Previously posted in AfricaHunting.com
Where do I start? For some reason, I waited a while to start this hunt report. I’ll try to make up for lost time.
This started as a donated hunt from Namibia Safari Corporation (www.namibiasafaricorporation.com) that I won in auction at the SCI Las Vegas Chapter banquet in January 2017. It was the first auction of the night and nobody bid on it. My hand was thrust upwards and I took it home for an exceedingly low cost. I met with the outfitter, Jaco Van der Merwe, and confirmed that it would be okay to use it the following year.
The Hunt Donation: Five day 2x1 hunt for one Hartmann’s Zebra, one Gemsbok and two Springbok.
I first attempted to get my cousin to go with me as the second party. Sadly, due to an odd family dynamic, he flaked. I’ll keep trying to take him to Africa. Hopefully, one day I’ll be successful.
Next, I offered it to my personal physician, “Doc”. Doc needs a break from work. He’s a friend and he’s seriously overworked. Doc accepted! Finally, a vacation and a chance to hunt Africa! A plan is coming together! We planned to add two days to the hunt at the standard 2x1 rates. Doc was adding a Kudu and warthog to the Gemsbok and Springbok he was getting out of the package. I was adding a Blue Wildebeest and a Warthog.
BOOM! Divorce! His attorney screwed up everything (but wisely) told him that spending money, particularly on a trip to Africa, would be a bad idea. Doc was crushed. No matter. We will plan for 2020 or 2021, probably back to the Eastern Cape. The issues in the aftermath of divorce should be ironed out by then and he will fully be a free man.
I contacted Jaco , advised him of the situation and asked if he wanted to cancel. Please, keep in mind that I had been sending him money to cover my add-ons for the hunt through the Paypal link on his website. I wish all outfitters would break down and do this. Jaco told me that we could move forward as a 1x1 hunt. I stuck with the plan of adding two days, purchased a tag for a Warthog (my previously stated nemesis) and traded a Springbok for an Eland.
I utilized Travel Express to arrange my travel. Lori and Jennifer did a great job. I would fly out from LAS to JFK where I would board an SAA flight to JNB and then on to WDH. My adventure began at 2320 hours on 04/11/2018.
My flights went well. My rear end hurt after the lightly cushioned SAA seats, but I arrived alive in JNB at about 0805 hours. I rushed to the next gate for my 0940 flight to WDH. Forgive me if my times are off slightly. I arrived in WDH, but my luggage did not. Keep in mind, I checked at the gate in JNB and was advised that my luggage was transferred. Ha!
Marinda Van der Merwe picked me up at Hosea Kutako. I related to her the tale of my missing luggage. Apparently, this happens with the morning flight and I was assured by airport staff it would all arrive at 1600. To kill time, we picked up the kids from school, had lunch at Spurs and did some shopping. Thankfully, my stuff arrived as expected and we were on our way to main lodge in the Khomas.
The Hunter: 49 year old, grey collar professional, widowed, white male grandfather.
Primary Rifle: New Ultralight Arms M24 .338-06. 210-grain Barnes TTSX backed by 62 grains of H414 for a chronographed 2,775 fps.
Secondary Rifle: Ruger Guide Gun in .338 Win Mag. 250-grain Swift A-Frames, 68.5 grains IMR-4350 chrono’d at 2,650 fps. I brought this rifle for Eland and because I knew I could get .338 WM if my ammo disappeared. I previously took this rifle to Newfoundland, but never saw a live Moose.
Upon arrival at the lodge, I met my PH. Hennie is in his early 60’s and primarily works as the farm manager. We started hunting early the next morning. Always accompanying us were the primary trackers, Ephraim and Harry, not to forget Hennie’s Bull Terrier Bruno. Bruno was an incredibly nice dog, exhibiting many of the traits common with that breed (Boldness and Fearlessness). Hennie advised me that he had previously been seriously injured in a throwdown with a Warthog.
I had brought a simple and lightweight Caldwell bipod with me. Hennie suggested attaching the bipod which I promptly did. Now, the story gets interesting. I previously had zeroed my rifle at 200 yards. Zeroing the morning after arrival at the main lodge confirmed that my scope remained on target. I failed to take in to account the fully bedded barrel of the NULA. I know. Before anyone says it.
