I dream of the Grey Ghost of the Namibian bushveld
February 13, 2024
Hunting for memories
March 27, 2024

Chasing the Eland

It was an early start to the day with a roughly six-hour journey heading north-east from Windhoek, to the bushveld region east of Grootfontein. This is an area that I had only been to once before, in search of the same elusive eland. I had no success then and hoped it would turn out differently this time. Carel van Rooyen


Just after midday we arrived at Elandpro Safaris, where the Breedt family of farm Mooilaagte greeted us with their kindness and hospitality. Some boerewors was prepared on the fire for lunch, and then we were ready for the shooting range to ensure the rifles were adjusted before venturing into the bush. My dad and I both shot at the 100m target with the .375 H&H that we would be carrying into the veld with us, and everything was on point. Now we knew that success was only up to us. 

Before it got too late in the afternoon we wanted to see if we could find any fresh tracks that we would be able to follow. After some driving, Gerrit and Ben, the tracker, assessed various tracks and we set out on a spoor from earlier in the day that led into the thicket. The bush in this area is dense, the sand thick and eland is a very difficult animal to pursue on foot, making it all the more thrilling. The tracks kept heading downwind, allowing the elands to smell anything that would come up from behind them. This made it even more challenging for us. After some time we could see that the elands had started to run: their tracks no longer made finely treaded imprints, but rather scattered the sand. This was most probably after picking up our scent. By now the sun was on its way down and we decided to call it a day. 

The next morning by 6am the fire was already burning in the lapa area, coffee and rusks were ready to fuel the days’ adventure that lay ahead. 

Soon we were back in the veld, on fresh tracks, and we set out on foot in search of these elusive animals once again. Watching Gerrit follow the tracks is like seeing a jigsaw puzzle being solved by a mastermind – there are so many different tracks that overlap and cross paths, and to the untrained eye they all look the same. Being able to stay on track, in the true sense of the word, and seeing how we got closer and closer to the elands made this an even more incredible experience. Again, the wind was not in our favour but we pushed on. 

Fresh droppings and chewed leaves meant we were closing the gap. It felt as if the elands would be just beyond the next bushes, but in this dense bush visibility was low. The next moment we heard the herd crashing through the mopane less than 20 m away from us, running across to our left and further off into the distance. Once more they had picked up our scent and left us in the dust. 

We decided to try a different area of the farm, and not too long after getting there Gerrit and Ben had picked up some fresh tracks from the back of the Cruiser. As we got off and started walking into the bush I heard the cracking of mopane not far from us and knew that now the elands were close by. For the first time the wind was in our favour. Could our luck have changed with the wind? 

Walking through sand is not an easy feat, and it was already starting to heat up. In the thick bush, without a breeze, the humidity felt much worse. At this stage we had already walked some 5 km. We pushed on, Gerrit continued to follow the same fresh tracks and we saw more signs that we were closing the gap. We stopped for a brief moment and Gerrit advised us to make every effort to tread as softly and quietly as possible. We should focus on every step to avoid the small sticks and dry leaves that lie scattered everywhere, and we should not look up searching for the elands. That was his job. 

At this point my heart was in my throat, beating faster and faster, and my breath became heavier and heavier. Not from the strenuous walking, but from knowing that we could stumble upon the herd at any moment. Eventually we made it to the last block where the elands would pass through before reaching the farm’s fence. We knew they had to be here and this was our time to win the battle. The wind was still in our favour so we kept pushing on at a faster pace. We had almost made it to the end of this block and Gerrit told us to wait while he would slowly step out of the bush and scan the fence line to see if the elands were there. He came back and told us that indeed they were there, but still a long way off. We had to move just a bit further through the bush to get closer to them. 

Next, when Gerrit poked out his head to see how close we had gotten he hastily whispered for me to come quickly, that they were on their way. I wanted to grab the shooting sticks but Gerrit said to just leave them and kneel down in the bush. Everything started to happen very quickly. I made my way to the edge of the thicket of bush, knelt down and brought the 375 H&H up to my left shoulder, right elbow on the knee. Safety was now off and I looked through the scope. Through the bush I could see this big blue chest starting to fill up my scope. The eland wasn’t more than 15 m away from me and moving slowly towards us. Even with the fixed 4X scope, I couldn’t see more than his chest. No head, no body. I knew that was the perfect bull.

I focused my scope on the first opening of the bushes where the eland’s chest would be exposed, all my adrenaline had left my body and I was just laser-focused on the moment. As he stepped out I slowly squeezed the trigger. Aiming at the middle of the left side of his chest as he was coming from my right. I knew the shot was good. I got up and reloaded. The next moment this one-tonne hulk came directly towards us, stumbling through the sand and bushes right into the direction where Gerrit and myself were standing. He was less than 10 m away from us. I was ready to fire another round but Gerrit said it was not necessary and pulled me to the side, out of the way of this steam train pushing towards us. Luckily a thick enough bush between us threw the eland off his track and he stumbled further into the bush behind us.

My dad then said that we should check whether the rest of the herd were still there for him to get a shot. He grabbed the shooting sticks and positioned himself. Now quite a distance away, 250 m or so, a group of around eight eland were trotting away from us. My dad got on the sticks and at a quick whistle, one of the bulls stopped and turned towards us. Quartering slightly away and to the left, my dad put in a confident shot. From the bull’s reaction I could see that this was a solid shot, but the bull also ran off into the bushes. 

We started following the tracks of the bull that I had shot, and soon we came onto a trail of blood in the sand. The massive animal lay roughly 50 m into the bush. The feeling of seeing this giant finally down after putting so much effort into stalking, cannot be put into words. Being able to share this moment with my dad and family was unbelievable. 

We then went looking for the bull my dad had shot, and soon found his beautiful quarry at about the same distance into the bush. Two shots and two elands later we were definitely two happy hunters.


From the 2024 issue of Huntinamibia

Read the full 2024 issue here