Namibia’s Small Five

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  1. Leica Sport Optics

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    Jackal, Warthog, Baboon, Steenbok and Klipspringer – these Five Small game do not have the same reputation as their Big Five brothers. However, they certainly gave us a lot of challenges on the way through the mountains bordering the Namibian desert.

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    A storm is coming in

    At the end of the South African summer, rain is rare but generous, when occasionally showering the fringe of the Namibian desert. This is when the vegetation has a few weeks to grow, flower and flourish before disappearing again for months. In this period the arid plains turn to green lush Savannah, a habitat that quickly turns into a trap and the larger herbivores flee further west, in the dunes of sand bordered by the Atlantic. But not all animals are so fortunate and have other strategies to escape their predators, first and foremost discretion.

    From Windhoek, four hours of driving through roads and tracks are required to reach the territory of Wilsonfontein. Once there, hunters enjoy the rare privilege of 31.000 private acres of unfenced hunting areas. Best of all, the 25 kilometers long western flank is bordered by Namibia’s National Park Naukluft, where hunting is prohibited. After a previous trip which allowed us to hunt Oryx and Springbok, we have returned to Ingo Gladys for a truly unique experience. This time we are going for the less popular game where the hunt will be much more difficult, since the vegetation provide them with full visual protection.

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    The “menu” consists of:
    – Jackals in great numbers at this time of year
    – Warthogs in lower densities on account of a dry habitat
    – Groups of Chacma baboons haunting the steeper cliffs of the territory
    – Klipspringers (oreotragus antelopes) well presented within steep inaccessible areas
    – The steenbuck (raphicerus campestris), also to be found in good density but extremely difficult to approach in the post-summer vegetation.

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    As usual, guests are awakened by Ingo at 6.30 a.m. for a quick but hearty breakfast. We sit in the cabin of the land cruiser at 7 a.m., off for a day’s hunting which will end with sunset at 6 p.m. Depending on the sector chosen for hunting, we will cross tracks of sand and rocks for 30 minutes to two hours, before securing the 4×4 to continue by foot, following Simeon the tracker.

    A radio link is provided between the hunters and the vehicle to allow for it to approach as close as possible to where the game is drawn. Especially in order to intervene if something goes wrong, which is always a risk in this kind of environment: injury, exposure, fatigue or possibly bite or sting. Scorpions and deadly snakes are of course present, but the sun presents undoubtedly the greatest risk of all to the hunter.

    The first day we hunt near the lodge, as Ingo heard many Jackals throughout the night. During the summer, young jackals start their independence which increases the chance of encounters. Soon the aerial ballet of a large raptor draws our attention. A black breasted snake eagle performing dizzying dives and climbs repeatedly over the same area.

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    Simeon suggests we take a closer look. Sure enough, after thirty minutes of walking we spot a grey shape with red stripes through the grass in front of us. Simeon deploys the shooting stick right away and fires a bullet. But the jackal takes off at full speed and disappears behind a rock. At the same time, a fellow jackal emerges from a bush and flees. Simeon whistles briefly and he curious predator stops. Curiosity kills… (in this case) the jackal and our first game of the small five is acquired.

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    Bringing home the prey.

    After a very stormy night we travel to one of the most remote areas of the territory. No less than 40 kilometers through tracks messed up by overnight rain, before we arrive in a green valley dotted with acacias spread out in front of us, ending at the horizon of the Namibian dunes. A giraffe walks through the landscape where one feels a bit like the first man who walked on the moon. There are several small parallel valleys cut into steep mountains and this is where we follow Simeon, in search of the klipspringer.

    This small antelope weighing about ten kilos, lives in inaccessible areas from predators. The klipspringer never drinks and the joints allow for putting all four hooves together on a square not exceeding three centimeters to each side. One in two animals will monitor the surroundings while the others feed or rest. In the event of danger, these little sputniks are capable of climbing the walls and disappearing into cavities where no person would ever be able to fit.

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    Like magic, the fur of the klipspringer functions almost like a natural airbag upon impact and some guides claim that it may prevent the risk of fractures for up to 20 meters of free fall for the animal. Clearly we are dealing with Spiderman…with fur and horns, which we will soon verify. After three hours of walking we have seen dozens of klipspringers, but without a chance to shoot any of them. It is nearly noon and the heat is unbearable. We decide to take a break and return mid-afternoon.

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    Keep calm and carry on spotting with your Leica Geovid.
    Soon Simeon spots a female at the top of a rock, with a male lying down next to her. We make our way through a ravine with vertical walls, occasionally being forced to climb in some places. The goal is to reach a clearing which will allow us to shoot from a resting position without being seen. No sooner said than done and this time around the bipod is immediately attached to the rifle to ensure maximum stability.

    The female stands in profile within 191 meters, but the male is right behind her. We have to wait until the shooting line is clear. The heated rocks begin to burn through our trousers, but eventually the missus takes a step forward. Mister klipspringer falls to the ground as a result of the EVO bullet which travels at such speed that the skin of the tiny antelope is hardly damaged. Upon closer inspection, the base of the horns are thicker than expected which promises a respectable age. Ingo is satisfied.

