This week our blog features a guest post by Karen Seginak, a huntress who was fortunate to hunt four continents – on a working man’s budget! Today she’ll tell you how she did it – and why you should, too.
Unfortunately, I did not become a hunter until later in life – in my thirties – but fortunately, since I live in the USA, there is an amazing variety of species and opportunities for me to pursue, right here in my home country. So even though I love hunting here, why did I also get completely and very quickly, hooked on hunting internationally? And why should you perhaps consider trying it too?
Although I had joined in on Elk, Mule Deer and Coyote hunts with friends as just an observer, my first introduction to actively being a hunter myself was bowhunting White-tailed Deer, coonhunting with hounds, pursuing rabbits with Beagles, waterfowl hunting, and hunting grouse with my English Setter I had at the time. This was certainly a nice variety of pursuits that kept me plenty busy for a reasonable portion of the year, so why would I need anything more? Part of what allured me to hunting was all the fine historical prose by legendary authors as well as current day magazine articles about not just the hunting, but the grand adventures, challenges, and experiences these people had in their pursuit of various wildlife species around the globe. Yet, as inspiring and intriguing as these tales were, I still wondered why people might go to such great lengths and distances to hunt when they had plenty of more “convenient” opportunities closer to home? And, more realistically, I always just thought (incorrectly, I’m happy to say!) that there would be just no way I could afford to hunt internationally on my modest salary as a wildlife biologist.
But then, a series of events conspired to give me the chance I thought I’d never have. I had been saving up some money to buy a small acreage in Mule Deer country in eastern Montana. My hopes were dashed, however, when the seller backed out at the last minute and at least, thankfully, returned my deposit. Shortly thereafter, whilst I was healing my broken heart, a good friend of mine asked if I might like to go bowhunting with him in South Africa. Why not? I had a bit of money in my pocket from my failed land deal, the opportunity to go hunting with a good friend who had been there before and could show me the ropes, so to speak, and I was open to the idea of trying something new and different, for a refreshing change.
And, as another good friend of mine who travels to farflung places to birdwatch a lot says – all it takes is committing to that very first trip!
Although I honestly thought this might be the only time I’d ever get to hunt in South Africa, I was admittedly on a limited budget nonetheless. So I chose to hunt two affordable yet very iconic and legendary African species – the Warthog and the Blue Wildebeest. I would be lying if I said there were no moments of hesitation, soul searching, and trepidation in the months leading up to my departure for the hunt. Even on the plane en route to Johannesburg, listening intently to my friend Rodney’s tales from his previous trip there, the thought that I was crazy for doing this still crossed my mind. But that first morning, when I woke up in camp and glassed out over miles of bushveld as the sun rose and I saw Eland and Blue Wildebeest for my first time ever – animals I’d previously only ever seen in photos! – I knew, without question, that I had made the correct choice!
I was transformed into a kid again, full of wide-eyed wonder and curiosity at this part of the world so very new and different to me. Over the course of that one glorious, oh so transformative week, I felt so privileged to witness so many of nature’s wonders at extreme close range from my bowhunting blinds. From the gigantic Monitor Lizard who walked by right at eye level on my very first morning’s hunt, to herds of always nervous, very social Impala, to my first sightings of the oh so stately and keen Nyala and Kudu, to the ever elusive Bushbuck darting in and out of thick cover, and to the very lucky not just one, but TWO encounters I had with the typically difficult to see Brown Hyenas.
And my journey of delight and discovery was furthered even more on my walk and stalk hunts with my outstanding PH Rassie, who is an absolute fountain of knowledge on not just the names of the flora and fauna, but also on how everything fits into the ecology of the area. He told me the story of how his beautiful property was converted from the unsustainable practice of livestock grazing to instead rightfully supporting wildlife, and about the importance of properly managing wildlife populations at or below carrying capacity by using hunters’ efforts and financial contributions as one major tool. Hiking in to see an ancient bushmen’s cave with its mesmerizing rock paintings of the hunt (original bowhunters in action!), learning about current and historical wildlife management practices and hunting techniques in this area of the globe, savoring deliciously authentic South African meals featuring meat from hunter-killed animals, and even just telling tales with friends around each evening’s campfire completely reinforced for me the truism that hunting is a global, essential culture that not only shaped our history and progress as human beings, but also currently defines who we are and ensures that the wildlife and wildlands we are so very passionate about have a future.
