I have hunted numerous plains game animals in Africa on multiple hunts, but the one animal that holds a special interest for me is Phacochoerus africanus sundevallii, the Southern Warthog. You can pursue wild pigs over much of the world, but if a hunter is looking for the toughest, orneriest, as well as the one with most outsized tusks, the warthog is for you. Even lion and cheetah know to tread lightly around those guys.
The southern warthogs are to be found in the savanna, woodland and grassland regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. For me, Namibia has proven to be particularly rich in this special trophy. In planning for my first safari to Namibia, I considered several outfitters and, after much research, narrowed the list down to one–Rolf Ritter of Ritter Safaris. Rolf told me that if I was looking for some plains game excitement, the warthog should be high on my wish list. Rolf was right on. The opportunities were many and the fees affordable.
It has been my experience that these wild pigs of Africa are often taken while hunting other game and, fortunately, most rifles used for plains game are suitable for warthogs. My two pet rifles are both Winchester Model 70s; one in .375 H&H Magnum and the other is a McMillan fiberglass-stocked 7mm Remington Magnum. Each sports a Leopold scope. Both have served me well with plains game in general and warthog in particular. In fact, my best record book warthog was taken with my 7mm, using a 160-grain Nosler Partition bullet; however most of my big-tusked hogs were taken with the .375 H&H, using the fine 260-grain Nosler Partition bullet.
The opportunity to take my first warthog came as I was hunting kudu with Rolf. We were in a blind late on a Sunday afternoon looking to the left toward the setting sun when I happened to glance to my right and spotted him–a huge lone boar trotting toward water. I whispered to Rolf and he confirmed that it was a trophy for sure. I silently raised my rifle and eased the safety off, placing the crosshair of my VX-3 2.5-8x Leupold for a lung shot. I touched off my 7mm Magnum and the warthog bolted from the hit. Quickly cycling the Winchester, a second shot headed his way. Upon its arrival, he went down hard. To say I was excited would be a bold understatement.
It was my first warthog and still my biggest to date, easily making the SCI Record Book. We confirmed that the first shot was a good one and the second probably not necessary, but better that than tracking him into the bush in the rapidly fading light. In keeping with German tradition, Rolf placed a sprig of grass in the boar’s mouth, toasting me with the phrase Waidmanns Heil – Hunter’s Luck. (By the way, a couple of days later we did get a kudu–a nice record book bull at that.)
Later that week, we were tracking gemsbok when we had the opportunity to witness how savage Africa can be. In the distance we observed a lone piglet with no sow in sight. It didn’t take long until a large boar showed up. The old male went relentlessly on the attack. His razor sharp lower tusks ripped the smaller warthog to shreds. The violent struggle was not unlike the reality of the cycle of life and death to be found throughout the game fields of the African bush. We passed on that boar but took another fine specimen later on that day. Today its skull rests on my desk making quite a conversation piece.
I have long been an admirer of the late American big game hunter and publisher, Robert E. Petersen. He would often take his lovely wife Margie on safari with him. Well, my wife, Sharon, let me know that if Margie Petersen could go on safari, so could she. Sharon proved to be not only a great outdoorswoman, but a fine tracker as well.
So off we were for a second safari, with warthog again definitely on our list of “most wanted.” Both eland and gemsbok were also on the menu. With eland as the primary quarry, I decided to rely on my .375, confident that throughout our safari I would be ready, come what may–eland, gemsbok or warthog. After our long flight from Los Angeles, Marion Ritter met us at the Windhoek airport with a big hug and we were off to their ranch, Woltemade, near Okahandja. Exhaustion from our travel made sleep come easily and we were on the go at first light.
Soon, Slinger, our San Bushman tracker, my wife and I were heading out in Rolf’s Land Cruiser. We arrived at a good jump off point whereupon I chambered a big .375 cartridge into the Winchester, and we were ready for whatever Africa would bring us that day. After about an hour, Slinger stopped, suddenly motioning ahead with his right hand. There he was, a nice heavy-tusked old boar facing directly at us about 75 yards out. A straight on chest shot is not what I would have preferred, but you take what you can get. I went down on one knee and shouldered my Model 70. While the shot felt good the hog exploded in flight and was gone. Slinger said that it looked to him like a frontal shoulder shot, disabling but not immediately fatal. I knew what that meant–a potentially long tracking job.
I looked over to my wife, gauging her reaction to the task ahead. She gave me a thumbs up and said, “Lets do it!” and off we went. Sharon is a California girl who has been in a number of TV shows and movies, but is right at home tracking in the thick thorn bush of Namibia. At first the blood trail was easy to follow, but soon became more sporadic. Those Bushman trackers are just amazing, finding sign where I was sure there was none. For a moment, we lost sight of Slinger; Sharon briefly thought we were lost in Africa for sure. But, Slinger was right there and we continued on.
Suddenly, our warthog erupted from an aardvark burrow. Startled, I must have jumped three feet before I swung my rifle to take a snap shot–a clean miss! Sharon was undeterred by all the excitement and insisted that we press on. We took up where we left off and I bumped that big boar a time or two, and after four hours of determined tracking I was finally able to close the deal. He wasn’t my biggest warthog, but it was a family affair and I am very proud of what Sharon and I were able to do together. She couldn’t wait to retell the story to her girlfriends and our children back home. Later, we did connect with an excellent record class eland and gemsbok, but that’s a story for another time.
Rolf saw to it that our trophies were properly cared for in the field and carefully prepared for shipment to my taxidermist back home. My best warthog is now a full shoulder mount displayed on the wall of my trophy room, with the skull of another proudly resting on my bookcase.
Success comes naturally to Rolf Ritter. Since my safaris, Rolf’s other clients have also achieved Waidmanns Heil, taking a number of outsized trophy warthogs. I am now part of a growing fraternity of satisfied hunters, who have discovered that Hog Heaven is a place called Africa.– Tom Nichols