I’ve been hunting for more than 50 years (I’m 68) all across the United States, including Alaska, as well as in Canada. When I retired from the Navy, and then from the private sector in 1988, it was for the sole purpose of hunting where and when I wanted to go. My primary harvests were white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose (a 67-incher!), caribou and black bear. But my ultimate dream was to hunt in Africa.
In early 2008, my dream started to become reality when my good friend Mark Yohman in Kenai, Alaska, won a Safari Club International (SCI) Hunt to Grootfontein, Namibia with Duiker Safaris at the Kenai Peninsula Chapter auction. He asked me if I was interested in taking the trip, along with my wife Karen.
It didn’t take much arm-twisting to get us started with first finding out where the heck Grootfontein is located, organizing passports, travel arrangements, vaccinations and shooting-in my Remington .375HH with Federal Premium 300-grain Barnes Triple-shock bullets. Then came surgery on my shoulder (not related to the kick-back on the rifle, by the way), and a year later we were experts on Namibia and the outfitter, Duiker. We were on our way!
After a killer 15 ½ hour, non-stop flight to Johannesburg, South Africa, and then another two hours to Windhoek, Namibia, we were met at the airport by Duiker Safaris’ owner and PH, Bennie Boshoff and his wife Doreen. I knew from the moment we all shook hands that everything Bennie had relayed to me in his e-mails was about to come true.
When you think of a “fair-chase” hunt, truly wild animals (not half-tame ones rounded up into a small fenced-in area), the maturity of the 20 or so species, more than 70,000 acres to hunt and firm assurance of not having cross-breeding problems, then you’re in the best success. The operation is run so smoothly by Bennie, Doreen and their staff that all you have to do is show up for 6 a.m. breakfast, and the rest is taken care of.
We traveled across hundreds of acres at a time to track the animal I chose to hunt that day. I was there in mid- to late-April, when early mornings were chilly but afternoons were dry with temperatures in the 80s. And you’d better be in good walking shape if you choose to tackle this particular hunt – upright, bent over, or crawling on the ground – because tracking the animal involves a lot of these techniques.
Now, Bennie will not let anyone shoot an animal that is not of trophy class. I learned to trust his instincts and his eye, even at great distances, in evaluating the animals. I harvested seven animals: an old eland weighing more than 1,600 pounds, two kudus (one scoring more than 53 inches), an impala (22 inches), a red hartebeest (22.5 inches), a blue wildebeest and a gemsbok. All but one were gold, silver or bronze winners, and each was taken with one shot. (Not bad for an old fart in a new country!)
I had the animals taken to Casper’s Taxidermy near Grootfontein based on Bennie’s advice and the trust we’d developed between us. I would recommend handling the mounting and tanning in-country in order to avoid rotting or other damage of untreated heads and skins during air or ship travel.
Duiker Safaris’ standard price included picking us up at the airport and wonderful accommodations (a private bungalow with all amenities including bathrooms, showers, electricity converters, comfortable beds, etc.), three meals a day with dinner cooked over an open fire outside under the “lapa” (an enormous gazebo-like structure), laundry services and special needs met by the staff. Plus, the price also included a complete handling of trophies from transporting, to skinning to prepping for the taxidermy, to finally meeting with the taxidermist to make all arrangements. I have never seen such a smooth, honestly-run operation.
My wife is no hunter and is in fact a “city girl,” yet she went with us on each evening hunt, and really had a ball photographing animals in the bush, the scenery and my kills. She is as ready to return to Namibia as I am so we can be with our friends the Boshoffs.