WASHINGTON, Ga. - Brian Miller spends most weekdays hard at work as a hunting guide in the arid grasslands bordering Africa's Kalahari Desert.
Last week, however, he was in a different sort of terrain - the game-filled studio of his American friend, Wilkes County taxidermist Lloyd Johnson.
That's where I caught up with Miller, and his wife Ina, to chat about hunting on the other side of the world.
"Most of what we pursue is plains game - eland, kudu, all the way down to smaller animals, like the steenbok," said Miller, whose 60,000-acre farm is 90 miles from Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.
His country - larger than Texas but with barely 1.8 million people - borders Botswana and South Africa. Game is plentiful, and so are hunting opportunities.
"Our seasons run from Feb. 1 to the end of November, because breeding occurs year-round," he said. "December and January are our mid-summer, and it is very hot."
Most hunters planning an African safari hunt multiple species, up to a dozen or more, he said. Because each species requires a specific permit, it is best to pre-select what you wish to hunt.
"That way, it is more simple for the guide to have permits ready," said Miller, vice-president of the Namibia Professional Hunting Association - a trade group with more than 500 guides and professional hunters.
Namibia, once called Southwest Africa, is among the more reasonable venues to hunt in terms of expense.
Per-day guide fees range from $250 to $350, including lodging and food, with weeklong hunts averaging about $5,000 to $6,000, including airfare. Photographic safaris are much cheaper.
All hunting is fair chase, but game is abundant enough that guides can almost guarantee success with many species, Miller said.
"We seldom have anyone taking less than 80 percent of their chosen animals," he said. Recordbook-sized racks are more challenging - like anywhere else in the world.
"If you're after, for instance, a 61-inch kudu, that may take up the whole hunt, and you still may or may not ever see one," he said.
Safari guides typically help clients get within 100 to 200 yards of their quarry - and recommend big-bore rifles. Clients fire when the guide gives the OK, and must pay for unrecovered, wounded animals.
"We do not hunt with anything smaller than a .270," he said.
Rifles taken into the country must have a serial number, and the owner will need credentials to prove legal ownership of the weapon.
A typical hunt begins with a breakfast that includes bacon, eggs and grits, which the Namibians call miele-pap.
"We eat a lot of meat, and we like for the hunters to experience the game they are hunting," he said.
Favorites are zebra steaks, or kudu cordon bleu or jerky (called biltong).
By day's end, the hunters enjoy an open-air barbecue - called braii - that includes wild game cooked over wood from camelthorn trees, whose dense, aromatic wood matures slowly for 300 years.
Excess meat, he added, is used by the drivers, skinners and trackers, and none goes to waste.
Most of Miller's clients are Europeans, and about 90 percent in recent years have been Germans. Americans make up a much smaller percentage of hunters, perhaps because there are abundant hunting opportunities in the United States.
You can get more information on safaris by calling Miller, (011) 26462-581661; or by calling Johnson, (706) 678-1440.
CHARLIE'S NEMESIS: Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., who began his fifth term in Congress this month, often characterizes the Army Corps of Engineers as an out-of-control federal agency.
Last week, before a packed house at the South Augusta Exchange Club, he announced plans to add a staff member to his office solely to handle military affairs - and the Corps.
"They're a dastardly group, just unbelievable," he said. "Something's got to give."
The Corps has been under scrutiny in recent years for its water management policies - including a drought management plan now under review for potential revisions.
Norwood said a high percentage of inquiries to his office deal with issues related to Corps policies involving the Savannah River and its lakes - all of which now adjoin his newly created Ninth District.
Here are some tips for planning an African safari:
Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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