Ethiopia with Jason Nassos - Wow!Ethiopia Hunt Report Dates
– May 2-17, 2017Hunt Areas
– Gara Gumbi
(east of Addis Ababa in a semi-public national park) Damaro
(8 hour drive south in Bale Mountains) Omo
(2 hour charter flight to far southern Ethiopia on Omo River near Sudan and Kenya borders)Safari Operator
– Ethiopian Rift Valley Safaris – owned by Nassos and Jason RoussosAgent
– Neal and Brownlee, LLC – Jeff Neal and Greg Brownlee - +918 299 3580Travel Agent
– Falcon Travel – Stacey Gibson - +210 492 6933Weapon and Optics Used
– HS Precision Takedown in .300 Win Mag with Swarovski Z6i 2.5x15x44 scope with turrets shooting Federal factory 180 grain TSX bullets. I really like the takedown rifle as it makes traveling much easier in the airports. My binoculars were Leica 10x42 ranging binos that calculate distance with consideration for elevation. These were the most important piece of equipment I brought.Animals Sought
– Mountain Nyala, Menelik’s Bushbuck, Colobus Monkey, Bohor Reedbuck, Bush Pig, Northern Grant’s Gazelle, Southern Gerenuk, Salt’s Dik Dik, Guenther’s Dik Dik, Lesser Kudu, Spotted Hyena (took all except the Bush pig)Other Animals Seen
– Warthogs (500+), Bat-eared Fox, Golden Jackal, Black-backed Jackal, Blue Monkey’s, Olive Baboons (100’s), Hamadryas Baboons (along the roads hoping for hand-outs from truck drivers), Genet Cat, Tree Squirrels, Hyrax, Nile Crocodile, Giant Forest Hog, Caracal with 2 kittensExecutive Summary
Honestly, I do not know where to start. From the minute we got off the plane in Addis Ababa, this trip was different from any trips we have made. We hunted three areas – first was near Addis for Salt’s Dik Dik. The second was in the Bale Mountains called Damaro for the Mountain Nyala, Menelik’s bushbuck, colobus, Spotted Hyena and Bohor Reedbuck. The last was in the far south on the Omo River for Gerenuk, Lesser Kudu, Guenther’s Dik Dik and Grant’s Gazelle. We were successful on all of them. The dik dik’s were exceptional as was the Grant ’s gazelle. The Mountain Nyala was an excellent, mature bull as you can see in the pictures.
Overall, this is a unique and special trip. It is different than other trips we have taken but shared elements of each. Ethiopia – the country
My wife and I have been a lot of places. We thought we had seen about everything that was a bit odd or out of place. Honestly, I struggle to describe what we saw and experienced in Ethiopia. For perspective, Ethiopia is 60% larger than Texas and has 100,000,000 people. Addis Ababa is a fairly organized city – not nearly as chaotic as Cairo or Moscow or Los Angeles. The country has about 60 tribes of different folks. They appear to be relatively peaceful, however, in the bush in Omo (way south part of the country), every man we saw was carrying an AK47. People work – whether on farms or in towns. We saw hundreds of men with oxen plowing fields getting ready to plant crops. We saw huge herds of cattle and goats being moved in and out of fields to graze. In Addis Ababa, it seemed everyone had a cell phone and skinny jeans. In the bush, they carried everything on their back (or their wife’s back). The vehicles we encountered where in decent shape as compared to the moving wrecks you see in Cairo or Cypress or Caribbean islands.
This guy reminded me of the Johnny Cash song about the guy the cobbled together a Cadillac out of parts he took from the factory over a 20 year time period.
A couple in the Omo River area… That was their entire load of family possessions… wife carries the load.
We only got a small taste of the vast country that has written history going back to the time of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (3000 years or so). There are deep rooted Christian beliefs and faith here as well as Muslim and Jewish roots. The Ark of the Covenant (I thought it was in a warehouse based on Raiders of the Lost Ark) is supposed to be in Axum. The ancient churches chiselled from solid rock are there.
The areas we visited were intensely cultivated. We were rarely out of sight of people or cattle – even in what I thought was a remote area.
Every man we saw in the bush had an AK47
The scenery is beautiful. The Bale Mountains are much like the rainforest and a deep green with clouds and fog moving in and out all day long. The termite mounds in the Omo River area are 20’ tall and a marvel. I list the birds I saw at the end of this report, but saw over 120 different species without working at it. The warthogs in the Damaro area were everywhere. We saw at least 200 every day. I had no idea there were that many warthogs in Africa. Same with Olive Baboons.
The people were exceptionally friendly. In each camp, the staffs were over the top friendly and engaging. We have had a couple of negative experiences with camp staff in places where women were not appreciated, but the folks we spend our time with were like Texans – friendly.
Kids are kids when it comes to candy….
Another interesting observation was there is little to no poaching in Ethiopia. There does not appear to be a big bush meat trade here. Jason confirmed little to no impact from poaching. What does impact wildlife in Ethiopia is the relentless yearly increase in population and the livestock that comes with it. It seemed that every possible useable plot of ground was being planted with something. I have some aerial photos of the places we flew over showing the incredibly dense farming that is going on. The countryside looked like Kansas or Iowa with all of the square cropped areas. These ran up to the base of the mountains we hunted. As we all know, loss of habitat is the primary destroyer of wildlife. Ethiopia is headed that direction rapidly.
