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June 13, 2016

My unforgettable zebra hunt

| Main photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk

Hunting in Africa – a dream! Namibia’s sun had conquered our hearts, and bitten by the Africa bug our only remedy against the feverish yearning would be to return to this wonderful vast and multifaceted country under the Southern Cross(hairs). Hannah Mrachacz recalls fantastic days spent with her father and brother in the African bush at Georg-Ferdinandshöhe, a hunting farm near Kalkfeld.

G ame stalking on an open vehicle or on foot through the beautiful expanse of the farm. Or sitting in a hide and watching animals in their natural environment. And in the evenings: cosy get-togethers in good company, enjoying the excellent cooking skills of Angula, the chef, downing a Jägermeister or two and singing traditional hunting songs. Countless impressions, memories of successful hunts and heart-warming moments that will never be forgotten.

Time went by in a flash and I still hadn’t had the privilege to experience a zebra hunt. It was the day before our departure when our host spotted a herd of zebra on a plateau some 1000 metres away.

Late in the morning the sun was already high in the sky and beat down on us with fiery rays. We knew that an arduous task lay ahead of us. But the wind was in our favour. Agog with anticipation and full of beans we grabbed our rifles and started marching.

After the rain of the previous days the scenery of rocks and sand was already interspersed by glorious patches of green. Our small group was led by Jörg and his ‘troops’. My father, my brother and I followed behind, always on the look-out for tripping hazards which could be lurking anywhere. And so we continued, over hill and dale at a brisk pace. We clambered over rocks, got scraped by thorns every now and then but pushed on tirelessly, the goal of our stalk firmly in our mind’s eye.

At the start of the rainy season, one often sees big herds of zebra. They come down from the mountains into the valleys in the late afternoon and during the night, to return again in the early morning.

“My breath quickened when the zebra came into sight. I was so determined to take an accurate shot that I started to hear my pulse whooshing in my ear. Beads of sweat appeared on my forehead. I realised that I was in the grip of hunting fever.”

The sun burnt the back of our necks, rivulets of sweat trickled down our bodies and we appreciated the brief refreshment provided by the occasional puff of wind.

Eventually the terrain became rockier and we climbed onto a hilltop opposite the slope where the zebras were.

Jörg and I got into prone position – very carefully, lest the zebras discovered us. Everybody else remained in the background with their binoculars glued to their eyes. I rested my rifle on Jörg’s binos, pulled the butt firmly into the pocket of my shoulder and looked through the scope.

My breath quickened when the zebra came into sight. I was so determined to take an accurate shot that I started to hear my pulse whooshing in my ear. Beads of sweat appeared on my forehead. I realised that I was in the grip of hunting fever. Don’t make a mistake now, I admonished myself. Again and again I took a deep breath and aimed once more. After what seemed like an eternity I managed to put the zebra’s shoulder blade into the crosshairs. Slowly I moved my finger onto the trigger, very much aware that success and failure were only a few millimeters apart. Various thoughts raced through my mind. What if the animal moved this very second and I didn’t hit it properly? I closed my eyes and breathed in very slowly. “Go for it, now”, I heard Jörg say as if from somewhere far away, and in the next instant the loud crack of the gun shot caught me by surprise. I quickly reloaded. The zebra took one step, stumbled and rolled a few metres down the hill. There it lay. Relieved, I looked at Jörg. His bright smile told me that he was satisfied with my shot.

We all sat and talked for a few minutes under the blazing sun and then set off to claim the zebra. It was a young stallion which seemed to have suffered from a hoof disorder. The hoof on the left hind leg was several centimeters shorter than the other three hooves. I bent down and wished him the best on his way to the happy hunting ground. Then everybody gathered around for the obligatory photos. We were elated. Grateful and rather worn out by the adrenaline rush we headed back to the farmhouse.

Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
This article was first published in the HUNTiNAMIBIA 2015 issue.