A game of Zebras!
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- Last updated: 20/11/2017
Every natural experience evokes emotions. Especially when hunting, it is completely different feelings. Given there are pro and anti hunting factions, the reactions are often very different, especially when it comes to Zebras!
People feel differently when looking at the hunting of large game. One might react with anger and rejection, another enjoys it and perhaps envies the hunter. When it comes to a game of Zebras, the emotions drift far apart and even among supporters of the hunt, it creates a lot of discussion. So, before I tell you about this hunt in Namibia, we must ask ourselves the question, what is the reason?
A Zebra provides unbelievable culinary delights and the species are not endangered! Also, the hunting and control of the species is just as necessary in many parts of Africa, as is keeping wild boar numbers down in Germany. However, on the other side of the coin, they look like horses and also their exotic appreance is pleasing, so it’s easy to see why the anti-hunters feel the way they do. Other reasons do not seem plausible to us at all. If we take a closer look at the Zebra, we find out quickly that they do have their origin in the horse, but have already developed in a different direction. Today, we distinguish them essentially in the three types: Plains, Grévy’s and Mountain species. None can be ridden, nor trained to pull a cart though attempts in this direction have existed in the last centuries, but this has been achieved only with a handful of exceptions. As a supplier of valuable game, however, the zebra has served our ancestors and people to this day.
It’s the Zebra’s exotic colouration that leads to discussions among the hunters, a subject that puzzles us and is open to conjecture even to this day. Why are they so strikingly marked, there are a few theories and there is probably a mixture of the following opinions? The stripes protects it from the dangerous tsetse fly, since these with their facet eyes cannot properly see the animal. They are used for recognition within the herd because it is proven that each pattern is unique, just like the human fingerprint. They help in temperature regulation, while the black attracts the sun, the white reflects and thus creates a cooling air turbulence. Or even as a form of mass camoflauge, as it‘s impossible for predators to recognise a single animal in a herd.
In February, my partner Simone and I flew to Frankfurt and then on to Windhoek, as it was high time to visit our dear friends at the Hummelshain farm. With a little luck, this season brings the much needed rain and you hunt in a colorful flowering landscape. Unfortunately, it had not yet arrived and fodder had to be supplied to the cattle and local game animals. Shortly before our arrival, it had started to rain and nature was bursting with energy. Sitting here in Germany, you can hardly imagine how important and life giving rain can be. In the faces of our Namibian friends one could read the relief. The water stored in dams would last for a long time to supply all needs.
First thing the next morning we were on the shooting range to confirm our rifles were zeroed. Once done, there was the question from our guide; what did we want to hunt? Simone promptly replied Zebra, as she had always been fascinated by this species. They are not only graceful and difficult to stalk, they also deliver excellent game and a wonderful blanket when the skin is cured. For a long time she had prepared herself by reading about their habits, species and ranking within the heard in the months before the hunt.
Now the hunt would finally begin and the dream of Zebra become reality! In order to get into a promising area, the first step was to take the pickup to the slopes. Here we quickly felt the side effects of the rain. The ground was slippery, like a slurry and our driver had a hard time keeping the Landruiser on the track. In fact; as we slipped around the first corner, the car slid into a ditch and even the winch could not pull us out! Without help, there was no escape. We radioed the farm and they sent another 4x4 to pull us out. The driver came in for a bit of ribbing as is always the way, but we were on the road again.
We wasted a bit of time getting unstuck and by that time the sun was up and burning the landscape and the animals were looking for a shady spot in the bush. So first back to the farm, and enjoy African hospitality in the form of a sumptuous second breakfast. Smoked meat, salami, and ham, all made from local game, landed on our plates. When we started again in the late afternoon, menacing black clouds began to spread. Apparently not our day, because suddenly the sky opened and it tipped down. Within seconds we were completely soaked and just wanted to take a hot shower. However, the second day started with a fantastic sunrise and we could hardly wait to go.
Driving with a little more caution since yeaterday‘s accident, we reached the area where we wanted to look for Zebras. A great number of tracks attracted our attention, apparently, a large herd had crossed the road. Carefully checking the wind, we followed the trail. The imprints made it clear that foals were also in the herd and they had to be close by. Clearly we heard a snort right in front of our nose, but could see nothing. Who now believes that Zebra are easy to spot because of their black and white colour in the thick bush?
The stripes also made the silhouette perfect for our eyes. Cautiously, we bent branches aside and freed ourselves from the ubiquitous thorns to get closer. As if in slow motion, we approached the noise, but had yet to see anything. 50 yards later we saw the first Zebra! Daring in the sun, it did indeed look in our direction but luckily we had the wind and froze into sweaty statues. Every hunter knows this moment when they hear their pulse hammering and hopes not to be recognised.
Meanwhile, we saw the rest of the herd, which moved slowly to a free spot directly in front of us. Now it was about finding a stallion in the group. In a Zebra herd there is always an alpha stallion next to the lead mare and both should be spared, so as not to disrupt the group harmony. In order to get a better overview, we had to move only 50 meters to the left. On all fours we crawled through the almost waist-high grass, which offered urgently needed cover, but one could not help worrying about kneeling on a snake or scorpion in such a moment!
We finally got there and Simone carefully got into her shooting position and a suitable young stallion was settled and now it was necessary to calm down and bring her pulse under control. A last breath, a touch on the rifle’s trigger and the shot crashed out. The herd took flight in wild gallop, the stallion was clearly hit and jumped in the opposite direction. He ran no more than 30 metres and fell, with it a great sigh of relief from our PH, Simone, and myself. Still in the grip of the hunt and its succesful result, we went to the animal and somehow we could not believe it. Our first zebra lay before us. For us, it was and will remain an unforgettable experience, full of excitement and emotions in front of a fantastic backdrop.
Of course, we had to share our details with the other hunters at the camp fire that evening until after midnight. On the following day, we killed an old Oryx bull but the highlight was for us the joint Zebra hunt and above all the grilled steaks of the stallion. In our opinion, the meat is one of the most delicious venisons in Namibia. To have hunted it yourself made it even more enjoyable. We took the time to visit another farm and landed at DL Safari.
Julia and Divan, the operators of the farm, were waiting for us. And let us explore their land on horseback. Namibia already has a breathtaking animal world for the huntsman, to experience this on horseback is indescribable. An experience which we hope to repeat soon!
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DD Optics target telescope 2.5-15 * 50 Gen 3
Savage Hog Hunter in the caliber 30.06
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