My wife had me take this picture – said it reminded her of something, but I forget what???
I had no idea there were 40+ species of game animals to hunt in Ethiopia. I knew about the famous ones, but there is a bunch of others. Any of you know what a zorilla is? Well, you can hunt one in Ethiopia if you do a little planning. Every Weatherby Award chaser has to hunt Ethiopia as this is the only place that many of the species are available. I had not heard of “tiang” or “golden jackel”or Soemmering’s Gazelle or a Gelada baboon, but you can hunt them in Ethiopia. And if the US Fish and Wildlife Service will honor CITES and get their collective heads out of their behinds, you could hunt leopard and lion here as well. Sidebar on Weatherby Award chasers
– As Mr. T says in Rocky III, “I pity the fool”. Jason had to listen to my discussions on participation trophies as I like to call the prizes you buy for yourself when you shoot a bunch of stuff. I am not against “awards” but I do not see hunting as a competition. It is a past time, something we do because we like to do it. The idea of measuring a horn and deriving status from something we killed, usually by the luck of being the right place at the right time and with a skilled guide, is beyond my comprehension.
Jason and his dad have been in the “enviable” position of guiding most of the Weatherby Award winners, Weatherby Award wannabees and others that are chasing recognition for the body count. They see the good and the bad. Again, I am not anti-SCI. They do a great job of helping present the hunter’s interest to our government. They raise funds, some of which actually go to conservation. My concern is the perception of the members and the public that hunting is a contest – who can shoot the “most-est” with the “big-est”. I know that most of the award chasers are truly hunters, but I suspect that some get caught up in the “chase” and lose sight of what they are doing and why. To emphasize my point, who won this “award” last year? Or the year before? Is it really that big of a deal? I thought not…..
These two dung beetles were fighting over the ball. Seems the one on the ground would climb on and the other one would push him off… A bit like Weatherby Award candidates…. Getting There
This was easy. Stacey Gibson (formerly with Gracy’s, now Falcon Travel) booked us on Ethiopian Airlines. They have daily direct flights from Washington Dulles to Addis Ababa. The flight is twelve hours going and thirteen on the return due to fuel stop in Dublin. I have flown Ethiopian a few times and found them very good, much better than United or Lufthansa. Food on the plane was great and the flight attendants all looked like Haile Berry. We were met in Addis by Getachew, the meet and greet specialist, and were walked through customs and the gun inspection quickly. Jason and his guys are experts at this. Gun permit was no issue and getting a visa at the airport was no issue. This is a much better operation than South Africa and on par with Namibia or Botswana. There are no bag thieves or beggars at the airport.
Chickens headed to their eternal destiny… on a bus… Ethiopian Rift Valley Safaris
Nassos and Jason Roussos are the owners and operators of ERVS. They have been in Ethiopia for more than 50 years. Nassos was born there as was Jason. They know the country, the issues, the animals and how to navigate the government rules to get you onto the animals you want to hunt. They offer 40+ different species in several areas. For me, I was after Mountain Nyala, Menelik’s Bushbuck and Gerenuk as the main animals. Jason, along with Greg Brownlee at Neal and Brownlee, Inc., crafted the hunt plan and logistics. They offered suggestions and ideas on how to maximize my time and hoped for success. For once, I listened and did not try to cram too much into one trip. Unless you have thirty or more days to hunt and a serious pile of cash, you will not take fifteen or twenty species on one trip to Ethiopia. The country is too big, the quotas too erratic and the areas too unpredictable. If you want to hunt Ethiopia, get with your agent and Jason and set realistic expectations. Further, Jason sends you a very detailed document outlined the exact terms of the hunt and what to expect. I found this very helpful and it answered every question I had about the adventure. You can trust this outfit.
There are other operators in country, but none have the experience or the savvy that Jason and Nassos have. You may get a better “deal”, but it is no deal. A couple of other operators that rep this country do not have concessions but rather, they have sublet the area or cobble together quota from a less than stellar outfit and try to pass off that they “know” Ethiopia. Do not be fooled. If you look at Ethiopia, ask if the outfit truly owns the concession, owns their camps, have staff on the ground employed by the operator and have the quota in their name. This is too expensive to take a “bait and switch” type of trip from a broker and not a true owner of an area. I would suggest you meet Jason or his dad at DSC or SCI for a face to face discussion. Better yet, arrange to meet with them when they are in the US during the non-hunting times in Ethiopia. They live in Colorado. This is not a trip you can afford to mess up due to lack of knowledge or planning. These guys are the best.
Here is some of the reference material I studied to get ready – “Hunting the Spiral Horns – Bongo & Nyala – The Elite African Trophies”
by Peter Flack
- This was the best reference book for this hunt. Peter Flack had Jason Roussos write a long chapter on Mountain Nyala for this book. It is a “must” if you go.“Flack Hunts Ethiopia – Omo Valley venture and Bale Mountain Miracle”
– produced by Peter Flack.
