NAMIBIA May 2 – May 9, Plains Game, Rifle, Kowas Hunting Safaris, PH – Matheus, Driver/Tracker – Michael or Backs, Depending on the day. Dordabis region of Namibia, 1.5 hours drive from Windhoek International I have been very fortunate in that I have just completed my first hunting trip on African soil, and I consider it to be a total success. The initial planning for this hunt began almost 5 years ago, after attending a local African Hunting show in Toronto. This got me very interested in the whole idea of the African safari. Unfortunately, that initial show left me bombarded with information, almost too much to process to be honest. What I did learn from that initial experience though, was that plains game was to be my main goal, and that I would like to hunt in Namibia. I spent the next 2 years researching outfitters and tracking flight prices, jotting down ideas and leads. Then one day, while searching the internet, I came across the AfricanHunting.com website. This is where the idea of the safari went from “maybe someday" – to "yes, I can do this”. There was so much helpful and insightful information available to me that the planning process really took off. I contacted over 10 different outfitters, some from the AH site, and some found on the internet. I decided on Kowas Hunting Safaris. Ansie Strauss was the initial contact, always professional, always prompt to answer any question I had, no matter how minor. I then decided on their First African Safari package. This allowed me to pursue a Kudu, Oryx, Red Hartebeest and a Springbuck. Deposit was paid, and I then had a little over a year to complete the rest of the preparations. I flew with KLM Airlines, Toronto to Amsterdam, a layover, then on to Windhoek. I made sure to register with them the fact that I would be bringing a firearm along. No problem, no extra charge for the gun case either, which was nice. The AH Forum was integral to me in terms of what paperwork would need to be filled out. As per the Safari Planning Guide section; Temporary Export of Firearms form, and Temporary Export of Ammunition and Optics form to satisfy the Canadian authorities. Then, an Application for Consent for Weapons and Ammunition to transit through Amsterdam to satisfy the Dutch authorities. These were all applied for 6 months before departure, electronically sent, and surprisingly, painless. The Namibian form is acquired on arrival, and also very simple, and took less than 5 minutes. So, luggage at Toronto was forwarded on to the final destination, and I was off. I had a 10 hour layover in Amsterdam, so rented a “Pod” at the Yotel inside of the airport. 6 hours was around 50 euros, and gave me a clean, private “Pod” consisting of a bunk, toilet, shower and sink. I was very grateful for the chance to get some sleep after the overnight flight and this place was perfect. Next, on to Windhoek (with a stop in Angola for a crew change – about an hour). Ansie was there to pick me up and we were off to the farm. After a chance to freshen up, I was introduced to Matheus, who would be my PH for the week and we went out to the range to check the rifle. I used a CZ 550 Lux, chambered in 9.3x62 for this trip. Norma ORYX, 286 gr ammo was used, and in the 2 years of practicing I did, could always group very well with this combo. I shot very high, almost 8 inches out, which was unusual, but after checking all of the scope rings and screws, I brought that down to where it should be again. Weird…. Now a quick game drive to get acclimatized and scout a bit. This is where I learned that jackals in Africa are like coyotes in Canada, that is to say, they are not welcome. A quick shot, 100m, and….. a miss. Jackals are twitchy. A second opportunity arose, I didn’t try and get fancy with a head shot this time, center mass, and….redemption. After a steady diet of metal gongs and paper targets for the last 2 years, the CZ gets its first taste of meat. May 3rd, First Hunting Day 6:30 Breakfast, 7:00 on the truck, with Oryx and Springbuck the goal of the day. Well, after an hour of searching, someone spots a Kudu. Get ready Matheus says, looks like the stalk is on! Here I am, 1 hour into the first day of my first safari, and we are stalking a Kudu! After a 20 minute stalk, he gets spooked and we track him up a hill covered in thorns (if you’ve been there, you know the ones). We race up the hill, sweating, puffing, bleeding from the thorns, and we see him, back at the bottom of the hill, 250m away. Now, I don’t mind telling you, I am shaking at this point. A full on, hand tremble, buck fever shaking. I haven’t been like this since I was 16 and hunting my first white tail. There he is-The Grey Ghost-Hemingway’s Nemesis, the sticks go up, I settle in for my downhill shot……. And I miss. The Kudu nonchalantly looks up at us, turns, and trots away. The Hunting Gods are laughing at me. Now we have a game of pursue and spook, that takes us on a 2 kilometer trek. We get another break, he is trotting slowly at around 300 meters, then slows to a walk. The sticks go up, the shot feels good, the Kudu goes down! Me : Yes!, Matheus: Nope, he is up again. Me: Shit! Matheus is not concerned. We stalk the Kudu to within 100m, full broadside this time, and after a few steps he goes down. 9:30, first morning. As it turns out, the first shot caught him in the front leg, slowing him down enough for us to make a second shot. Not how I had imagined my first hunt would go, but ecstatic nonetheless. The Norma Oryx ammo did as it should, with a bulge on the opposite shoulder where the bullet passed through both shoulders and came to rest against the skin. For the afternoon