OLIFANTSVALLEI, South Africa – One American bow and arrow hunter who travelled with his wife to a South African wildlife reserve worked as a state trooper for decades. Another hunter went alone after his closest friend, who was going to join him, died shortly before their date of departure from the United States.
The two retirees, who ended a 10-day hunt in August, operated separately in the dry winter scrub. They waited in concealed positions near watering holes or mineral licks for hours and, in adrenaline-fueled instances, killed wildlife with compound bows. By night, they dined on the meat of elands, impalas, warthogs and other animals in an African safari experience.
“I don’t want to shoot animals that are young or that are of producing age. I’m looking for the older, more mature trophy animals,” said 59-year-old Steve Schultz, a former law enforcement official from Park Falls, Wisconsin who chafed at negative views of hunters stemming from the July killing of a lion named Cecil that was lured out of a national park in Zimbabwe.
The “trophy” hunting industry in Africa has come under greater scrutiny since an American dentist shot Cecil, who wore a GPS collar and was being monitored by researchers, in an allegedly illegal hunt.
Stewart Dorrington, Schultz’s South African host at Melorani Safaris, skipped euphemisms such as “harvesting” while describing where to shoot an animal so it dies quickly.
“You want to get into the chest cavity, that’s where the vitals are,” Dorrington said while escorting an Associated Press writer and photographer on a dirt-track drive around his 5,000-hectare (12,000-acre) reserve. He acknowledged detractors would find his choice of words “horrendous,” but suggested critics should not gloss over the slaughter of farm livestock for food.
“I shot a nice red hartebeest,” Jerry Emhoff, a resident of Watervliet, Michigan, said of one day’s hunting. “It only ran a short distance and fell.”
Emhoff, who used to sell and repair garage doors and gives hunting safety classes to children, meant that the animal’s suffering was relatively short.
He turned 62 years old on Aug. 21, a bittersweet occasion because his longtime hunting companion, Larry Janke, died just before their planned trip to South Africa. Emhoff considered cancelling the hunt, but Janke’s wife and sister urged him to go.
Most of the thousands of foreign hunters who travel annually to South Africa are American, according to a national hunters’ association based on the outskirts of Pretoria, the South African capital. Hunting with a bow and arrow was illegal in South Africa until the late 1980s, but its rising popularity in the United States spurred the South African market, according to Dorrington.
In 1986, the landowner turned his family’s cattle ranch, a three-hour drive from Johannesburg, into a wildlife area. He hosts about two-dozen bow and arrow hunters a year. The business helps control the wildlife population and client payments contribute to the conservation of the herds, he said.
There are no lions, leopards or elephants there; it is illegal in any case to hunt elephants with a bow in South Africa.
Clients typically stay 10 days and shoot an average of six or seven animals whose parts may be shipped to their homes. European hunters tend to only mount horns while Americans often prefer the whole head as a wall trophy, according to Dorrington. He said Schultz and Emhoff just wanted the horns, a cheaper alternative.
Melorani Safaris clients pay a daily rate for lodging, the help of a professional hunter and other services. In addition, they pay $350 if they shoot a warthog and various prices for antelope species ($2,450 for a kudu and $7,500 for the rare sable). A buffalo goes for $12,500. The reserve also has zebras, giraffes and ostriches.
Clients pay a fee if they wound an animal. About 10 per cent of animals are wounded in a hunt – some are tracked and killed while others recover from their injuries, Dorrington said.
Schultz’s wife, Sharon, has joined her husband on hunts, reading, photographing wildlife and occasionally pointing out an animal that he might want to shoot. The couple runs a bear-hunting operation in Wisconsin.
Emhoff hunted in Africa with Janke in 2007. He was glad he went again despite initial misgivings after his friend’s death.
“I can just hear him,” said Emhoff, imagining his friend’s voice. “‘You’ve got to go, you’ve got to go, Jerry.”‘