#Namibia2017: Day 6
Today was a day I will remember for a long time. Just when I think it can’t get any better, Africa surprises us and takes our breath away once again.
We left the lodge this morning after breakfast and headed out with the rising sun at our backs. We hadn’t been gone 15 minutes when we spotted a sow warthog at the top of a hill in the middle of the road. We dropped down below a rise where the cruiser was out of sight, and James said that he needed some meat for the leopard baits he had been setting. Steve asked me if I wouldn’t mind taking the sow for James, and I was happy to agree. We came up over the hill, I found her in my scope, and we had our first warthog on the ground.
We loaded her in the back of the truck and continued on. We hadn’t gone half a mile when Russ and James spotted a blue wildebeest on the left. We backed up the truck to see if we could spot him, but in the thick brush, all I could see was a tail. Steve pulled the truck up to see if we could look back, and there stood another bull, not fifty yards from the truck. We didn’t have the time or space to point the front of the cruiser at him, which is what I had been shooting off of, so I swung the rifle around off the side, propped my elbow on the door of the truck, and got him in my scope. The suppressor makes the end of the rifle heavy to shoot off hand, but my adrenaline was pumping and it seemed light as a feather. One shot in the shoulder, and the bull didn’t go 25 yards before he was down. We had been pursuing a blue since last week, and this was the first time we had one stand for more than a few seconds. Barely 8:00 in the morning, and we were off to an excellent start!
We loaded the blue wildebeest and headed off to the processing buildings. After we helped Gabriel get the bull unloaded, we filled up with gas and headed out for the blind. As we entered through the gated area where we had been for the past few days, we had a surprise waiting for us. This area is home to one of the pride of lions, and a female and her three two-year old offspring were not too far from the gate.
Steve turned off the truck and we sat and watched them interact for a while, getting pictures and video. We finally called Rudie, one of the other PHs, to come with some giraffe meat to take them in another direction while we headed to the blind. There’s nothing worse than sitting in a ground blind with lions that had followed you there, or shooting an animal at the salt lick with possible lions nearby. Soon Rudie came by and headed in the opposite direction with four lions on his tail. They can smell the fresh meat from a mile away, and they looked like kids following an ice cream truck on a summer day. Such a cool experience!
We pulled up to the blind, and of course, about twenty gemsbok scatter in all directions. We carried on, hoping that it was early enough that some of them would venture back later in the day. As we sat, we watched a young kudu bull come in to the salt lick, followed by a blue wildebeest bull. We had already eaten lunch and the afternoon was dragging on. I looked at Russ, and he was dozing. Addison was playing in the dirt, fishing ants out of a small hole she had dug. Steve was nodding off as well, and I just happened to look out of the blind just in time to see a gemsbok walk up to the salt lick.
I froze and stopped breathing for a few seconds. Then I whispered to Russ, while slowly waving to get Steve’s attention. Once they both saw the animal, Russ took my gear and Steve handed me the rifle. I slowly slid in onto my shooting sticks and eased the end of the barrel out of the blind. Steve confirmed through his binos that it was a mature male, and I quietly flipped off the safety. The gemsbok was facing me straight on, so I tried to control my breathing as I waited for him to turn for a broadside shot. I seemed like an eternity as he slowly inched his way into a side position. Steve gave me the go ahead for a shot, and I squeezed the trigger. The rifle barked and the gemsbok dropped in his tracks. He kicked a few times, so just to be sure he was completely expired, I placed another shot through his underside and straight into his heart. Reflexes or not, I wanted to give him as quick a death as possible.
After several long days in that blind, our patience had finally paid off! It truly was a team effort, and I think everyone was relieved that we had a gemsbok on the ground after all those hours of sitting. Addison did so great, and that was definitely the most time she’s ever spent sitting in a ground blind. To discourage a visit from the lions, we loaded him whole into the cruiser and took off for the skinning shed. Two of the hardest to pursue animals in one day, plus a great showing of the lions. It doesn’t get much better than that!
At the skinning shed we were met by Alex Oelofse, his wife, Carola, and their little boy, Jan. He and Addison played in the dirt together while the adults visited and rehashed the day’s events, and little Jan got his first wheelchair ride! We headed back to the lodge for our earliest return of the trip, and we enjoyed a nice rest before a delicious dinner of chicken and impala backstraps. What an absolutely perfect day!