NAMIBIA: Namibia With Westfalen Safaris 2016

Rick Cox

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Dec 17, 2015
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Armstrong British Colombia
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Namibia, South Africa, British Colombia Ca.
Tales from Africa – With Westfalen Safaris. June, 2016

This story began long ago, but I won’t bore you with the beginning or how entranced I was as a young person by the Edger Rice Burroughs stories of Tarzan of the Apes, or later how I eagerly devoured stories in the magazine Outdoor Life of hunting in Africa and dreamed of doing that one day. How meeting the charge of a mountain lion (yes, it happened), or facing off against a wounded grizzly bear I did with something akin to joy, thinking it would be like this in Africa… Time moved on, and I forgot about Africa.

So many years later, when my wife Sari and I were discussing our lives and the experiences we have had, when she asked what was next, I was at a loss. I replied that sure, some things were not done, but we have tried to live fulfilling lives and I honestly could not think of anything that I felt I had missed out on.

But then, slowly like the first flickers of a new flame I remembered Africa, and that flame grew and I told her “You know, I always did want to hunt in Africa…”and before a week had passed the small flame was burning with a consuming passion, before ten days had passed I had booked a hunt with Westfalen Safaris through Jerome at Africa Hunting. The next year was spent trying to be patient and preparing for the hunt.

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June 9th, 2016

As I walked across the tarmac towards the long broad building that was the airport terminal in Windhoek Namibia, I had to squint against the glare of the sun in the perfect blue sky. It was obviously very arid, I was to learn later that not a drop of ran had fallen since the end of the rainy season in February. Crowding into the terminal building, I joined the cluster of travelers standing around the baggage claim carousel. Some were obviously locals, mixed with travelers such as myself. I soon spotted several white men that I was pretty sure were other hunters.

I was relieved to see my bags including my firearm and munitions on the belt. After clearing customs, I paid the obligatory visit to the firearms control office and received my permit to carry a firearm in Namibia for a few days longer than I expected to be here. Thanks to my paper work being in good order, this went smoothly. I exited the control area into the usual pandemonium of people meeting people you see at airports, and spotted my host John with the small placard that said “Rick Cox”. John is the owner of Westfalen Safari Hunting, in Northern Namibia. He was recommended by Jerome, who had told me that Westfalen believes strongly in hunting fair chase/free range game.

We introduced ourselves, and he took me over to an exchange house to exchange some money. We loaded my gear into his late model Volkswagon van and we were off, shortly after we collided getting into the right side of the vehicle, a result of not realizing drivers in Namibia drove on the opposite side of the vehicle I was used to. We left the airport which sits some 25 km South of the city proper, due to the hilly nature of the country the city is placed in. We had no reason to stop in the city and drove by quickly. The posted speed limit on the paved highway was 120 km which John adhered to when near any towns, but once on the open road it was obvious that speed limit was more of a suggestion.

Almost immediately it was evident I was in Africa, we sped past a troop of baboons foraging along the road, seemly unconcerned by the traffic missing them by inches. The young babies clung to their mother’s backs as the mother stepped aside from the passing cars, only to return as soon as they had passed. John told me that he had seen just about every animal in that part of Africa dead on the road, except baboons. They are a very wily and crafty animal. Shortly we started seeing warthogs, both mature and young foraging as well, and John told me you do not want to hit one of those, they can do damage to a vehicle. Once we saw a Red Hartebeest that had somehow found itself inside the game fence lining the road and was trying to find a way out. I had seen photos of these animals, but the photos did not convey the upright, head high, regal carriage.

We stopped several times on the trip North, once to fuel up and get something to eat. The service station was much like any service station, convenience store, junk food restaurant you find in North America. The ketchup tasted very different but other than that it was much the same. When we left the restaurant and were boarding the VW, a nicely dressed black man asked me for “five dollars”. I did not have a handle on the currency and fished into my pocket and gave him some coins. He looked at me with eyes milky with cataracts and thanked me. I think John was concerned about me being ‘bothered’ and he said something quietly to the man who got up and walked away.

John stopped again later to see his daughter at a boarding school, and again to see his son at a different boarding school. I only understood later, how sparsely populated this area is, and that to get any sort of education at all, young people are often forced to go to boarding schools. If they want to go beyond college to a university, it means going to South Africa, often Cape Town.

So far Namibia seemed an interesting mix of cultures. On the one hand you had modern Western culture, nice shops, beautiful homes adorned with hanging cascades of bougainvillea, real coffee shops etc. while just across the road were colorful adobe buildings with hand painted signs advertising a hair salon, or dirty looking tent shops selling handicrafts. Sadly, as we sped down the highway, evidence of abject poverty cropped up. The most basic of rudimentary shelters, built of sticks and bits of cardboard or tin, no more than four feet tall were evident, occasionally people sat outside on a rock, simply sitting. There was not water for many kilometers as far as I could see, I am not sure how these people lived. Once I saw what appeared to be a community nurse park her van and taking her satchel walk off into the thorn bushes towards some tents…

Speeding down the highway we passed a couple of Toyota 4x4’s on the side of the road, one towing a loaded trailer. Several white men stood around one of the vehicles gazing at it. John honked and waved as we raced by, then slowed and turned around and went back. He explained that he knew them, and it was custom if someone was stopped on the side of the road to offer them assistance. We drove up to the rigs, and the John engaged several of the men in animated conversation. After a brief stop, he returned to the van, the men waved at me, and we resumed our journey. He explained that several of the men were PH’s like himself, they were taking several hunters from abroad out to hunt elephant. They did not need help. We encounter this group later…

Towards dark, we arrived at Elephant Camp, the lodge from which I would be hunting. John introduced me to the staff and I met Gideon the professional hunter, I would be hunting with. I was shown to my room, a very comfortable, spacious lodge with a vaulted rondavaal ceiling, and a private bathroom. A trophy Oryx head hung from the wall, and zebra rug was on the floor. There was fresh fruit and bottled water, and all the hot water you could want, including a bowl of mints. There was a sign that said: “don’t mind the spiders they control the bugs. And don’t mind the lizards they control the spiders. But keep the door shut…” After settling in, I headed across the pavestone walk to the outdoor eating and gathering area.

I asked John, “So why do you want to keep the door shut?” He replied “To keep out bad things…” “What sort of bad things?” “Snakes.” “What sort of snakes?” “Cobras, among others…” “I see.“ I said, and resolved to keep the door shut.

We sat down and had a beer, and I was able to enjoy the reflection of the last light in the sky on the surface of the small lake that sat only a few hundred yards away.

June 10, 2016

The next day dawned bright and clear (as, I learned, they all do that time of year in Namibia) and the first order of the day after a great breakfast, was to head to the rudimentary shooting range to make sure the gun was still shooting on target after the flight. I had brought along a 35 Whelen, in a Nosler rifle on which I had mounted a Leica 2.5 x 10 x42 scope with an illuminated reticle. I was shooting Barnes 225 grain TSX bullets that according to the Nosler manual would leave the muzzle at approximately 2750 fpm. Sighted in the way I had it at 1.5” high at 100 yards, it should be ‘on’ at about 175 yards, and 8” low at three hundred.

On the way, my attention was drawn to an animal galloping across the flats hell bent for leather. “What is that??” I asked “Oryx” Gideon said without even looking at it. Evidently a common sight. This was going to be good.

After setting up the target, and taking a rest, I took aim at the bullseye 100 meters distant, and fired the first round. Reinhart who had been standing near the target to one side, walked over to inspect it, and pointed at the target. He moved back and I let another round fly. He walked over to the target again and pointed to the same spot. He then removed the target and waited. “We go.” Gideon said. Reinhart handed us the target, and Gideon said “It don’t get better than that.” And off we drove in the Land Rover. Both holes were just above the round bulls eye, about a half inch or so apart.

And so it began. We boarded the Land Rover and off we went, on the rocky barren 4x4 ‘road’ to check out the game situation in the area. Immediately we saw warthogs, they are evidently never that far from water, and the end of the lake in front of Elephant Camp was not far. Suddenly on the left, I spotted a cow kudu, we slowed down and more were spotted, but no bulls. Gideon drove on and shortly we rounded a bend that climbed up and to the left and dropped into a shallow valley. Immediately we saw a herd of Kudu trotting off through the bush, a herd that contained several bulls, one an obvious mature bull that looked great. Gideon barely paused, saying “we can do better…”. Several Oryx were seen leaving the area and then we saw a herd of zebra and then another. I thought “Holy smoke! Incredible! This is Africa!” but I was to learn even in Africa hunting was not always bouncing off game. Surprise, surprise…

We drove on, on ‘roads’ that most four wheel drivers here would only take their vehicles on once a year, and then they would report it on Facebook. Eventually we were driving down a dry river bed, it was a broad wash, approximately 100’ of deep sand between banks, and we saw a trio of zebra run down into the river bed and stand gazing at us. There was a large mare, followed by a young colt, and a young stallion in the rear.

