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by Gary Smith a.k.a. Gary Last updated: 2014-08-10 20:03:10
In July 2014 we traveled to the African independent nation of Namibia - the land of endless stars and the most wonderful people. Larry Weishuhn, his cameraman Andrew Garay, and myself traveled to Namibia on the invitation of Joof and Marina Lamprecht and the Namibia Professional Hunting Association, NAPHA, to address the government regarding a change of law to allow handgun hunting. The route was Austin to Houston to Paris to Johannesburg to Windhoek. It was a long journey taking the best part of two days.
I had spoken with Marina and Joof many times about handgun hunting over the past ten plus years and would always question why no handgun hunting in Namibia. The citizens of Namibia are allowed to own handguns with no limitations and the right to hunt is been a part of their constitution since their independence from South Africa in 1990. Many in Namibia actually consider it their obligation to hunt seeing it as sustainable and a renewable resource in conservation.
The meeting was held on July 25th at the Windhoek Hilton and delegates who attended the NAPHA Handgun Hunting Workshop which was held recently in Windhoek were, from left to right: Gary Smith, Editor of the Handgun Hunter Magazine; Chief Inspector Ignatius Nangombe, Head of Firearms Control, Namibian Police Force; Penda P. Shimali, Chief Control Warden, Ministry of Environment and Tourism; Anna Kamkuemah, Legal Officer, Namibian Police Force; Marina Lamprecht representing the Namiba Professional Hunting Association; Tousy Namiseb, Chief of Law Reform, Ministry of Justice; Dietlind Mueller, Chief Executive Officer, NAPHA; Imelda Lombaard, Chief Warden(Trophy Hunting), Ministry of Environment and Tourism; Uatjirohange Tjiuoro, Chief Control Warden, Ministry of Environment and Tourism; Larry Weishuhn, hunting show producer and host, handgun hunter extraordinaire. The initiative was heralded as a huge success and the first step towards legalizing handgun hunting in Namibia.
U.S. delegates, Smith & Weishuhn, prepared a 40-page booklet, “The Guide To Handgun Hunting”, which included many photographs of trophies taken by handgun hunters from around the world and provided an introduction to the different hunting handguns by action type (the single-action revolver, double-action revolver and Single-Shot and repeating pistol). The guide also provided information regarding various cartridges used in hunting handguns and as some measure of effectiveness, the energy produced by those cartridges commonly used for hunting in the US and other parts of Africa.
A slide presentation was also delivered as a companion to the guide booklet and also included information about the demographics of the 1.4 million handgun hunters who contribute approximately $3.8 billion to the US economy annually. A draft of the recommendations from the U.S. delegates was also provided as a guideline appropriate for hunting handguns.
There are many reasons hunters choose the handgun as a hunting tool but the most common reasons are the additional challenge and sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from taking a trophy with a handgun. Like the archer, the handgun hunter is willing to pass up shots that are routinely taken by the rifleman. They are willing to hunt harder and practice more often, while at the same time possibly taking less game. The hunter choosing a handgun is most often already an accomplished hunter, experienced with firearms and seeking to have a more rewarding experience in the pursuit of game.
The members of the delegation from Namibia were very interested in sport of handgun hunting and they also had a few questions regarding safety, effectiveness; a very good discussion resulted. The group openly discussed how the law could be crafted to allow for trophy hunting under the supervision of a professional hunter, just as bow hunting is currently conducted.
A question of safety was raised pertaining to people who may choose to use the handgun improperly.
Someone who is intent on improperly using a firearm would not likely choose a hunting handgun. They are not any more easily concealed than a shotgun or rifle under a long coat, for example. Hunting handguns allowed for importation would have a minimum barrel length of 17.78 cm and will often be equipped with an optical sight (scope). Most often they will weigh in excess of 2 kg. No semi-automatic or automatic handguns would be allowed for temporary importation or hunting. A professional hunter’s endorsement and supervision would also be required for use and / or temporary importation.
A question of the effectiveness of handguns for trophy hunting was raised, with particular interest in how far or how close a hunter would have to get when using a handgun.
Handgun hunters have taken many trophies from elephant and buffalo to dik dik and duiker. Hunting with a handgun can require that the hunter get somewhat closer to a trophy compared to the rifle hunter, but how well someone can shoot is more a measure of the individual hunter’s capabilities, rather than a function of what firearm they are using. Much evidence to demonstrate effectiveness was provided in the guide booklet and the slide presentation.
When the discussion was directed to the laws and regulations for trophy hunting with handguns, it was discussed at length and the group recognized that there is already a precedence in place for alternative methods of hunting (i.e. bow hunting). The professional hunter would be required to obtain an additional endorsement on his PH license for handgun hunting that would include a written exam and demonstrated proficiency in shooting a handgun.