I missed four shots in a row at Springbok over two days. I told Hennie that we needed to go back to the rifle range to check zero. I found that with the bipod attached, my rounds went six inches high and two inches right. Adjustments were quickly made and we headed back out. There really is no defense other than I never expected to use the bipod. However, one significant thing was discovered. I have always struggled shooting off the sticks. I have never lost an animal, but I have made some poor hits. I learned that by grasping the legs of the folded bipod, I become incredibly steady. I will call this an epiphany as I won’t leave home without a bipod for my light rifles again. I made every shot from then on, challenged only range estimation.
It rained. I had always wanted to experience rain in Africa much as I see in in documentaries. However, trying to line up a shot on a Springbok while the PH and trackers cower in the truck and lightning striking way too close to me is not conducive to good accuracy.
Hennie had me shoot a Gemsbok cow for camp meat (and I think to boost my confidence). One round put her down, but it was a little high. Sadly, she needed a second round upon getting to her location on the side of a mountain. This shot was made with the bipod extended and across the hood of the truck. I had brought a rangefinder with me. However, I needed to remember to pass it somebody to actually use.
To start, I want to say that I did not keep notes in the small notebook I always took with me. I hope I don’t forget much.
We set out for Springbok and eventually encountered a decent ram. My first shot dropped him, but I chose to render another round into the center of his chest as insurance. He’s not the biggest, but I liked his bases and he will have an honored place on my wall.
It should be mentioned that I had the option of taking a Spotted Hyena if we encountered one. I hadn’t paid for the tag due to the slim chance of encountering one during the day. However, we did see one on a trail camera. I should mention that the accomodations at NSC’s main lodge are very comfortable. Laundry was done daily. The food was exquisite and I slept well in a clean environment.
I knew that we were going to head up to northeastern Namibia near Grootfontein soon. We headed out Monday morning looking for a Hartmann’s Zebra stallion. I have simple requirements. I don’t hunt to make the book. I prefer old male animals, regardless of size. We went into the mountains and I observed how rugged it was. While glassing for zebra, the trackers noticed a lone stallion that they described as “looking angry”. We began our stalk of the herd, hoping to find a decent stallion. We closed to within 250 yards (I didn’t know the distance until later) where a stallion and several mares (and no foals) were on the side of a mountain. Hennie advised which Zebra was the stallion. I mounted the sticks and took probably the steadiest shot I had ever made off that particular apparatus. The shot struck what I refer to as “a stripe too low”. The 210-grain TTSX went through the heart. The stallion dropped, but remained active. Never being one to “admire the shot”, I sent a second round into his right haunch angling into his stomach. Hennie estimated the stallion’s age as between 15 and 18 years. Truthfully a great trophy. After pictures, we cut down a couple saplings and cleared rocks to get our noble Land Cruiser up the mountain.
After lunch, we headed out to find an old Gemsbok bull. We found them in the late afternoon. Hennie took the truck and observed from a distance. Harry and Ephraim accompanied me on the stalk. We crawled at times through the brush and moved as quietly as possible. In the waning light, I located a gemsbok bull of good mass and length, but was not able to estimate age. He stood a little less than 100 yards distant. Remember what I said about a 200 yard zero.
I mounted the sticks and sent one round into the Gemsbok. He went down from a lung shot. The round was a little high. I had failed to account for lack of drop. He still remained highly active, but did not get up. I wound up shooting him twice more into the heart. He wasn’t as old as I would have liked, but I have no complaints about him as a trophy. I think that Hennie and the trackers were relieved that we could leave in the morning for the northeast.
It took about eight hours on Tuesday to make it to the farm east of Grootfontein in the northeast of Namibia. This would be a much more austere environment than the main lodge. We loaded Jaco’s four-door Land Cruiser. I joked about it resembling the Beverly Hillbillies rolling down the highway. However, none of them had seen the show so the reference was lost. We stopped at Kentucky Fried Chicken during the trip and I can say that KFC IS actually better outside of the US.
We arrived at a small farm owned by Jan, a well-educated gentleman in his mid 70’s. Jan quickly advised me that the spiders throughout the farmhouse were harmless and ate mosquitos. Considering that we were now in a malaria area, I was fine with that. I was taking Doxycyclene and had treated all of my outer clothing with Permethrin. I would encounter ticks for the first time in three African hunts. I still wonder if I didn’t bring one home.
