Greetings from South Africa! For the past few days my “to do” list has read, “Go to Africa. Hunt. Make memories,” and I’ve been doing just that. I’m leading a group of five female hunters in the Eastern Cape with Starr & Bodill African Safaris, of which I am a co-owner along with my father Dwaine Starr and professional hunter Louis Bodill. Here are a few highlights from our hunts, so far.
My hunting partner Michelle Whitney Bodenheimer and I started our first day in search of warthogs. We were located near Fort Beaufort, South Africa. She won the coin toss, so she would be behind the gun first, if we did find them. We spent the morning glassing over a large area that contained a prickly pear patch, in hopes that we would find a shooter. Unfortunately, it was a cold, windy morning and the only pigs we saw were females with tusks or males that were too small. None of the big boys wanted to come out of their holes.
After a quick lunch, we decided to hike up a large cliff and glass for other game. This particular hunting area is known to have nyala—an animal that I also wanted to hunt. Not long after our ascent, Dad spotted a group of three nyala bulls grazing in the thick bush. All three bulls were shooters, but one was noticeably the largest. My dad, Michelle, our tracker Mike, and I worked our way down the cliff to try and close the distance between the nyala and our party. They were on the move, and that, coupled with the thick bush, made it hard to get set up for a shot. After what seemed like hours (but was really only minutes), and a few different setups on the shooting sticks, I had a clear, broadside, 165-yard shot at the largest in the group. I will admit that I shed a few tears of happiness, gratitude, and excitement after I made a clean shot. For me, a lot of emotion is felt during and after hunts; it’s not just about the kill, it’s about the entire experience.
Other members of the group also took animals on day one. Both Christina Nyczepir and Andrea Fisher harvested an Eastern Cape kudu, and Andrea brought down an impala as well.
Our second day of the safari led us near Adelaide, South Africa in the Winterberg mountains, for a caracal hunt using hounds. When we arrived, the dog handler and professional hunter Willem De Beer informed us that a caracal had killed a lamb on the farm just a few hours before. After fetching the dogs, he put them on the scent of the cat, near the kill. They took off barking, and treed a cat in the bottom of a riverbed just 300 yards away. Using a Rizzini 12 gauge, over-under shotgun and #7 birdshot that Willem provided, I made a clean shot at the 30-pound caracal.
After the harvest, I spoke with Willem about the effects that these predators have had not only on livestock, but also game animals. Even with the use of dogs for the hunting of caracal, his family still loses roughly 150 lambs from their 10,000-acre ranch during calving season. They also see a larger number of game animals being killed when it’s not calving season, including springbok, impala, and bushbuck; game that is easily two to four times the size of the cat itself.
We spent the rest of the afternoon chasing blue wildebeest and impala, in hopes that Michelle would connect, but (not for lack of effort) it just wasn’t in the cards. Thankfully, we still have six more hunting days left of our safari. Another member of the group, Julia Chamberlain, took a springbok and impala on day two.
Stay tuned for more dispatches, live from Africa!