- This is a DVD and bit dated, but very good and gives a good view of the areas and hunt methods.”Two Hearts, One Passion”
- by Dick and Mary Cabela – summary of several hunts to Ethiopia with insight into how you feel about the hunts and Mountain Nyala “Ethiopia – Death in the Rift Valley”
– DVD by Big Bore Productions – not well filmed but has some info that I found useful. It is worth the price, but have low expectations.“Birds of the Horn of Africa”
– by Nigel Redman and Terry Stevenson – excellent and easy to use.“Ethiopia” Brandt Travel Guide
by Philip Briggs – very good and very detailed. Had more info than anyone can use but good to read. The Hunting
I am going to break this into three parts as we hunted in three different areas that are very different from each other. Gara Gumbi and a dik dik
This is an odd area about four hour drive southeast from Addis Ababa. It is a national park/hunting area but not assigned to one outfit. It is “public” in that any outfitter can come here to hunt. There are no camps as we stayed in a hotel in Awash. The hotel was a typical rural hotel, limited power, a questionable kitchen in a pretty grim little town. We survived and had a good time there. All in all it was fine.
We went to the park/hunt area for Salt’s Dik Dik the same day as our arrival in Addis. Jason said we would see plenty and that we would shoot one with a 12 gauge shotgun. I was sceptical as I had never been close enough to any of the little antelope other than blue duikers to take one with a shotgun. Anyway, we drove into the area and could tell it gets a lot of foot traffic and animal traffic. We bumped a couple of Gerenuk right away, but they are not on quota here. We saw several dik dik’s but Jason judged them quickly saying they were too small. Now, this is impressive as a 2 ½” horn is so-so whereas a 3 ½” or longer horn is real good one. I looked at several and could never see to know for sure. Jason could. So, after a couple of hours, we spotted our umpteenth dik and dik and he said, “That is a beast!”
At that, we drove a little ways, I got out, Jason gave me one shotgun shell for the Remington 870 pump and said, “Go get him.” So I did. The little guy jumped a bit but stopped at 35 yards and I took the shot. They are cool. I had no idea how petite and how handsome these guys are. I like them far better than duikers. Jason skinned him for a full mount. It was great fun!
The gentleman in the pic was a famous Ethiopian elephant tracker for many years. He guided Jason's dad to many 100 pounders.
The ears on these little guys were unique and cool….. Damaro
This area is in the Bale Mountains and is a solid stronghold for Mountain Nyala and Menelik’s bushbuck. After driving eight hours to get to the camp, I do not think there is a truly remote area in Ethiopia except for maybe the Danikil Area in the northeast of the country. We were never out of sight of people. Everywhere we looked, people were moving from somewhere to nowhere or working their farms. We drove through a national park known to have Nyala and many other indigenous animals but it was loaded up with people and livestock. Honestly, I was a little depressed seeing all the people and wondered how there could be wild life anywhere. Jason assured there were plenty of animals in the areas they hunt. He was right.
We came all this way to hunt Mountain Nyala and Meneliks’ bushbuck. This area is full of them. It is mountainous, steep, tangled and “up there” at about 8000’ elevation. The camp is in the prime area and we could get to glassing areas easily by vehicle with some hiking. We spent the mornings glassing from vantage points over canyons and hillsides looking into the dense undergrowth and understory for Nyala bulls. We saw cows and calves every day and few young bulls.
This was a lot like elk hunting – lots of mountains and canyons to look into and then hopefully spot a bull that we could stalk. Maybe rather than elk hunting, this was like bongo hunting in the rainforest but with mountains. When I say the vegetation was thick, it was thick. We followed game trails most of the time, but could tell that the stalking would be nigh impossible in this thick stuff. We had to be patient, glass a lot and hope for a bull that was somehow in range.Sidebar
On our first day, Jason and I spent a lot of time checking and rechecking my rifle. The first shots at 100 yards proved perfect but when we moved back to 200 yards, then to 300 yards to shoot – the turrets on my scope were not landing the shots where they should. Jason took over at this point and fired about 15 shots to get a solid grouping at 200 and 300 yards. This caused us to reset the turrets. I am not sure what happened on the turrets. All I can think of is that I originally set the rifle while shooting at 1200’ elevation and this was at 8000’. I would not have thought that this would make that much difference but it apparently does. When Jason was happy, we were set and went hunting. I really appreciated his persistence to get the rifle “perfect”. Back to Hunting
On a normal hunting day, we had six to nine “helpers” with us – a federal game scout, a regional game scout, a couple of trackers, a couple of spotters, a truck guard and whoever else was let onto the truck. I had not hunted with this large of a crowd. We scattered these guys across various lookouts to help glass for Nyala or bushbuck. Problem was that only two or three of them had binoculars. The rest just stared at the hillsides. They were helpful to a point but those of us with binos were better at spotting.
Typical spotting area
The interesting thing about glassing a great deal is the other animals you see. We saw bushbuck, giant forest hog, warthogs and a host of birds. On the day we killed the Nyala we spotted a female caracal with two kittens. We got to watch them for a bit and see the kittens playing like house cats. I had only glimpsed a caracal once in our previous trips to Africa.
