Hunting > African Game

A World in One Country

The campfire stories of a hunt shared beneath South African skies give new meaning to a “girls night out."

The herd took off again, dashing my chance at the lone black springbok among them. So much for stalking in the open, I thought, as Stefan and I sought the plain’s only tree for cover. The zebra we’d glassed earlier were now 450 yards away, but the springboks were angling back toward us with their characteristic leaping display.

“They’re trying to look healthy, not like easy prey,” said Stefan. The herd moved with heads down, backs arched and hooves bunched, activity that for eons had ensured survival. The black one drew closer. I set my rifle on the shooting sticks, anticipating the go-ahead from my professional hunter.

“No, wait!” he said. “There’s a reeeally good common one to the left.”

Dilemma. It was the first day and my head was spinning. I checked out the strikingly marked antelope: I wanted a common springbok most of all—and this one, Stefan judged, was record-book nice. Finally, the buck stopped at 200 yards. I exhaled halfway and placed the shot. I’d taken my first African game—fittingly, the national animal of South Africa—as I began to explore the land with the motto “a world in one country.”

Safari Sisters
“Are you in?” asked then-NRA President Sandy Froman when I answered the phone more than a year ago. The 2007 Women On Target (WOT) hunt schedule had just been released, so when I recognized Sandy’s number on my caller ID I knew it was time to plan that safari we’d discussed since elk camp in 2005.

Ten women registered for “the dream hunt,” a plains-game safari in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province last August booked through Todd Rathner of T. Jeffrey Safaris (TJS). Yes, a dream hunt, but also a shocking deal: It cost just $3,100 for each hunter to take four animals (not including airfare). That’s less than a quality elk hunt! As I put together a plan for American Hunter magazine and television coverage, just as exciting was that with the exception of Sandy, me and one other hunter I’d met through WOT in 2001, no one knew each other—a testament to the sheer growth of women hunters and the program’s success.

Our age range spanned 40 years and all experience levels. There was four-time safari goer Jan Favors of Phenix City, Ala.; three-timer Sue Ann Stephenson of Bismarck, N.D., who has the No. 3 duiker in the SCI record book; and two-timers Pam Zaitz of Conroe, Texas, owner of SHESafari, who generously jumped at the chance to be the hunt’s clothing sponsor, and Cyndi Flannigan of Linn, Ore., sales manager at Leupold, who offered optics products to our group at a discount. And then there were the African newcomers: Bunny Huntley of Bethel, Vt., whose Christmas cards always feature a hunting photo; Kelli Frazier of Waynesville, Ohio, a former vegetarian who now claims SCI coastal black bear No. 36; Esther McGann of Laramie, Wyo., who told husband Tony she’d found Africa too irresistible not to strike out on her own; Shannon Irving of Tucson, Ariz., a TJS employee who was so inspired by WOT she decided to make Africa her first-ever hunt; NRA’s Sandy Froman, who had taken multiple game in her few years of hunting; and me, who’d hunted at least 15 states and several countries but always managed to say, “I’ve been meaning to,” when it came to Africa.

Everyone flew to Port Elizabeth to be greeted by our outfitter, Tollie Jordaan, of Tollie’s African Safaris. After some paperwork we were off for a 125-mile drive to the Cape Midland Highlands near Somerset East. Anticipation ran high on both sides as we chatted with Tollie, his wife, Karen, and their staff. They’d never hosted such a large group, let alone one made up entirely of women. Tollie’s dinner blessing that evening set the tone: “Life is what you make of it,” he said, “and I believe God put me here for a reason—to carry on my heritage and to share with you the beauty of a world I am blessed with every day.”

Karen's African adventure heats up, continue reading.

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