New Huntress, Old Hunter
Two people go on a hunt together – one a seasoned hunter, the other a new huntress. Both have the same experience, but each extracts a different take on that experience…
The New Huntress
When Randy first asked me if I would be interested in going hunting in Africa, of course my first response was, yes, yes, yes. Later, doubt started seeping into my excitement. I had never hunted before, so I did not know if I could do it. I figured I would try my best, enjoy the experience, and at the very least, I could be Randy’s official photographer.
I grew up in a time and place where hunting was for the men and the girls were left home. My father only went hunting a few times when I was growing up, but the trips never included daughters. Thanks to Randy, I would finally have the opportunity. He has been a hunter his whole life and I admire the fact that he included his daughter.
Before our trip, I had the chance to meet our professional hunter, Stephan Joubert, at the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City, Utah in the United States. Randy also took the time to prepare me for our hunt. We went target shooting to see how comfortable I was with guns—and probably to see what he was up against. The next thing was actually hunting, because no matter how good of a shot a person is, it does not mean they will be able to pull the trigger when their gun barrel is pointed at an animal. Randy took me turkey hunting and I dropped a nice jake with my first shot. After all the preparation, I hoped I could at least get three animals in Africa. I couldn’t wait!
After a long flight from the U.S to Namibia, with a layover in Amsterdam, Hannes picked us up at Windhoek airport. The lodge itself was like a mirage, an oasis of thatch structures with green lawns, beautiful gardens, and an aviary filled with colorful song birds. We met Hannes’ wife, Geraldine, who had a beautiful table set and lunch in the making. Our PH Stephan Joubert, was there to greet us along with his Rhodesian Ridgeback, Ridgy, and Jackie, the lodge’s Jack Russell Terrier. We were the only guests. Bergzicht Hunting Lodge only takes one group at a time so they can offer a personalized experience.
After lunch, Steph took us to sight in the guns. I was surprised and relieved that, because of the suppressor on the end of the barrel, there was practically no recoil. I also learned that, in Africa, you shoot the animals in the shoulder in what Steph called the diamond of death because that is where their heart and lungs are.
Then Steph and our trackers, Fessie and Obed, took us for a drive. I was amazed at the abundance of wildlife. It almost felt like we were on a movie set and someone cued a herd of zebra on the hillside to come down and, in a giant cloud of dust, cross the road right in front of us. We also saw warthog, wildebeest, steenbok, hartebeest, and a large herd of springbok.
Our first day hunting in Africa turned out to be ladies first. We spent the morning getting a blue wildebeest for me—after I completely missed a springbok at 250 yards. We came upon a blue wildebeest and I took my shot. It bucked, then bounded off into the brush, so we had to track it. It was amazing to watch how Fessie and Obed could track an animal –they could find blood on a single blade of grass. We found our wildebeest, and took it down with another shot. It wasn’t perfect, but I got my first animal, earning myself a Bergzicht Hunting Lodge cap.
The day ended up being ladies last also. After our lunch break, we came across a gemsbok (oryx). I didn’t expect to hunt that afternoon, so I felt a bit more apprehensive. We stalked it, stopping in a copse of trees. I made a perfect shot, right in the diamond of death, but unfortunately, it turned just as I began squeezing the trigger, and the bullet went in at an angle. I shouldn’t have taken the shot since it was moving, but my reactions were not quite fast enough to stop. It didn’t go very far and I took another shot for my second animal that day. It was a magnificent gold medal bull.
I had successfully completed my first day hunting in Africa, ending with two beautiful animals. I felt relieved. Even if I didn’t get another animal, I did it.
Our second day was Randy’s, as we came across animals on his list – a steenbok, black wildebeest, and a hartebeest. The experience was phenomenal. I learned that mountain zebras have longer ears and faded stripes on their forehead, making them look more like a donkey than a horse to me. Regular zebras have shorter ears and dark stripes on their foreheads.
Each day we woke to a delicious breakfast, hunted until mid-day, with time to rest after a big lunch. I usually sat by the pool writing, listening to the birds in the aviary, and watching butterflies flutter around Geraldine’s beautiful gardens. We hunted again in the late afternoon until sunset, then returned to a cozy fire at the lodge and a great dinner.
On our third day of hunting, I did it! I got an impala in one quick and perfect shot, right in the diamond of death. The wildebeest wasn’t perfect. The oryx was better. But this time, I did it just right and it was another gold medal bull.
