In between we briefly rub our hands on our clothes to prevent blisters, and on we go. Every now and then I turn my head to make sure that Roland is still ok, because the effects of the heat and the physical exertion are written all over his face. But whether we like it or not, we have to continue. Suddenly I notice that the bull is getting restless. A distance of metres is still far too much for a good shot. Has he noticed us? Has he picked up the scent? No, the wind is in our favour; probably he is simply moving on to find a better tree or water. As I watch him through my binoculars he is slowly moving further up the slope.
If he disappeared behind the hill soon it would be the perfect opportunity for us to quickly catch up and perhaps get a shot on the other side. But for now we just have to wait. Close behind me Roland is sitting on the searing hot stones, carefully removing thorns from his hand. The lyrics are about everlasting love for this arid land, despite its hardships — such as crags burnt by the sun. The sun is really making a good job of it, also today. In moments like this the hunter experiences a sense of gratitude and satisfaction which is hard to describe.
The gemsbok takes his time, nibbles on a blade of grass here and there, scents briefly, strains his ears in all directions and majestically continues up the hill without hurry. It is clear that he is at home in this rough terrain. Despite his massive body he negotiates it with incredible ease. He seems like an old man on a sidewalk who imagines himself to be a lot younger.
We are still sitting on these burning hot stones, but not for much longer, and then we will have to act fast. Now he is up there, against the horizon, and in the. His mighty horns are the last of him that I see as he disappears over the horizon. Searching for a sign of his presence I am looking ahead with utmost concentration. He can be anywhere on the slope below us. Now we have to hurry if we want to take him on the other side.
We try to catch up as quickly as possible, which is easier said than done in this heat and with all the stones on the ground. One has to be very careful not to stumble — a fall could be rather painful. He really seems to be struggling with the stones. But we have to keep moving. We are already climbing up the slope where the bull was resting not so long ago. As I point out the tree where he stood in the shade Roland has a brief chance to catch his breath, then we continue up the hill. Approaching the top we are slowing down again to avoid the clattering of stones. I motion to Roland that we have to be very cautious now and that he needs to take a deep breath because he is still gasping for air and with his heart beating like mad it will be difficult for him to place a good shot.
As I take another step forward I discover something dark at an angle below us. Slowly I reach out for the binoculars and recognise him clearly: it is the bull we have been looking for, the bull with the short but heavy horns. There he is! The bull is still busy with his horn care. We have to exploit that because he is a little.
A few metres further on I discover a gap. Our bull is less than metres below us on the slope, but unfortunately his body is pointing downward which is not good for a shot. At that very moment the bull notices some movement and across his shoulder attentively scents into our direction. With the sticks still in my hand I freeze and barely dare to breathe. Luckily the bull seems satisfied that he is not in danger and after a brief moment continues to rub his horns on the shrub. I carefully put up the sticks and indicate to Roland that he must take his position, because the bull might turn around and scent in our direction again.
Roland has taken his position and tries to keep his heartbeat under control. Now we just have to be patient again and wait. In the meantime the sun has reached its zenith and in a situation like this you wonder whether the hot stones are worse. After waiting for a while I decide to whistle, in the hope that the bull will turn his side to us and Roland can get his shot. My brief whistling causes the bull to raise his head but he scents to the other side. I whistle again and there he turns his side to us and with a fright scents in our direction.
Through the binoculars I see the massive body of the old bull collapse. But after a few minutes there seems to be no movement left. He is lying there, stone-dead. We go down to him and Roland, too, realizes that his bull is indeed as old as the hills. A real old fighter, a king of the desert. The effort has been well worth it and in moments like this the hunter experiences a sense of gratitude and satisfaction which is hard to describe.
Taxonomically, the gemsbok falls within the genus Oryx. A number of distinct species and subspecies of this genus are distributed across parts of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. These include the Arabian oryx Oryx leucoryx , the scimitar-horned oryx Oryx dammah and the beisa oryx Oryx beisa. A subspecies of the beisa oryx, the fringe-eared oryx O. This is not entirely correct. There are many oryx, but there is only one gemsbok — the southern African Oryx gazella, indigenous to the drier parts of the subcontinent.
I have been to Namibia several times and its allure and mystique always draws me back. I scheduled this safari for late May, to coincide with the kudu rut, hoping to improve my chances of finding that one very special kudu bull. I expected to spend a lot of quality time searching for my trophy and this would also provide ample opportunity to pursue my other passion, bird-watching. I love to hunt, but I also love the time between hunts when I can enjoy other things in the wild, namely the almost limitless variety of birds one can encounter.
