Elan Antilope
Elan Antilope
Damara Dik Dik
Klipp Springer
Springbok Antilope
Ndandi Safaris

THORSTEN MEIER - Professional Hunter
P.O.Box 40520, Ausspannplatz, Windhoek, Namibia
Tel/Fax: +264 61 255195, Mobil: +264 81 1282425

english flag
Deutsche Flagge
Damara Dik Dik
walking &stalking an eland

Hunting eland is a challenge – for the hunter and for the PH. It was Antoine’s first opportunity to hunt in Africa. And a fair hunter he was indeed. He set his goals high and looked for rewarding walks and stalks through the African bush. These expectations were based on experiences of his hunting mentor back home and the classic African hunting stories in the books he read all his life. Hunting typical Namibian antelope was his challenge. A step down on the species list was eland, due to the more difficult hunting of the biggest of antelope.
The first day of the hunt passed with the obligatory target shooting, to check the sighting of the rifle after the long haul over the Atlantic. With two rewarding stalks on a gemsbok and blue wildebeest, this aspiring African hunter was introduced to the fauna and flora of Namibia. A relaxed hunter recounted the day’s experience around the campfire that evening. We told stories, Antoine asked questions and I gave information and explanations before we retired to the sounds of a silent bushveld.
It was early morning in north-western Namibia. We were driving along in the open jeep as the sun was breaking the horizon and a fresh breeze was blowing in our faces, an atmosphere unique to the mopane savannah in September when the trees have few leaves after a cold winter. This is prime hunting land, with lots of game. Animals utilise the cool morning to feed, as moving around during the heat of the day means a loss of energy. We were planning to reach the eastern part of the concession and to use the granite outcrops or koppies as vantage points to spot animals for a possible stalk.
We were still driving along when Jonas stopped the Jeep, pointing excitedly to several pairs of horns just visible above the low mopane trees. Eland bulls. All five of them took off immediately, ‘steamrolling’ in a fast trot upwind towards the mountains. What a sight! Antoine looked at me and we realised there was a chance for this dream of his to become a reality. But we couldn’t waste time. “Lets go!” I said, confident that we would be able to catch up, because it was early and the bulls would calm down shortly, walking and feeding again. We headed towards the mountains, tracking the clear, round tracks left by these heavy creatures.
We stopped to listen for the distinctive clacking sound of their hooves. All we heard was birds and the whining of a Hartmann zebra stallion in the mountain. We spooked them when they paused for the first time. The tracks lead us through a valley, up the mountain. We split up. Jonas climbed higher up on a hillside to try and spot them in the mopane bush. Antoine and I continued, tracking slowly – every sense in our body receptive and alert. Jonas caught up with us, shaking his head. We communicated silently, deciding to leave the tracks, go up and over the mountain to scout the next valley. This was our best choice, because catching up with this herd of eland bulls within the next mile undetected in the thick mopane without spooking them again seemed unlikely. The wind was in our faces as we climbed the mountain. Mountains in this part of the country are covered with loose granite rocks, but centuries-old game paths crisscrossing through and over the mountains, make stalking quite pleasant.
Resting for a few minutes, I explained to Antoine that our plan was to intercept the eland bulls in the next valley. We were hoping they would be close to the mountain. Our great advantage was that we knew the area. There were some smaller koppies we could use as an elevated shooting position. Antoine asked the question I was hoping he wouldn’t! “Why should the eland bulls make a ninety-degree turn at the foot of the mountain and walk right back into our shooting range?” Good question. Jonas already started walking. He knew the answer. I explained to Antoine that it was a gut feeling. The eland would keep the wind in their nose until they reached the open plain on the other side of the mountain. My guess was that, having been spooked twice in the past hour, they would turn away from the plain ahead, preferring the cover alongside the mountain, and that that was where we were heading. Antoine nodded as we turned and followed Jonas.
On top of the mountain we used every rocky outcrop to scout the bush below. Suddenly we heard the clapping sound of hooves closing in, over the mountain from the same direction we came. With a short whistle to Jonas, who was clinging to the side of a big rock, I alerted him to keep very still. Antoine and I dropped to the ground between the rocks as a herd of zebra stallions appeared within 15 yards, probably the same ones we heard whining earlier. The first stallion stopped, scanning the valley below. He turned his head in our direction and looked straight at us. We froze. I could hear Antoine’s breath racing and could imagine his heart pounding. We were well camouflaged – our clothes dark khaki, ideal for these surroundings. Unperturbed the stallion stepped forward and descended down the mountain. Seven more stallions followed in a relaxed trot. They were so close.
Antoine was breathless, his eyes wide. That’s what I like about hunting – those special moments of close encounters. Sitting around campfires, recalling your emotions to friends and fellow hunters – to people who will understand.
Moving closer to the edge of the mountain, the terrain sloped up higher. There was a movement two hundred yards below. The wind came from the side. Through the binoculars I spotted the herd of stallions moving upwind in the valley. As I followed them, I spotted another shape under a mopane. A huge dark spot in the shade sent a chill down my spine as I realised that silhouette could only be an eland bull. Moving back down and in behind some rocks, I indicated to Jonas that he should climb the furthest outcrop on the side of the mountain to look for the rest of the group. Antoine asked me if the eland bulls could have split up. Yes. Although our gut feeling was right, a lot could change. There are always so many possibilities. It is hunting on a fair chase principle. This concession was large and they could have moved anywhere. Jonas spotted them and signalled with one hand, fingers spread wide. Five eland bulls. We left the rifles and shooting stick below and got up behind Jonas on the rock to identify them. Four mature trophy bulls and one sub-adult that must have recently been kicked out of the breeding herd. They moved to the right, one by one, upwind from where they had come, feeding, while scanning the mountainside. They must have sensed something from our direction. I pointed to the rocky outcrop ten yards to the side, indicating to Jonas and Antoine to keep their heads very low as we collected rifles and shooting stick, climbing up again for a better view.
Staying in the shade of the rocks we assessed the situation. One bull was exceptional. He was feeding on a mopane, moving his head from side to side selecting the sprouting, juicy leaves, but his chest was hidden behind branches. Another old, mature bull stood closer, his horns shortened from years of scrubbing, breaking and fighting in the mopane savannah. Although he was broadside, we waited for the other bull to move on. Antoine caught his breath, steadied into a comfortable shooting position and waited. It is impossible not to become excited, but I told him to relax. “Time is on our side.” To distract him and prevent him from actually taking a shot within the next few seconds, I recited the shot placement again.
“Wait! The broadside. Behind the shoulder. Shoot!”
Silence returned to the valley. The younger bull stood still, confused, trying to figure out the disturbance, before trotting off down the valley, following his mature and wise companions. Antoine looked straight ahead, saying nothing. Through the binoculars, I confirmed it: the shot was perfect.
Antoine’s expectations were fulfilled. The words of his mentor made sense. One has a responsibility to select the right animal and when you eventually, with patience and perseverance as in this three-hour stalk, succeed in the hunt, it will always be a special moment in your life as a hunter.
It was only then that we realised that this eland bull would reach a high ranking, not only in Antoine’s life, but also amongst Namibia’s top trophies.
by Thorsten Meier

Copyright 2010 Ndandi Safaris CC. All Rights reserved