Adventures in Africa

By Dick Mason, The Observer January 04, 2013 08:50 am

Dick Hohstadt stands with mounts in his trophy room of some the big game animals he took during hunting trips to Africa in 2008 and 2011.  DICK MASON/The Observer
Dick Hohstadt stands with mounts in his trophy room of some the big game animals he took during hunting trips to Africa in 2008 and 2011. DICK MASON/The Observer

Local hunter harvests 11 different animals, including wildebeest, warthog and zebra 

Reverse psychology works wonders when hunting black wildebeests in Africa.

Dick Hohstadt, a Union County outdoorsman, knows this firsthand. 

Almost five years ago Hohstadt was with a guide and trackers sneaking up on a herd of black wildebeests in Namibia. The wildebeests had seen the group and were noticeably nervous.

Then the party’s guide made a suggestion that would have  impressed Sigmund Freud. The guide recommended that everyone casually walk out into a clearing in clear view of the wildebeests. Amazingly the wildebeests let their guard down and relaxed when they saw the men walking nonchalantly. Hohstadt next fired a shot that took down a black wildebeest.

“They must have thought that because we were not sneaking up on them we were not after them,’’ said Hohstadt, who lives about five miles northeast of Island City.

The black wildebeest Hohstadt took was among 11 game animals Hohstadt hunted successfully during trips to Africa in 2008 and 2011, excursions he discussed in detail during a recent presentation at a meeting at Cook Memorial Library of the Union/Wallowa County chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association. 

Hohstadt spoke not only of his trip to Namibia in 2008 but also one to Zimbabwe in 2011.

The journeys were immensely rewarding for Hohstadt. He said there was just one drawback.

“It was a long, long flight (to both Namibia and Zimbabwe).’’ 

The black wildebeest Hohstadt took was one of two wildebeests he shot in Africa. He also took a blue wildebeest in Zimbabwe. Other big game animals he took were a kudu, a red hartebeest, a oryx and an impala in Namibia and a zebra, a waterbok, a warthog, an eland and a cape buffalo in Zimbabwe.

The animals were all taken on game ranches, each of which provided artificial watering holes in arid regions. In Namibia, Hohstadt hunted on a ranch where water was pumped to watering holes with the aid of windmills. Hohstadt hunted on a ranch in Zimbabwe where water was pumped for miles from a large reservoir to seven or eight sites for wildlife. 

The most memorable hunt Hohstadt went on, however, was one in which no shots were fired. Hohstadt and his party snuck within 35 yards of four cape buffalo bulls. They then discovered that all were trophy-sized bulls, animals too large for Hohstadt’s tag. His party then quietly sneaked away.

“They had no idea we were ever there. It was amazing,’’ Hohstadt said. 

Hohstadt credits this achievement to the skill of his party’s trackers.

 Hohstadt marveled at their many skills, including how adept they were at spotting big game animals from great distances. They appeared to do this incidentally while appearing to be almost preoccupied with talking and smoking. A guide leading Hohstadt’s hunting party once commented on this.

“I don’t care if they are talking as long as their eyes are working,’’ the guide told him.

 The trackers and guides considered cape buffaloes the most dangerous of the animals they hunted. Cape buffaloes are feared because when wounded they will attack people.

Most big game hunting in Zimbabwe and Namibia is done on ranches. The operation of game ranches is becoming increasingly popular in Africa.

“(The ranchers) have found that it is a lot easier to raise game animals than cattle,’’ Hohstadt said.

He noted that when raising game animals instead of livestock one does not have to worry about branding, vaccinating, treating animals for ticks and more. 

Raising game animals is also much more lucrative than raising cattle. Ranchers get about $400 a head for cattle and about $2,500 for each cape buffalo a hunter takes. 

Cheetahs are the lone predator game ranchers have to worry about in Namibia. Cheetahs killed so many game animals on one ranch that operators were forced to remove them. They placed a cheetah in a cage under a tree next to a series of live traps. Many of those drawn to the site by the caged cheetah subsequently stepped into the live traps and were taken away.

Wild dogs and leopards are the chief predator game ranch owners have to worry about in Zimbabwe. The dogs run in packs and easily kill animals as large as impalas. 


Cape buffalo challenge

Cape buffalo were perhaps the most challenging big game animal Hohstadt hunted in Africa. The animals are difficult to stalk because they are coy when being chased through forests. Upon reaching a clearing, they will stop and wait to see if the pursuer is still coming. Cape buffaloes will run from the clearing the moment they detect that they are still being pursued.

Hohstadt said that once a cape buffalo realizes it is being chased it is almost impossible to take one.

Hunters in most cases can take only cape buffalo bulls and males of other big game species in Africa. This creates a problem when hunting zebras since many males have damaged hides. Hohstadt explained that males often bite each other extensively during fights over females. 

“The old males have a lot of scars on their hides,’’ Hohstadt said. 

Ostriches and elephants were among the wildlife Hohstadt saw plenty of but did not hunt.  

 Hohstadt was struck by how careful ostriches are before drinking water. Sometimes they will spend up to 30 minutes creeping up to a pond before taking a drink. 

“They may take several steps forward and then a few steps back,’’ Hohstadt said.

Ostriches swallow water by raising their heads and then letting it flow down their necks.

“It is quite a sight,’’ Hohstadt said.

Many of the elephants Hohstadt observed were around rivers. He marveled at how when swimming across streams elephants are sometimes totally submerged except for their trunks, which are above the water like snorkels.

The most spectacular sight Hohstadt saw in Africa was Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. The falls, which are broken up in some places, extend for almost a mile. The mist the falls create is unforgettable and can be seen miles away. So spectacular is the mist that people native to Africa call it “smoke that thunders.’’

It is called this because of the thunder-like sound of the falls and the fact the mist looks like smoke. 

Hohstadt was told that one should never go to Victoria Falls during the rainy season in January and February. The combination of rain and ever-present mist makes it hard to see much of Victoria Falls at this time.

Hohstadt said the mist is always so thick around Victoria Falls that the area within 100 yards of it is a rain forest. 

 Hohstadt, who was accompanied on his trip to Zimbabwe by his wife, Sharon, does not plan to make a return visit to Africa, despite the great times he enjoyed. 

“We want to visit other places,’’ he said.

The British Isles, Spain and Hawaii are among the locales the Hohstadts may visit in the future.

Dick Hohstadt is reminded daily of his hunting trips to Africa because he has the game animals he took mounted in a trophy room.  The room is devoted exclusively to the African animals he took. 

Hohstadt said he cherishes the memories the trophy room provides him of his excursions to Africa. Today the soft spoken, friendly and knowledgeable hunter heartily recommends the continent to all sportsmen. 

“If you like to hunt, it is the place to go,’’ he said.