We typically set up in the mountains in the mornings for Nyala and quit at 10am or so when the weather warmed up and the animals stopped moving. Then at 3pm we would go to the hills to glass for a place to set up the next morning. On the way to and from the mountains, we drove slowly along the only road in the area looking for bushbuck or in a huge (10 square mile or larger) pasture at the base of the mountains looking for Bohor Reedbuck.
From the place we glassed for nyala but where the cattle grazed and hunted the hyena and reedbuck.
This huge open pasture was a flat as a West Texas golf course and the grass was low. That was due to the several thousand cattle that grazed out here every day. The cattle were herded out the in the morning, ate all day, then back to bomas at night at the far end of the valley bottom. When the cows left in the afternoon, the warthogs and baboons descended on this place. On any given day we saw 200 or more warthogs grazing on what the cows left behind. The baboons were out in force as well. There were groups of reedbuck, Nyala cows and bushbuck that made it out onto the flat grass at dusk as well to graze.
On the second day, we spotted several good Bohor rams and stalked one, making a 175 yard shot. It was an interesting stalk in that it was like pronghorn antelope hunting. You glass one, decide to go for him, then try to walk nonchalantly toward him hopefully getting in range before he realizes your bad intentions. We were fortunate as these animals and many others in this pasture were used to seeing people. I had missed a Bohor reedbuck in Cameron in 2016, so this one was a nice one to get.
Notice how flat and short the grass is….
The next evening, Jason decided we needed to try to call in a Spotted Hyena. We had reedbuck remnants and a Foxpro caller to set up. We drug the reedbuck insides across a wide swath of the pasture, then set the caller about fifty yards from the gut pile. We backed off 150 yards and set off the caller. Within ten minutes we had a hyena dance party starting with four or five coming in a hurry to see what the music was all about. We had a full moon and I was able to see them at 150 yards without a light of any kind using the Swarovski Z6i scope. I made a killing shot and had the first hyena I have ever taken. I had no idea they were as good looking as they are. This was the first one I had seen up close. This was great fun and a low pressure hunt for sure.
On our fourth day, we had looked over a eucalyptus tree farm that seemed to hold a number of bushbucks and thought that on up the mountain above the farm may hold some Nyala. Jason was right. We set up in the late afternoon and spotted several females and a couple of young males working down the mountain to feed in the low areas at night then would work back up into the hills at daylight. We did not see any shoot-able bulls but figured one had to be around with all of the cows and calves.
Typical hiking to a lookout for nyala…. Very thick and steep….
The next morning we set up half way up the hills and above a valley that seemed to funnel the Nyala back up the mountain. We spotted 10 to 15 cows and calves moving up, then spotted a couple of young bulls ahead of them. While watching the young bulls, the bull we ended up taking walked into an opening briefly. One quick glance from Jason was all that was needed for him to tell me to shoot when ready.
The eucalyptus forest we hike through.
The first shot was at 270 yards and went a little low into the chest at the base of the ribs. He moved about ten steps, stopped and looked back toward us. The second shot was in the center of the chest taking out the top of the heart and lungs. He lunged a bit and disappeared into the tangles.
This one was a fully mature bull, weighing about 600 pounds and measured around 35” with heavy horns. The world’s best is 48” shot by Jason’s dad. A super bull would go around 38”-40” with a great lyre shape. This bull a good one – kind of the equivalent of 38” hard bossed dagga boy or a 55” kudu – if that helps put perspective on him. I am very pleased.
Where he dropped –
Each day we went out for Nyala, we were on the lookout for bushbuck. We saw several dozen bushbucks – mostly females and small males. We made the mistake of passing on what we both agreed was a good one the very first day. Jason said, correctly, that we would see a lot of Menelik’s bushbuck and we would get a crack at a really good if we were patient. We never did see one as nice as the one we passed on, but that happens. We passed on a second one that was very long but very skinny in the horn. By the last day, we had not seen one we wanted and I was getting a little nervous.
In Ethiopia, you pay for the tags/permits before the hunt. There are no trophy fees. You pay upfront whether or not you shoot one. So, I was out a sizeable fee already and really wanted to finish up with the bushbuck. We finally saw a pretty good one along the rode we drove every day. We made a stalk and I proceeded to miss two 125 yard shots. It is not unusual that I miss a shot but unusual I would miss two from 125 yards on a standing broadside animal. Sometimes you get lazy, lift your head on the shot and miss. I did that. Jason wanted to check the gun, so we did and found that the issue was me and not the gun. Oh well.
We went back to the lodge for lunch and decided to take a Colobus monkey while waiting to go out later in the day. For those of you who think monkey hunting is no big deal, you need to try it. There are plenty of monkeys in Africa and plenty of colobus monkeys in Ethiopia. We had a troop or five or six hanging around the camp every day. We saw several every day. Anyway, we took a short drive from the camp, found a group and stalked them. The shot was easy – pretty much straight up about forty yards. The problem was that the bullet entered below the ribs and exited through the face. I am sparing you the gruesome consequences of the exit wound in these pictures. I felt terrible about the damage to the face, but that happens. Anyway, the Colobus is a fine addition to a hunt in Ethiopia and I would recommend you add one if you go. Same goes for the Olive Baboon and Hamadryas Baboon if they are available.
