failed careers and hopes dashed with regards to what I thought I would become after my education was complete. And those dreams of Africa, and dreams of hunting or outdoor activities in general, seemed to shrivel and die like fruit gone months without water. I forgot about my dreams, just struggling to survive and keep my personal life and professional life together, when things changed dramatically for the better.
A new career after much sacrifice and struggle, bold chances and risks taken, and success! A desired move back to Florida from a state that drove my wife and I to the brink of an almost fatal chasm. And as the dust settled and smoke cleared, there came a dawning realization that perhaps now, at this stage in my life, I could finally think back on those old dreams and maybe, just maybe, begin to make them a reality.
And so I found myself, in November of 2007, with a sudden desire to learn more about traveling to Africa. As I researched and found this website, reading the tales, seeing the pictures, something welled up deep inside of me - I didn't recognize it at first, it had been suppressed for so long and it was so very thirsty. But that fruit . . . that dried, shriveled, nearly dead fruit . . . . began to ripen. The dream of Africa was back, stronger than ever. It literally made me weep with pain, with longing, with a love and passion that was akin to when I first met my wife. And I could not deny it any longer. I was worried, thinking that perhaps my wife, who had never really known or understood this desire, would intentionally or unintentionally sabotage my plans. Perhaps she would think it silly, or too expensive, or dangerous. So often I have seen the results of this play out with other friends. But thank all that is holy and divine, she looked me straight in the eye and said, "Follow your dream, make it a reality."
And so, my friends, today I begin this modest journal. It will detail my thoughts, feelings, preparations, lessons learned, opinions sought and given, and perhaps a small, brief glimpse into the soul of a man who finally had the courage to follow a dream . . . a dream that many of us have. I hope my experiences will help those who have yet to realize their dream, and I hope it will rekindle the dream or passion of others who have been there and done that before.
If my sometimes verbose, sometimes bellicose, and sometimes overly emotional or maudlin musings irritate or annoy you, then I ask simply that you move on and enjoy the things elsewhere that you enjoy. I remain unapologetic for what I say and what I feel, and wish you nothing but peace and tranquil enjoyment of life.
So much has happened in the past month. Many questions asked and answered, though for sure there are some on this site who must get sick and tired of seeing my name so often, and my sometimes inane and silly questions. But like my dad once said, there are no stupid questions, just stupid people - LOL. So much advice I have been given that it has been difficult to decide on various things. But as the year begins, there are some things that have been decided in regards to my first trip and safari to Africa:
1 - My destination - Namibia. Originally I had planned on South Africa, and then had thought about Botswana. But three things changed my mind. Cost was one factor - although I could have hunted for a similar cost in RSA, it seemed like overall my best deal when all was said and done was Namibia. The second factor was the fact that I had a keen interest in the 70s and 80s history of southern africa, especially with regards to mercenaries, the proxy wars fought between Angola (and communist Cuba and Russia) and South Africa (and the U.S.) throughout what was then known as SouthWest Africa. The opportunity to visit there just about sealed the deal. Thirdly, a chance PM from a fellow member who booked hunts in Namibia led me to research and take a chance on a little-known but intriguing outfit outside of Omaruru. This ranch, owned by a wealthy retired German, had catered to European clients for years, but just last year opened up to a limited number of Americans. The price was very attractive, and the accomodations, perks, and description of the PH and his history excited me.
And so, as of December 18, I paid my deposit.
2 - On advice from many here, I engaged a travel agent who specializes in these trips. She has been a tremendous help not only in booking flights, but handling insurance, giving knowledgeable advice regarding what to pack, what to do, and what not to. She has also become someone who has never balked at spending as much time as necessary walking an amateur through it all and holding his hand. We have shared stories, experiences, and seem to have become "friends" of a sort, if I could be so bold as to say that. My advice to anyone doing this for the first time is to make use of someone like this and never second-guess the decision - it is a very wise one indeed.
3 - My rifle. The research, discussion, threads, posts, etc. regarding what rifle to use is endless. But for me, it was fairly simple. All my life I had always used military caliber rifles, mostly carbines, AR-15s, AR-10s, Garands, H&Ks, and various subguns. None of which was suitable for hunting plains game (or even legal in many instances). I needed a real hunting rifle, and a real hunting scope. The .30-06 was an easy choice, especially since surplus practice ammo is cheap and ammo in Namibia is available. Always partial to Tikka rifles, I bought a Whitetail Hunter M695 long action with a synthetic stock. Incredibly accurate, smooth-as-butter action, and a trigger out of the box that ranks among the best ever made, it is a true joy to shoot. Adding a Limbsaver recoil pad was essential not for recoil per-se but to add an inch of LOP for me, as my arms contain the genetics of a tree-swinging monkey and belong on a 7 foot tall person, not a 6'2 person like me. The scope was a no-brainer - Zeiss Conquest 3-9x40 with #4 German reticle. I got a great deal online buying from CameralandNY (Cameras, Binoculars, Spotting Scopes, Rifle Scopes - Camera Land NY) The 4" constant eye relief is essential for me and my eyes. I'll never use another scope again, and got rid of my Nikons, Sightrons, and Swarovskis and replaced them with Zeiss scopes.