While there will certainly be more questions and discussion as we move this initiative forward, this workshop was well attended by the representatives from the government, bringing valuable insights to the discussion and process. In the end, there is no basis for the notion that a hunting handgun is somehow unsuitable as a tool for trophy hunting.
Hunting With A Rifle
I wasn't about to travel 30K miles and not kill something. After the meeting I had allocated 3 additional days to hunt. Still in Namibia I was obviously unable to import a handgun so I took a Ruger M77 in 458 Lott. Ok - it might have been a little too much gun but I've recently discovered big-bore rifles and I was determined to use it. The property at Hunter's Namibia Safaris is 80 square kilometers of beauty. Open savannas and knee-high grass with numerous koppies and blackthorn thickets make it a wonderful hunting area. We literally saw thousands of oryx, black and blue wildebeest and red hartebeest. Eland and zebra were a bit harder to find until after I had taken a great eland, of course, then they were around every bend. I really wanted a Hartman's zebra also but it was not in the cards on this trip. We were able to close within range on several occasions but they are wide awake and just a bit too challenging for a three-day hunt.
The hunting was hampered a bit by a very stiff cold front that arrived just as my hunt began. Feeling the full effect at the lake lodge, the temperature was -9 Celsius (15 below). Yikes! The sun at this time of year is always very intense due to superbly clear skies and virtually no pollution other than some occasional haze from fires or a dust storm in other parts. We experienced neither. The cold temperatures had game holding tight in the thorn bush until mid-day and it wasn't actually until two days in to the front that the overnight temperatures moderated and we began seeing game early in the day again.
Marina and Joof Lamprecht, the owners of Hunter's Namibia Safaris, only allow spot and stalk hunting. There is no sitting at waterholes or in blinds and eland can surely cover some ground. My black wildebeest was relatively easy due to the sheer numbers of animals but the eland would prove a challenge. I believe we walked for about eight hours over two days to secure an opportunity and get in front of a herd. Sometimes the thorns work against you sometimes they work for you. After hours of tracking, sometimes running to keep up with a slightly spooked herd and a bit of luck we were able to out flank a herd that had gotten a bit spread out in some heavier thorns. This worked to our advantage and we seized the opportunity to get in front of them. The wind was good and just as the sun was setting on the second day two bulls walked into an opening and the 458 roared. The giant animal made an incredible leap into the air and the thump of the 450 grain slug reported that the bullet had contacted meat. I was confident in the shot and as we approached the place the bull stood, we heard two death bellows. Surprisingly there was no blood trail despite a pass on both shoulders breaking the on-side. They are tough!
The last day of hunting would focus almost entirely on mountain zebra but they were just too clever for us on that day. It's said you always have to leave something to come back for and I guess it will be the Hartman's zebra but I can tell you the wonderful people of Namibia is more than reason enough to return.
There are only about 2.4 million residents in the entire country making it one of the least populated countries in the world. Namibia won their independence from South Africa in 1990 and they are very proud of that fact. I spent several hours in downtown Windhoek on the day of our meeting and it is clean, the people are happy and friendly and more than exceed the wonderful things I have always heard about Namibia.
On the day prior to our meeting Marina asked if we would like to visit the local village that is on their property. Of course I said, "yes". The goal would be to visit the children at their school during lunch. You see, their meals are provided for by the meat taken by the trophy hunters at the Lamprecht's operation. I don't know how much meat is consumed annually but 350 kids can eat a lot of meat. This is a cooperative arrangement with the children and the villagers so that poaching does not take place on the hunting grounds. The children know that if game is poached then the meat will not be provided to them. As Marina puts it, "I have 350 little game rangers always watching over our wildlife". It was truly heart warming to see such happy kids having fun, hanging with their friends and they have so very little compared to children in America. There are no iPhones, big TV's, or much else for that matter and they are herded back to class with a rather menacing looking stick. They know the rules but like kids every where, the rules are always pushed to the limit. It was a great experience and if you ever get a similar opportunity, don't pass it up.
At The End Of The Day
We had a very successful meeting with the government and I truly believe handgun hunting will be allowed in a year or so in Namibia. I was able to spend a couple days in the shining sun of Namibia on the track of eland, wildebeest and zebra, make some great new friends and have a wonderful experience at a village in Omitare. What more could you ask for you ask? How about seeing two cheetah on a warthog kill and one of the largest leopard tracks I've ever seen. Namibia has huge leopard. I think that's several more reasons to return. Hopefully next time it will be with a hunting handgun...
I keep recalling things of interest as I type this. On the first morning we had driven about 40 minutes when my PH, Kobus, thought he saw something and backed up. It was a termite mound. If that wasn't funny enough he soon asked me if I had a GPS. Well the door was open... I hesitated a moment and said, "No, are you lost already". He looked at me really funny and realized I was joking with him. I leave the story about finding the goat-trail in the dark for another day. Kobus!
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