We headed out Wednesday morning searching for Eland bull tracks. We eventually found some tracks and began following them in very thick brush. I was scratched so much that I was actually surprised when I brushed up against a bush and it didn’t have thorns. It seemed that Africa was going to keep every piece of me that it could. Unlike the rain of the Khomas, it was hot and dry in the northeast. Our tracker on this portion was Simon, who lived and worked on the farm. The first day, we walked 6.5 miles trailing Eland based upon the Health app on my iPhone. As I was the third person in line following the tracks, I was usually the last to actually see Eland. Jaco and Simon advised me that we had been very close many times, but the brush was too thick for me to see.
The snake in the pictures was encountered first by Simon who jumped aside. Jaco advised me that it was deadly. I don’t recall what it was called. I took a picture. All fifteen inches of it coiled, hissed and charged us. Sure, he only went about six inches, but that was enough for me.
Thursday: In the end when this adventure came to it’s conclusion, I would see that I had walked 9.5 miles and taken 24,414 steps through brush and sand. I had carried the Ruger Guide Gun the first day, but then opted to carry the NULA due to it’s light weight and the fact that all shots would be close thus maximizing the effect of the Barnes TTSX.
We picked up fresh tracks in the morning of a bachelor group of six bulls. The death march began.
We would catch up to the Eland and they would spook. Everything that I had heard of Eland hunts being incredibly easy or like the most arduous Cape Buffalo hunt proved true. I kept waiting for the easy part, though. It never came. We came to a clearing with the Eland on the other side of the brush. While kneeling and unprepared, I observed two bulls walk past a gap in the brush. Jaco urged me to shoot. I stupidly lined up on the silhouette of an Eland’s head, guestimated the location of his vitals through the brush and shot. The shot did not penetrate the brush. No blood. I should have remembered rule #1 “If you don’t have a clear target, don’t shoot”. One thing that we should all remember is that the PH often has a different view than you do. Jaco had no idea that I couldn’t get a clear shot on the Eland. This only gave the Eland another reason to run and added at least two more hours of tracking.
Upon catching up to the Eland again, I had a clear view of the Eland’s hindquarters. Jaco urged me to get a round into the bull quickly. I mounted the sticks which due to expediency we did not spread. Fortunately, the sticks still gave me a very steady rest. The first round dropped the Eland in place, but only because I took out his back legs. The bull was down, but was now facing away from me. I maneuvered to a better position and sent a round into the left side of the neck. I attempted to put a third round behind the left shoulder, but struck three inches behind the other neck shot. I had hoped for an old blue bull and he was. After pictures, we hiked out to a dirt farm road. We returned to Jan’s farm to get a trailer and more guys to help recover the bull.
The next morning, Jaco and I sat in an elevated blind in an attempt to get a good warthog male. We didn’t have all day and originally committed to stay until noon. Ultimately, we would stick it out until 1430 due to having to make our way back to Windhoek. While in the blind, we saw Blue Wildebeest, Gemsbok (including an honest 40″ male) and some Kudu cows with a single young bull. The warthog of my dreams never made an appearance. As previously written of in another hunt report. This is apparently my quest. I will hunt Cape Buffalo with Pawprint safaris next year. I’m excited over the opportunity to hunt an old daggaboy bull, but I secretly hope that we come across a large male warthog.
Also in this series of pictures is the spider-eating lizard sharing our blind.
I stayed Friday night at Jaco and Marinda’s home in Windhoek. I was thankful to take a shower and do laundry before the long trip home. Marinda made a great breakfast and I said goodbye to Hennie, Harry and Ephraim. I made sure tip and tip well. I gave Jaco money and asked him to buy a pair of boots for Simon as his toes were sticking out the side of the ones he had. A pair of decent boots ($32) may not seem like much to us, but it can mean the world to others. Remember to tip your PH, trackers and waitresses and be nice to your flight attendants (my daughter is one with Southwest).
Jaco and Marinda got me to the airport and I began the journey home. Before leaving Windhoek, I bought my daughter a beautiful necklace and my son-in-law a bottle opener made from Springbok horn. Upon arrival in Johannesburg, I had pizza and bought my granddaughter Penelope some more stuffed African animals. Given that she has quite a collection, I bought her a Wild Dog, a Baboon and a Meerkat.
I arrived home safely, if exhausted. On 04/25/2018, I celebrated another anniversary with dinner at a nice restaurant and a picture of my wife. Remember to love those around you.
If you are looking for a great hunt, consider Namibia Safari Corporation. Jaco attends SCI every year. He is GREAT. I can’t speak highly enough of the accomodations, the food or the staff. It may take a few years, but I will be returning.