After the monkey face shot, we went back out for bushbuck. We hunted hard and took several hikes into areas that normally hold a lot of bushbuck. No luck on anything mature. On the way back to camp late in the day, we spotted a decent one near the road. This time, I held steady and made the shot. He is not the biggest but “representative” for Menelik’s bushbuck. He was older, worn and cut up. I like bushbuck and this one is fine by me.
Bushbuck stalking –
We called for the charter to the Omo River camp and had a relaxing evening in camp. We paid the staff, tipped the staff and took a lot of pictures. We really enjoyed the camp staff in this camp and in the Omo camp. They were fun people and hard working. Omo
We took a charter from the Damaro area to the Omo area as it would have been a two day drive to get there. The charter was a Cessna 208 Caravan and was flown by two pilots and an instructor. The flight was two hours with no issues. The landing strip is 300 yards from the camp. The landing took us around the area and over the Omo River. From the air, I spotted swarm of birds that turned out to be Carmine Bee-eaters nesting in the river bank. There were several hundred of them. We later stopped by there to see them and take a bunch of pictures. The Carmine Bee-eater is one of the top ten prettiest birds in Africa, along the lines of other bee-eaters, rollers and barbets.
The Omo River area is in the far south of Ethiopia near the border with Kenya and South Sudan. It is dry, hot, relatively flat, no heavily “cropped” but very heavily grazed by thousands of cows and goats. There are a lot of people in the area as well – all carrying AK’s, a situation that blew up later in the hunt. The camp has been there for thirty years and was comfortable. The only downside was the heat. Daytime temps hit the low 90’s with the night time only dropping to the 80’s. We slept in perpetual sweat under a mosquito net. We had a small fan that ran on batteries, but the heat was a bit oppressive. I live in a hot area of the USA but this was a test for my wife and I. We drank a lot of water daily, more than what I thought we would need, but we ended up needing every drop.
Ok, the termite mounds are everywhere but these were really unique and cool….
The camp itself was on the Omo River and heavily shaded. I spent the mid-day hours birding around the camp and found a bunch I had never seen or heard of before. The list is at the end of this narrative. The river is big, had plenty of crocs and daily visitors (cattle, goats and locals).
The hunting was done the normal way as in Zim or Zambia or Tanzania. We got our early, drove to the areas and basically looked for tracks or animals to stalk. We spent a lot of time in the vehicle as the area is large and we had to drive 1 to 11/2 hours to get past the cattle and goat herders that invaded the area. The road time got tiresome for all of us. Jason is working to build a new camp about 20 miles downriver to get away from the herders and into better areas. Again, we saw no evidence of poaching in this area, just the over grazing that is destroying the grasses and pushing the game animals out.
The routine was to hunt early in the day, stopping at 10:30am for lunch and a nap, then starting again at 3pm. The animals lay up during this time and was nigh impossible to see much. I used the time to bird watch.
The first full day in Omo, we went out to see what we could see and drove into a very large herd of Northern Grant’s Gazelles – about 150 or so. We looked them over and saw one very nice male and proceeded to stalk, re-stalk, stalk again as the herd saw us and moved off. This was not easy as they were very nervous and had a lot of eyes watching us. The old ram stayed in the back of the herd as we trailed it. He stopped several times and looked us over not sure if we were trouble or not.
After an hour or so, he stopped one too many times and in the open. A shot at 236 yards dropped him. He is a beauty and I am well pleased. I had never seen a Grant’s gazelle or any other gazelle for that matter so this made him my personal favorite!
One of the best things about being in the open savannah is seeing all of the birds and other wildlife. In particular, the Vultureine Guineafowl is a new favourite. This is a guinea but is stunning in coloration – violet and purple in an iridescent shades. We saw a lot of them and they were fun to watch.
We also saw a bunch of Kori Bustards. These are the largest land birds that actually can fly. They weight over thirty pounds and prowl the grasslands looking for insects, lizards and whatever. We saw a number of these with Carmine Bee-eaters hitching a ride on their backs as they walked in the grass spooking out insects the bee-eaters liked to eat.
After pictures of the Grant’s, we started for camp and saw a very brief glimpse of a Gerenuk. I did not know what to expect but did not expect them to vaporize at the sight of a truck. I got a two second look at these before they vanished in the thorn brush.
Jason said that the Gerenuk and the Lesser Kudu will be a challenge as they are very spooky and hard to see long enough to get a shot. He was right. We spent all of our time over the next four days looking for both of these. In the end, we found them and the shots were very quick.
We started looking in areas where Jason had success in the past for Gerenuk and Lesser Kudu. We searched high and low but were only seeing tracks and an occasional glimpse of one. After two days, we decided to head into some different territory up a dry river bed. That decision created some excitement.Shots Fired!
