Dates: August 6th -21st, 2019Hunt Area: NW Namibia, West of the town of Outjo.Safari Operator: Johann Veldsman, Shona Hunting Adventures.PH: Johann VeldsmanAssistant PH: Jonas – Master Hunter designation
Booking Agent: Elaine Ness-Africa Dreams Hunting Consultant Inc., Alberta, Canada.
Travel Agent: None. Flight schedule was: Saskatoon- Edmonton- Reykjavik – Frankfurt- Windhoek.
Equipment: Due to the convoluted flight schedule, and the fact that we were spending time in Germany before and after the safari, we rented a rifle from the outfitter. CZ Model 550 in 9.3×62 Mauser, topped with a Leupold 1.5 x5 VXR. It used hand-loaded brass with 286 gr Barnes X bullets. I am left-handed while the rifle was not. This was not a problem but next time I will bring a glue-on cheek piece to raise the comb. We were equipped with a Canon D6 camera, Swarovski and Nikon binoculars.
Topography: Rolling hills with very rocky ground, stunted camel thorn trees, buffalo thorn and rocky outcroppings called “koppies”. Also, flat, winding, sandy, river bottom with large ‘Anna’ trees. It is interesting country to hunt!
Animals Sought: Leopard, Eland, Oryx, springbok, Kudu, Baboon, Warthog.
Animals Taken: Leopard, Oryx-x3, Springbok-x2, Baboon, Kudu.
Animals observed in Etosha Park: rhino, elephant, lion, giraffe, hartebeest, oryx, springbok, eland, Burchell’s zebra, Hartmann’s zebra, black faced impala, brown hyena, spotted hyena, honey badger, bat eared fox, jackal, and mongoose.
At Shona Hunting Safaris: elephant, eland, leopard, giraffe, oryx, kudu, springbok, steenbok, grysbok, damara dik-dik, baboon, scrub hare, civet, rock hyrax, Hartman’s zebra. Note: We didn’t see any warthogs in the hunting area (casualties of the drought) but plenty in the ditches on our travels around the country.
Type of Hunting: Spot and Stalk, Bait and blind for leopard.
This has been my second trip to Africa. Once again, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Africa Hunting Forums, and its knowledgeable members for their assistance and expertise in all things pertaining to Africa. This report is my way of saying “Thank You” to both AHF and my outfitter…..I will post a few pictures and stories.
The idea for this journey started many years ago, while on a trip to the Peace River delta of Northern Alberta. I was part of a group that was invited to a very remote area of Wood Buffalo National Park. We were to observe Wolf/Bison interaction and access the potential for Eco-tourism within the park. The lead biologist on this expedition was originally from Namibia. I had caught the “Africa Bug” at a young age. So, sitting around the campfire and listening to stories about Namibia, only increased my desire to travel there. Fast foreword, twenty years…. I was able to retire at age 56, and so, Namibia was on the menu……
Our group consisted of myself, my wife and our youngest son. We wanted to experience something of the country’s scenery, wildlife and culture -as much as we could in a mere two weeks. This entailed much online research.
I first drew up a list of criteria. Eventually, after many hours of reading and cross-referencing, I had narrowed the choices down to two operators. We spent 30 minutes on the phone with Johann Veldsman and came away impressed. I called five of his past clients – every one gave a glowing review. So, eighteen months prior to our departure date, we paid our deposit.
Later, I asked Johann “How many of your clients have booked with you, basing the decision solely on Internet searches and a phone interview?”
A bit of awkward silence then “ Ah, you would be the first.“
“Oh” I joked, “After two years of research, I probably know more things about you that than you know yourself!” Such are the wonders of the Internet.
Travel involves all kinds of risks, but we made a great choice in Johann, his partner Ilouwna, (pronounced “E-lone-a”) and the rest of the team at Shona Hunting Adventures.
Namibia is a huge country but Johann suggested a holiday schedule that would allow us to experience a variety of activities, without excessive driving.
Day One was surf fishing with Leon – a tackle shop owner and a knowledgeable and dedicated fishing guide. He did not disappoint. July is not noted to be a good fishing month, but we managed to catch a good variety of fish- the largest species being the spotted gully shark.
The next day we traveled down the coast from Henties Bay to Walvis Bay. Here we embarked on a desert tour on ATV’s. Our guide has been leading tours for 17 years and gave a fascinating account of desert life of the ancient Khoi people. We examined 2000 year-old mud flats full of animal tracks, as well has human middens and graves of the Khoi people. Pretty cool driving ATVs in the desert as well!
The next few days were spent driving around Etosha Park. This area encompasses a huge pan that holds water and attracts wildlife during the dry season. Since Namibia was experiencing the worst drought in recent history, we saw plenty of animals around the water holes.
Johann kindly loaned our son, a 200mm telephoto lens for our camera and offered much helpful photography advice. He learned a lot and was able to get some great photos.
Our rig for surf fishing…
My wife with supper.
Our fishing guide, Leon.
Our son, BC, with a Spotted Gully Shark
The sharks put up a good fight!
Etosha Park. The drought was taking its toll, but most animals still looked in good shape.
An old fellow.
A water hole at Etosha.
We spent the last eight days of our stay at Johann’s large private game reserve. It is an unfenced area of 27 square miles. It is part of the Loxodonta Africana conservancy, which encompasses more than one million acres. While there are some cattle and sheep farms in the conservancy, the area is managed for wildlife. The Huab River runs through the property but it only flows in the wet season, so Johann has a number of deep wells, powered by the solar panels. These provide vital water to all of the animal and avian species.
