Hunting With Die Keiler: What You Need to Know
The main thing you need know: you gotta go! This was, without a doubt, one of the great hunting experiences of my entire life. No, it was one of the greatest life adventures I’ve experienced.
I always thought African hunting was really only for very wealthy people. I also kind of thought the hunting would be too easy, with antelope standing around staring at you beside the truck. I couldn’t have been more wrong on all fronts.
I discovered Africa can be for everyone. I just couldn’t believe how affordable it was. Yes, I won part of this hunt, the Brandon Wildlife Association’s prize was for an oryx and for 4 days of hunting and two days for arrival and departure. But I added on 5 more days of hunting for kudu and a warthog and it was no biggie.
It costs $340 US per day that you stay there hunting if you are alone, and is reduced to $230 per day if you are part of a group of four. The day rate is pretty much all-inclusive: all the Namibia local brews you want, world-class food, truck, PH and great sleeping quarters. You pay an additional fee for each animal you bag. Oryx and warthog cost $650 US each, and my kudu cost $1,620 US (check out www.namibianhunting.com for a full price list). My wife got me a screaming deal on the plane ticket, at $1,400 Cdn.
In total, this hunt would’ve cost me under $10,000 Cdn and you could shave days and shoot fewer animals to make it even more affordable. Some of us spend that on a winter vacay for the family. It’s worth every penny folks, trust me. As soon as my son is old enough, we are going back.
The other great thing about Namibia is that it is likely the most stable and safe country in Africa in my view. There aren’t the disease, food security or crime issues there that exist in other countries. Namibia is very different than most of the places I travelled to in Africa back in ’96, and feels more like going to Europe from a security perspective. Namibia is the second least populated country on earth, so there aren’t the significant population pressures and associated problems that exist in other parts of Africa. It is just really stable and safe.
Namibia is also likely the most beautiful of all the African countries I visited, rivaled only in my mind by the Serengeti and the wildebeest migration of that massive grassland. Namibia has the highest sand dunes in the world. You can and should book a few days of touring the Namibian parks if you go, they are breathtaking. Die Keiler can help organize that for you.
There were so many great things about this experience, I don’t know where to start. First of all, it’s the people. Almut, Immo and their son Henner are salt-of-the-earth types of folks. They are totally authentic and everyone I talk to who’ve been, say all the Die Keiler ranches are like that. Immo and Henner are very experienced PHs who will put you on game. The Wilckens ranch is an authentic, family-run, working cattle operation. Learning from them about agriculture in Africa and Namibian history over their breakfast and supper table was very personal and made the overall experience special.
Their staff and the service they provide is super friendly and outstanding, but the highlight of their Ongangasemba staff for me was Kiewied. He changed me as a hunter. If you want to become a better hunter, spend a week walking around with Kiewied. His indigenous San hunting skills are on a whole other level that is just awe inspiring to watch. It would be worth it to spend time with him exploring without a gun, it’s that interesting and totally unique. Check out the following video on Youtube to get a sense of why a guy like Kiewied is so skilled and cool to be around:
I completely ran out of words for the food. Almut’s food is off the charts and almost exclusively features fresh game from the ranch. The Namibian game meat is the mildest, best tasting I’ve had anywhere. There is something just so satisfying about living off of the game while you are there. It just feels so right and adds immensely to the overall experience. It is a must for a hunter like me.
Sadly, the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency does not allow you to bring any meat home from Africa, whatsoever. That’s a real shame. A cooler full of biltong would’ve been great. I tried hard to get a permit, but it is not happening at this time. I was at peace with that when I got there and saw how important the meat is to the families. As it is, you eat all you want while you are there, and that is more than satisfying.
You can ship home the skulls, horns and hides as memories of the hunt if you want to. They are treated and shipped in a process that takes a few months and is organized by Die Keiler.
I loved the overall quality of the hunt. The landscape on Ongangasemba is varied, interesting and beautiful. The hunting is very challenging. There are a variety of animals, but to me, the kudu and oryx are king. There are heaps of warthogs and good numbers of blue wildebeest and red hartebeest and other critters you can chase around the thorn bushes.
There are four ranches in the Die Keiler partnership – Westfalenhof (Friedrich and Uta Redecker), Hohenau (Rainer and Wiebke Halenke), Ongangasemba (Immo and Almut Wilckens) and Orua (Ortwin and Silke von Gossler) – and they all have something a little bit different to offer, in terms of landscape and the kinds of animals you can pursue. But they are all similar in that they are family run, authentic operations. Go to www.namibianhunting.com for more information about Die Keiler.
Almut receives the email requests from hunters inquiring about the Die Keiler ranches and does her best to figure out what you are looking for and which ranch fits you best. My understanding is that there are three low-fenced ranches like Ongangasemba and one that is high fenced and has some exotic species which may be of interest to you. I’ve spoken to hunters who have experienced the other ranches and they are all first-class operations.
Vacancy is also a factor in which ranch you book. What is really great, is that they typically only book one group at a time at a ranch. This makes it really personal and you have the whole, massive place to yourself. These ranches are enormous, it’s like having your own personal, gigantic African landscape to explore. Even on the last day, we were travelling new trails and looking at new spots on Ongangasemba.
Of all the animals I learned about back in ’96 and on this trip, the kudu are king to me. Just how they look and how secretive they are makes them special. If you want to hunt them, late May/early June is the time to go because they are breeding and they let their guard down just a bit.