Gideon said “I want you to shoot the one in the back for me, for leopard bait”, and I jumped from the Land Rover as Reinhardt handed me my firearm. I put the crosshairs on his shoulder and pulled the trigger. The zebra dropped on the spot, the mare ran off and the young colt fell down in the sand and had great difficulty getting up. We waited for the colt to regain its feet and follow it’s mother, but since that was not happening we drove up to the dead stallion. The colt had decided it did not want to move and stayed with the dead zebra. When we arrived the colt decided we were OK and must be part of the herd, and immediately adopted us. No amount of threats, or yelling would chase it off. Gideon walked up to it, and lifted it effortlessly like a large pet, and carried it off out of the river bed to set it down well up on the bank. We could hear the mother calling, and assumed that the colt would respond to her. But as Gideon returned, the colt was hot on his heels. Reinhardt tried to lead him up the hill, with the same result. I tried to chase him off but to no avail.

We eventually gave up on the colt and loaded the young stallion into the back of the LR using the winch. Once that was done, Gideon boarded the LR and Reinhardt led the colt way up the bank. The next thing I saw, was Reinhardt running full tilt down the hill, leaping rocks and fallen trees like a hurdler with the colt in hot pursuit. He did the best he could, but the colt was gaining, till at the last moment he ducked around a large tree and stood perfectly still. The colt charged past, down the dry river for another 125 yards, till he stopped and stood looking around bewildered, wondering where his new friend had disappeared to.

When he looked away, Reinhardt sprinted through the deep sand for the LR jumped aboard and we backed straight away from the colt. The mother had continued to call to him the whole time with a whinnying chirping call, and so hopefully they were able to reconnect. We imagined his mother giving him a stern lesson about cavorting with the enemy.

As we were driving back Gideon pointed out some trees that had been uprooted or broken off at the ground. These were trees about six inches in diameter, and he said in his usual laconic style “Elephants.” And suddenly there they were, moving away through the open scrub about 75 yards distant. We all got out to try to get photos, but they quickly moved off. We jumped back in the Land Rover and trundled on. We had not travelled very far, when there they were again, about four or five elephants moving away, and I jumped from the Land Rover to try to get better pictures. One large male appeared in front of me, much closer than the others, maybe 40 yards away. I angled to try to get an open photo but the bull decided that he had had enough and turned to face me flaring his ears at me and extending his trunk towards me. He also kicked his feet towards me several times and I realized that I had pushed a little to close for comfort for both of us. I was too far from the Land Rover to make it back in the event of a charge, and at any rate even being in the Land Rover was no protection in this terrain from a determined elephant. I slowly lowered my arms and camera, and took an obvious step back, trying hard to look non threatening. Then another slow step… the bull watched me intently and seemed to realize I was trying to deescalate the situation, and he seemed to relax. He too took a step back, and still watching me closely, turned and moved off through the thorns to join the others disappearing into the bush and broken terrain a little over a hundred yards distant.

Jumping back in the Land Rover, we started the engine and left the area.

We returned to Elephant Camp and backed in to the screened room where the skinning and butchering is done, where the skinners slid the zebra carcass onto a smooth, dished concrete block and proceeded to quarter it with the hair on. The guts and blood were collected in buckets so that later, when hanging the bait or quarters in trees for leopard sets, the blood and guts could be splashed onto trees and rocks nearby to increase the potential of attractive scent to draw in the leopards.

I had told John that I was more interested in quality animals rather than quantity and that if I could get a very respectable trophy Kudu, a larger than average Oryx, and a nice zebra I would be a happy camper. Anything else would be ‘gravy’ as they say. This suited Gideon well, he is an intent and very experienced hunter and PH, and said he did not want to have his clients taking game he himself would not be happy with.

Generally speaking, most of the game was dispersed throughout the area, the exceptions being game that tended to prefer plains such as eland and springbuck. These prefer more open country and were in greater numbers not far away. The topography of the land was varied, there are large areas of flat land covered in red dirt and low lying sparse trees, mixed with very rugged rocky terrain covered in thorn bushes. Kopjes, were spotted here and there about the landscape, mounds of granite boulders, anywhere from 10’ to 500’+ high with most being under 50’. There are dry sand filled river washes cutting through the desert, that have running water in them during the wet season in January and February. What this meant was that when hunting there were any number of species that you could potentially see. The tactic for hunting was to drive out to a likely area, and climb a kopje and glass the expanse below for game. If a likely suspect was spotted, a stalk would begin on foot. These stalks would evolve as time went on, so that we may follow or chase an animal for half a day without success, or what started off as a stalk after one animal may turn into a chase after something else.

June 11

And so the next morning we set off, with no real target in mind to see what we could find. We climbed a kopje from which we had seen some oryx from the day before. They had walked directly below us, about 75 yards distant. After glassing for a short time, Gideon pointed out an oryx grazing on a side hill approximately 600 or so, yards away. I had a look and he declared it was an old bull of very respectable size. To my eye, and oryx is an oryx is an oryx; they are a spectacular animal, and any mature animal seems to have trophy horns. That he could tell from that distance the size and quality of an animal was amazing.

“We go” he said, and off we went. We quickly descended the kopje we were on and skirting the valley below, hurried in a round about path through thorns and in and out of gullies till we attained a rocky ridge that we were able to descend keeping the spine of the rock ridge between us and the bull. Trying to move quietly and not get hung up in the thorns was proving a real challenge, as was trying not to alert other oryx we bumped into on the way, in case they charged off in the wrong direction, alerting our prey.

Eventually we moved into a position on an outcrop of rock that should provide us with a much closer view of the quarry. Of course Gideon spotted the animal quickly, but try as I might I could not see it. I asked “What do you think? Is it a good one?” He replied “You think I go to this much trouble if I don’t think it is good??” He seemed insulted. He tried to describe to me where it was, using a hushed whisper, but between his accent and each of us perceiving things differently, we were having difficulty communicating. “Just behind the tree!” he whispered, but I was seeing a lot of trees. I could see a low rocky ridge in the vicinity of the area he was indicating and whispered “this side of the rocky ridge or the other?” he replied “No! behind the tree!” and so it went for a few seconds, when suddenly the Oryx decided to high tail it out of there. “Get ready! I stop it.” Gideon said, and let out a call. It took a second or two for the sound to reach the oryx but when it did, he stopped his headlong gallop through the thorns and spun to look in our direction. “Too far” I said. “175 yards.” Gideon said, which was not too far. I put the center dot of the crosshairs on the point of the shoulder of the oryx which was quartering towards us, and pulled the trigger. At the recoil, I lost sight of the animal for a moment, but there he was galloping away, for a second I thought I saw him stumble but it was rough terrain. He recovered immediately and galloped on.

We knew that Reinhardt was watching from the kopje and we also watched for any sign of the oryx leaving the area. It was a dry river drainage he had headed into, and we should have been able to see him if he exited. We stayed in position for a few minutes but saw nothing. Then we descended and crossed over to the spot where he had been standing when I shot. First Gideon found tracks in the barren ground and began following him. Then a drop of blood, and shortly, another. As he tracked the oryx I saw him making gestures to himself with his hands, pointing one way or the other, making half circle motions etc. It was a form of talking to himself, but when I saw he and Reinhardt working together I realized it was also a form of communication. One or two more drops of blood were found, and I finally asked: “What do you think?” “I think he is dead.” “How can you tell?” and Gideon gestured ahead through the thorns. There he was, collapsed into the rocky ground. “Good shot” Gideon said. I had hit him exactly as I had aimed, which had allowed the bullet to break the front right shoulder and pass through both lungs, and the blood vessels at the top of the heart, before it stopped just under the hide behind the ribs on the opposite side.

We shook hands, and congratulated each other, and Gideon called Reinhardt with instructions on how to get the Land Rover close to us. Then he set off to meet it, leaving me to contemplate my prize and the experience. What a magnificent trophy it was! Black horns like twin sabers rising up almost a meter long! And the symmetry of the black and white markings on the head and body were beautiful. I decided to have this one preserved as a shoulder mount, hopefully to accompany a trophy kudu bull in my home.

I realized that I was doing a very poor job or estimating distance, and this was something that plagued me the whole time in Africa. I am not sure why, perhaps it had to do with the angle of the sun, new glasses or whatever… At any rate, I decided to rely on Gideon and his range-finding binoculars.

I leaned my rifle against a thorn bush, and after taking a few photos found a spot that offered some sparse shade where I sat brushing at the omnipresent flies, waiting for the return of Gideon and the Land Rover.