Hannes had been teasing me with photos of secretary and other interesting birds taken by his trail cameras at water holes, so I knew about some different birds in the area that I wanted to add to my lifer list. Jim Athearn. After breakfast we headed out to experience what the bush had to offer. In the next few days Steve was able to take a beautiful kudu bull with a long shot after several hard hours of tracking. The following day it was my turn. Hannes pointed to a tiny black dot out across a huge grassy plain and told me he thought it was a big black wildebeest.
I knew what was to happen next when he handed me the knee pads and gloves. We took off on all fours and I lost track of the time but we finally sat up and took stock of our position. We were still about metres out and needed to close the gap without startling the springbok that had wandered in between us and the wildebeest. Finally we eased up behind a small bush and decided we could go no closer. I was relieved to hear that familiar sound shortly after I squeezed the trigger. My bull was magnificent and a fitting trophy to reward our long stalk and crawl.
With only a few days left of our safari we still had a few things to do, aside from finding that special kudu bull. We spent some afternoons at water holes watching animals and birds come and go. Because the weather had remained unseasonably warm, many of the birds that normally would have already migrated north were still gathering in large flocks. They put on quite a show at the water holes.
We enjoyed the vivid colours of the swallow-tailed bee-eaters, lilacbreasted rollers, rosy-faced lovebirds and the distinctive tails on the long-tailed paradise and shaft-tailed whydahs. Even a pair of secretary birds put in an appearance beside the road one day as we were driving back to the lodge for lunch.
While Laura was selecting souvenirs for the grandchildren, I slipped in a necklace that she had been admiring. I wanted to surprise her with something special for tolerating my passion for chasing kudus and other African game. My plan was to give it to her after I had taken my special kudu. Now I just had to find that elusive bull. In this case it was an exceptional impala ram that attracted my attention.
Without hesitation we gave chase. All we had to do was get close enough without the ram and his harem spotting us. Although smaller calibres are more than. Luck was on our side as the herd moved to thicker bush and we were able to work in for a shot. I squeezed the trigger and we heard the distinctive thwack of the bullet connecting as the entire herd disappeared in a cloud of dust.
After an anxious meter hike over to where we last saw them, I was relieved to find a fine ram lying in the brush. The remaining days of our safari dwindled, but the wind persisted and the kudus seemed content to remain hidden in the dense bush awaiting the onset of active rutting, now some weeks behind schedule. After many days going out early and staying out until dark, the last morning finally arrived.
We had seen some nice kudu bulls but none that quite measured up to my expectations. I began thinking about a contingency plan for presenting the surprise necklace that remained carefully hidden in my day pack. Laura was enjoying herself so much that she already talked about returning for another visit. I confirmed these plans with Geraldine and told her that even though I was disappointed that I had been unable to take the ultimate kudu bull, I would still have a great opportunity to give Laura her necklace as we watched the sun set together. This was her first visit and she was unaware of the beautiful spot and the surprise sundowners.
After lunch and a brief rest we headed out to the truck with fresh batteries in our cameras, added sunscreen against the fierce African sun and expectations for a relaxing drive. Hannes had worked so hard to find him that I felt worse for him than I did for myself. Before we departed on the game drive he saw me sitting with my camera and asked where my rifle was.
I replied that I had cleaned it and put it away since I thought we. You never know what you might run into and you need to be prepared.
Then odd things started happening. Caren called again and the excitement in her voice caught my attention. Next, Hannes shifted gears and we tore off back down the road we had just come up. Then, another quick call from Caren indicated that she had spotted a large kudu bull. Laura, still oblivious of the sunset surprise, asked the. As I raised my rifle I first asked Hannes whether it was safe to shoot in that direction, because I knew Caren was somewhere nearby.
He was quartering away and uphill and all I could think was that I needed to drop him immediately because we were almost out of daylight and we had a plane to catch in the morning. I immediately replied that the ridge was waiting and we could always take photos with a flash. We told them that we were going to drive to Caren and get some extra help to pull the kudu off the hill before it got dark.
A bonfire was roaring. Things had gotten a little too crazy to maintain the suspense but nonetheless the whole setting was a pleasant surprise. We settled in to celebrate the perfect ending to a wonderful visit. Steve had experienced his first, very successful and exciting safari in Namibia, Laura had had a thoroughly enjoyable time and I got my special kudu under the most unusual circumstances.