I ended up with eight animals and Randy got ten. For a lady hoping to get three animals, I far surpassed my expectations. I will have six head mounts and two European mounts for my wall—along with a traditional Namibian oryx tail flyswatter. We hunted in perfect weather and wind. Cold mornings and perfect afternoons. We stalked animals in the brush, on rocky outcrops, and across the savanna. We waited by waterholes for warthogs. I learned to use binoculars and spot animals. I learned to drop an animal in one shot and how to track a wounded one. I made a perfect heart shot on a springbok.
All in all, I dropped four of my eight animals with one shot and hit my warthog on the run. I finally got my tiny steenbok after missing three others. I learned that I can shoot spot-on at 150 yards, but to the left at 200. I learned about all the wildlife management that goes into running a lodge, and that Namibia is much more progressive in sustainable trophy hunting than we are in the United States, in wildlife conservation, and in banning the use of hormones in livestock. I also had the unbelievable opportunity to see some of Africa’s amazing animals in the wild. I will never forget the experience of hunting in Africa and meeting some of the amazing and gracious people of Namibia.
My dad may not have taken me hunting when I was young, but thanks to Randy, I finally got to go. Hunting is still predominantly a male sport, but many men are taking their wives, daughters, and girlfriends. More and more women are becoming successful huntresses. Even though I grew up in a time and place where daughters did not hunt, things have changed. If my father were still here, I know that he would be proud of me.
The Old Hunter
I first met Hannes and Geraldine at a Portland, Oregon sportsman show many years ago. They are very nice people with a beautiful lodge, hunting area, and great animals.
Having hunted Zimbabwe a couple of other times, I was ready for a change in scenery and an opportunity for different animals. An added experience would be taking my girlfriend, Kelly, on the hunt with me, not only as a spectator, but as a hunter. Kelly had never been to Africa, so I knew that it would be quite an experience, regardless of the outcome.
We were welcomed at the Windhoek airport by Hannes. It was nice to see a friendly and known face waiting for us. It was an hour’s trip to the lodge, and I made good use of it with lots of questions for Hannes. The lodge and grounds were beautiful, and the lodge was filled with impressive game heads. We were the only guests, so the focus was on our hunt.
We were tired from our travels, but we went to sight in the rifles that evening. I had decided not to bring my personal rifles with me. It isn’t easy traveling with rifles anymore, and the headache and hassle just wasn’t worth it. Being left handed, it didn’t bother me to use their right-handed guns. They used suppressors on all their guns and I was very surprised, not only with the sound suppression, but the minimal recoil that they also produced. Shooting a 7mm mag and .270 with no recoil made me a believer. I plan on buying myself a suppressor one day. It was nice, especially for Kelly. She shot well at the range, so we were ready for the morning hunt. Our PH was Stephan Joubert, a very knowledgeable and adept young man who has acquired the “Dangerous Game” accreditation.
That night, I was amazed to learn that Hannes has twenty-five different species of animals. He even does DNA testing for wildlife management and uses solar and up-to-date technology. No wonder that he was awarded Game Rancher of the Year Namibia (2017) and Game Rancher of the Year, Green Economy, in Southern Africa. Quite an honor and very well deserved.
So, how did Kelly do? In one word—Great! She was in awe. She truly didn’t care about taking animals as much as taking in the whole experience. Men seem to have more of an “I have to harvest “ approach in order to have a great hunt. Believe me, I understand that, but at sixty-four years of age, I understand that there is so much more to the hunt. For me, it was to see Kelly have a great experience as well as the opportunity to hunt. My plan was for her to take four or five animals. Well, she went on to take eight fantastic animals. I ended up taking ten that were all gold medal, I believe. From what I heard, my lechwe will be # 1 in the NAPHA top ten record book, the roan, possibly #12 and a 45-inch fantastic sable. I also took a black wildebeest, hartebeest, mountain zebra stallion, springbok, blesbok, and a steenbok.
To say the least, it was a memorable hunt with great variety of animals. The spotters and trackers, the care of the animals after harvest, the lodge—as well as the generosity, integrity, and friendship of Hannes and Geraldine were second to none. Kelly and I both came away as lifelong friends. It was the memory of a lifetime for us. That is one of the reasons I have booked to go back in 2020 for some of the species I don’t have. I will take my daughter with me next time in order to create some more memories with her.