Before much more than twenty minutes had passed I could hear the LR as it growled through the bush, knocking down the odd thorn tree, crunching through gravel and stones. Then I could see it, Reinhardt was in front, using a machete to cut bushes out of the way, moving rocks and fallen trees, so that the Land Rover had a path to follow directly to me.

They stopped the LR just short of me, and proceeded to clear bush from behind the animal for a photo of the horns silhouetted against the sky. They posed the oryx in a kneeling position and washed any blood away. After a round of photos, the LR was backed into position and using great care not to damage the ‘cape’ of the animal, it was winched into the back of the Land Rover.

Once loaded, we retraced the path the LR had taken through the thorns getting to us, and then descended steeply into the deep sand of a dry river from which we were able to find a 4x4 track out of the valley and back to Elephant Camp.

We set out again in the late afternoon looking for zebra or possibly a good kudu bull. The pattern was much the same the rest of this afternoon and the next day. Climbing kopjes, glassing, seeing the occasional zebra at a distance, seeing various other game but no kudu bulls that Gideon thought we should go after.

We spent a bit of time building sets for leopards, as we had done almost every day before. Gideon, as it turns out is a very experienced leopard hunter, and everything I relate here about leopards and leopard hunting comes from Gideon who willingly shared his knowledge and experience regards the hunting of leopards.

To build a set for leopard hunting you have to travel by 4x4 to a pre-existing set, or construct a new one. The only difference was that if it was a pre-existing set, the old bait, now rotted and smelly would be cut down and new fresh meat put in its place. Quarters of zebra were the preferred bait, but any animal the leopard would normally prey on in that area could be used.

The bait was hung about eight feet in the air in a sturdy tree, with a strong, open limb structure, and secured with strong wire to the tree so that it could not be pulled free by a hungry predator. An open container of water was buried near by, and the branches and rocks had bits of entrails thrown onto them. A slurry of blood and stomach contents from some game animal were smeared on the trees and rocks, and great care was taken not to pee or leave any offensive odor around to alert the leopard.

A spot for the blind was chosen, but Gideon does not construct the blind till he was ready to hunt with a client. An open shooting lane was noted but other than that the set was now complete. I would like to have discussed why not make the blind so that the animals could get used to it and accept it as part of the land scape… no doubt Gideon had his reasons.

Leopards are nocturnal. The strategy is to habituate a leopard (only large mature males are normally taken – the best and largest trophies) to coming to the bait, in preparation for a paying hunter to come from abroad to hunt them. Once the hunter is there, there are hopefully several ‘active’ baits. The PH and the hunter arrive at the blind well before dusk. The blind has been supplied with whatever is needed and set up approximately 50 meters or a little further from the bait. The PH and the hunter must remain absolutely silent. No coughing, rustling, talking etc., or the leopard will be alerted and scared off. Once that happens he will not return, and all the efforts put in up to this point are wasted.

Once the leopard is ‘on the bait’ the hunter gets ready. The shot must be true. A wounded leopard is a very dangerous animal, they will charge, and it is the reason they are listed among Africa’s Big Five most dangerous game, right beside elephants, rhinos, lions and Cape buffalo.

And as an interesting side note; guess what Gideon’s preferred back up gun is, to go after a wounded leopard. Lever action 30-30. Quick, light, lethal fast expanding bullets at the ranges he would commonly expect to have to use it.

If you want to hunt leopard, call Westfalen – ask for Gideon.

As I alluded to above, we spent the next day trying for zebra or perhaps a kudu. We did see a good warthog, but I could not find a good shooting position in time for a shot and it was some distance off.

We also saw the sinuous tracks of a very large python winding across some red sand… more on this later. I sensed that Gideon was getting frustrated with the lack of shooting opportunities we were getting, despite his best efforts. That evening Gideon and John discussed going into a different area. He would have to obtain permission from the landowner. He tried to email and to phone but did not have any success getting hold of him.

June 13

The next morning, we all boarded the Land Rover and headed off to this other area. John had not been successful getting hold of the owner but felt it should not be a problem. We drove for a few miles on rough ‘roads’ till we arrived at a cluster of buildings and a throng of barking Jack Russel terriers. Soon a rather disheveled looking gentleman appeared, he was jovial, friendly and articulate, and spoke fluent English. He was the sort of person you could not help but like. His name was Luigi. Once he had heard John’s request, he immediately gave us permission to hunt on his property and told us where he had been seeing some game, and how to get there. Somehow the topic of the huge python came up, and he knew all about it. He told us which kopje it lived in, and how it hunted at the lake. He said he had seen it leap out of the water to take a springbuck, and then once it had consumed the animal slowly crawl away to sleep off the meal in the kopje. Evidently Luigi is a very good mechanic and folks including John brought their various trucks and machines to his shop to be worked on.

Soon we were back on the trail, and following Luigi’s directions, found ourselves climbing up a hill that bordered a small valley. Stopping the LR we listened, and immediately heard the sound of zebra calling an alarm. Quickly we split up and headed for different koopies, hoping to catch a glimpse of the zebra. No luck, so we all returned, boarded the LR and moved on, descending into a dry river bed bordered by steep banks and cliffs on one side, and rugged hills on the other. Very shortly a herd of zebra charged off the steep bank across the river and up into the hills to our left. Gideon and I gave chase on foot, and quickly ascended about 500 feet elevation or more, trying for a look at the zebra. After sneaking around for a bit, we returned to the river bed and loaded back into the LR. This scenario repeated it self several times, till finally, on the trail of zebra we just kept climbing up, and further up the hills. Gideon spotted a good kudu bull moving away from us, and so the focus changed from zebra to kudu. Eventually we snuck up a low lying kopje to see the kudu crest over the top of a hill some distance away moving steadily. We were not going to catch him. I took a moment to wipe the sweat from my eyes and steady my breathing. We had been going as fast as we could up hill in the sun, for an hour or so, and this was the first break we had had.

After a moment we turned around to check behind us, and simultaneously we saw the zebra dozing under a tree, facing away from us. We could see two under separate trees. Gideon said “Take the one on the right.” I found a rest across the top of the boulder and tried to calm my breathing, still unsettled from the hike up the hill. I would have been happy to just wait for the zebra to present a good profile, but Gideon was not so patient. He said something to the effect of “I make him turn”, and he called out. The Zebra spun around, but did not present a broadside shot for more than a split second. Now he was quartering toward us and alerted. Gideon said “180 yards,” and knowing that I did not have much time I put the crosshairs on his right shoulder and shot. There was a flurry of pandemonium as the animal I had shot at, the other zebra and about ten more we had not seen took off at a mad run.

We immediately started walking quickly towards the zebra. “I don’t know,” I said “I think it’s good.“ “It’s good,” Gideon replied. “How can you tell” I asked. “Because I saw him drop”. Once again we walked up to the animal and Gideon noted where he was hit: where I had aimed, mid way up the point of the right shoulder. “Good shooting” Gideon said and after shaking hands, he had a brief chat on the radio to let John know we had had success, he took off down hill to meet up with the LR.

And so there is was. My second African trophy. As I stood there swatting at the omnipresent flies I admired the symmetry of the striping on the head and face of the zebra, and I noticed how hard and compact the hooves were. There was no ‘frog’ as we call it here, the protruding soft bit of hoof found on the middle underside of horse hooves. It was an old stallion, his teeth were broomed down with years of use, and several had fallen out. He most likely would not have lived another year and possibly not till the rainy season this year.

Before long, I could hear the Land Rover toiling up the hill. I stood in the partial shade of a small tree and when I could no longer stand it, brushed fruitlessly at the persistent flies crawling around my face.

The LR approached, with both Gideon and Reinhardt cutting bushes out of the way, rolling rocks out of the way, building ramps in front of the rocks they could not move, and guiding John bit by bit, closer to the zebra.

Once they arrived, it was the usual pose the animal and take photos. I had not wanted to pose with my firearm, (I have never liked doing that) feeling that it seemed like one was taking pleasure in superior technological prowess, rather than simply displaying pride and humility at having acquired a handsome specimen. I cannot explain it really. Respect for the animal is wrapped up in it… But John insisted I pose with my firearm. He said “You have to do this. Otherwise someone will think you fucked it to death!” I could not help but laugh, and relented.

After photos, great care was taken to load the zebra into the LR so that the hide was not damaged, and off we went.

On the way out, we stopped by Luigi’s to tell him of our success, and I thank him. He was tending his small flock of parrots. He was happy for us and after a brief chat wished me good hunting, and we left. Honestly, he was a sort of Tom Bombadil character.

After delivering the zebra to the skinners, we had lunch and a brief nap, and then went out again, still hoping to find a trophy kudu.

