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Hunting the Namib Sands

“Down! Get down!” Whisper-shouted Corne. At the same time, he was motioning me to drop behind the back side of the dune we were approaching. I looked up to the crest of the red sand dune as Corne peaked over the top to again locate the monstrous gemsbok oryx we had spotted at long distance. “There he is, about 600 yards away. Follow me!”

I did my best to track behind my Professional Hunter and friend, who frankly is younger than my younger daughter. I was huffing and puffing. Walking on loose sand is never easy. Walking bent over at the waist for a couple of hundred yards is “trying” to say the least! I halted when Corne again peaked over the crest of the red sand.

No sooner had he done so, he motioned me to join him, but at the same time cautioning me with hand signals to stay as low as possible. I belly crawled to the crest, pushing my Ruger Guide Rifle in .375 Ruger ahead of me so I could immediately come to a prone firing position.

I rested the rifle’s forend on my brown western hat and peered through my scope, now cranked up to 15 power. “Last one in line, in the rear.” Instructed Corne. Actually there was no question which one was the big bull. His straight horns were extremely long, likely 42 to 43 inches in length. Their mass looked liked those of a Louisville Slugger! The bull was walking directly away from us, not offering any kind of shot. “Larry, not to get you excited, but that’s the biggest gemsbok bull I have ever seen! Soon as he gives you any kind of shot, shoot him!”

The crosshairs settled on the bull’s backside as he walked. I followed him, fully expecting him to turn any moment and give me a shot at his vitals. “Two hundred-fifty!” said Corne softly looking though his Swarovski rangefinder binoculars. The bull never wavered left or right, but kept walking directly away. I have to admit I was tempted to shoot, but I waited, and followed him. “Three hundred-seventy yards!” I felt comfortable taking a shot with my .375 Ruger shooting 300 grain Hornady DGX ammo out to a little over 400 yards. I had done so at 10-inch diameter steel plates of the FTW/SAAM’s range back in Texas many times. “Four hundred-thirty!” The extremely long horned gemsbok bull was still walking directly away. We watched him walk through the sand to the top of the next bare red sand ridge. There he stopped and turned broadside to look back from where he had come, “Eight hundred, ninety-three yards!” Way beyond my comfort zone! I have to admit I thought for a moment about taking the shot, but I did not!

“That was the biggest gemsbok bull, I really have ever seen in all my years of being a PH. He’s way over the magical 40-inch mark! I almost told you to take a Texas heart shot, but kept thinking he would stop and turn. Let’s get back to the Toyota and see if we can find him again.” With that we took off again at a trot to get back to the vehicle to try to get ahead of the big bull.

It was good to be hunting with Corne once again who along with is family owns Omujeve Hunting Safaris in Namibia. I have hunted numerous times with Corne and his outfit for big game ranging from elephants to Namibia’s smallest antelope. Over the years I’ve come to trust in his judgment in several different ways.

While attending the 2016 Dallas Safari Club Convention he and I sat down to visit about my 2016 hunt. “Larry, you’ve taken elephant, Cape buffalo, hippo and other big game with us. How about this coming hunt you and I go to the Namib Desert, actually the Naukluft/Namib Desert National Park and hunt the red sand desert for gemsbok, then head into Naufluft Canyon to look for a klipspringer. If we get lucky there, we’ll head to another of our hunting areas to look for really big kudu, eland and waterbuck. I know you’re shot some good eland with us, but I know a place where I think we might be able to find a 40-inch or better eland. This same property holds some outstanding kudu. You and I have been hunting a really outstanding kudu for several years. This just might be the year. Then too, I know you have not yet taken a common waterbuck. We have a number of really big waterbuck on our home property. Sound OK to you?”

“Perfect!” I replied. “Now let’s look at dates!”

Our drive from the extremely comfortable Omujeve headquarters to the Namib Desert took about five hours, but it gave me an opportunity to catch up with Corne regarding a couple of friends, Bridgett and Dan Walker, who were hunting with Omujeve on their Cape buffalo concession just south of Kruger National Park in South Africa. It was on that property the year before I had taken my 46-inch wide bull. Dan and I have been friends for many years, going back to when he was with the Texas Department of Public Safety and I was with Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. As I was to learn upon our return to the Omujeve headquarters after our desert hunt, Dan had taken a monstrous, wide-bossed bull.

