My first Namibian Experience with Bow and Arrow
January 7, 2019
The Gentleman and the Kudu
January 9, 2019

On the spoor of a wily old roan

It is late November, the Christmas beetles kick up a deafening racket with their high-pitched screeching, the air is dry, the parched earth is longing for rain. The deciduous trees use their last resources to grow their foliage. In front of us lies the track of a wily old roan antelope. We are hunting this elusive antelope in Bushmanland and find the tracks of the solitary bull on the white sand of the road between Tsumkwe and the border post just after sunrise.

Sigurd Hess

“These tracks are probably from before sunrise or late last night”, I say to Jürgen. The excitement is tangible and we pack our kit and hide the vehicle some distance from the road in dense shrub. Tracks cross the road southward and back across the road to the north, then west. Tracks of a herd mingle with the bull’s spoor. Finally, the jigsaw puzzle is solved and off we go in search of the roan bull. As the sun travels to the zenith, its glare makes tracking ever more difficult. The two San trackers Robert and !Tuxa and my tracker Elias follow the spoor with perseverance for hours on end. The bull is in walking mode and it dawns on us that he will not stop anytime soon to lie low. He hardly pauses to rest or feed, which makes me nervous. As we haven’t bumped into him yet I assure Jürgen that it is still a level playing field and not all the odds are stacked against us. We compose ourselves and push on. But our breaks are getting longer and more frequent, necessitated by lapses in concentration, thirst and heat. Time flies and soon it is close to 2 p.m. The north-easterly wind prevailing in the morning has subsided and soft swirls are now coming from all directions. This is worrying as we climb onto a dune with a dense Terminalia prunioides thicket. The rustling leaves are blown from left to right, front to back. A carpet of dry leaves makes it impossible to move as silently as we should.

Roan hunt, Sigurd Hess, HuntiNamibia 2017.

Suddenly Robert squats down and vigorously points forward. The fatigue, thirst and frustration vanish in a split second and are replaced by excitement, a racing pulse, hunger and the urge to bag the desired animal. The bull has bedded down at an angle 60 yards away. I grab Jürgen by the arm because all we need to do now is crawl five yards to a termite mound and reward our hard work with a spectacular trophy animal. Ever so cautiously we peep over the termite mound. The place where the roan was lying is empty as if he had never been there.

“The darn wind spoilt it”, I dejectedly say to Jürgen. All hopes crushed, the pulse returns to normal. The thirst and the sense of fatigue and desolation returns. Questions crowd your mind and block out everything else. Were we too slow? Why didn’t it work out? Was it just not meant to be? Just bad luck?

Our water supply is finished but we decide to try once more after giving the bull and ourselves an hour to relax. While we were lying there, the time ticks by slowly. The afternoon wind is hot as if out of a furnace, a reminder of the harsh conditions with which animals have to cope on a daily basis season after season. As a hunter, you want your quarry and the hope, determination and willpower return in tiny increments. Giving up is not an option.

After the painful hour has passed we get up rather groggily, discuss how to continue and decide that we will try only once more because our energy levels are low and no water is left in the canteens. With renewed determination, we pick up the track where the roan thumbed his nose at us. Silence and concentration must reign supreme. After just 1000 yards all hell breaks loose and our roan, which had calmed and lain down again not far from us, jumps up and runs through a recently burnt area to stop and face us at about 175 yards. Instinctively Jürgen is on the sticks and finds his aim on the roan still facing us. A couple of seconds go by and as the bull turns to run, the rapport of the 375 H&H shatters the silence. The bullet finds its mark on the shoulder and with his roan “death squeak” the bull goes down after a few steps.

Walking up to the bull, feelings of elation, sadness, joy, humility, calmness, satisfaction and empathy overcome you as a true hunter.

This article was first published in HuntiNamibia 2018.