After following one of the many dry river beds for several miles into somewhat new territory and part of Jason’s concession, we were fired on by a young herdsman carrying an AK47. At first, we did not know what was happening having heard what sounded like a close shot but not seeing anyone or any livestock. We looked around and quickly realized that someone had taken a shot at us. Jason took off in the Suzuki open top jeep only to find one of the guys had jumped out of the jeep and ran for the bush. He hollered at the guy to get back in the jeep while we were yelling at the now visible shooter that we were not police or bad guys. He was waving his AK at us apparently telling us to get out of there.
All of us were shaken and we headed back to camp. Jason said this had never happened to him before. We had the local guys call the police to come have a look around and see what this was about. In the end, we learned that (I think this is the truth but you never know in Africa) the shooter’s tribe was grazing cows in an area that is used by another tribe. The excuse for the shot was that he thought we were “spies” and were going to tell the other tribe these guys were in the wrong territory. These two tribes do not get along and there was some cattle stealing and other mischief going on between them. We happened to be in the crossfire. Anyway, no holes were found in our guys or me or the jeep. We decided to avoid this area and hunt somewhere else (duh!). Gerenuk or Waller’s Gazelle ( as they were formerly known)
These odd looking but unique animals are hard to hunt. They are small in terms of body weight, but long and skinny in terms of legs and neck. They are stunning however and horns at 14” or longer are superb. We spent a couple of days driving looking for animals and tracks actually following a good male for an hour before he lost us in the thorns. This was a bit discouraging as Jason told us the last guy in the area hunting ten days and did not get one.
True to form, we worked and glassed and drove all over and saw a few females and immature males until my wife said, “Hey, what is that?” pointing at a good male about 100 yards away. I quickly go ready and touched off a shot just as he was about to turn and run. The shot entered the center of the chest and exited where the Texas neck shot usually is placed, a complete pass through. He dropped where he stood. This was an excellent Gerenuk and we were very fortunate my wife was looking in the dense brush and not on the horizon where the rest of us were looking. Carmine Bee-eaters
We celebrated and then spent the next couple of days trying to find lesser kudu. This was tough. The brush was up, rains were starting and they were darn hard to see. We spent a lot of time and effort glassing, driving, looking and sitting hoping to see any at all. After a bit, we decided to divert to the Omo River bank and look at the swarms of Carmine Bee-eaters that were nesting in the cut-bank. We were dazzled by a flurry of red and green birds diving and darting all around us. We took dozens of pictures and were able to get quite close. Here are some of the best pics.
The locals put up bee hives to attract bees. We saw a lot of these up in the trees… Maybe the bee-eaters have this figured out too. Back to hunting
While driving every day we bumped into many pairs of Guenther’s Dik Dik’s. They are quick, small and nervous and always in pairs. The male is the smaller of the two and the one with very short horns. A world class trophy is 3 ¾” while a mediocre one is 3”. We looked at dozens and never really stopped for a second look as Jason quickly could tell 3” from better than 3”.
While out looking for lesser kudu, we kept an eye out for these little guys and finally bumped into one that was the needed 3 ½” or better. Jason looked him over, drove out of sight and we slowly stalked back with one shotgun shell in an old single shot 12 gauge. When Mr. Guenther’s got curious and looked us over, I carefully shot him so as not to tear up the face or body. Honestly, I nearly cried when I got a real close look at this stunning animal. They are tiny, They are fragile and very beautiful. Of all of the animals taken on this trip, this dik dik was the prettiest to my eyes.
Again, we celebrated that night and had a lot of fun talking about dik dik’s. I had no idea that there were dik dik’s scattered from Namibia (Damara dik dik) to Ethiopia. Apparently there are four species and possibly six sub-species of them. The Guenther’s dik dik has a type of prehensile nose that moves and twists in a lot of directions. It is really cool and looks a bit odd. I am glad to have gotten to hunt them. There are plenty in Ethiopia from what I could tell.
See the nose…
Back to kudu hunting…. I have taken several Greater Kudu and a Cape Kudu. I think I know a little about hunting them and where to see them. Well, no so with Lesser Kudu. These little guys (about the size of a mule deer or about 200 pounds) hide well and stay in the thick stuff. After two more days, we spotted several at dusk in a relatively open area making a bee line for some cover. They appeared to have been out on the edge of an acacia/thorn bush area and we scared them into the open. This was our first sighting of them. We went back to camp that night thinking we would come back to this general area the next day and look harder.
Well we did and did not see any. Bummer. However, we saw a lot of tracks and decided to set up on a long road cut that offered a few of a couple of spots were they crosses the two track road. Again, no luck other than to see a host of different birds. The coolest of the birds was a black faced weaver that was building an unusual gourd shaped next dangling from an thin branch of an acacia tree. How they tie those strips of grass together with no hands, I have no clue. We watched one work at it for a bit while waiting for a kudu to show up.
Again, we spent most of the day looking for the grey ghost with no luck. We had given up and were driving back to camp when the lead tracker spotted a pair standing in the bush 120 yards off the two track road. He quickly pointed them out, Jason looked for one second and said that we needed to shoot the bull on the right. With about two seconds of preparation, I got on him and made the shot. Down he went and we had our kudu! It is always amazing how quickly you go from despair or disappointment to the thrill of the chase. We were tired and not really dialled into to looking for kudu when one appears. Go figure.