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    The third day of our hunt takes place within the annals of Wilsonfontein. As we make our way through a maze of large abrasive rocks whose edges are like razor blades, we lose track of the steenbok that we had seen in a grassy plain below. Simeon decides to remain on post for a few moments in the hope of seeing the tiny orange like spot with big ears, but a surprise awaits us.

    Our eyes are drawn towards a black silhouette gliding through the tall grass: a superb chacma baboon. No doubt, the monkey is alone. Ingo is very strict about shooting baboons and only old males who have been rejected by their group can be shot. The wind is favorable but the animal is nervous. It is constantly moving through the vegetation which prevents any attempt of shooting. The chances are practically nil in order to avoid detection, but we decide to approach the solitary primate.

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    After twenty minutes the gap has barely narrowed, it is still 290 meters. The wind has changed direction and Simeon is concerned. Again the rifle rests on its bipod, the magnification of the riflescope amounts to ten and according to the range finder we must adjust the sight 27 centimeters to apply the reticle just above the head of the baboon, who sits on a rock, staring at us. The bullet hits the animal right in the heart. The old monkey is down. As soon as the excitement is over, Simeon lays down on the ground and murmurs ‘phaco’. On our right, two light grey silhouettes file through the grass, certainly disturbed by the detonation of the rifle. Wilsonfontein warthogs are rare and the chances of meeting an old male with great tusks are almost zero.

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    Afterwards: salting the skin.

    But the species is on our list of Small Five and it is without hesitation that we point the rifle at 90 degrees to our right. Yet again the rangefinder allows us to place the bullet on target, traveling 235 meters and killing the animal instantly. It is a question similar to banking – everything is a question of right placement. And in the Namibian desert you are relying on a rangefinder with a ballistic program instead to your financial advisor. When we call Ingo on the radio he cannot believe his ears. No one has ever had the chance of shooting an old baboon and a warthog in one go.

    Three days of hunting and already four animals are taken, but the Small Five is not yet completed. The very discreet steenbok is left, an antelope measuring 50 centimeters at shoulder height, who lives alone and crouches close to the ground when in danger. After about 15 kilometers of stalking on the fourth day, we have only spotted a few individuals who have not met the requirements of age for a sample.

    The fifth and final day of hunting will be good. Hidden near the top of a hill, our view encompass thousands of acres of verdant plains and we scout the entire area through our binoculars. After about an hour of observing a flock of over 200 oryx and a few giraffes, Simeon finally spots a Steenbok and despite the distance, seems satisfied with the length of the horns that we can barely see. We move forward under the ridge on our bellies, but when looking up to scout for the steenbok we see a giraffe cantering across the plain in full gallop.

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    The movements would create panic for any animal including our steenbok and unfortunately for the latter he is in the path of the giraffe and has to rush towards us in order not to get crushed. Luckily we are operational and take advantage of the situation to shoot, despite difficult conditions. We are already laying flat on the ground away from the crosswind, but the steenbok is located at 180 meters swept by gusts of wind.

    However the head and neck are visible and Simeon gives us the green light to fire. We are lucky with the impact at the base of the neck and a game whose trophy deserves a gold medal by the standards of NAPHA (see box), as well as that of a klipspringer and a baboon. But we prefer to award a gold medal to Ingo Gladys, the proud owner of the territory of Wilsonfontein and his valuable employees, without whom we would not have experienced all those great moments of hunting, in what is certainly one of the most beautiful areas of Namibia.

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    See you soon, Namibia!

    P.S. Are you planning a trip to Namibia? Excellent! Don’t forget: The desert is an extreme area in all aspects of the hunt and requires good physical condition and suitable equipment.

    Here is a partial list of what to bring for a successful trip

    – Cotton trousers with detachable legs. After a few days in the sun you may be able to wear shorts all the time.
    – T-shirt of fine wool with thermal regulation is better than cotton, since it dries faster in case of heavy perspiration or rain storms. Dito for socks.
    – A light jacket to protect you during the hours of heat and whilst travelling in the 4×4.
    – Hat, cap or bob
    – Canvas or leather shoes, preferably without Gore-Tex membrane.
    – A small backpack with a pocket for water connected to a hose allowing for hydration while walking.
    – A jar of marmot fat for protection of the lips and other potential sores in general. Plus disinfectant wipes.
    – Sunglasses with polycarbonate glass and malleable frames.


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    Author:
    Philippe Jaeger
    Philippe Jaeger is originally from Alsace and in his youth he was opposed to hunting. He changed his opinion when he met people who explained to him that the foolish behaviour of some hunters had nothing to do with real hunting. Philippe got his hunting licence and bought a hunting dog, which he trained himself. Today he can’t imagine his life without hunting. He is now 46 years old and has a son, and, when he is not travelling around the world to go hunting, he enjoys his family life in the Vosges Mountains.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 16, 2016

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