I ended up not even shooting any animals on that first ever safari of mine. Not because I didn’t have opportunities, as I had plenty! Far more than I ever get within even a full season of hunting at home. But only because I was suffering from a curse of bowhunters called target panic. The trip, however, was still a huge success for me, as it opened my eyes to so many things previously unbeknownst to me and so many more experiences I yearned to have. One of my departing conversations with my PH Rassie was how I now vowed that this originally “trip of a lifetime” had now totally morphed into a “lifetime of trips” for me.
So, this very average working class girl quickly became not just an avid hunter on her own home turf, but someone very passionate about hunting internationally as well, within my own financial means, of course. But that’s one myth that needs dispelled – not all international hunts require huge bank accounts. If you are of average income like me, you will have to save, plan and likely even sacrifice some nonessential expenditures in your daily life, but I absolutely guarantee you that it will be worth it! Hunting around the globe can extend your hunting season, increase your opportunities, sharpen your skills, and open your mind to not only new and different species but also a variety of hunting techniques and wildlife management methods as well. You’ll likely discover the world isn’t as big and distant as you thought. Quite the contrary as you make many treasured memories with your PH, newfound friends, trackers and camp staff, and fellow hunters as well.
In the brief few years since my initial falling in love with hunting in South Africa, I have returned there three more times, taking four species with my bow, two with a crossbow and one with a rifle. I have broadened my experience by bowhunting Iberian stags in Portugal, which plunged me head over heels in love with the excitement and drama of the time of the roar. This newfound passion led me to pursue Red Deer in Argentina this year, in a magnificent mountain setting where I became even more captivated by their intense rut. And I have hunted big northern Whitetails in Saskatchewan several times, as yes, there are plenty of great international hunts just right over my country’s own borders! I’ve even branched out into remote flyfishing expeditions in Bolivia – something I always wanted to try but never dreamed I’d be doing in a remote jungle setting!
Each journey I savor leads me to new and different adventures, and the increased confidence and commitment to plan my next one, whether it is a totally new pursuit in an unfamiliar place or a return to old familiar haunts to experience a place and its wildlife in greater depth. My only current problem with this scenario is that I have too many hunting and fishing trips I sincerely hope to do! But what a fantastic “problem” to have!
Don’t get me wrong, as I completely understand and respect that many hunters are perfectly content to never leave their home country to hunt. There’s nothing wrong with that at all! But if you have even the slightest desire to try an international hunt, by all means go for it! There is a vast range of prices, lengths, and styles of hunts to choose from, and with a little research, I know you can find one that’s right for you.
I now have a world map on my bedroom wall that I gaze upon regularly, It reminds me so vividly of how my newfound love of hunting internationally as well as domestically has infinitely rewarded me with a personal connection to places I only previously daydreamed about. As a wildlife biologist/hunter, I also find myself caring more deeply about conservation issues in not only these faraway places but in my own backyard as well, because of my firsthand, albeit limited experiences there. I’m proud to be a part of the global hunting culture and conservation force. Traveling to hunt has reinforced for me that our similarities unite us whilst our differences educate us. May you enjoy many wonderful hunting experiences that provide you with such insight and appreciation as well.
Text and photo by Karen Seginak
Karen Seginak graduated from the University of Colorado and University of Fairbanks, Alaska, and is working as a wildlife biologist. She lives in Egeland, North Dacota. Follow her on Facebook for more pictures and stories like that.
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- Bowhunting the Green Fields of Africa
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- All Said and Done: What’s the Bottom Line for an Average South African Hunt