On the spoor of a wily old roan
January 9, 2019
African buffalo: The Able-Bodied Warrior of the African Savannas – An endlessly fascinating game animal
January 9, 2019

The Gentleman and the Kudu

The evening at the campfire becomes even cosier when you can take stock of the experiences you shared during the day. And sometimes you just sit there with a smile on your face, immersed in your own thoughts. It is always an honour for me to join Divan, my husband, on a hunting adventure with one of our guests. I enjoy the togetherness on a hunt: stalking through thorn bush, identifying tracks in the red sand of the Kalahari, cheering up one another when the sun, the dust and the dry air torture the skin and when the feet are sore.

Julia Labuschagne

It so happened that I was able to join the hunt with Werner from Germany who has turned from a client into a good friend of ours. Werner had a special reason for this particular visit to Namibia. He wanted to spend his 60th birthday with us and his dearest wish was to bag a mature kudu bull.

Werner arrived in February just as the sun was rising over Windhoek. It was a joyful reunion and the three-hour drive to the farm passed in a flash. Werner has a completely captivating way of recounting stories and occurrences that make you feel as if you had been right there. I find it particularly fascinating that after hunting for so many years he is still able to show his emotions and sincerely pays his respect to each animal that he bags.

His latest stay with us provided an exciting new story which connects us even though we are 12 000 kilometres apart. We remember it fondly: the story of the gentleman and the kudu.

For me, hunting kudu is one of the most exciting antelope hunts, second only to the thrill of stalking eland. The kudu is called the ‘grey ghost’ for good reason. A hunter may roam the bush for days to catch only fleeting glimpses of this majestic animal, let alone get a chance to take aim. We had warned Werner of this but he was determined to give it a try. “I am prepared for anything”, he said firmly.

Kudu, HuntiNamibia 2017.

On the big day we all got up early, I even a little earlier to make breakfast and pack some provisions because we wouldn’t be back in time for lunch. From experience, I knew that this was going to be a long day.

The equipment was taken to the vehicle and our hunting companions – Blitz, the Jack Russell, and Tyson, the Terrier – were already raring to go. Soon enough we were on our way: tracker Jonny, the essential member of any hunting party, Super PH Divan (as Werner calls him since that day), Werner and I.

We drove to an area which according to Divan is favoured by kudu. It continues to fascinate me that professional hunters are able to ‘read’ the natural environment, even though it has been three years since I moved from Germany to Namibia to marry Divan.

It didn’t take long to find the spoor of a big kudu bull and five females. Let the stalk begin!
Almost without a sound the four of us move across the red sand and through many thorn bushes, known as ‘wait-a-little’ in the vernacular. The thorns hook our skin but the pain simply has to be ignored on a hunt. The temperature is rising to 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit).

The stalk drags on as we follow a fresh and promising spoor. The kudu is nowhere to be seen yet, but we pass several warthogs, a jackal, springbok and gemsbok. We even avoid a black mamba slithering away up a tree. Apparently, it had noticed us long before we noticed him.

The atmosphere is still totally relaxed as we walk quietly along. If the animals we pass take flight they will alert the kudu. The wind is in our favour.

Divan gets down on one knee and signals us to come closer. He points at the spoor and says in a very low voice that we are now very close to the kudu and must move on even more cautiously and without a sound.

That is easier said than done because all the concentration and exertion already send the adrenaline levels rocketing. We have been stalking for seven hours now. Our feet are hurting and we (Werner and I) are not able to walk any faster anyway.

Around the campfire that night Werner said that this was the point where he could have been knocked down with a feather. He was so tired, but his head and his heart told him that he hadn’t reached the end of his tether yet.

That was fortunate because just a few moments later things started to happen.

Fresh kudu droppings and heavily browsed twigs. Divan and Jonny intensify their search. They know the kudu must be close. Werner and I spot him at the same time. I feel an icy shiver running down my spine: there he is, the huge kudu bull in all his splendour, browsing on thorny shrubs some 120 metres away. Don’t move, don’t talk. There is only one chance and that is NOW. Divan gingerly sets up the shooting sticks for Werner. “Go for it, now”, he says under his breath.

Werner takes position, cocks the gun and takes aim. Time stands still for a split second. Then the silence shatters as the shot rings out. It is spot on. Werner is a hunter with heart and soul. He has been hunting for more than 40 years but he explains that when it is time to pull the trigger he still hears his heart pounding, and after the shot, his limbs are shaking and he feels the release in his head.

I support Werner in this tense, emotionally charged moment. Divan and Jonny walk over to the kudu, giving us time to cope with our thoughts and tears.

After a little while, we heard Divan say “oh dear”. Werner asked if something was wrong, but Divan just repeated: “oh dear”. With his charm and sense of humour Divan always succeeds in making us smile again to release the tension. Werner and I went over to the kudu and Werner’s first reaction was awe-struck silence. Then he also said, “oh dear”. He had never seen a big kudu trophy like this one.

With congratulations on the good hunt all around and tears of joy in our eyes, we stood reverently next to the old bull, each of us briefly lost in our own thoughts. Then we paid our last respects to the beautiful animal and started the arduous process of carrying it out. We finished just before dark and arrived back home completely worn out. But we didn’t go to bed early because we were still overwhelmed by this special hunting experience and as all hunters do, had to recount every little detail.

The following day we had a picnic in the bush to celebrate Werner’s birthday.

This kudu trophy takes pride of place in his living room and brings back great memories for the three of us every time we visit him in Germany.

Usually, hunting guests are asked what they expect of the outfitter and the professional hunter. When it comes to the guests, however, I also have certain expectations.

When I first arrived in Namibia as an intern I was highly critical of hunting. Now I am an outfitter myself. Hunters should apply themselves with passion, with heart and soul. They should also appreciate our natural environment and our wildlife and treat both with the greatest possible respect. That is what I expect from our hunting guests – guests like our friend Werner.

This article was first published in HuntiNamibia 2018.