Returning later for dinner, we settled in to the usual routine. After washing up, we would migrate to the cooking area for drinks around the fire pit in the middle of the round concrete slab. A small roaring fire of desert hardwood had been set and sitting near the flickering light, we would enjoy the last reflections of the evening sky from the surface of the lake. The occasional call of waterfowl or other bird was heard, but except for the crackling of the fire, it was very quiet.

Timing was everything, and dinner would be on once the coals burned down to the optimum stage, glowing brightly with no flame. Once that state was reached the lady cooks would bring out the bulk of the dinner which was set on the plate of steel covering one of the cooking fireboxes. Coals taken from the center fire pit were evenly distributed under the plate to keep the food warm.

More coals were spread in the firebox that was always used to cook the meat. They too were spread out, and depending on how the dinner’s meat was to be cooked, a large wok, or one of several braziers, or a grill was placed over the coals. Either John or Gideon or both were the ones who cooked the meat, which with one or two exceptions, was always some sort of delicious game. Oryx was a staple, tender, mild flavoured and delicious. We also had blue wildebeest, which was a little richer than oryx but very good. I think it would make a better gravy. Warthog was offered one night, again very good, but John said although the young ones were good, once they were older they were tough and gamey and care had to be taken preparing the meat so that it was palatable. We did have lamb, and I think one evening, chicken was an option, but I choose oryx.

When dinner was about to be served, it is custom to stand in a circle near the food, join hands and give thanks to the Lord for the food and the many blessings we enjoy. Then John would go over what was being served, explaining carefully how the meat and potatoes were prepared and seasoned, but only giving a cursory description to what he called chicken or rabbit food, which consisted of any sort of vegetable or salad. I think we belonged to the same tribe…

After dinner there was always a desert, often a baked pudding of some sort, served with hot custard and cream. We also had cream Brule, served with thin chocolate drizzles and filigrees of candied sugar, or chocolate mousse, etc. And of course there was anything you wanted to drink, wine, beer, scotch, brandy etc. I would usually change it up a bit, but John and Gideon stuck to Brandy mixed with Coke. I did not try it…

June 14 – day five.

Today was spent trying to find a good kudu bull. We did see one, and spent a few hours on foot trying to catch up to him. Although we kept almost catching him, we did not quite have a shooting opportunity, and finally he was seen cresting a hill some distance away. Eventually we returned to Elephant Camp for lunch.

As we were eating lunch, we saw a herd of Red Hartebeest come down to the lake to drink. They were a resident herd that covers a vast tract of land in their roaming, so it was sort of serendipity they were there now. The Hartebeest is an animal that did not interest me till I saw the one on the side of the road on the drive up. They are indeed very red in color, and stand very tall, heads up, chests forward, sort of like Centaurs as my wife [SC1] coined it. John said they belong to a branch of the antelope family that are the swiftest of runners.

After glassing them from Elephant Camp, it was decided there was a good bull with the herd and we should go make a try for it. Gideon, Reinhardt and I loaded into the LR and off we went around the end of the lake. Parking the LR Gideon and I took off at a fast walk, over the flats, then through thorn bushes, and finally hunched down climbing over low lying koopies. We had gone about 600 to 800 yards I think, when we climbed a low koopie to try to see over the thorn bushes. Gideon turned to me and immediately motioned to me to come and then said “They are coming.”

We kept low and moved over to the side of the koopie that was facing the open plain the animals were traveling on. Very shortly the first ones filed by, and Gideon told me, “I will show you the old bull to shoot”. “That one! But wait, wait till he is clear of the rest…” there was some maneuvering of the animals and then the bull was clear and broadside at about 100 yards. I had a rest across a rock and shot. The herd bolted like a covey of quail, with animals running helter skelter, but I thought I saw ‘mine’ run straight away for a very short distance, then a swirl of red dust as he went down.

The bull was posed and we took photos on the red sand, under the full heat of the Namibian sun.

This hartebeest is evidently a contender to be entered in the record book. We’ll see…

That afternoon was spent once again trying for kudu. Although we saw a few kudu, we saw no decent bulls. We did however see a Honey Badger. This is an animal that resembles a wolverine, about the same size and the markings are not dissimilar, except the lower half of the animal is black and the upper part is cream colored. We were walking down a dry river bed, when he ran across the sand right in front of us no more than 20 yards distant and paused, looked at us, and then was gone. A most unusual sighting.

On the way back we saw a number of diminutive little antelopes called Damara Dik Dik. They are the worlds smallest antelope, and live only in this region. They are about the size of a small whippet, and will stand watching you with intent curiosity till suddenly darting about leaping over obstacles and under branches only to stop a moment later and continue watching. They have huge dark eyes, slender pointed noses, little twig like legs, horns only a few inches long, and hooves only an inch in length. Like many of the smaller antelope they mate for life, or at least for the life of their mate. I felt shooting one would be like shooting Tinker Bell.

Other very small antelope we saw allot of are Duikars, and Steenbucks. Duikars are only slightly larger than Dik Dik. Steenbuck are about the size of an tall dog. I just couldn’t get excited about killing a tiny antelope. Maybe if I could have put them in the freezer, I would have had more enthusiasm.

It was nearing sundown, as we wound our way through the watering hole in the Land Rover. This is the one where we had found a dead Oryx, and using the Land Rover, we had drug it out of the watering hole and off some distance. Pulling up onto the trail, we headed in the direction of the oryx and drawing near one could smell the pervasive odor of ripe and rotting flesh. Suddenly my attention was drawn to undulating waves of movement. We had startled the 30 or so gigantic vultures that had been feeding on the rotting carcass. One by one, they began leaping up, franticly beating their wings in an effort to lift their engorged bodies into the air. Each beat of a pair of wings stirred up twin swirling vortexes of red dust that caught the last rays of the setting sun till the multiple clouds coalesced into one and obscured all else, except glimpses of primordial skin covered heads, beating wings and talons grasping at the air. Some ran along the ground, through the cloud and past the talons, to find open air space where they too could leap up to become airborne. One by one, the vultures rose above the billowing cloud of red dust and flew to the nearest tree to find a perch. Some limbs collapsed under their weight, forcing the vulture to once again unfurl his wings and leap into the air to find another rest.

Gideon barely slowed down. I turned to look back, and saw the rays of the setting sun piercing the dust cloud with long shafts of orange light as the last few vultures became airborne. Before I could say anything, we were past and the event was only a memory. We rumbled on in the Land Rover, looking for Kudu.

A short distance away, large tracks covered ours from the day before. They looked as though someone had strapped pillows to their feet and walked down the trail. Then they were joined by another, and several more crossed the trail travelling in the same direction. “Big bull elephant”, Gideon said, and we got out to have a look. He found a measuring tape and measured the width of the print at 18” wide. It was several more inches long.

Namibian desert elephants are the largest elephants in the world. Their tusks however are not the equal of their cousins to the East in Central Africa or say Kenya. They are short and stout and only rarely get much over 45 lbs. apiece. Compare that to the glory days of the elephant ivory trade when big ivory from Eastern Africa weighed in at a 100 lbs or more.

We rolled on in the deepening twilight, small wild rabbits darting out of the way of the vehicle, blinded by the headlights, they often only narrowly escaped being crushed.

That night we toasted the Red Hartebeest bull and I had several glasses of the very nice South African Cabernet Sauvignon, while Gideon and John enjoyed a few glasses of their brandy and Coke.

Dinners were always first class, usually (and thankfully!) consisting of wild game, various vegetables, pasta dishes, salads, invariably followed by some Crème Brule, or custard on bread pudding, etc., etc.

John began talking about his experience in the war that occurred between South Africa and Angola between 1966 and 1989. He is 53 now, and was conscripted when he was 17. He served his term of two years then reenlisted for another year. In South Africa it is known as the Angolan Bush War, involved Angola of course, but spilled over into what is now northern Namibia. It seems this was another defacto Cold War conflict in which the US and the USSR supported various factions, the USSR with the assistance of Cuban fighters.

In a very real sense, John had been defending his home, family and livelihood, and so the conflict was not for some nebulous excuse in a foreign land, but a clear and present danger. It’s a foreign concept for someone living in North America. I mean, wars happen somewhere else, and we often start them.
June 15

The next day John and I were going to hunt at his home ranch some distance away. The plan was to try to find a kudu, but we were also up for warthog, eland and maybe a ‘meat’ oryx. We arrived at his ranch where we were joined by a different tracker, and I had a chance to meet John’s wife Julianna. She seemed gracious and intelligent.

We set out, driving past and through several herds of cattle in which the Brahma bloodline obviously ran strong. These were the first cattle I had seen in any numbers, most ranchers had decided it was less work and more money to nurture game populations and sell hunting. We did the usual walking for miles, climbing koopies, glassing etc.

