Perfecting the Art of Hunting

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By Chrispin Inambao WINDHOEK Some 45 kilometres outside Windhoek is located the Omitara Eagle Rock Hunting Academy on Etango Ranch, a neat family-owned farm that offers a series of short courses on how to successfully mount professional hunts. The courses are conducted by Volker Grellmann, one of Namibia’s most famed hunters whose exploits in the bush are as legendary as this bear of a man. His tale remains untold though his real-life expeditions could make some beastly adventures dreamed in Hollywood look tame by comparison. But anyway the energetic Grellmann and his wife Anke have been offering hunting courses since 1974 mainly to Namibians though his students include various German and Austrian nationals. Other students were from America, Hungary, Kenya and Tanzania. Those trained were residence permit holders. The school initially started with daylong and two-day seminars with various presenters and as time went by these were lengthened to several days at various game reserves. Towards the end of the 80s the first 10-day course took root at Omitara Eagle Rock though the school itself was founded in 1978. Grellmann was quick to point out that since there are many farms that parroted the name of his institution, Omitara Eagle Rock “should not be confused with similar names established at later dates”. “After Independence we bought a farm to also establish a professional school for hunting and environmental matters,” he told New Era. When asked why he established the school, he said: “Well, because I think there was a need for it and the successes proved us right. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ There are very few hunting professionals that did not go through one of our courses.” Grellmann who has been in the local hunting industry for several decades says matter-of-fact that as far as he knows the school is the only institution that educates and hones the skill of professional hunters. Students who went through his hands are in the age group 17 to 68. He developed the curriculum used and in 2000 he adapted it for the Namibian Professional Hunting Association (NAPHA) so that the association could accommodate the first intake of Previously Disadvantaged Namibians (PDNs). “For most game hunting and legislation related subjects I am the principal lecturer, for botanical excursions we do bring in specialists from NAPHA, the Botanical Institute or from the Ministry of Agriculture,” he said. His son Robert offers theoretical shooting lessons and practice. Courses at the institution run for 10 consecutive days of a duration of eight to ten hours daily non-stop. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ PDN courses stretch over 12 days plus two days of oral examination. “We probably have had over 1000 hunting guides and professional hunters on our courses since 1974. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ PDNs that have successfully passed the examination now stand at 92.” All students counted together have a passing rate of between 75 – 80 % and students allowed to do the oral examination are said to generally fare better. The medium of instruction is mainly English, except some PDN courses that have been offered in Afrikaans, having been the lingua franca for most students coming from a farm-workers’ background. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚  “Courses are offered in twelve to sixteen students per class – maximum, to be able to give enough attention to the individual learner during theoretical and practical exercises. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ There is enough equipment for all – a donated beamer will assist with the next courses to include more illustrations in the power point formats,” says the man fondly known as “the Beard of the Elephant.” Practical training during the theoretical course is limited to group activities such as valuating and measuring trophies, professional capping and skinning of a trophy animal, safe handling of fire-arms, learning to shoot and sight-in rifles, judging distances, etc. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ Practical shooting starts with a smaller calibre “to build confidence and ends up with heavy calibre rifle shots.” “Students are even exposed to setting a safari table and serving properly. During the practical course there will be a complete full stalk of an animal plus all the other components for the practical examination. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ Most students do some practical exercises after the course under the mentorship of their employer or an experienced professional hunter,” Grellmann explained. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚  Once they passed their theoretical the students are normally tested in a gruelling two-day practical test by competent Environment and Tourism officials within four to six months after they have passed their theoretical exams. After this scrutiny they are requested to acquire a first aid certificate, obtain a drivers licence, list up a personal liability insurance of up to N$500 000 – only then they can start to guide clients possessing a valid trophy hunting licence. “We get feedback from employers and also students and stay in touch with most of them. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ Some of them have become real ‘stars’ in the meantime. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ Very few, if any have disappointed us.” Grellmann has devoted his life to the industry and had the privilege to assist Namibia in setting up “a well managed and controlled trophy hunting industry”. “The recent CITES allocation of black rhinos to the list of Namibian trophy animals for me is the pinnacle of achievements for Namibia and all the role players in this industry,” stresses a man who initially cut his teeth in this important sector by starting as a hunting consultant in 1968 because the legislation at the time prevented him from becoming a game capturer. Since all training institutions are required by law to be accredited with NQA of NTA or to become part of a registered institution such as the Polytechnic of Namibia, he is currently negotiating as he has received offers to register with international organisations. Courses offered by the school are already endorsed by NAPHA for which it has run most of the courses and it has also offered lectures on introduction to trophy hunting to members of the Namibia Tourism Board, WWF and IRDNC. On funding? “Originally we had anticipated rather optimistically receiving funding from outside sources, for example in SA the state provided R2 million for the initial setting up of a course for previously disadvantaged hunters. “At the end we had to finance everything ourselves as far as all fixed assets, buildings, fitting, furniture and equipment were concerned. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ We are however very grateful for donations from some international organisations – Shikar Safari Club (school rifles), Sariari Club Namibian Chapter for computer equipment, SCI Touscon for record books and measuring equipment, Dallas Safari Club for hunters safety instructions and Houston Safari Club.” There were also various individuals with smaller contributions from much needed earplugs to stationery and a much-appreciated major donation by Oasis in the form of juices and soft drinks. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ There is presently also a drive to obtain some scholarships from the larger international hunting associations. The last course for PDNs was held from 10th to 23rd February of this year and another one will probably materialize in the first half of November. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ A dedicated big game safari assistants course for participants from the northern communal areas is planned for the last week of November and first week in December of 2006.