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A dream trip to Africa

Ranae Edwards and her husband Mike have hunted together for the last 15 years. Last summer, they took on the challenge of hunting in a new country and with different animals. And it turned out to be an adventure of a lifetime.     “We had purchased the two-week trip in a live auction at the Quality Deer Management Banquet in Ottertail County,” said Ranae.     And in August, they took that trip. The location? Namibia, Africa, located in the southwestern part of the state, directly north of South Africa. The trip included hunting big game for seven days at the ranch and also touring Lake Etosha National Park and the African countryside the remaining days. The adventure started at a ranch in Namibia. “They raised cattle, sheep, and goats, and has safari hunting as a concession on his ranch,” she said. “We stayed in a beautiful brick building headquarters—where we ate all of our meals and started and ended each day along with six other hunters from the United States, who were also hunting during this time.”      There was a language barrier with many of the natives, but they managed to communicate on real basic level.      “Very few of the natives working at the ranch actually spoke English, but I did visit with the ranch owner’s wife and sister-in-law and daughter,” said Ranae. “They are all wonderful people. They were very religious—we said a prayer before every meal — and very polite.”     The language spoken in Naimbia is called “Africaan,” which the Edwards’ believe to be a mixture of Dutch, German and the native language.     “I learned that saying ‘buy a donkey’ translated to ‘thank you very much’ in our language,” she said. “They said ‘donkey’ a lot — which seems to be a derivative of the German phrasae, “danke schoen.”      There are many tribes in Africa and each spoke their own language. The most rare, says Ranae, is the Kalahari Bushmen, who are short, yellowish colored nomads that live in northern Namibia. This group lives exclusively off the land.     “Namibia currently has a 40 percent unemployment rate, and the major crime in the country is theft,” she said. “Not many of the people there own a vehicle. They walk everywhere. And the rest stops consist of plastic tubes with seats, a tree for shade and a trash can. They have no biffy — they have to go in the bushes.”     Despite the poor and primitive conditions, the people in Naimbia made a good impression on the hunters.     “All of the people we met were warm and friendly,” she said. “Even the people who were very poor were always dressed cleanly and neat. And there was no litter anywhere, not even in the larger cities like Johannesburg, South Africa.”     Each morning, the Edwards’ were up with the sun. The groups were assigned their own “professional hunter,” (or PH) who took the groups to different parts of the ranch everyday to spot and stalk various plains animals.     “The beauty of the land was very impressive. And the sheer amount of wildlife was surprising. Wildlife seemed to be everywhere you looked all the time. Even though Namibia was basically an arid and dry country, I was surprised to see the amount of wildlife it sustained.”       And the wildlife was the main reason Ranae and Mike purchased this exotic trip.      “We were hunting for four animals to start — gemsbok, greater kudu, springbok and zebra,” said Ranae. “We got all of them plus three more! My husband shot a blue wildebeest (or gnu) and a blesbok. I also shot a red hartebeest. We had shot all four of the animals by the fourth day, and still had 2 1/2 days to hunt, so the ranch hunter gave us a deal on three more animals.”      Ranae compared it to “kind of a end of season clearance sale” since it was getting towards the end of prime hunting season and the bookings for hunters was starting to dwindle.     The Edwards were hunting in Africa under certain restrictions   “For the native Africans, they can hunt any animals that are not prohibited, as long as they eat what they shoot,” she recalled. “For non-Africans, you have to have a license… and these are heavily controlled by the governments. They decide how many licenses/permits are given out in given areas.  All of the wild animals are owned by whomever owns the land they are living on.  Which means they are well taken care of by most ranchers and other landowners. Many ranchers also have these hunting concessions, so they manage their wildlife really well.”                 Finding animals wasn’t very difficult, said Ranae, who was amazed by the numbers of animals roaming the countryside.     “I think the biggest difference hunting Africa compared to the U.S. There are literally hundreds of species you can hunt — and you may see hundreds while hunting,” she said. “Whereas in the U.S. you get your license for a particular animal and that is what you hunt–without choices of taking anything else on that hunt.  When we were hunting Africa, we chose only four animals to start with, and because we had a couple of days left to our safari, we chose to hunt three more species.      All of the people from the camp joined the Edwards for dinner each night — which was served nightly at 9 p.m. or later.     “Their diet consists of 40 percent meat—due to the availability of it compared to vegetables or fruits,” she said. “We ate nearly everything we killed.  I had eland the first night, and also had gemsbok, springbok, lamb, kudu and crocodile meat (tastes like pork chops).”      There was a campfire every night where all the hunters and PH’s sat around and told stories about the day.       “If something happened that wasn’t supposed to, you were given a “penalty”  at campfire–which means you had to drink a shot of some rather strong liquor,” said Ranae. “Thankfully, I didn’t have too many penalties!”     The Edwards were able to bring all of the harvested animals back to their home in Dalton.                  “The hides and head/horns were processed and salt dipped, packed, and shipped to United States. They went hrough US Customs and the US Fish and Wildlife Services inspected them before  they were shipped to our taxidermist. The eventually will end up in our home in rural Dalton on our living room wall, and the zebra will be a full rug.”      While most of the trip was very pleasurable, there were a few scary moments during their hunting excursions.       “After stalking blue wildebeests, they decided to stampede us. To my surprise, they went around us, and my husband got a shot at one because it stopped to look back to see what that was that he just passed,” said Ranae. “Wildebeests are known as the “clowns of Africa” and they frequently act very sporatically.”       A bull elephant charged the van Ranae and Mike were riding in at the Lake Etosha National Park, apparently thinking the van was too close to him as he was eating.        “One night, I was surrounded by jackals as I was waiting for my husband and the PH to come back from their stalk,” said Ranae. “Believe me, that was the one and only time I went into the bush hunting without my 306 rifle at my side!  I could have been eaten!”     The final scary moments were on the ride home, as Hurricane Bill was creating tremendous storms across the Atlantic Ocean. It was a 24-hour ride home.

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