One tall koopie in particular offered a great view that stretched for miles, and swept across a field of view of at least 200 degrees. The irritating little flies were omnipresent, but the occasional breeze would give is a moments respite. From this vantage, it was a real African savanna landscape. Off in the distance the plain was banded by a ring of dark hills, and the occasional koopie was in evidence as well. We glassed for a bit, and spotted several giraffes feeding about a mile away, heads well above most of the average tree tops. Then a large group of oryx filed in and drank from the water hole. They stood around swishing their tails, several began joisting with each other, but then their thirst slatted, they began filing away.

A jackal appeared, and watched the oryx curiously, but stayed out of their way. He would step aside if they came near, but they completely ignored him. Soon a group of trophy size springbuck filtered in, about a dozen of them. They too had a drink from the watering hole, but did not seem to be under any impetus to move on, and totally ignoring the jackal, each one or two found shade under and bush and laid down for a nap. More oryx came to drink and after a brief spell of loitering about, moved out in several single file columns. But no kudu.

In the distance on the opposite side of the koopie, there was an winding snake of green trees, larger than the rest that John told me grew along a river bed that was dry this time of year. He said we were going to check out that area.

We descended the koopie, and walked back to the LR. Once aboard, we drove along a dirt track through a watering hole in disrepair, through more trees and a dry river bed to an area that contained the larger than normal trees. This was the area we had seen from a distance, that resembled a green snake lying in amongst the dry desert thorn bushes. The proximity to the river, even if it only had water in it for a month or so a year, and the fact the water table was higher at the river bed and supplied the trees here with much more moisture than the surrounding arid region.

Many times in places like this, in the deep sand of the dry river, I observed pits three to four feet deep, dug by oryx looking for water. If you peered down into the hole, you could see wet sand at the bottom. Because of the nature of sand, the pit had to be at least four feet wide at the top, so that the angle of repose was enough the sand would not continuously flow into the hole. Near the bottom as the sand became more damp, the sides of the hole steepened till finally, it was more or less the width and length of a oryx’s muzzle.

The oryx is a remarkable animal, adapted to live in this potentially harsh environment where others could not. The oryx can adapt to needing no liquid water, deriving its water somehow from the dry plants it eats. I cannot fathom how it can survive, but I suppose strategies like the digging and sucking water from wet sand help. The distinctive black and white markings on it’s face serve as a radiator of sorts, helping to keep it cool with a minimum of moisture loss.

We clambered aboard the truck and headed off towards the dry river. After scaring up a number of oryx and seeing a few kudu, springbuck, dik dik etc. we arrived in the shade of the large trees growing in the sand of the dry river.

Parking the Toyota truck, we began walking and soon came to an obvious bank. Clambering up, I could see a blind at the top, and headed for that spot. John was ahead and had the first look over the rim. He immediately ducked down, very excited, and exclaimed “Follow me!” and off he went, brushing past me, and turned to my left along the outside of the berm. “Stay down!“ he cautioned. I still had no idea what he had seen. When we slowed down I asked in a whisper what he had seen. He told me “Big warthog.” After moving along the bank for about 75 yards, he climbed the berm where it was not quite as high and after a slight pause slid slowly down the bank on the far side. From the top of the berm I could look to our left and see through a thick screen of dead limbs, an old warthog at the edge of the large pond about 75 yards away. But to the right were a small group of oryx about 100 yards distant. If the oryx were alerted to our presence, they would alert the warthog, and the odds of getting it would diminish considerably. I could not shoot from where I was and slid down the bank a bit towards John, who was futilely trying to set up the shooting sticks on the steep slope.

I shook my head to let him know not to bother, braced my feet against a root sticking out or the bank and resting my left elbow against my knee I took aim on the warthog, just behind the shoulder. At the sound of the retort the warthog almost fell, but recovered and began running about in a circle, falling and kicking till suddenly the life went out of him, and he collapsed motionless. John looked almost surprised then gleeful. It had happened so quickly, and the laid back morning had lulled us both into a relaxed frame of mind. We walked across the baked mud flat to the dead warthog where John professed it was a beauty. Warthog trophies are all about the tusks. The problem is that only old males have the potential for good tusks, but as they are constantly using them for digging, or fighting or protection, they wear down and often get broken. Rocky land takes the highest toll on tusks, so the local dirt and sand allowed for soft digging, and this fellow’s tusks were in fine shape. The older male warthogs near to Elephant Camp often have broken tusks due to the rocky ground there.

After the obligatory photos, we loaded the pig and returned to John’s to deliver the animal to the skinners and butchers. He gave it to the staff, I saw individuals taking various cuts away.

Julianna joined us for lunch, and after treating me to her gracious hospitality, she and John retired to nap, and I stayed outside to get molested by the dog, take photos of birds, and pulling a coat over my head trying to find relief from the flies, tried to sleep.

About 2 hours later, John appeared and coffee was served. I asked Julianna if it would be OK to have a quick look at their house and she was happy to oblige. It was what we would term a ‘ranch style’ as it was all one level, built of plastered brick and concrete. She explained that it had been in the family (John’s) for three generations, and each successive generation had added to it. The floor was tile, and the walls white plaster. No wood was used in construction that I noticed. John had said before that wood was too expensive to build with. And then there were the termites…

Their home was very clean, spacious and organized. Antiques of wood furniture were sparsely displayed, and the ones that I saw resembled Amish or Quaker, or the Shaker style from North America, plain, well built utilitarian pieces of furniture built to use. Each piece had its own story to tell, the wear marks, the scaring, the repairs.

A few trophies were displayed; one that comes to mind are the tusks of a huge warthog on a plaque over the bar. The tusks curved back on themselves so that only a few inches remained before they touched. When I asked about this specimen, I was told it had been there a long time, and that John’s grandfather was credited with taking it. As we neared the kitchen it was sort of refreshing to see a room that was obviously the office space, papers and clutter strewn about with a lived in feeling.

John was proud that they lived entirely off the grid. They relied on solar power for 99% of their power, the generator only came on one or two days a year. He said that at one time he had had commercial power, but it was expensive and unreliable. They had phones and internet, and some sort of TV reception. John enjoyed a few TV shows, sports and news when he had time. John is well informed on world events, and is always considering how various international events and attitudes could affect his life in Africa.

Their sewage was handled with a septic system, the same as we use here.

Like most of the homes I saw in Africa (disclaimer: I only saw a few…) there was an outdoor eating area, including what would amount to a covered dinning room, with table and side board, main cooking fire / oven and smaller cooking firebox.

After the coffee and the tour, John and I and one worker returned to the Toyota truck and resumed our search for a nice kudu bull. The land John’s ranch was on, is a bit different than that around Elephant Camp, it is flatter, a bit more open and has more sand and dirt than rock. There were areas similar near Elephant Camp, but not this extensive. The afternoon wore on, when suddenly on our left about 60 meters away, the heads of two giraffes loamed above the bushes, watching us with interest. Our attention held watching these, we did not see the huge bull step out of the tall cactus immediately in front of us. John hit the brakes and the bull jumped into high gear in slow motion and began his forward swaying lope to run away. He disappeared back into the cactus in front of the truck, but as we approached, thinking him gone, we were surprised when he stepped back in front of us again only twenty feet or less away! He towered over the truck by more than 12 feet, and his rump and shoulders were muscular and looked at least as wide as the truck. These animals were not only tall, but very robustly built.

He loped a short distance off the trail and stopped to watch us depart.

I asked John about hunting giraffe. He explained that most people don’t hunt them, and this was a problem. They can over populate an area, strip it of browse and then starve. He was a strong advocate of doing controlled culling to keep the population down. He said of course they normally take only old bulls. He explained the hide was the trophy, it made beautiful rugs and throws. He said it takes a team of workers to deal with the carcass, and this and extra transport are organized before a giraffe hunt commences. The locals get some or all of the meat, prized for biltong, but there is a good market for giraffe meat in the centers as well, so the entire animal is utilized. The workers used most of the organs and guts as well, making various savory dishes.

As dusk closed in, we returned to John’s ranch. He wanted to say goodbye to his wife of course, and they had to discuss some things.

After goodbyes we made our way back to Elephant Camp. On the way we passed through the Himba village, and I saw several comely young women wearing grass skirts, bead necklaces and not much else. I had heard all these tales about the affects of gravity on the African woman, but honestly, give these two a shower and bikinis and they would have been the envy of other women at any beach in the world.