hunt, we focused on getting a Springbuck. There were lots to see, but no eligible rams out in the open. We started a few stalks, but in the end it was just too difficult to get to the rams we wanted. We end the evening around the fire, eating some Oryx steaks from a previous hunter and sipping on some truly outstanding wine. Not a bad days work, even if I say so myself. May 4th, Second Hunting Day PH Matheus, Driver Backs, Myself, and this time Reinhardt, a videographer tagging along. (More on that later). We did several Springbuck stalks, but were busted each time either by the wind, females, or Zebra. Back to the lodge for lunch, a rest then a return to the Bakkie by 3:30. The home farm consists of approximately 17,000 acres, however we had access to some adjoining properties which brought the total hunting area to over 200,000 acres. We decided to move to a neighboring farm to try our luck with Red Hartebeest and Oryx. A Hartebeest was spotted, and we stalk, but he eluded us. We made a stalk on an Oryx and got spotted, then a second and busted again. The 3rd Oryx stalk is long, one that ends with Matheus setting up the sticks. I guess the distance at over 200m, just at last light, with a quartering away shot (I know what you are thinking, perfect conditions, right?) but I make the decision to take the shot. I hear a solid “thud” but lose him during the reload. He is definitely hit, turns right, and the rest of the herd joins him and they all run off together. Matheus spotted him several times, convinced that he is wounded. It is now too dark to track, and we will have to return in the morning. I am dejected and disappointed in myself for even taking the shot in the first place. Upon reviewing the video footage that evening, we can see that the Oryx has indeed been hit, but high and to the left of where I should have been aiming. Jacques, PH and CEO of Kowas noted that the tail was down, a good sign. Danni, PH and patriarch of the Strauss family is not so sure. We will have to see in the morning. May 5th, Third Hunting Day Breakfast, then into the Bakkie at 6:45 for the drive back to the neighbors’ property. We arrive at the scene of the crime, so to speak, and amazingly, Matheus and Backs pick up the trail. Now, I have followed the occasional white tailed deer track in my time, but these guys are amazing to watch. They were spotting tracks and the smallest specks of blood time after time. We followed the trail for 5 hours, and the trail simply dried up. Matheus believes that the wound was a superficial one, one that will heal over time. This does nothing for how I feel about my performance the previous evening. On the way out of the property, we get a chance to speak with the owner. I do my best to explain to him how terrible I feel about wounding one of his Oryx. He looks at me, then says in a thick German accent “Yah, this is hunting, don’t worry too much”. The afternoon hunt commenced at 4:00pm. I was determined to put the past behind me as we stayed on the home farm to find a Springbuck again. We ended up crawling on our hands and knees, slowly stalking from bush to bush. We got into a nice shooting position when the Guinea fowl alarm went off. Game over, but thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. We made another attempt at a stalk at another Springbuck. Matheus worked his magic, and put me onto a ram, perfect broadside, 115m. I place the crosshairs right on target, slowly squeeze the trigger, and watch as my shot goes completely over the back of the Springbuck. WTF!? In the ensuing rant and rave, I made a rather important discovery. As I shook my rifle in disbelief at missing once again, I felt a rather noticeable “clunk”. Upon further inspection, I saw what may have been my problem. The CZ 550 uses two main screws, one behind the trigger guard, and one in front of the floorplate to attach the stock to the action. When I turned the rifle over, these two screws had each backed off at least six turns each, enough so that I could wriggle my baby finger between the stock and the barrel. I know, it’s a poor carpenter who blames his tools….. but this time. Off to the shooting range again, after ALL screws had been thoroughly inspected and tightened. The first shot was high, 10 inches high, at 100m. I worked my way down to where it should be again, then fired off three more shots just to be sure. May 6th, Fourth Hunting Day On to the Shultz Farm this morning to try our luck. We spot, then stalk three Oryx, but they are too young. Matheus spots some Red Hartebeest (don’t ask me how, eyes like a hawk) and we commence our stalk. Matheus picks out a nice old bull, and the sticks go up. 120m, slightly quartering away, I place the crosshairs a little back so my shot will exit the other side where it should. At the shot, the bull turns around, a little wobble then down with all four legs in the air. Redemption. 