This was the best bull we saw and I am very pleased with him. I have no idea what big is or what great is but this one is both to me.
Lots of celebration back at the camp as we had only one day left to hunt. We actually now had time to do some serious birding and picture taking for a full day without the pressure of a hunt. We also had time to interact with some of the locals and visit a little with them. The folks in this area are a bit more “backward” than the folks that live closer to Addis Ababa, so it was an eye opener for me to see how they lived and took care of themselves. Final Excitement
Nothing really earth shattering at the end of the trip other than a long charter ride to Addis Ababa and getting caught in serious fog and running a bit low on fuel. (see the pictures of the warning lights). The pilots were cool and got us on the ground about 3 or more hours in the air with enough fuel so everyone could get a cupful. Yipes! We went to a Radisson hotel to clean up, eat dinner and to the airport to the trip home. We had dinner with Nassos best friend in life, Niko, a long time friend and helper for ERVS. He was a delight to share dinner with.
The lights on the dashboard that got my blood pressure up a bit… low on fuel
Part 2 - FinalLessons to Remember
1. Know your gun and optics. This is repeated in every hunt report you will read but it holds true, especially when you get one chance at a unique and expensive animal. I practiced and thought I knew my rifle and scope. Only after Jason went over my gun and then shot it, did we notice that it wasn’t grouping where we thought it should. We fired 15 or so rounds to verify groups at 200, 300 and 350 yards. This made a big difference when the time came to shoot in the field. My turrets were set per the computer generated bullet drop but reality proved different. We reset the turrets and all was good.
2. We hunted in three distinct areas with different terrain and weather. We had the right clothing but I did not have the right boots. I had some very light weight boots that work well in rolling or flat terrain. In the mountains, they were not well suited. If you do this hunt and are in the different areas, take two pair of boots that match the terrain. I suffered no foot issues, but did not climb as well as my wife did.
3. Jason and his dad are experts on Ethiopia. Bring what they tell you and do not think that this is Zimbabwe or Namibia. Always listen to the expert. We did and this saved some heartache.
4. As always, use the best optics you can afford. Bottom line is that if you can afford this hunt, you can afford the best ranging binoculars out there be they Swarovski or Leica. Get a 10x42 set of ranging binos. You will need them as the mountains make the distances hard to estimate.
5. Trust the PH’s trophy judgement. He knows the animals, you do not. If he says, “That is a good one”, you need to shoot.
6. Probably should be the number 1 item on this list – you better hunt with a PH that speaks the local language. This is critical, especially in Ethiopia. I know that most do, but I re-emphasize the point here. Your PH is your lifeline. He better know the locals and speak the language.
7. Take all of the ammo allowed and leave the unused for your PH. Ammo is impossible to get in Ethiopia.
8. Hunt the dik dik’s. I did not know they are limited largely to Ethiopia.
9. If you want Giant Forest Hog, this is the place. Jason has 100% success on really big ones. He is booked way out but if you want one, go here!Impressions and Afterthoughts
I have been back a couple of weeks now. I tend to re-live and re-think everything that happened on each trip I take. This one was different in that, the hunting, the country, and the “players” involved were different from other places we have been. Here are my impressions after some thinking…
1. I really like Ethiopia. I like Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe too, but for different reasons. Ethiopia is a country that seems to function well – like Namibia and Botswana. They had a dark period for about 17 years when the communists ruled, but they were kicked out and a fledgling democracy of sorts is there now. The people in the areas we visited were busy – some working the fields or shepherding cattle or in the towns doing whatever they could to make a buck. I did not see much begging nor was I approached by “officials” for money.
2. The country has a great deal of verifiable history, not just fables. They trace back to the time of King David and Solomon in Israel. They have roots here and abroad. They are proud of it as well. This is different from other sub-Saharan countries that were a collection of tribes that were colonized by Europeans with European methods, schools and governments. That has happened to some extent in Ethiopia but not to the degree of other countries.
3. The only thing I saw making me a bit nervous was the impact the Chinese are having there. Apparently, the Chinese have made a lot of deals to build roads, dams and trains in exchange for mining rights for rare earth metals, uranium and diamonds. What I saw of the Chinese construction methods left a lot to be desired (remember the buildings you saw during the Olympics in Beijing). This left me wondering why the EU or the USA have not been there doing that as well. I witnessed first-hand what the Chinese were doing in Zimbabwe in the Hwang National Park area in the coal mines – basically they strip out what they want and leave a mess behind with no value for the host country. They promise roads, dams, etc, and deliver an inferior product in exchange for the real assets of a country, leaving the country worse off than before. Sooner or later, the EU, the USA and others need to step in and demonstrate some level of sustainability for a country like Ethiopia rather than stripping it and leaving it destitute.