The Himbas are one of the last semi nomadic tribes of the world. They inhabit Northern and North Eastern Namibia, living at the edge of the Kalahari desert. They have learned to be very conservative with water and do not believe in using it to wash their bodies. Instead they make a lotion out of a red ochre material and mix it with some liquefying element (I am sorry, I do not know the make up of the lotion) to make a lotion which they rub over their entire bodies and into their hair, giving them an other-worldly red appearance. They seem to be friendly and happy people. They have established a permanent residence near John’s hunting area thanks to the generosity of a local landowner. He has donated land for them to live on, helped them to build some traditional huts, provided fencing material, built a school and an orphanage, and provides some medical assistance. He calls himself the ‘white Himba’ and greatly values his association with these people. But, he also conducts tours from Windhoek to the village in massive air conditioned tour buses that bring white tourists to gaze at the ‘primitive Africans’ and learn about their life style. You get the obligatory photo taken of you with your arm around a topless maiden or standing beside a thatched roof roondaval huts, perhaps buy a few handicrafts and get back on the bus and off you go. These tours bring in hundreds of dollars a day. I am not sure where the money goes. I just know that for some reason, I did not want to be one of the big white guys sticking a camera in their faces. I did not take the tour. John says that he gives them game meat and in return they don’t hunt his game.

June 16

To this point we had seen many kudu, a few good kudu bulls, spent several days in total chasing good specimens around the hills, seen good ones from the Land Rover, but had nothing like a good on-foot shooting opportunity on a good bull. And I should be clear, John and Gideon prize the ethic of fair chase, and shooting from or even near the vehicle was not an option. I was concerned we were not getting an opportunity for kudu, despite working hard at it, but John professed he was not concerned. As I had told John, a big kudu bull was my prime target. I was feeling a little consternation that I only had a couple of days left to hunt as planned originally, and still no kudu. And so it had been decided to try for eland in a different area the next day. If a good kudu showed up, we would take him.

Gideon, Reinhardt and I took off in the LR in the morning. On the way we encountered a large herd of giraffes at close range. I never tired of seeing these animals, especially at close range. We picked up a young black man at the huts on the property of the land owner where we would be hunting. I assumed he was there as a representative and assistant should we actually get an eland. Evidently a deal had been made that if we bagged an eland the landowner would get the meat.

After we loaded up, we drove for some time before crossing a major gravel highway, through a fence and into the property of the land owner. Shortly we found ourselves in another dry river bed, with the usual large trees towering overhead. Gideon and Reinhardt were busy looking at some sort of tracks. I assumed that it must leopard, as leopards like to frequent low lying sandy washes as a means or moving over the terrain. They are a stealthy secretive animal and the low lying washes provide a means of moving about with a minimum of impact.

After a while, I asked Gideon what they were seeing in the sand. I have tracked many animals in British Colombia, in mud and snow, but here is a bit different. I am not sure how he knew, but he replied they were looking for sign of eland and had seen some fresh tracks. All I saw were various indents in the sand….

We drove out of the wash and across a flat and suddenly I saw a group of animals about a hundred yards away running for the draw. I did not get a good look, but they were large animals. I could not see their heads. I told Gideon, and he assumed they must be steenbuck, a very small antelope. I didn’t think so, but I did not want to argue about it.

We began the usual tactic of driving about looking for sign, climbing koopies to glass for game etc. and although we saw numerous other species we did not find the eland.

It may seem strange that we could not find a herd of animals that weigh up to a ton, but you have to consider that their light tan/grey bodies blend perfectly with the sand and grey branches of the bush in which they live. They are shy and very alert, and run at the slightest provocation, their thick spiral horns held against their backs, trotting with long loping strides like a Kentucky thoroughbred horse pulling a race carriage.

We were driving along a flat covered with low bushes, when we saw several eland of various sizes bolt out of cover. Then a few more appeared, maybe a total of 10 animals or so. They quickly ran off and we lost them.

Abandoning the LR we got on the tracks of the eland, and spotted them several times moving off. Once we climbed a koopie only to have a cow kudu see us, take alarm and run off spooking the eland. Another time it was the same thing only zebra. Once when climbing a koopie to get a better view we saw the skeleton of a warthog that had descended into the rocky depths of the jumbled boulders and been unable to get out.

Eventually we saw the eland some distance away moving quickly, and decided that we should leave them alone for a day or so.

We started our return to Elephant Camp a bit earlier than usual. After dropping off Moses, the young black guy who accompanied us for the day, we proceeded on 4x4 trails back to camp. As we approached the end of the lake a small group of warthogs trotted past and Gideon stopped to glass them to see if there were any large males for another hunter. The sun shone warmly on the back of my head and I nodded off to sleep.

Gideon suddenly woke me with “I do not believe it! There is an old kudu bull at the other end of the lake! We go!” I stumbled out of the LR, grabbed my rifle from Reinhardt and we trotted off across the mud flat we had been on only days earlier hunting the red hartebeest. The kudu were about a kilometer distant, they were coming in from the thorn bushes for an evening drink at the lake. We moved as quickly as we could, keeping out of sight, till we were about 250 yards away. Then we had to move at a crouch and keep bushes between us and our quarry so as not to be seen. At 200 yards, Gideon set up the sticks. The bull was broad side. I put the cross hairs on his shoulder and tried to squeeze the trigger, but in my excitement I had failed to release the safety! I quickly remedied that but too late, he was already moving again. Back we got into our crouch, crawling at times, working ourselves closer. At 140 yards, the kudu became aware that something out there in the growing gloom was approaching. The cows and the bull began trotting as Gideon put up the shooting sticks. I was on the sticks and taking aim, as Gideon said “Wait! I stop him!” and he called out to the bull. The bull stopped and looked straight at us and as I took aim at his shoulder the cows burst into a full run. Gideon said “Shoot!” Just as I squeezed the trigger the bull leapt forward to catch up with the cows, and the shot I sent was too far back. The bullet made a loud “Whump!” when it hit the kudu but he did not go down. I felt sick, I knew it was a gut shot and told Gideon so. At that I took off at a full run across the flat, till I was in the area where we had last seen the bull.

Gideon arrived a few moments later, and somehow found prints almost immediately. I have no idea how he could tell in rapidly fading light, on rocky ground, the difference between the prints made by the cows and the bull but within a short time he had spotted a drop of blood, and then another and another. Now it was dark, and we returned to the mud flat. Very shortly Reinhardt arrived in the LR and we dug out the flashlights we had and resumed tracking.

Before leaving Canada, I had been given a world class head lamp by an equipment supplier as a token of appreciation for services above and beyond the call so to speak. This put out 800 lumens of light and was an invaluable aid to tracking the kudu. I handed the light to Reinhardt, the tracker, and I stayed back knowing my skills just would not equal theirs. I think I could have followed the kudu once on the trail, but not nearly as quickly as they did. I watched as they moved through the thorns at something like a moderate steady walking speed, moving silently, their hands pointing and waving this way and that as a means of communication. The hand signals they used continuously reminded me of a show I had seen of Navy Seals in a night mission.

After a short time, the blood became more and more evident, at places it became a steady steam. You could tell where the bull stopped as he left a small pool of blood from the steady dripping. He was gut shot, and his guts were filling with blood. I knew we would catch him, it was only a matter of time. I felt that we should stop for one hour, give the animal time to stop, stiffen up and bleed out, but Gideon is a very focused individual and kept going.

The blood trail suddenly became very sparse again, we had gotten close to the bull and he spooked, spreading the blood drops over a wider area. At this point, Gideon decided the thing to do was to pull back, go get something to eat and in a few hours return and finish the job. The time interval would give the kudu time to relax, lie down, stiffen up and bleed out.

So we headed to Elephant Camp, which was not too far away. John talked us into leaving it till morning, and eventually we agreed. We decided to get up well before first light, grab coffee and bread and hit the trail.

June 17

The next morning we were back in the bush when it was just barely light enough to walk without lights. Somehow Gideon and Reinhardt immediately found the blood trail.

We resumed tracking but it was only minutes before Reinhardt gestured in front of us, and there lying in the open was the dead kudu.

Reinhardt immediately turned and headed back to retrieve the LR, and as he passed he tapped my arm and gestured towards the kudu, giving a thumbs up.

Gideon and I approached the bull and gave it a tentative kick to see how stiff he was. He had been dead all night by the looks of it. Rigor mortis had set in. We would not be able to poise this animal and that was Gideon’s main concern. He was also concerned that the meat sitting out so long with the hide on and the guts in, it would not be edible. Also the hide sitting on the warm flesh all night would begin to suffer hair slip and the last thing you want in a trophy mount is the hair slipping out. Oh well. We had found the animal and it would not go to waste. Also the policy is that if you wound an animal you still pay the trophy fee, whether or not it is recovered. In the case of the kudu, that is US $1400.00 so I did not want to loose the animal, let alone have it go to waste.

We took a few photos and loaded the kudu. I now had a good example of the animal I most desired out of this safari, it is a shame it was not a clean kill. I will always have a bad taste in mouth over this one….