Finally I was able to give Laura her necklace with my thanks for the special hunt and a promise to bring her back. We celebrated until well after dark and then headed down the hill for a kudu photo session. Who could have anticipated that my kudu quest would come down to a chance sighting in the last minutes before the sun set on the last day? There are many interesting wild places to explore in Namibia and I think next on my list is the northeast, with bird species and with tiger fish lurking in the Okavango and Zambezi rivers.
Welcome to the heart of Africa, to the wide open spaces, under the endless Namibian sky. Early one morning my father and I scaled the granite ridge behind our house. At the top, while looking for a suitable observation point, we came around some boulders where we suddenly found ourselves standing less than 50 metres away from several klipspringer. My father quickly identified the ram and without wasting any time I took aim with the. When we stepped closer we were looking at a mature old male.
Very young offspring is rarely seen because new-borns are kept hidden for up to three months to protect them — mainly against raptors. Since klipspringer are highly territorial and rams defend their territory and family unit against intruders, even of the same species, young males have to leave and fend for themselves soon after they reach sexual maturity. They will roam about for some time until they are able to establish their own territory.
We sat near the edge of the rugged plateau in the warm afternoon sun and looked down into a basin-shaped valley. A dry riverbed runs through it and next to it is a small plain with sparse grass. We had noticed two young kudu bulls on the little clearing as we sat down. Soon afterwards two klipspringer arrived. Somebody once told me that klipspringer tread extremely carefully, as if on eggshells, when they are not on hard ground, but that was not the case. They moved onto the sandy clearing totally at ease.
It was the first time that I saw klipspringer so calm and completely relaxed, with the kudu next to them appearing oversized. Even when the kudu started to fight, the klipspringer seemed unfazed and continued to feed on some plants on the ground. After a while they disappeared between the granite boulders on the other side of the valley.
Incidents like these are unusual when hunting for klipspringer. These antelope have keen eyes und they are extremely vigilant. Usually you become aware of them only when you hear their typical whistling alarm call, which warns the entire area as well. And even then you may still not see them at all.
Due to their peculiar granite-like colouring, klipspringer are very difficult to spot. What is more, they tend to look out from elevated places where they stand motionless as if rooted to the ground for what feels like an eternity. In order to catch sight of this graceful antelope you often have to scan the surroundings with your binoculars for a long time, to even then probably see them only far away. The most impressive characteristic of these small antelopes, however, is the way in which they move about in such rugged, difficult terrain.
With what breath-taking speed and unwavering trust in their own skills they move around in their mountainous granite world! I remember an experience we had one afternoon in the Erongo Mountains. It was in an intricate broken area of granite rocks, millions of years old, interspersed with dense thorny vegetation. As we stalked across a small hilltop we heard the warning whistles of klipspringer and seconds later saw three of them flying down over a granite slab on the opposite slope.
It happened so fast that all we caught sight of were some shadows in motion. Moments later the reason for the spectacular performance appeared: a leopard! He had stopped at the edge of the slab, as he clearly did not want to risk breaking his neck in pursuit of his quarry. For a few seconds he stood gazing after the whistling klipspringer, and then — unsuccessful this time — retreated across the granite slab.
The klipspringer continued to whistle for a while, but soon calmed down again. Even today I wonder how they managed to come down the slope safely at such breakneck speed. It was utterly impressive. Whenever I see klipspringer I feel as if I were watching a ballet staged by nature. With seemingly stiff legs they gracefully move through the most challenging terrain on tiptoe, jump across deep crevices or stand at the steepest precipice — and all of it in the trusting and perfectly natural manner that you only find in animals.
The hooves of klipspringer are quite unique. They resemble hard rubber and over time have evolved in such a way that the animals walk on the tips, which gives them incredible grip and support. Since they easily find footholds in the most unlikely places they can be seen at the most daring spots where even the king of the mountain world, the greater kudu, does not venture. Deep gorges may also be their undoing. Furthermore the hair is hollow inside like a small tube, which helps absorb the impact of a fall and insulates against chilly conditions at high altitudes in mountainous regions.
All these characteristics — the sharp eyes, the incredible agility and adaptation to the terrain — make the klipspringer a highly attractive quarry to another natural enemy: man. It should always be kept in mind that klipspringer are extremely vigilant. Therefore cover should be used at all times. Every so often one will have to skirt large areas to avoid being noticed. The rather inaccessible terrain makes stalking all the more difficult, but on the other hand provides good cover. All things considered it is a strenuous affair!
