Namibian Oryx Hunt

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The Oryx Gazelle (aka Gemsbok) looks more like the medieval unicorn than any animal I have yet encountered.  These “desert warriors” are incredibly hardy.  They are born with horns!  And have a disposition to match. At one point during my African hunt, after John and I had each collected an Oryx, we were riding in our PH Ziggy’s truck when we approached a herd of Oryx. As the truck came to within a few hundred yards the herd ran directly away from us parallel to the dirt road.  They were so fast that we had trouble keeping up with them in the truck! After what seemed like miles of galloping ahead of us on the roadside, the herd crossed the road to enter a patch of acacia thorn.  When they crossed the road, three magnificent males actually stopped in the road and stared us down, literally blocking our path to the rest of the herd.  This is the same behavior they adopt with other predators like lions.  Yes, gemsbok have been known to bring down lions with those three foot scimitar horns.

There is not much to tell of our oryx harvest.  We spotted a herd of thirty or forty of the 400 pound antelope in the acacia thorn.  They were walking slowly in a loose group that covered perhaps an acre of ground.  After several attempts to anticipate their movements and get into an ambush position (within shooting range) John dropped one with a single shot from his 35 Whelan.  Ziggy warned him to shoot again if the animal attempted to rise as they are notoriously hard to kill, but after several long minutes we decided that the animal was down for the count.  It was only when we approached within a few yards that it “whoofed!” with a sharp exhale of breath and swung his horns in our direction.  We all jumped back out of reach of those lethal scimitars.  Afterwards Erwin joked to John “You jumped, but me – I already ran to Angola!” 

In Sands of Silence Peter Capstick wrote “It’s always the dead ones that kill you. So pay the insurance.” John shot the bull through the chest and Ziggy paid the insurance with an additional shot through the heart.  Then we approached MUCH more cautiously as the ridge of hair along the animal’s spine rose to stand erect.  Ziggy told us that it always happens at the moment of death for Oryx.  No one knows why and taxidermists can’t duplicate it.  John’s first shot had hit the spine just ahead of the shoulders, nearly completely paralyzing the bull and luckily dropping it in its tracks even though the shot was not immediately lethal.

After we secured John’s oryx in the bed of the pick up truck, we followed the herd and I repeated John’s success.  Except that my shot was more typical of the gemsbok’s reputation.  We approached them to within 150 yards, I waited for a chance to get the bull that Ziggy pointed out as “a good one” through an opening in the dark gray thorn brush without endangering any others who mingled about.  I shot my oryx and the entire herd scattered to points unknown.  We all thought that we might be in for a long day of tracking.  But the Okavango trackers sorted out the myriad of hoof prints in the dry sand and found a drop of blood.  A yard away they found another, and then another.  William pointed to a foot long skid from the cloven hoof and told me that my oryx was dragging a leg.  Perhaps I had broken a shoulder and he wouldn’t go far.  I followed as William and Elliot spread out and scanned the dry landscape for hoof prints and blood droplets.  We had worked our way fifty yards through the six foot thorn scrub when William pointed.  The bull stood 100 yards beyond him with his head down. 

When you are chasing a wounded oryx it is no time to be picky about shot angles.  As soon as he realized that we were following him this animal would take off again, and it might be miles before we caught sight of him.  I got into position as quickly as I could and tried to put a bullet into his vitals.  As my second shot echoed across the landscape the bull began to trot away and I fired again.  This time he did not go far.  The bull was lethally hit but still on his feet when a fourth shot put him down.  It took a fifth to finish him.  The last two shots were not necessary to kill the animal, only to hasten his passing so that he need not suffer a second longer than necessary.  But wow, this animal soaked up five shots from a 375 Holland and Holland magnum.  I have never encountered anything with that much stamina and can’t help but admire them.  I had come to Africa hoping for the chance to bag one of the three animals on my wish list.  I went home with trophy book specimens of all three.  Someday I hope to go back.  If I do, I know that an oryx will be on my wish list again.