Upon butchering the kudu, we could see the bullet had just clipped the back of the ribs, missing the lungs and travelling straight through the stomach to exit on the other side. I am not sure what internal organs may have been damaged, perhaps the liver or spleen.

We set out again a short time later. We had a haunch from the kudu to refresh a leopard bait, and we were going to try for another oryx.

It was the usual thing: travel in the Land Rover to an area to hunt or try to stalk something seen on the way. Of course now that I had worked hard for a zebra, they were around everywhere. We saw several kudu, and a promising looking bull, and of course oryx. Eventually we climbed a koopie to have a look and could see several oryx feeding on a side hill beside the dry river about 500 yards away. We decided to try to get closer, and off we went. It was going well, but the wind was fickle and an oryx that had possibly got our scent galloped through the bunch we were stalking, taking him with them.

We were muttering about our luck when we were spotted by a troop of baboons on a nearby koopie. They started an infernal howling and screeching alerting anything that had not already taken flight we were in the area. We gave up and called in Reinhardt and the LR.

We did a long loop through higher ground still hoping to jump an oryx. What we did see, was more fresh elephant tracks. Gideon stopped the LR and asked for silence. Listening intently he suddenly asked if he could borrow my rifle. He could hear the two bulls off in the thorns and wanted to try to get photos for some other elephant hunters in the area. He wanted he gun in case things did not go well.

Off he went, rifle over one shoulder, camera in hand, leaving Reinhardt and I to wait. Reinhardt rolled a smoke and enjoyed that. I just tried to absorb the African evening.

Twenty minutes later, Gideon returned and handing my rifle said, “Two big bulls, one had a broken tusk.” I asked if he had taken photos and the answer was yes.

Elephant tracks amidst a plethora of oryx and zebra tracks

June 18

The day after the encounter with elephants we resumed our quest for Eland. When I was originally planning the trip, I had decided to leave a few days at the end of the hunt to see some of the country. After seeing Namibians drove on the opposite side of the road from Canada, and realizing the vast distances required to get anywhere, I decided against visiting Etosha Park a huge game reserve. After all, I had seen lots of game of various species, in fact I had been very lucky in that regard. To go to Etosha would have consumed a very long day, with only a few hours left to see the animals in the park. I decided that my time was much better spent trying to get an Eland, or perhaps a larger Kudu. And so after a brief discussion with John and Gideon, I decided to add the extra three days to the hunt. If we failed or gave up on the Eland (or bagged one early) I could still try for a spring buck and perhaps a huge male baboon.

Originally I had had Springbuck on my list, but once I saw the Hartebeest, I decided to try for one of those instead. There were two factors affecting my decision: as I have already stated, I was not interested in the smaller antelope, and the cost of trophy fees and taxidermy were something I could not forget about, and kept a tally running in my head at all times. The Springbuck is such a beautiful little animal with such striking facial features, it begs to be mounted as a shoulder mount, but that would add another $1500 to the cost including the trophy fees. If I return I will go for one of these beautiful little antelope.

The next morning we were gone before first light, this time John accompanied us. He and I rode in the front, Gideon and Rienhart rode shotgun and we picked up a fellow to accompany us during the day and assist in the event we were successful. As we were hunting on the property of another rancher, it seemed the practise to have one of his men with us. At least hunting eland.

Rolling through the red sand desert, we came upon a herd of Giraffes, there were at least 7 or 8 of them. They lumbered past us and stopped against a nearby koopie to watch us pass, illuminated by the rising sun.

We entered the area where we hoped to find some eland, and almost immediately scared up a pair of big bulls. I did not see the horns but I did see the impressive bulk of the bodies and the rolling muscles of the bulls as they ran off through the thorn bushes. John had had a look at the horns and said they were good bulls but one had a horn that had the tip broken off.

And so began a long day of stalking Eland. Gideon, Rienhart and I would scramble up koopies to glass. My knees were starting to give me problems and I so it was decided I would not climb all the kopies, just for a look but would do so if something interesting came up. I was good on the flats, and going up, but on occasion I was starting to have issues descending. After a few hours, Gidion had spotted the eland starting to bed down, and he and I commenced a stalk, first through open desert, moving from bush to shrub, then along a dry wash like a couple of leopards, then crawling to try to get a closer look at them in the open. We were very close about 60 yards away, so Gideon said, (I never did see them) when suddenly the wind shifted and carried our scent directly to them and they were gone, like giant tan grey ghosts.

We pulled back and Gideon tried to raise the crew in the Land Rover on the radio, but to no avail. He became very frustrated, as he was unable to raise anyone on the radio. We had been hours in the sun, and at least an hour without water, and I think he was frustrated with the bad luck we were having.

Eventually we were able to get an answer on the radio and before too long the Land Rover appeared, threading its way over the desert sand and between the bushes. As a joke I stuck out my thumb, but somehow the humor was lost in translation…

We had no luck with the Eland that day, and did not encounter them again. However, on the way home we ran into first one then another Aardvarks, a type of very large ant eater. They weigh in excess of 80 kg and can grow to over 7’ long. The first one we scared out of its den and it galloped across the desert with amazing swiftness, eyes huge with alarm. The next one did the opposite, eyes as big as the first, long tail flying behind it, it galloped and dove straight into one of the many holes dotting that section of the desert. They are nocturnal animals, and I suppose as the sun was down and darkness was near, they had abandoned their dens to search for food or do what you do if you are an aardvark in Namibia.

We traveled some distance more, and were blessed with another very rare sighting: a leopard. We were pounding over a rough gravel trail, and it was dark. Suddenly in the lights ahead stood a female leopard (recognizable by the size and build, smaller and slighter than a male). She stood for a moment and turned away from the lights into the thorns and disappeared only to reappear a moment later, and stroll casually across the road in front of the Land Rover and into the bush, this time for good.

June 19 – originally the last planned day of hunting.

We decided to try John’s ranch, Westfalen, for eland today, and maybe at least get another oryx. Oryx are very plentiful here, as are Springbuck, but also giraffe, kudu, and there are eland. It was Gideon and Rienhart and I today, and we first of all climbed a large koopie where we could observe a waterhole a bit over 200 yards away. We saw Springbuck and also Oryx. A nice bull arrived and drank from the waterhole but was obscured by a large bush. As he moved out, he turned but was facing away. Gideon informed me the range was 265 yards, and reminded me to aim above the halfway point on his body. I had a good rest and squeezed the trigger. The bull staggered and bounded off at the impact only to pile up after sprinting about 20 meters. We approached and Gideon congratulated me on a good shot, thankfully, this time where I intended.

We loaded him into the Land Rover and returned to Elephant camp. On the return we saw another Cory Bustard, the largest flying bird in Africa and possibly the world. They resemble a Blue Heron on steroids. If you can imagine a blue heron with shorter legs and a shorter neck with a larger body, you have a good image of what they look like. We also saw more giraffes, oryx, warthogs and some kudu, in fact one was a nice bull.

June 20th (Father’s Day) We spent father’s day continuing our search for Eland. We saw a few, and did the usual long stalk and tracking routine through the desert thorns, but no luck. Of course we saw numerous types of other game, and came across fresh elephant sign. The elephants had trampled a fence in multiple places, torn down trees and generally left havoc in their wake. I took photos of a windmill tower, built to supply water for one of the watering holes, that had been torn down and twisted into a piece of wreckage by the elephants.

June 21 – this was the last day I had to hunt in Africa. Tomorrow it was get up early and drive to Windhoek and the airport and begin the long journey home. We had returned to the original area where we had first seen Eland. We had picked up Moses the young man from the ranch to accompany and help us in this hunt. First thing in the morning we encountered the fresh tracks of a herd, and we began by tracking across the baked red desert sand from the Land Rover. We were driving slowly and both Gideon and Reinhart were looking out the right side of the vehicle, when I noticed a cloud of dust swirling straight ahead, just beside and behind a koopie. I said “Gideon! Look!” he asked “Did you see the animals??” “No, just dust…” with which he leapt from the Land Rover and bounded up the koopie. From the top he ducked down and motioned for me to follow, but by the time I was up the Eland had run off.

And so it began. We tracked the Eland for a few hours, over rocks and sand, through thorns, in the broad heat of the Namibian sun. The bulls were heading upwind thankfully, or we would have had no chance at all. Suddenly Gideon in the front knelt down and gestured frantically to me, and Reinhart did the same. I quickly crawled forward and got into a kneeling shooting position. The first Eland bull emerged from the bush trotting very quickly from right to left, visible only for a second here and there through openings in the thorns. He was immediately followed by another and then two more. They did not pause for a second, and although I felt solid, I was not going to chance paying a US$2000 trophy fee on a wounded animal that got away. I was still haunted by wounding the kudu and did not want a repeat of that.