4 - I also realized that I would have to get back into reloading again after a long hiatus. This was done with the help of MidwayUSA, and and RCBS Deluxe Rockchucker kit found its way to my door, along with a selection of Barnes XXX and Nosler Partition bullets to test out. That will be forthcoming. Until then, I've been amazed at the accuracy I can get out of 1970s era Greek Military Surplus 150gr. FMJ ammo - an inch at 100 yards? Unbelievable, I know, but possible with this rifle.
5 - Clothing - thanks to advice given here, I went all cotton, and this includes Cabelas safari clothing as well as Woolrich Elite tactical clothing. I love their Lightweight pants. Boots have been tough, though, and I seem to finally have found a decent pair that don't hurt my feet too much - some Irish Setter Chukkas, in a soft, suede-like leather. Not the most protective, but quiet, fairly comfortable, inexpensive, and light. Still testing out walking shoes, but some New Balance leather ones are on their way and may finally give me what I'm looking for. Thank the stars for the internet and generous return policies! LOL
And so now, with less than 5 months to go, I am awash in things to do, lists of gear to buy and pack, shots and medicine to get from my doctor, and those countless myriad of details that you hope you don't forget, but know that you will. But the dawning realization that 5 months will come and go quickly, I have to now make the most of my spare time and make final decisions on things, buckle down, and do what is necessary to make this the best possible experience I can make it.
The dream is getting close to reality, and it is with trepidation, fear, excitement, and joy that I greet it.
Jan 1, 2008:
This past weekend was fun as well as frustrating. Met with a fellow AR member to go out shooting. I've been messing around with various mounting options on my rifle, not happy with most - I've always been a QRW fan and thought, since I was taking 2 scopes just in case, that I'd like them to be easy to mount and change out and not have to re-sight them. The Tikka has a clamping rail system, not the Weaver/Piccatiny rails that I'm used to. The rings supplied by Tikka are decent, but not conducive to quick release and return to zero. Bought some Millet railed bases and used some Leupold QRW rings, but this added way too much weight to the rifle, plus the bases came with screws that were too short - so I'm back to using the Tikka rings - but amazingly, when I put them back on they were dead-on and had not lost any zero. Hmm, maybe these aren't so bad.
At the range, I sighted in both the Tikka and my 10/22 which has a similar LOP, weight, and the exact same scope as the Tikka. This will be my primary training rifle, especially out in the woods squirrel hunting, and it will be helpful in inexpensive practice of various shooting positions.
I've always thought of myself as a good shot, but almost all of my shots were either from a bench, or at reactive targets with a semi-auto using iron or red dot sights. I quickly learned, after trying to shoot my Tikka from my home-made sticks, that I have a LOT of work to do. Granted, I suppose keeping 5 of 6 shots inside (well, two shots were just outside) of a 4" circle at 100 yards is decent, but this isn't acceptable to me, and that last shot that was nowhere to be found on the target, really pissed me off - I KNEW it was a bad shot the moment I pulled the trigger - I should have never taken it. My speed also needs improvement. I did discover, however, that I do much better with my scope on 4-6x vs. the 9x max - perhaps my old habit of using non-magnified optics (red dots) and iron sights are pretty drilled in to me, and I should rely on that style of shooting, using low power magnification. Truth be told, seeing the reticle bounce around like a pinata on 9x plays havoc on your confidence.
So, my next trip to the range will see me testing my newly loaded 180 grain Nosler ammo, pinning down the final adjustments to my scope to be 2" high at 100 yards and dead-on at 235 yards as per many recommendations from my friends here, and then practicing a LOT with both rifles from sitting, prone, off-hand, and sticks. I pledge here right now that other than scope sighting and load testing, I will NOT use a bench or rest again.
Ended up buying a Tuffpak from the fellow AR member for a good price, along with a Tuffsak. It is one of the original models, so I am going to modify it with an additional latch so that it can be locked with a padlock, just in case something happens and our friendly TSA agents cut out the tubular lock - I figure two locks is better than one, especially if the TSA ends up cutting them - I'll bring along an extra padlock too.
Got to fire a .375 H&H - wow, some kick! Some of the "range regulars" were curious about it, especially when they saw the size of the cartridges!
And today, with both the wife and me off (very rare occurrence), we went to the Lowry Park Zoo here in Tampa, rated one of the best in the nation. It was a lot of fun, but suddenly I'm looking at the animals with a whole different perspective. My wife caught me a few times setting up shots and looking at the best angles and areas (thank you, Perfect Shot!) - she had a good chuckle. Unfortunately there weren't any Gemsbok, Impala, Hartebeest, Springbok, or Mountain Zebra there - but there were some Warthogs and a baboon. I think that baboon was on to me, though - he didn't show himself much at all. Cagey bastard.
And now, some "light" reading - I've just finished Sands of Silence: On Safari in Namibia by Capstick, and The Green Hills of Africa by Hemingway. Capstick was ok, but not up to his usual a la Death in the Long Grass. But I did learn some interesting facts about the land, people, and how to tell if an elephant is really going to charge you. Hemingway was just plain awful - repetitive, boring, mostly stream-of-consciousness writing. Blech.
But now, I hold in my hands a most wondrous tome - African Game Trails: An Account of the African Wanderings of an American Hunter-Naturalist by Theodore Roosevelt. I can tell already I am going to really enjoy this book, as I do anything by Roosevelt. I will include some commentary on various things that I read of in this book and I hope you enjoy them, though I recommend everyone get this book and read it, as it takes you back 100 years to a time when things were so very much different in the world, but already changing rapidly and not for the better.