Swift A Frames, two from Oryx, one from Kudu


ManOfTheFall's picture

That was a great story. It

That was a great story. It sounds like those Gemsbok's are one tough animal. I know the whitetails I shoot with my bow sometimes never cease to amaze me. I can't even imagine nailing one of those with my bow. That would be sweet. Congratulations, you have a very nice looking trophy there. Thanks for sharing the story.

hunter25's picture

A great exciting story that

A great exciting story that gets me all wound up again. I have been looking at Africa a lot and wondering how much I would have to give up here at home to make it happen.

I applied unsuccessfully for the first time in New Mexico for Oryx this year. I figured that would be the cheapest way to hunt something like this. The animals you chose to hunt are pretty much the ones I would go after also. I'm not sure if you got one or not but a wart hog would definately have to be on my list also.

Thanks for sharing this hunt of my dreams.

hawkeye270's picture

You have quite the story of

You have quite the story of quite the experience there Mike. Congratulations on taking another great trophy. I also dream of hunting Africa one day. Kudu is my number one wish but gemsbok is very close to the top as well. They are both very handsome animals that I can not imagine hunting. I did not know that gemsbok had that much of a will to live. That is incredable. I can not imagine the damage that one of those horns could inflict on a lion that was attacking it. And if it could inflict massive damage to a predator as formidable as a lion, it is scary to think about what they could do to a man. The fact that yours soaked up five shots from a 375 holland and holland is testiment to their toughness. I do not know if an African hunt will ever take place for me but I like to think that it is a possibility. If I play my cards right and budget my money correctly once I get into a real career, it just might be a possibility. My fingers are crossed.

jaybe's picture

Oryx, Gemsbok, whatever -

Oryx, Gemsbok, whatever - that's a great trophy!

It seems that they are most often called Gemsbok on the hunting shows - is that the Western name, or does it vary from place to place?

I've seen that they are hardy animals - as many of the African game are, but I didn't know they were quite that hard to put down.

Sounds like you had a great safari, Jim.

Nice Kudu, too.

Thanks for the story and the great pictures.


groovy mike's picture


It might be a regional thing.  I don't know about the different names.  Maybe they aren't hard to put down for other folks.  I could just be a lousy shot! lol But I was still impressed!

jim boyd's picture

Wow another great piece! The

Wow another great piece!

The Oryz must be very difficult to kill as evidenced by the repeated shots to take them down...

I can hardly imagine the excitement that accompanies a hunt like this, from the preparations, the flight, working with the PH's, then finally getting out the field and finding the adventures you have described!!

You speak of 400 pound beasts - and I can see that the wilds of Africa breed some very hardy animals - it is no wonder that they are hard to bring down....

You must have taken multiple rifles... I am not familiar with the .375 Holland and Holland but it sounds like a true safari type gun... and you had your 30-06 with you so you definitely brought your firepower.

I was glad, again, to see that John dropped one with a .35 Whelan - again, this sounds like a firearm more suited to whitetails than being on a once in a lifetime Africa hunt - kudos to John - great work!

Mike, your writing is excellent - this is magazine quality stuff - aspiring writers like me would do well to study your style.

Again, a great piece and well worth publishing - I enjoyed it very well!

groovy mike's picture

Thanks Jim.

I can claim no credit for my sucess.  God has blessed me with wonderful hunts and sent game to me.  He has also let me get a few pieces in print.  If I can do it, you can too!

I have found that the thing most often needed for success is a willingness to fail again.

I am just not smart enough to give up.  So I keep sending my stories to magazines and such and sooner or later an editor runs out of other choices and puts something in.  This particular story I wrote just for this website and contest, but if you want to get published GO FOR IT! 

It's just like hunting.  You have to try a few times before you get it right unless you happen to just be in teh right place at the right time.  But don't give up if the first shot doesn't drop your Oryx.  Chase him!