A sturdy, well-shaped body is the first indication of a fully grown, mature klipspringer. The best tell-tale characteristic for age, however, are the horns. Klipspringer have relatively smooth, straight horns which more or less match the height of the ears. The horns of mature males are finely ribbed at the base while those of young males are smooth. Old males past their prime show another burst of growth, which can be up to cm in big rams. The ribbed part of the horn is pushed up by the secondary growth spurt and forms a visible bulge.
With increasing age horns also show wear and tear: the tips are no longer sharp and the ribbing becomes blurred from rubbing on vegetation. If you have found a male like that, the stalk has been worth your while. But if the ram is too young, or has been lost, the hunt continues. In the case of old territorial males one can concentrate on the. There is no point in stalking at midday because klipspringer will then stand in the shade somewhere and will be even more difficult to spot. Nowadays the latest technology makes it possible to bag klipspringer from an unrealistic distance, but in my opinion this has little to do with hunting.
A hunter should always do justice to his quarry and try to outsmart it despite its finesse. Technology should only be roped in to spot a klipspringer and identify its characteristics as far as possible. All of this is part of stalking a klipspringer. A lot of patience and perserverance is necessary for a klipspringer hunt.
Early in the morning an elevated observation point should be found to scan the surroundings with binoculars. This should be done with extreme thoroughness. Klipspringer usually bask in the first sunlight, especially after cold winter nights. At that time of day they are easier to find, but they vigilantly watch out themselves. As soon as they have been spotted one should try and identify a ram. The first step should be to identify a male. Join me for a safari of a lifetime. I have lived in Namibia all my life and invite you to hunt plains game on my own farm and surrounding land in central Namibia and on hunting concession in the red Kalahari.
I eased forward in my chair and softly felt the weld of the rifle stock against my cheek, my right eye collecting the black crosshair of the variable scope mounted atop the African Mauser. Knowing that the soft point bullet would pass through both shoulders. We would find him lying directly under the tree, no grunt, no growl, just a thump as he hit the ground. Jeff Belogia. What a perfect setup, I thought. Without real effort I felt the metal of the trigger on the tip of my right forefinger and gently pressed it.
Lifting my head I turned to my left to catch a broad smile on the face of my professional hunter and friend, Kurt Duval, owner of Namibia Hunting Impressions. This had been a dress rehearsal, but as important as if it were the real show. The spoor of the front paw of a very heavy cat was left in the red sand.
The trip would mark my 50th African safari in seven different countries and my 30th visit to Namibia.
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At that moment, when I saw that spoor, the leopard became the focal point of my 50th safari. Since then two additional leopards have been caught, collared and released on the Rusch farm. I understand that a great deal has been learned about leopard habits. We have become family as a result. In those early years it was rare to see leopard sign. Something that is now a common occurrence across most of Namibia.
Kurt had done his job and I was eager to do mine when the opportunity presented itself. With leopard hunting the attention to detail must be all-inclusive and the execution of the plan meticulous. Kurt was smart to put me in the chair to get a feel for the setup and to mentally execute the shot.
Having hunted in seven countries on the African continent I can attest to the expertise and professionalism of the Namibian PHs I have hunted with in the past and I am honoured to call a number of these professionals my friends those who exemplify the character and dedication of the consummate PH.
Over the years I have met many wonderful people and I have had many incredible hunting adventures in former S. I remember a night at Okaukuejo having a sundowner with Volker Grellman and Peter Capstick, and talking with them about the elephant video they were working on. I will never forget the incredible dune trip across the Namib, or the gin clear waters of the Okavango. The sun shines differently on the African continent.
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Each time I come for a visit a primal feeling stirs deep in my soul that tells me I have come home. The trail camera had shown the images of a very large male feeding on our offering. Two days prior to my arrival this cat had killed and partially eaten a bovine calf, which Kurt had accepted from the land owner as our starter bait. We were actually hunting on a neighbouring farm. Kurt had successfully hunted on Wolfsgrund the previous month and his European client had taken a huge male leopard.
That calf was now history and we replaced it with a fat female warthog. Each time bait was replaced we followed a specific routine. August can be windy with weather fronts moving in and out on a seemingly rhythmic basis. This year was no exception and we had to be ever conscious of the wind direction. We had avoided the temptation to rush this. Patience was our ally. We did not sit in the blind for the first few days. It was important to get this feline comfortable with our setup.
