The African Plains

January 1, 2016

 

‘I love this life.’ That’s what I was thinking on my way to the airport. I was heading back to the African bush, one of my favorite places on earth. It was my first time going to Namibia. I’ve been to South Africa on three different safaris, and I was really excited to visit yet another country on this amazing continent. We were hunting with outfitter Hagen Eggert of Omatjete Safaris, who is, by reputation, one of the best outfitters in Namibia.

As with any hunt, I always test my rifle at the range first to make sure that the rifle is still zeroed in, especially after a long flight.  Our custom rifle chambered in 300-win mag needed a little adjustment when we got to the range because of the change in elevation.

Later that morning, we were off on our first hunt. We were after Impala, Gemsbok, and Zebra, but as any hunter knows, the African bush does not work according to your schedule or wish list…

On our first morning hunt, we saw a lot of different animals, and I had never seen so many Waterbucks on one property. Later in the morning, a beautiful Impala ram presented himself, and the stalk was on. We stalked him for an hour-and-a-half, but he kept going from cover to cover, never presenting a shot, so we ended the stalk in the hopes that he would calm down.

When we finally decided to look for other game, another Impala ram ran out of the bush. Yet again, we began stalking with the hopes that this one would cooperate. We closed the distance to about 200 yards. I set up my sticks and waited for him to turn broadside. With a 15-minute wait that felt like hours, he eventually gave me the shot I was looking for.

The ram dropped right in his tracks and didn’t move another step. It was my first trophy harvested in Namibia, and he was a beauty. He had a lot of mass in his horns, and he was the kind of ram you dreamed of harvesting.

It was day two, and our mission for the day was to harvest a Gemsbok. We started by hiking up a very tall hill where we glassed from. It had a lot of cover and was perfect for long-range shots. As luck would have it, we saw almost every animal on the property, except Gemsbok. We were just about to give up and move to another spot when a herd of Gemsbok came running from our right in a dead out run. We thought they had possibly winded us. 

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, one of the bulls was walking right toward us. He was 120 yards away, but I didn’t have a shot. Hagen told me to get on the sticks and wait for him to stop. He continued to walk right toward us--80 yards, 40 yards, 20 yards, and still no shot.

I couldn’t believe this bull was coming this close.  The bull finally got so close that we were in a potentially dangerous situation. I had to act quickly. The lowest setting on the scope I was using was a 5.5 power so the bull looked huge in the scope because of how close he was. I finally saw the vitals and squeezed off a shot. He was dead before he hit the ground. I had made a perfect heart shot.

That was one of the most exciting hunts I had ever been on. I had never shot an animal at such a short distance with a rifle before. We walked up to the bull and you could tell he was old just by looking at him. I couldn’t even wrap my fingers around the bases of his horns, and I’m a 6-foot 2-inch tall man with huge hands. His horns were so worn down that they were super short, probably the shortest I have ever seen on a Gemsbok.

On closer inspection, we found that he had a bad eye, which is probably why he never saw us. He also had no teeth in his mouth so it couldn’t feed anymore. He was the perfect bull to take and is one of my favorite trophies of all time.

After struggling for hours to get my trophy down the hill, we finally ended the day at camp with a well-deserved celebratory dinner. Namibia by now was becoming one of my absolute favorite places to hunt in the world, and we still had more hunting to do. I was thinking, ‘It couldn’t get better than this!’

On day three, we set out to hunt zebra, one of the most elusive animals in Africa. Their stripes may look like they would stand out like a sore thumb, but you would be mistaken. In the bush and tall grass, these animals disappear and their stripes act as the perfect camo in the brush.

Later that morning, we spotted a heard of zebra and there was a nice stallion in the group so we were off. I had never walked so much in my life stalking one animal. We walked at least 10 miles, following their tracks, with no sign of them except for little glimpses here and there.

Now, I need to tell you something about Hagen. Hagen lost his leg in a hunting accident a few years ago. He was hunting for leopard with a client when the leopard attacked him. In an effort to save Hagen’s life, the client shot the leopard, but the bullet went through him and into Hagen’s leg. Hagen lost his leg, but he kept his life. So, stalking for hours on end, you truly feel humbled by his passion and determination for this sport we all love so much. So, of course, I just kept my mouth shut and suffered in silence whenever I got tired. 

Finally, we reached a rocky outcrop where we could finally see them. I laid down and tried to attempt a shot, but they were 600 yards away and moving fast. They never stopped once, and before I knew it, they were a 1000 yards away and there was no shot. We decided to regroup and devise a new plan of attack.

The next morning, we knew where they had bedded down the night before so we tried to cut them off by getting in front of where they should be going, but they never came that way. They had changed direction that morning and went a different way. We spent the rest of the day looking for them with no luck.

We were starting to think we weren’t going to be able to harvest one of these magnificent animals, and it was our last day of hunting. It was now or never.

We started the morning by driving in the truck looking for any sign of them. Around 11 a.m., Hagen spotted them. We all jumped of the truck, trying to close the distance as fast as we could. We walked again for what felt like hours only to come up empty-handed once again, so we decided to have lunch and try again.

After lunch, we picked up where we last saw them. We hiked up the hill, hoping they were on the other side, but again, no sign of them. We glassed for hours with no luck. It was getting dark and we decided to head back. All of a sudden, we heard one of them neighing. We all ran to the noise on the other side of the hill. Finally, we could see them and there was a stallion broadsided at 500 yards away.

Quickly, I set up the shooting sticks. This was going to be the farthest shot I had ever taken while shooting off sticks. I steadied my scope, had it right on his shoulder, and took the shot. He was definitely hit and ran into cover. Because we were running out of daylight, we rushed to where we had last seen him. But there was no need, he was lying 20 yards from where I shot him and we just couldn’t see him fall.

This was one of the most beautiful zebras I had ever seen.

This was the best hunt I had ever been on in Africa. Hunting zebra is something everyone should do at least once; it is a total riot.

With that, we successfully finished the safari. I would like to the thank Hagen and Birgit for an amazing safari and for many truly unforgettable memories. If you ever plan on hunting in Namibia, I highly recommend Omatjete Safaris.

 

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