TERRE HAUTE —
Anyone who’s ever thought about big game hunting in Africa can ask some Wabash Valley residents for advice on making the journey.
Indiana Conservation Officer Max Winchell joined Tribune-Star columnist Kenny Bayless (The Redneck Quaker) and professional hunter Cobus van Vuuren at Gander Mtn on Saturday to share their adventures in South Africa last summer, and recruit future hunters.
“A lot of people don’t realize it’s affordable to come to Africa,” van Vuuren said as he prepared a slideshow of the hunting excursions he offers through Van Vuuren African Safaris.
Trophies from past hunts lined the walls and tables in the lodge room at Gander Mtn — zebra, impala, warthog, wildebeest, kudu and gemsbuck. Some were taken by Bayless and his son, Seth, a student at Otter Creek Middle School. Others were trophies of Winchell and his Tell City friend Nick Rice, who accompanied Winchell and Bayless on an eight-day safari to South Africa in May 2012.
“Every day, you were seeing animals all day long,” Rice said. The safaris are conducted on private property with the permission of the property owners, who manage the game on their lands.
Rice earned the admiration of Bayless after toughing out a broken arm that he sustained on the third day of their safari.
“The man had a broken arm,” Bayless said of Rice, whose injury was splinted, “and he was after gemsbuck and zebra. Under normal circumstances, to walk and stalk either of these is a good feat. So he gets fixed up, and he and his guide start scouting.”
The first game they saw was a gemsbuck, Bayless said, and they started tracking the animal. They were walking for more than an hour, when suddenly, a zebra steps out of the brush and Rice shoots the zebra. Right after that, the gemsbuck stands up, and Rice pivots and fires and gets his final animal of the day.
“That was probably the most exciting two minutes of my life,” Rice said. “Well, there’s no probably about it. It was.”
The entire safari experience was “unbelievable,” Rice said, from the accommodations to the food to the weather and the trips to game parks.
Jerrilynn Bayless, who went to Africa with her husband Kenny and son Seth in 2011, said she was not into the hunting side of safari, so she visited wildlife preserves, and went shopping and to the spa.
But she did have the excitement of being charged by a wild elephant. Her outfitter was driving her to the Marakele National Park when they heard an elephant trumpeting nearby. Suddenly, the massive creature came charging out of the brush toward their vehicle. She captured the incident on video as one of her trophies of the trip.
As for where her family keeps the game trophies of her husband and son, Jerrilynn said, “Kenny has a really nice man cave.”
Bayless said he has become a personal friend of outfitter van Vuuren through the safari experience.
“It’s a bonding experience because you look to each other for not only safety, but advice. He has just become a personal friend.”
Saturday night’s event featured an auction of a safari package, as well as the sale of $50 raffle tickets for a two-person safari. Only 100 raffle tickets are being sold, Bayless said, and the winner will be drawn when all tickets are sold.
Winchell, whose profession is handling wildlife and environmental issues, said the safari was the trip of a lifetime.
“It wasn’t never really on my list of things to do, but I’m really glad I did it,” Winchell said. “My kids want to go now someday, too.”
For more information about van Vuuren safaris, go online to www.javausafaries.com.
Bayless can also be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.