The main species here are oryx, springbok, kudu and mountain zebra. Eland and giraffe are present, but in fewer numbers. The smaller antelope species are also common such as damara dik-dik, klipspringer, steenbok and grysbok. Baboon and rock hyraxes were everywhere. Where there are ungulates, there are also predators, such as lion, brown and spotted hyena, cheetah, serval, african wild cat and leopard. Leopard are common and generally do well living in close proximity to people. Lions, hyena and cheetah are not welcome on ranches. Though Namibia has a stable population of cheetah- the largest population in Africa.
The lodge at Shona hunting Adventures.
Accessing our shooting skills prior to hunting.
Our hunting area. The vegetation was sparse but it was surprising how hard it was to spot animals.
Kudu: Our first day back from Etosha was supposed to be a travel day and we expected to relax at the lodge. Upon our arrival, Johann had the bakkie ready and said, “Let’s go hunting”. So, with Johann driving, Jonas (master hunter) and the rest of us piled into the box seats. The hunting technique is fairly simple…we would slowly grind up a mountain trail overlooking the valley below. We would carefully glass the valley for game and then try and pinpoint something with potential. It didn’t take more than 30 minutes of glassing when Johann spotted a bachelor herd of kudu bulls. They were about two km away. Off goes our son, BC with Johann…we watched as they walked down the valley, eventually losing them altogether in the trees. Soon we could see one kudu bull, it perked up and stared in our direction. Then it ran off….immediately another bull stood in the same opening. We heard a single shot. The bull ran off. What happened??? We made our way down to the valley and soon met up with the hunters. Johann was examining the ground and shaking his head. What had gone wrong? BC is a good shot. My wife’s sharp eyes picked out a kudu bull laying about 40 meters away. Johann was just teasing. In fact, the plan had worked perfectly! BC had completed his first African hunt with one of Africa’s iconic species.
BC with his Kudu.
Jonas trying to point out some Springbok to me.
Moon rise as we head back to camp.
Leopard: It is difficult to live with big predators, especially if you are a rancher. Outside of the National Parks, it is sport hunting that provides revenue to landowners. This revenue is an important reason that landowners tolerate these large carnivores on their property. It is a sustainable hunting practice. (Preaching to the choir here on Africa Hunting Forums!) That said; I hadn’t any desire to hunt a leopard.
Two weeks before our departure, Johann contacted me via Whatsap. He explained that he had a leftover leopard tag for the hunting season. If I were interested in trying for a leopard, the option would be available. He further explained that his daughter had a foal killed by a male leopard and he wanted this specific cat “taken care of”. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so I accepted.
The leopard hunt wouldn’t be the main focus of the safari, just an added option. We only had eight days in total at Johan’s lodge. I did not want to spend the entire time in a leopard blind, while my wife and son loitered around the lodge. Also, due to the fact that this specific leopard was a problem cat, we decided to rather hunt it as a problem animal and not a trophy leopard. I was not paying for a trophy leopard hunt and the baits were set close to the lodge.
I don’t like sitting in blinds but leopard hunting involves just that. However, I’m never one to refuse a challenge….Johann said we could sit for a few afternoons until dark “just to see what comes in”. The leopard was hitting the bait earlier and now fresh bait was placed, also a very well camouflaged blind was built. We proceeded to go and sit. As predicted, it was extremely boring. Then, close by in the gathering darkness, we heard the raspy guttural call of the leopard. He wouldn’t commit to coming in to the bait but I was hooked from that moment on!
On the third afternoon, we heard him call a fair ways off then…closer and closer. Then fifteen minutes of silence. The sun had set and in the gloaming, he was suddenly standing there in front of us. Johann gave me the go ahead – it was the problem male. (I am assuming he knew this because leopards are territorial?) Johann had everything set up so that the 80-meter shot was not particularly difficult. I was worried about shot placement but to my surprise, the leopard died in his tracks. I was grateful for that and the fact that I was able to stay focused – making the shot count! The red dot scope was also a big help.
Once the cat was on the ground, Johann gave me a moment with it. The irony wasn’t lost on me; the first leopard that I see in the wild is dead. It was a surreal moment followed by pandemonium when we arrived back at camp. Leopard hunting is very much a team effort and I didn’t realize how much everyone wanted a successful hunt. All the guys showed up and there was much hand shaking, hugging and more than a few celebratory drinks. Most of you know it is not uncommon to spend days and days in the blind without success. I believe it was astronaut, Neil Armstrong who said: “success is when preparedness meets opportunity.” Sometimes you need a fair bit of luck too.
As stated earlier, this was not a trophy hunt, so I would not be taking anything home but photographs and memories. (The sight of the leopard standing over the bait is forever burned into my retinas.) Johann is getting a full mount of the leopard to place in his lodge. I plan to visit it.
The leopard blind.
It was hot but not unbearable in the blind.
Johann’s clients have taken many huge male leopard, over the past 20 years of his outfitting
career. This was not one of them, but I could not be happier.
We would spend the next few days pursuing, springbok, gemsbok and eland with some stalks successful and some not; that is hunting. It was both challenging and rewarding. The stark, sun blasted mountains provided stunning scenery. Checking leopard baits, stalking eland, experiencing a chance encounter with elephants….. Every day was an adventure.
Johann has a good fleet of vehicles. Including two Unimogs!
Johann wanted me to complete a “Spotted Macnab”, so I obliged him by shooting a Guinea fowl. It’s a Scottish thing, you can look its up.
My wife enjoyed relaxing on the deck of our chalet. Savana, the dog was ever vigilant in chasing over-bold baboons and dassies.
So, as you might have guessed, we really enjoyed our time with Johann and Ilouwna. We are rural folk and felt a common bond to life in NW Namibia- a rural culture that is vastly different from our own, but also similar in so many ways. We plan to return to this beautiful and unique area in 2021.