Biggest Is Not Always Best – An African Lesson
By Donald Roxby
I’ve made a number of African plains-game safaris over the years. After each trip, a short period of satisfaction is followed by a sudden longing to go back.
One evening as I watched a colorful sunset, I started daydreaming about the red sands of Africa and the many friends I’ve made there. I could almost feel the fingers of the Dark Continent reaching out to draw me back. I went inside and asked my wife Denise if she was ready to return. Her answer was immediate – she looked me in the eye and said, “Let’s start planning.”
This time, however, I wanted to take along some other family members and invited my stepson, Levi Hulsey, to come along as his college graduation gift. When I told my daughter Brandy, she decided to give her husband the safari as a wedding anniversary gift, and my son-in-law, Robert Smith, was added to the group. It would be their first safari, and I was sure it would be a great adventure for all.
I spoke with my friend, Johann Veldsman, the owner of Shona Hunting Adventures, and he promised to make the trip very special for Levi and Robert, who were both interested in taking large antelope trophies.
Upon arrival in Windhoek, we were met by apprentice PH Willie Ilse, and traveled to Shona’s Tualuka Safari Lodge, in Kaokoland in the Kunene Region, in north-western Namibia. The beautiful, five-star lodge offers hunting on 16,500 acres of privately owned land on the banks of the non-perennial Huab River.
As promised, Johann and his staff lead Robert and Levi to the gold-medal animals they desired: blue wildebeest, kudu, gemsbok, and a tremendous 14-ich warthog that Johann and Levi worked at for three days. Since I’d previously taken these animals, I focused on black wildebeest, impala and Cape eland. With our trophies in the salt, we all took a break from hunting and found ourselves talking about other hunting possibilities. Johann’s seven-year-old daughter Zoe was listening to the talks with interest.
Zoe is a lovely little girl who quickly wins the hearts of all the hunting clients. She was born in Swakopmund but moved to the family’s hunting camps in Kaokland shortly after her birth. The first time I met Zoe, she was very shy and elusive. But with some effort, we became friends and enjoyed sitting under a tent flap in the afternoons to talk to the birds. She knew them all by name and could mimic their every sound with precision. It was amazing to watch her do this.
Hunting was a big part of Zoe’s life, and her dad took her for small game with her little pink .22 caliber rifle. She was very familiar with safari routine and, without realizing it, was becoming Africa’s youngest PH in training. She’d already become the camp’s unofficial social director. She enjoyed being around the clients and kept them entertained when they were not hunting. She has a bubbly laugh and you could not help but love her.
Since the subject that evening was small game, I pulled Johann aside and suggested we allow Zoe to take Levi on a guided “small-game” hunt for dassies, which is the Afrikaans name for hyrax. There are hundreds of these squirrel-like creatures living in the rocky ridges surrounding Tualuka.
Johann thought it was a great idea, and Levi thought it would be fun. He was happy to help Zoe show off her hunting skills. When we asked Zoe if she’d like to guide a client for pay, she jumped at the chance. That evening Zoe took Levi aside and instructed him on shot placement, using a mounted dassie she’d shot herself.
In the morning she greeted her client and, with Dad in tow, started out on the great dassie hunt. She led Levi to a dry riverbed and pointed out a group of dassies sunning in the rocks. They moved in slowly, trying hard not to spook the wary critters, which always position themselves in a good vantage point high in the rocks. Dassies have keen eyesight, so hunting them can be very challenging.
The range was a little far, and Levi’s first shot with his .17 caliber rifle was a miss. One shot is all you get. At the first sign of danger, the dassies dash for the safety of the many cracks and crevices in the rocks where they hide.
With this group now hidden from view, Zoe led Levi to another kopje where she spotted more dassies. She moved in closer to this group of hyrax, put up the sticks, and pointed out the large male she wanted him to shoot. It all came together. The shot struck home and Zoe congratulated Levi, and then led him up the ridge to find the trophy. She was brimming with pride when they found the dassie dead on the rocks.
After supervising the photo shoot, they walked back to camp to settle the details of the hunt. Levi gave her US$20 for the hunt and a $5 tip for her services. She was all smiles, having successfully completed her first safari.
That little dassie may have been the smallest trophy taken on our hunt, but it is the first memory that comes to mind when I look back upon it. That day is burned into everyone’s mind, and it was a thrill for all of us to take part in what will probably lead to the development of another outstanding Namibian PH.
If you’re hunting Namibia, look up Zoe for a small-game hunt. She would love your business and will leave you with memories that will hang with you forever.
Don Roxby has over 50 years of hunting experience and has hunted extensively in the lower Untied States, Canada, and Alaska. In Africa, he enjoys hunting plains game.
20.3NamibiaDassieRoxby 980 words
Pull-Out “She moved in closer to this group of hyrax, put up the sticks, and pointed out the large male she wanted him to shoot.”