About this time we called in Moses with the Land Rover and finding some shade had lunch and took a short nap, giving us some respite and letting the eland calm down. After lunch we regained the trail and finally from the top of a koopie, caught sight of one resting under a tree about 550 yards off. We noted a koopie about the half way point and sent Reinhart ahead to see if it was worth us trying from there. He could see nothing, but we passed him on the koopie and as stealthily as possible, moved from bush to bush slowly working our way towards the Eland. We could see the top of the larger tree where he had found some shade but we could not see above the thorns and spot him. The last 25 yards were on our hands and knees and we stopped about 60 meters from where he rested, and hid behind a thorn bush. Gideon’s trained eyes could see the camouflaged bulk of the bull, which had bedded down, but from my vantage I could not. Suddenly Gideon said “he knows we are here” and I saw the movement of grey as the eland stood up. I could see his tail flicking back and forth, but I could not see much more. Gideon cautioned me not to move at all, but suddenly the bull had enough and charged out from under the tree, heading to our left. We too broke cover, and there he was in swirl of dust, but he turned like a quarter horse and was gone before I could get sights on him.

Elephant dung

And so it went, we were moving as fast as we could walk through thorns and over rough terrain. I found I could not move as fast as they could and still be quiet, partly due to the type of soles on my boots. They had too much tread and crunched the gravel and sand under foot more than the flat soled boots they were wearing. The other reason was the thorns. I simply was not used to moving through them. I was constantly getting tangled, scratched etc. at times I had blood matting my scalp and running down my arms. But Gideon was focused and did not pause. To keep up, I had to run whenever I found a patch of soft sand where I could move quickly without making undo noise. Then I would catch them, but at the first gravelly section or thorn bush they would pull a gap. It was not an issue of fitness. I could keep up just fine if the going was open or there was no need for stealth, but put a thorn bush in the way, or demand quiet….

The Eland had joined an old four wheel drive trail and were walking down that, us in hot pursuit. We assumed we were some distance behind but without warning Gideon wheeled around and said “Get ready!”. Once again I darted forward to be clear of Gideon and knelt down as the first Eland burst from the bush on my left and raced across the road about 50 meters distant. It was followed immediately by the others, but again, they did not pause. They trotted in their characteristic long loping trot that you may have seen in race cart horse races. Again, without a moments pause, a clear shot, I was loath to pull the trigger.

At this point, I assumed the game was over, but Gideon had Reinhart stay on the tracks and he called in the Land Rover. We circled around on the old road and met Reinhart just coming out of the bush. Leaving the Land Rover, we picked up the trail and kept at it. If anything Gideon seemed to increase his speed, I kept up but I have to admit I was thinking that this hunt was over and I was not going to bag an Eland. At one point, Gideon muttered something about the Eland not getting their afternoon nap, they would be getting tired. I decided that if he was up for it, I was going along for the ride.

We were tracking the bulls into the setting sun now, in somewhat open ground, when without warning Gideon hissed something like “Come!” I took two steps forward around a thorn bush and could see the bull as Gideon set up the shooting sticks. He was facing away from us, at an acute angle facing the setting sun and about 125 to 140 yards away. I quickly set up on the sticks and putting the crosshairs behind his shoulder some distance to allow for the acute angle pulled the trigger. Gideon had been watching through his binos and grabbed his bowed head in both hands and exclaimed “Oh thank God!” “Is it good?” I asked, “Yes it’s good…” The bull I had shot at and the other bulls (we had not seen) created a huge swirl of dust as they charged off. We quickly walked forward a short distance and there was the bull again standing facing away as he had when we first saw him. Gideon set up the sticks again and using his Swarovski range finding binoculars said “115 yards” I shot again and the bull disappeared again. Once more we moved quickly forward and approaching the area the bull had been standing and immediately say huge streamers of frothy bright red blood indicating a lung shot. I knew he would not be far. We kept moving forward, and then we could hear him, a low rumbling almost roaring sound as he breathed his last through lungs filling with blood. “He sounds like a lion!” Gideon said almost gleefully. I saw him laying on his side, but as we approached he rolled up onto his knees and Gideon said “Quickly, shoot him in the neck!” I did not need the coaching and did so quickly.

There was a brief moment of disbelief. We had worked so hard and covered so much ground, with multiple sightings of eland, that in the fading light of a red sun, on what was not only the last day, but in the last minutes of my time to hunt in Africa, I had bagged an animal I consider my top trophy. I could not help but laugh. We were all ecstatic at our success. I slapped Reinhart on the shoulder and gave him a thumbs up, and he grinned hugely.

We were losing light fast, so we posed the animal for photos and started with my camera. After a few photos the battery ran out, another down-to-the-wire event.

More photos were taken, and Moses who had somehow found us, approached in the Land Rover. Loading the Eland was a trick, we had to take two purchases with the winch in the back of the Land Rover. One for the back legs, one for the front, then we managed to lift the extended tail gate on which sat the front of the shoulders, neck and head enough so that it was horizontal and tie it up with a sling to the roll cage.

Because we had bagged the animal on land belonging to another landowner, they got the meat. We headed off to butcher the Eland at their place, using their facilities. When we arrived, Moses raised the alarm and the rest of the labourers showed up with various manner of knives and began stroking them across a boulder conveniently placed in the middle of the large screened building used to butcher animals. After everyone pulling him out of the truck, several fellows proceeded to try to winch him aloft with varying degrees of success using a boat winch. They were only able to get him about 2/3 of the way off the ground. I wanted the horns of course, and the hide to have made into leather. Gideon cut out the tenderloins and a few choice cuts from the front of the top of the hind quarters (sirloin?). Once the hide was off and the guts were out, it was interesting to see the wounds caused by the bullets. They had both struck him a little less than half way up his body, the first round was about a foot back from the crease of the left shoulder. The next was about 8” behind that. Both rounds had broken two or three ribs before entering the lungs, causing a continuous gash about a foot long in the ribs before entering the lungs, thanks to the steep angle of the quartering shot.

Once we had what we wanted loaded we set off, back to Elephant Camp. That evening John and I settled accounts and I readied my gear for the return to Canada.

What a fantastic trip! I had great specimens of all the animals I had been interested in, I had learned so much in a short time, met some interesting people, and had indulged my boyhood fantasy of hunting in Africa. I can’t wait to go back and perhaps ‘up the ante’ as they say. But for now, it is back to work.
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Looks like you had a great time, congrats and thanks for sharing!
Looks like you had a great time, congrats and thanks for sharing!
Thanks, and yes I did. Having trouble posting the photos though... tripled up on the zebra image, and doesn't show the eland or young zebra except as thumbnails.
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I love the eland. It sounds like you had a fantastic safari. Congrats
Thanks for sharing your hunt with us.
Some pretty incredible experiences.
What a fantastic experience you must have had! And beatifully told. You Sir, are quite a writer.

Thank you for sharing.
Congrats on a successful hunt and thanks for posting your report. Nice Eland
Thanks for a great story, and congrats on a great hunt.
Great report! Congrats on a heck of a hunt
What a great report. I hunted Westfalen not long after you, in Aug. of 16 and I enjoyed reading your report very much. Even today I vividly remember all of the areas you describe. Congrats
What a great report. I hunted Westfalen not long after you, in Aug. of 16 and I enjoyed reading your report very much. Even today I vividly remember all of the areas you describe. Congrats
Thanks for the kind words! I would love to go back and hunt with Westfalen and say hi to John and Gideon and Reinhart. We'll see...
Great report and congratulations on your successful hunt! Thanks for sharing
Congrats...Great hunt.
I'm heading to Namibia with my family in 2019. You certainly had some interesting experiences and reading about your hunt has increased my anticipation!
Thanks for sharing your story.
I'm heading to Namibia with my family in 2019. You certainly had some interesting experiences and reading about your hunt has increased my anticipation!
Thanks for sharing your story.
Thanks for your comments! You are going to have an unforgettable experience.
Excellent hunt report Rick!
Excellent hunt report.! Appreciate the time and detail you put into it. Sounds like a great adventure!

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hunt 65 wrote on TX_GreatPlains's profile.
Are theses new in box? Not reloads? Thanks , Neil
sgtsabai wrote on krish's profile.
I recently had operation for Agent Orange caused throat cancer and cannot talk so phone calls are out. I am interested, maybe more so after seeing the pics. No decision today, it's radiology and chemo day and sometimes that leaves me a bit worn down. I did notice the used rifle had only one reenforcing bolt in contrast to the NIB.
sgtsabai wrote on krish's profile.
I'm interested. Maybe more so in the used as I want to have some work done on one and restocked. Would it be too much trouble to send some pics of both. Btw, [redacted].
sgtsabai wrote on flyfishdoc's profile.
Do you still have that CZ?