The minimum stay on one ranch is four days. You can move between ranches if you wish and as long as the logistics work out for you and them. Immo advised me that you should allow a couple days to pursue a particular species of game, but allow for 3-4 days if it’s a mature kudu bull you’re after. I feel like it’s a journey to get there, so you might as well stay a while.
As with all hunts, safety is paramount. For gun safety, muzzle control is the key, as always. But of special note is that you will be following your PH through the bush a lot. You can’t carry your rifle on your shoulder with the barrel pointing up a lot of the time cause it will get caught on branches constantly, and it can’t point forward since it would be in the direction of your PH. I shoulder sling my gun, but let the stock point forwards and the barrel point straight backwards, away from the PH.
It is legal and preferred here to have bullets in the magazine of the rifle while riding in the truck or while carrying the gun on the ground. But you only chamber a round when the PH tells you. I really like showing the chamber as clear to the PH before re-racking the rifle in the truck after a walk. It just lets him know its unloaded and cool so he doesn’t have to guess or worry. You can’t be too safe, because when a bullet leaves the barrel, you can’t take it back.
The other safety factor is riding in the hunting truck the right way. There is a standing platform in the back you can ride on that gives you a more elevated view, to see farther into the bush. It is imperative that you hold on tight, since the trails are bumpy. Especially when traversing the dry rivers and creeks. But even when seated, you need to have at least one hand holding on to the railing so you don’t end up on the floor of the Landcruiser. And you need to duck when the truck goes under the thorn trees!
For safety and effectiveness, when you go to the range on your first day at the ranch, be sure to shoot off the shooting sticks, not just the bench. Most of us don’t use shooting sticks here at home (we should, they’re great), so it’s critical you get used to them. While practicing with the sticks, determine your best body and gun position. Having my legs straight and locked was best for me.
I traveled very light on this trip and loved it. I just brought a small carry-on duffel bag for my clothes and a knapsack that I took in the truck each day. I could’ve even brought less. The staff wash your dirty clothes every day, so you don’t need a big stack of socks and undies. Whipping through airports and not having to worry about whether my bag was gonna make it was priceless. You just don’t need much.
The rifles at the lodge were great. I shot their 30-60 and it was super-accurate. Not having the hassle of traveling with a rifle was sweet.
I got there and back using Ethiopian Airlines and got a great price and great connections via Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and would use that route again. You just need to figure out if you want the steak or chicken!
Given it was winter, I brought a jacket for cool mornings but didn’t need it. I purchased a long sleeved camo shirt and pants from Cabelas and just wore a touque on some mornings. My Cabelas light colored “western camo” pants and shirt blended in with the sand, brown trees and rocks perfectly. You may see PHs wearing shorts in the bush but don’t try that. Their legs are like leather from a lifetime of pushing through thorns, your soft flesh will get shredded.
Good quality boots with ankle support are essential. If you’re up for it, you will log some hard miles on uneven rocks trying to keep up to your PH, so twisting an ankle is always a threat. Make sure they are well worn-in before you go.
A great headlamp is key since you very well could be tracking game in the dark and dealing with your gear after the sun goes down.
You can’t drink enough water. My last tip for you is to drink double the water every day that you think you should. The air is so dry, you lose water at a hellacious rate. They make biltong by just hanging meat in the air here, it’s that dry. You will be Canadian biltong if you don’t drink up Buttercup. I got a headache the second day from not being hydrated enough. They have a cooler full of drinks, hit it hard……
All Good Things Must Come to an End
On my last day, we were out hunting for meat for the ranch, and doing what we do best: chilling out by a waterhole, eating oryx burgers with Almut’s secret sauce. Out of nowhere, my pal the honey badger comes cruising towards a small bush by the waterhole. He enters the bush and all hell breaks loose. The ensuing fracas and sounds were something from a horror movie. It sounded like two demons fighting.
A second later, the honey badger makes a beeline back where he came from, limping. His tail is straight up. “He is verrrrrry angry”, says Kiewied. He is doing a gurgling kind of roaring sound as he heads for the thorn-veld, mad as heck. “What the heck would pick a fight with the king of the thorn bush?”, I wondered.
We go back to eating burgers and contemplating life when Kiewied hisses, “leopard!!”. I look up and the mysterious predator of my imagination is walking straight towards us. He is wagging his tail. Kiewied whispers that means he’s angry, probably from fighting with the little leopard.
I am looking at him through the scope. He is causally looking from side to side and walking right at us, and then, he stops and looks right at me. His yellow eyes focus right on me. Our eyes lock. He is looking right through me, from 50m away. He crouches and tenses. The hair stands up on the back of my neck. That electric, only-in-Africa, totally alive feeling is back. I squeeze the rifle stock just a little bit.
Kiewied whispers to Immo, who is sitting on a chair on the ground, “Immo, leopard”. But no answer.
Seconds feel like hours. I can’t believe how beautiful, muscular and incredible he is. Just how I imagined.
Suddenly his body language changes, he slouches and relaxes. Kiewied casually takes a bite from his oryx burger and says its cool, “he’s happy now”. The leopard walks away casting glances at us, into the thorns and back into my dreams.
Turns out Immo was sleeping on the chair in front of the truck and nearly had a leopard in his lap. “A leopard? Just walked up to us? That never happens”, he says, like it ain’t no thing.
Well, TIA. This is Africa after all.
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