Knowing that this cat had been hunted the year before by another well-known PH meant it would not be an easy mark. Even though we had another male occasionally feeding on bait number two, we decided to concentrate on the one with the big paw. The odds were against us, but what a challenge this hunt presented! Our first sit in the blind came on day five. Anticipation was at its peak and all my senses were on alert.
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This cat was feeding earlier each night. We needed him on the tree during daylight hours. Unlike other countries, Namibia does not allow artificial light and basically NO shooting from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset. But it was not a problem as I knew the rules going into the fight. Now the dilemma of when to sit became paramount. We could not risk a late night or very early morning entry into the kloof and into our blind, possibly alerting a feeding leopard. We would have to sit the entire night in order to be present as the sun rose and he came to feed.
At pm we entered the kloof. Naftali, our Kavango tracker, suddenly stopped and peered up the valley toward our bait. Something was sitting next to the bait. This something was big and black. I heard Naftali tell Kurt that it was a bat! It must be Count Dracula! As it flew off towards us, I could see it was a black eagle. Later I was told that the Okavango has large bats indeed. We entered the blind prepared to be ever vigilant with a sincere hope that our cat would feed in the next two hours. Otherwise it would be a long night. At pm we heard a cacophony of chatter from the rock hyrax.
Was the guest of honour coming to dinner? My pulse quickened as my ears strained for every sound. Kurt looked me in the eyes and I noticed an upward crease in the left corner of his lip. He held back a full smile as did I. Optimism permeated the hide. Over the next three days our cat never came to feed. We freshened the bait and nurtured an optimism that all true hunters possess. Hurry, I thought, it is going to get dark soon.
We sat without a whisper for the next eleven hours. Daylight slowly filtered into the canyon about am. Fighting the urge to sleep, my eyes strained to see the bait tree. With each passing minute a hazy collage became increasingly clear. A voice in my head was attempting to summon our cat to the bait tree. Using all my powers of telepathy I willed this leopard to a certain destiny, but to no avail.
Easing my face onto the rifle and peering through the scope, I. At am we radioed Kate at the farm for a pickup. The fresh spoor of a brown hyena along the koppie leading toward our blind, explained the excited hyrax and the warning chatter we had heard from them in the early evening. Lady Luck has smiled on my hunting endeavours many times. On previous safaris I have taken two leopards incidentally when hunting plains game.
I had never baited a leopard or sat in a blind for one, prior to this hunt. This time I paid my dues. We spent a total of 47 hours in that blind, mostly without speaking a word.
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At times there is an uncanny understanding between hunters. One almost knows what the other is thinking. It was that way with Kurt and me. The hunting gods willing, there will be another leopard hunt for me. It will take place in Namibia and I will be optimistic about my chances. I am not a hunter. Nor have I ever been. And if I am to be totally open and honest, I stopped eating meat when I was about 11 years old because I did not want the deaths of animals on my conscience.
I have never eaten meat since. So it might surprise you that I am a strong supporter of the hunting industry in Namibia, and indeed, throughout Africa. Having said that, I should qualify my support. I am a strong supporter of legal, ethical hunting of indigenous wildlife within sustainably managed populations, in large open landscapes. The reason is simple. Well-managed hunting is extremely good for In large areas it is essential for conservation. There is much confusion, particularly in the urban industrialised world, about the role of hunting in conservation.
And they see protecting wildlife and removing all incentives for its consumptive use as promoting and achieving good conservation. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have sympathy for people who stand up for animal rights — I think we all should. None of us want to see animals suffering or being treated badly by members of our species. But a problem arises when animal rights agendas are passed off as conservation agendas.
Animal rights agendas are not conservation agendas. Conservation works at the population, species and ecosystem levels. Animal rights works at the individual level. And what might be good for an individual or a collection of individuals might not be good for the long-term survival of populations, species and biodiversity. Take a simple domestic example. When the farm carthorse was replaced by the tractor, carthorses no longer had to work long hours in the fields.
But they also no longer had a value to farmers. Once common, they are now extremely rare. Indeed, carthorse associations have been established to keep these breeds from dying out. The truth is, if animals do not have a value, or if that value is not competitive with other options, then those animals will not have a place, except in a few small isolated islands of protection. And island protection in a sea of other land uses is a disaster for longterm conservation. By the s wildlife numbers were at an all-time low in Namibia, with perhaps fewer than half a million animals surviving see Figure A.
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