3:30 start to the afternoon hunt with Reinhardt in the Bakkie with us to do some filming. Oryx is on the menu, but on the way we spot a good Warthog. I had decided to leave this animal up to chance and take one if the opportunity arose. I couldn’t resist the opportunity, so we all literally jumped out of the Bakkie, quickly set up the sticks and I took the shot. It felt good, it sounded good – perfect hit at 70m, and he fell down dead 20m later with a double lung shot. We made a long stalk on some Oryx. Matheus said “Very big bull”, and for a man of few words, that was enough for me to get excited. We were over an hour, on our knees, waiting behind a thorn bush when the Oryx finally walked out at 150m. Sticks go up, perfect sight picture, squeeze. I hear a bang, then a distinct whistling sound, but no Oryx down. “They all ran away, you missed” says Matheus. “The hell I did” I say to myself, then tell him of the whistling sound I heard after the shot. Reinhart is busy reviewing the video footage when he looks up at us in disbelief. “You won’t believe this, you hit the tree!” The slow motion video clearly shows the bullet strike a 3/4 inch tree in line with the shot. When we go up to examine the tree, there is a .366 calibre chunk out of the side of it. Lucky Oryx. We stalk the herd again, but it is now 6:30, and the light is fading fast. I am not sure which Oryx Matheus is pointing out to me, so I decline the shot. May 7th, Fifth Hunting Day 6:45 start after breakfast for Springbuck. Stalk is on – 15 minutes later – Springbuck down. 9.3 entry hole, 11/2 inch exit hole, at an easy 100m. A quick search for what we are now calling the “Kevlar Oryx” due to their apparent bullet proof qualities, then a break for lunch 3:30 start, and back to the tree-shot Oryx property. We made a wonderful stalk, easily within 60m, on a group of Oryx, which on closer inspection turn out to be all female. We then made another stalk on what we think is the same male from the previous “tree stalk”. They manage to elude us, not giving me a shot. We shoot another jackal on the way home, and I am loving every minute of this. May 8th, Last Hunting Day Oryx are on the dance card, the Kevlar Oryx. Matheus, Michael the Driver, Myself and Reinhardt in tow. Matheus spots 4-5 Oryx in the distance, a km away, trotting over a hill. The stalk is on. We follow the herd over a hill, only to find no Oryx and another hill. This pattern repeats itself for another 3 hills, 2.5km or so and we decide to cross a low cattle fence for one more try. Myself and Reinhardt step over the fence when we get a call from the Bakkie. Michael has spotted some Oryx in the opposite direction from our current position. As Matheus is answering the call, he stops speaking, and his eyes got very big. Oryx! Don’t move! A female, then a male pop over the hill behind us, following the fence line. Up go the sticks on Matheus’ side of the fence, and I spin around and lean over to position myself for the shot. The bull stopped about 120m away, slight quartering towards me. I heard the bullet strike, and it felt good. The bull went down 10m from where it had been hit. A perfect ending to a fantastic safari. Overall. I have to say that this was one the best experiences that I have ever had. The quality of their operation, from the accommodation to the food to the hospitality was top notch. We dined on fresh game meat every night, which was a real treat for me. The number of game that I saw and availability of trophy quality animals was astounding. The vehicles were all in great shape and I was never uncomfortable. Lastly, I truly believe that I have gained a new set of friends in meeting and interacting with the Strauss family. Danni, Ansie, Jacques, Eleni and PH Matheus all went that extra mile for me and hopefully, I will get a chance to hunt with them again. Lessons learned/Things I might have Changed 1/ Animals are generally bigger in Namibia. I am used to seeing Ontario white tailed deer as a guide to judge distance. An animal in the scope may be further than it seems. 2/ I spent a lot of time learning how to shoot off of sticks, however, I never considered shooting downhill, uphill or in awkward positions while shooting off of them. You will not always have a flat spot to set up the sticks. 3/ As it turns out, chicken wings and craft beer are not a good fitness regimen to prepare for a plains game hunt. You do a lot of walking. I was relatively fit and could keep up no problem, but if I was to do it again I would try and train more prior to leaving to get the most out of the experience. Get fitter, fat boy. 4/ Check your rifle upon arrival – Every bolt, screw, ring or sling attachment. Check your rifle. Fasteners back out and vibrations can do funny things to screws. Did I mention to check your rifle? 5/ Maybe invest in some quieter boots. I wore KEEN brand hiking boots, which were good for support, but sounded like I was walking through the bush on bubble wrap compared to my PH. Now I can mention the video work that was being done. Ansie had mentioned to me prior to my arrival that there would be someone there filming some promotional footage for Kowas. I was asked if I would mind him tagging along to shoot some footage for them, totally up to me. I was glad that I agreed to have him there. Reinhardt Bronner is a passionate young videographer who is making a name for himself filming people’s adventures for them. The quality of his work was very impressive and it was really cool to see my hunts in super slow-motion as a keepsake of my time there. He is an experienced hunter in his own right, and knew how it was done, so I hardly even knew that he was behind us. In hindsight, I would like to have contracted him to film my safari from start to finish, as the end work was like watching your very own private hunting show with you as the star. Drop him a line if you are interested in his services, you would not be disappointed: firstname.lastname@example.org As a side note to all of this, I have to say, you can plan all of this, on your own – I did. AHF is an invaluable resource as a place to start your adventure. From gear advice - to which forms to fill out - it is all there. Be diligent, read all of the fine print, do your paperwork early and you will be ready. A big thank you to the AHF community and especially, a very big thank you to Kowas Hunting Safaris.