For our Namib desert hunt we, Corne and his tracker Amos, Ockert Bamm (one of Omujeve’s Professional Hunters in training), Dustin Blankenship (my cameraman and editor of our our DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon television show which airs year around on the Pursuit Channel) and I set up a tent camp. I dearly loved it! Sleeping under the starts, cooking meals over an open fired. Hunting camp as it is supposed to be!

Meanwhile, back on the desert, we had seen numerous gemsbok before we found the extremely long and massive bull. Some looked good, including a couple of cows that would probably have stretched the tape to beyond 44 or 45 inches. I was temped! But I let Corne talk me out of shooting one of them saying he thought if we got a bit lucky we might find a bull approaching that length. Cows can have extremely long horns, but lack the bases and mass of bulls!

The red sands desert, thanks to fairly recent rains, were not simply red sand, but had grass cover in several areas. The green vegetation created an interesting contract to the the great expanses of sand and also the lush growth attracted great numbers of gemsbok into those areas where recent rains had fallen. Desert plants respond tremendously fast to any rainfall!

We spent the next three or four hours trying to find the long, massive horned bull. Two hours later we did spot him again, this time in the midst of a herd of over fifty other oryx. There was no way we were going to be able to approach the herd within reasonable shooting range. We tried, but they ran. We watched as they disappeared over a far distant dune.

“Next time…” I heard Corne murmur as we turned away from the big bull and the herd.

Gemsbok Hunting

It did not take long to find another really outstanding bull. This one was not quite as long as the monster but he was every bit if not more massive! We spotted the bull, by himself, standing in a narrow saddle. I quickl1y took a couple of telephoto photos.

“Let’s go! Grab your rifle I’ll get the sticks. We’ll drop behind the sandy ridge to the left. If we follow it we should get to within about two hundred or so yards. We’ll have to hurry.” Dustin and I followed as quickly as possible. A few minutes later we stopped to peak over the red sand ridge. There he stood about 250 yard away. Back at the FTW Ranch in Texas on their S.A.A.M. ranges I had sighted in my .375 Ruger at 50 yards which meant the 300 grain Hornady DGX would not rise above or fall below three inches of sight line out to about 230 yards, what the instructors at the FTW/SAAM call a “hunter zero”, also known a point blank range in other areas. All that means you simply hold dead on with such a sight-in out to about 225 yards. At 250 yards I knew the bullet would drop at the most about two or so inches. No problem with a dead-on hold on an animal as large as a gemsbok, which weight about 350 to 400 pounds.

The old bull was quartering away from me. But it appeared the angle was obtuse enough I could put the bullet into his vitals. Corne set up the shooting sticks and I got a good solid rest. I slid the safety to fire, took a deep breath, let it all out. The crosshairs settled nicely on the distant gemsbok’s vital. I gently pulled the trigger and then as soon as I had shot, which Corne called a hit, I bolted in a fresh round and settled the crosshairs on the bull’s departing backside and shot a second time. The bull stumbled and fell just as he was disappearing over the crest of a red sand dune!

“No doubt he’ll be down when we get to him!” said Corne as we started striding to where we had last seen the gemsbok. I replaced the two shot rounds.

Topping the dune behind which my bull had disappeared, we spotted him immediately. He was indeed down.

We cautiously walked to the bull’s side. He was finished! I knelt at his side, said a prayer of thanks and then ran my fingers up and down his long horns. He was beautiful. There was no question he was the biggest of numerous gemsbok bull I had taken in years past. “Should go somewhere between 38 and 40-inches,” said Corne. I really did not care how long his horns were, or how massive. He was no doubt an old bull. He was indeed handsome and I could not wait to enjoy the delicious meat my “trophy” gemsbok would provide. Nor could I wait frankly to ship his cape and horns to The Wildlife Gallery and after they did their taxidermy magic to get my Namib “red sands” Desert gemsbok back home to Texas!

With my gemsbok “in the salt” and meat in the cooler, it was time to invade Naukluft Canyon in search of klipspringer…

But that my friend, is a story for another campfire!


For more information about hunting with Omujeve Safaris and their various concessions throughout Namibia and now South Africa please go to their website www.omujevesafaris.com and/or visit with them at the Dallas Safari Club’s (www.biggame.org) annual convention in Dallas Texas in early January.

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