4. I never understand why some countries go over the top in checking hunter’s guns and ammo. For the first time, on my re-entry in the USA, the customs folks checked my forms and then entered me in a database matched against guns and serial numbers. It took about thirty minutes for them to enter me in the “system”. I asked why and was told they were checking my gun against a “stolen guns” list. I said that if I had stolen it I doubt I would have gone to the trouble to take out of the USA and back in. My logic was not appreciated.
I get it, they want to know what is coming in and going out. However, the hunter is not the problem, as we all know. In the Omo River area, we never saw a male herdsman without an AK47. We got shot at too. I am willing to wager that those AK’s are not “registered” anywhere and that the ammo was not brought in via “official” routes. The world (USA included, Russia, most of Africa and the EU) is a bit messed up on this. Hunters are not the issue. Terrorists/anarchists/radical Muslims/others are the problem. Go after them and leave the law abiding folks out of the bureaucratic maze. End of rant…..
5. I need to become more proficient as a shooter and know my equipment inside and out. I need to attend a shooting school to teach me what I really do not know that I do not know. Being an engineer, I fancy myself as an expert in most things – but this trip showed I trusted calculated ballistics too much and had no clue what altitude does to a bullet. I am signing up for a school before I do a hunt like this again. There is no such thing as a self-taught shooter. Yes, I can pull the trigger and hit the target at 100 yards, but that is not shooting. That is only fooling myself into thinking I know how to shoot.
6. Mountain Nyala are really special. They are hard to hunt, require skill and are only here. It is like hunting bull elk in a rain forest. I did not appreciate how special until actually seeing them and hunting them. I would place them in the category of bongo, lion and the North American mountain sheep.
7. Calling in hyenas is very cool and great fun. I will try to do that every time I go back to Africa where it is legal. It is much more fun that sitting over a bait waiting for them. I would go as far as to say that I wish we could call lions and leopards. Leopards with dogs is a rush too. I hope to hunt leopard in Botswana by tracking with bushmen when that opens again (if it opens again). I just do not like sitting on baits. Reminds me of Texas deer hunting over feeders and in box blinds – boring!
8. I like hunting monkeys. I wished I had tried to get tags/permits for the olive baboon and the Hamadryas baboon or even the Gelada baboon. I don’t know why, but I like to hunt them, especially the old males.
9. Gerenuk are special too. I had never seen them before. The way they move, feed, run and act is unique. They are a lot smaller than I expected as well. They are a hard hunt just to find one that you can evaluate and get a shot at.
10. We have been on a lot of safaris and trips. Easily, the local staff treated my wife better on this trip than any other. The folks in Ethiopia are just plain friendly and hospitable. I really appreciate that.
11. We ate good food but had a lot of pasta and spaghetti. I think we had spaghetti every other day or so. I like spaghetti but was surprised to see it that often. It seems Ethiopians like pasta with a spicy sauce. They like the local favourite “injera” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Injera) which is kind of a pancake that is cooked on one side with spicy meat and sauce rolled up. This was at nearly every meal. I liked it. At the end of it all….
My measure of a good safari as compared to a great safari is – would I go again? A good safari is a trip to Zim or Namibia where you take most of what you are after, have fun and enjoyed yourself. A great safari is a trip to Ethiopia or Cameroon where you have an adventure with some good and some bad events. We had mostly good on this trip and a couple of nervous moments. All in all, Jason and his guys host a super trip in a country that is tough to understand and tough to hunt. Would I go again? Yep. But the caveat is that I would hunt different animals in different areas and not go for the same ones I took on this trip. I would book a Nile buffalo hunt along with Abyssinian bushbuck or kudu and whatever else Jason recommended. I would nail a couple of the baboons and call hyenas again too.
This is a big country with vastly varying terrain. The hunting is real and not like other parts of Africa. So, I would recommend you go but be prepared to be surprised. Jason is the real deal and you will get an adventure.
One of the many folks we interacted with...
A bunch of junior Usain Bolt's!! Appendix 1 – Bird List Birds in the Damaro Area
Black Bellied Bustard
African Mourning Dove
White-bellied Go-Away Bird
Northern Red-billed Hornbill
African Grey Hornbill
Greater Blue-eared Starling
White-breasted Scrub Robin
Chestnut Knapped Francolin
Helmeted Guinea Fowl
Speckled Mouse bird
White-browed Sparrow Weaver
White Collared Pigeon
White Cheeked Turaco
Gynogene or Harrier Hawk
African Dusky Flycatcher
African Paradise Flycatcher
Dusky Turtle Dove
African Stone Chat
White-winged Black TitBirds in the Omo River Area
Carmine Bee-eater (our favourite!)
Black-crested Snake Eagle
Eastern Chanting Goshawk
Emerald-spotted Wood Dove
Blue-knapped Mouse bird
Black-billed Wood Hoopoe
Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill
Abyssinian Ground Hornbill
Red and Yellow Barbet
White-headed Sparrow Weaver (?)
Long-tailed Paradise Whydah
Bruce’s Green Pigeon
Vitelline Masked Weaver
Vonder Decker’s Hornbill
Beaded Woodpecker (?)
White-crested Helmet Shrike
White-crowned Robin Chat
African Orange-bellied Parrot