Namibia Bow Hunt With Tom Nelson

"To be honest with you, I'd say you have a one in fifty chance", Tobie Engelbrecht answered.  This was in response to my question to whether or not we would get an opportunity to shoot at the rare Namibian mountain zebra.  Tobie, our professional hunter here in the Kalahari desert region areas of Namibia, are also one of the most intelligent mammals in all of Africa.  They have an extremely acute sense of smell, keen eyesight and amazing hearing.  It sounded like we would have our hands full trying to take a zebra with our archery gear.

Our group of bowhunters consisted of Steve Sims, President of Sims Vibration Labs, the folks that brought us the Limbsavers and other vibration dampening equipment.  Alon Lotton, Director of Marketing for Sims, and myself.  I was there as a guest of SVL's.  As host of the American Archer TV show, I was there to film Steve, Alan and myself trying to bag some African plains game with our bows and field test some of SVL's new gear.  Accompanying us on our three week African Adventure was Dave Holt our booking agent who had set up this safari.  Dave who has over 25 years bowhunting experience in Africa, was along to lend a helping hand where needed and time permitting, do a bit of bowhunting himself.

As we settled into our spacious walled tents and began to unpack, I reflected back on our trip to this point.  We had already been in Africa eleven days at this point.  We had previously been to South Africa bowhunting with Paul Clinton of Shrike Safaris.  While hunting with Paul we took a wide variety of game including warthog, impala, wildebeest, waterbuck and gemsbok.  It was a marvelous time that we shall never forget.  Paul's camp was well run and the quantity of trophy animals seen was amazing.  But now we were over a thousand miles northwest from our camp in South Africa.  The country was different as was the terrain.  We were about to embark on a whole new adventure.

The first morning in the Kalahari dawned cool and clear.  Namibia's annual rainfall can be measured in a coffee cup.  This arid region is made up of thorn trees and sand, mixed with a bit of brown grasses.  We were bowhunting in July which is a winter month in Africa.  It is also the dry season, which is why we were there.  Water was at a premium so the majority of our hunting would take place from ground blinds strategically placed near water holes, offering 20-30 yard shots.  Namibia holds good quantities of gemsbok and prized kudu bulls that we all badly wanted.  But zebra was perhaps tops on our list.  Not only because of the beautiful rugs they make but also for the challenge they offer as an adversary.

The first day we all had lots of action on and around our water holes, but no shots were taken.  The second day I shot a large springbok as he came to water just after 7 am.  I observed a total of 142 springbok, 12 warthogs and 17 kudu cows and young bulls.  It was a great day to be in Namibia.  The following morning Alan became the first bowhunter to harvest a mountain zebra on Tobie Engelbrecht's hunting concession.  Shortly after sun-up, Alan was surprised to spy a zebra waltzing into his water hole.  The zebra was nervous but was also thirsty.  For several anxious moments Alan waited as the zebra pondered the situation.  Then without hesitation he came in for a drink.  At 20 yards Alan send his Easton arrow through the big stallion.  The zebra went less than 50 yard before succumbing to Alan's classic double lung shot.

There was a lot of excitement in camp that night as Alan retold his account of the days hunt.  Steve and I hoped that there might just be two more unlucky zebras wandering around out there.  But after recalling Tobie's earlier statement about our poor odds of taking a zebra, I must confess that with Alan's success came even poorer odds for Steve and I.

The following day found me in a box blind situated near a small waterhole.  Several ostriches and numerous springbok watered throughout the morning hours.  Shortly after noon, I spotted several zebra working their way towards the enticing liquid.  At 50 yards the stopped and stood, just staring at the water.  After an half hour they began to wander off, then they turned and again approached the H20.  This continued for two  and a half hours.  They fainted an approach, then walked away, over and over.  I remained motionless in my blind not daring to even take a drink, even with the days temperatures warming my enclosed blind well into the 90's.  As I peered off to my left watching the herd of zebra still keeping their distance from my blind, I caught movement to my right.  Slowly, one step at a time was a zebra walking in to get a drink.  Slowly, ever so slowly, I picked up my Pearson 440 bow.  Then I reached over and turned on my video camera.  At 25 yards the zebra paused broadside and I drew my bow.  At the shot, the zebra jumped sideways then sprinted straight away.  He traveled less than 80 yards before skidding to an abrupt halt.  My arrow had taken him through the heart.  My 100 grain Grim Reaper broadhead had performed flawlessly once again.  

As I radioed in my success I could hardly contain my excitement.  Zebra was tops on my list and now I had one.  Like Alan's my zebra was a large old stallion.  My daughter Sara wanted a zebra rug for her room, now she had it.  Unbelievable, two zebras in two days.  Could our luck continue?

The next day Steve Sims spent a long day in his blind watching numerous animals come and go.  Shortly after noon he arrowed an extra large springbok.  After recovery, he decided to stay put and see what else might come in.  Just before dark, Steve spotted a gemsbok approaching.  Grabbing his bow he looked up again to be greeted with the sight of a zebra coming in also.  The zebra did not like the situation and just walked past the water hole and was leaving when Steve settled his 30 yard pin on the stripe closest to the shoulder and shot.  The zebra ran only a short distance and went down within sight of Steve's blind.

When Tobie arrived to pick up Steve he could not believe our good fortune.  Three zebra in thee days!  During our stay in Namibia we took two kudu bulls, six spingbok, a gemsbok, a couple of jackals and four zebra.  That's right four.  You see Dave Holt went out the day after Steve took his zebra, and as the cameraman shot tape, Dave shot another zebra.  In the weeks prior to our hunt most bowhunters did not even glance a zebra, let alone get a shot.  We had done the impossible.  Four hunters, four zebra, four days.

by Tom Nelson, well know bowhunter, author, and host of Bowhunter Magazine's American Archer, seen on The Outdoor Channel