The hunters looking for springbuck on the plains below them.

By Piet van Rooyen


The springbuck ram stood quartering towards us at just over 200 meters, its impressive set of horns clearly outlined against the background of yellow grass and granite outcrops. My son, Chris, had the 30-06 Ruger Hawkeye rifle steady on the sticks, with Robin giving extra support with his left shoulder, his well-worn floppy hat shading his eyes from the slanting sunrays. It was just after 10h00 and we had been following different groups of springbuck since early morning. The hunting method was to drive to a promising area on Robin’s almost 26000 hectares hunting farm, climb up to a vantage point from where we could glass for springbuck, and then approach via one of the dry river beds in the broken terrain. We were a group of four: myself, my son, Robin Hurt and Gabriel, Robin’s tracker. The animals were tame enough, with Robin only accommodating a minimum number of hunters each season, and allowing nobody to shoot from a vehicle.


Once he identified a suitable ram, Robin took the lead in the slow approach to the springbuck, sometimes crouching low, but often walking in plain sight of the springbuck, in a wide, gradually closing half-circle, with the springbuck staring at us from a distance, without taking off in full flight. I realised that Robin knew exactly what he was doing, with habits ingrained from many years of hunting experience. He carried a modern Winchester .300 Short Magnum as the backup rifle, but his shooting sticks were in a class of their own – no modern fancy-folding stuff, but sticks made from the indigenous Salvadora tree, prevalent in the nearby Gaub River. “It’s difficult to teach an old dog new tricks,” said Robin when he saw me smiling at this setup.


I am an old-timer hunter, hunting many animals in my lifetime of seventy years, among others some good specimens of the big five. All of these hunts were self-generated, often with the help of an indigenous tracker, whom I could trust, and on whose instincts and knowledge of the veld and of animal behaviour I could depend. I never had the desire to hunt under the guidance of a formal professional hunter (PH). This probably stems from my individual personality, and from a jealously-guarded emphasis on my personal freedom to make decisions the way I prefer, and not to be told what to do, unless I specifically ask for advice. The main drawback in this regard was that the tracker/guide usually had a strong craving for fresh meat and would urge me to shoot, whatever the consequences. On this basis I made many mistakes in the hunting field, leading to wounded animals and hours of painstaking tracking work, which should have been avoided.

Chris and the tracker at the hunting vehicle at Groot Gamsberg.

Robin Hurt under his well-worn floppy hat glassing the terrain.

I am, at the same time, an avid reader of stories, especially those on hunting and adventure. The well-known Hemingway story, “The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, has always been one of my favourites. From this, it is evident that the relationship between the professional hunter and his client/s is often a complex one. Since the proliferation of good-quality hunting videos on the internet I also became a dedicated viewer of these. Professional Hunters like Jeff Rann, Ivan Carter, and others, became a hallmark of how a successful hunt can be conducted. In this regard, one must probably take into account that only the successful outcomes will be presented to the audience.


A few years ago, I also watched the full-length big-screen movie “In the Blood’ about the growing up of a young boy and his “first blood’ in the hunting fields of Africa, in which Robin Hurt as Professional Hunter for the expedition plays a prominent role as the guide and mentor of this boy. The stories and video clips awakened in me the desire to see how such a “guided” hunt is conducted in practice, and to allow myself to participate in such a hunt.


Some may call it ccoincidence, but I call it serendipity that myself and Robin Hurt became neighbours on our respective farms in the Khomas Hochland of Namibia, since some fifteen years ago. Robin Hurt has guided successful hunts for clients on hundreds of trophy elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard and other animals over his decades’ long hunting career in Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Uganda and elsewhere in Africa. Known as “the hunter’s hunter” for his dedication and professionalism, he became a legend in his lifetime. Hunting organisations like Safari Club International, rightly so, view Robin as one of the top living professional Hunters in Africa.

Myself and Robin built a solid neighbourly relationship over the years, often jointly attending to the normal day-to-day management of our respective pieces of land, attending to challenges like wildfires, poaching, stray animals, broken fences, etc. Robin is nearing eighty, but he is still amazingly fit for his age, with hunting still very much alive in his blood. He, however, himself admits that hunting dangerous game in often politically disrupted countries higher up in Africa has become too much of a risk, and a burden on body and soul. He, therefore, bought himself the hunting farm, Groot Gamsberg, in Namibia to come “retire” on, inviting his old-time clients, now also older, slower, and more cautious, for plains game hunting here.

Springbuck in their habitat on Robin’s land.

My son, Chris, nowadays lives and works in Australia. He has a much more accommodating personality than myself, and is much more willing to take and follow orders. When he and his family came to visit us here in Namibia for a week or two, I thought the moment ideal to put the possibility of a hunt under guidance of a Professional Hunter to the test, and in which I could participate as an objective observer. When I asked Robin if he would take us, he was immediately willing to do so, on the basis of our friendship and neighbourliness. The hunt would be for a good springbuck ram from his herd of altogether almost 600 springbuck.


The terrain was mostly quartz-strewn undulating plains, not heavily bushed, with granite outcrops in between and dry river beds winding down via the contours. The massive Gamsberg, one of the highest mountains in Namibia, at over 2300 meters high, was a blue-hazed presence in the near distance. It was clear from the start that this was to be a different sort of hunt than what I was used to. The decision-making was in somebody else’s hands. That, to me, was a liberating experience that I did not experience before. For the first time in my hunting career I did not feel the pressure to make decisions. All decisions, up to the moment of the final squeezing of the trigger, now depended on the Professional Hunter. Robin knew his hunting area, he knew his animals, he had confidence in his abilities. He calmly surveyed the land and the animals below through his binoculars before starting to move out. His calm assurance also affected us. I experienced none of the former highly charged adrenaline rush and frantic movements as when on a self-guided hunt. I think that this calmness also affected the animals which we were stalking, and they moved away only slightly before starting to graze again. In this way we could approach to within shooting distance before setting up the sticks.

Chris with his ram showing the “death pronk”.

Chris and Robin with the trophy ram after the hunt.

The final shot was almost an anti-climax. The buck stumbled head-down for a few meters before succumbing. Robin gave my son a congratulatory pat on the shoulder. “Good shooting!” he said. That was all that was needed. I again realised that the essence of the journey lay in the whole hunt, not in the eventual kill only.


The trophy was of exceptional quality, thick, symmetrical horns curving back at the tips, and measuring nearly fifteen inches a side. I already prepared a special place for them on my verandah wall, mounted on an indigenous piece of wood, the outlay indicating the lucky triangle of father, son and PH.