An African Adventure


As I looked down my rifle scope, my heart quickened as I only saw the eyes of a Cape buffalo herd approaching me. They came quickly, until something else spooked them and they ran away. I muttered under my breath. For the last ten days, I had been in these types of situations - standing in the middle of herds, running from them, towards them, or crawling between them. I had developed a far deeper appreciation for this animal than any other I have encountered to this point. 

The Cape buffalo are truly terrifying yet beautiful animals. The herds move as one unit, organized, and form a wedge during a stampede (I personally experienced this, as I stood behind a tree holding my breath waiting for them to pass). Heavily hunted by lions, they are extremely sensitive to sound, wind, and movement. Having the ability to stay still and remain calm while standing in their midst was an art I was forced to learn very quickly. 


Each day, we hiked 10 - 15 miles, carrying our rifles. It was exhausting. The nights provided no relief, as the lions were never far from camp, and their roars filled the darkness. At first, I didn't think I could do it. Then, something changed. I am not sure what. Perhaps it was me. I began to look forward to the chilly African mornings, the walking, and the unknown excitement that each day would hold. I was beginning to fall for Africa.

Every morning began just before 5 o'clock, when the kitchen staff kindly woke me up with the words, "Good morning, madame." I quickly got dressed and headed to the fire, drinking my tea, and catching up with the professional hunter and my father. Then, we jumped on the safari vehicle and began to drive. First, we checked for watering holes. Were there any buffalo tracks? The trackers, including a rather unorthodox group composed of a former poacher, a member of the hunting conservancy's anti-poaching committee, and the cheeriest driver I have ever met, began walking, eyes glued to the ground and any nearby branch. Once the sign was picked up, we made a box with the truck around a specific area, until we were sure we knew where the buffalo were. Then, we began to walk, sometimes crawl, sometimes run, and then walk again.

We repeated this same pattern for ten days. In the bush, we experienced close run-ins with rhinoceros, both black and white, giraffe, baboon, kudu, klipspringer, impala, warthog, wildebeest, zebra, and countless other wildlife, including lions. Though we had been in the midst of countless herds of Cape buffalo, we still had no opportunity for a shot.


The last day, we split up, and I went with a different professional hunter. My father had pursued a a small bachelor herd, and claimed his bull, a true trophy. His .416 Rigby did not disappoint, and perfect shot placement brought the bull down. It was taken just feet from where we had hiked the first day. Meanwhile, I tracked a large herd, numbering about 150. We split them four times, running, walking, stalking. Finally, at a road, the herd began to peek out their noses, and I took the second cow as she was crossing. Shooting the 9.3x62 rifle that my father had made me was truly a priceless experience. Many celebrations were held that day back at camp, though our hearts were saddened that the adventure had come to an end.

Zimbabwe is one of the most incredible places I have ever been. The people, the land, and the wildlife prove to be some of the most resilient. The experience taught me much about myself. I endured more physically and mentally those ten days in Africa than previous adventures had required. Being able to share those moments, both the extreme highs and lows with my father were also invaluable. Africa is not a place for the faint of heart, but for those who dare to venture there, the dark continent will leave you changed. I cannot wait to go back. 


E.J. Churchill


After a short train ride from central London, we arrived at the E.J. Churchill shooting grounds. Surrounded by tall trees and lush green grass, the shooting grounds features several different sporting clays stands including grouse butts. We were warmly welcomed by the staff at E.J. Churchill and introduced to our instructor, who took us out for a two hour lesson. At first, I think we surprised him by our accuracy. The first stand, designed to test one's initial skill and serve as an assessment, was not the challenge we were looking for. The day became increasingly more difficult, as we were faced with smaller sized targets, much different than the clays used in the American courses. In one stand, which caused me a certain amount of grief, the target was only visible for about a second or two as it was launched high above the trees. With my gun pointing nearly straight overhead, back arched, I took my best shot at these high-flying targets. My instructor continued to give me advice on this difficult shot until I began to hit it consistently. To my dismay, my brother, who shoots only occasionally as a past-time, made the shot look impossibly simple, breaking clays left and right. The real challenge came in the grouse butt. I'm quite petite, so I had a hard time seeing above the rock wall. The target seemed to fly barely above the grass. Slowly I began to see the targets and make contact. It was a shot that was completely foreign to me, but it left me with a strong desire to hunt grouse in the Scottish moors. Maybe one day? All in all, the staff and facilities at E.J. Churchill are beyond incredible. I cannot sincerely thank them enough for the most wonderful shooting experience, which truly served as one of the highlights of our trip to the United Kingdom.

Waiting in the grouse butt, hoping that careful observation will increase my accuracy

Waiting in the grouse butt, hoping that careful observation will increase my accuracy

Blixt & Co.


The jagged, snow-covered peaks of the Tetons made for a stunning backdrop the week that I spent at Blixt and Company in Teton Valley, Idaho. Every detail was so carefully considered, from the fresh-cut wildflowers on the table to the exquisite selection of wine and cocktails. The first night, we dined outside, enjoying a feast of swordfish and the largest prime cut of tomahawk steak that I have ever seen. The company surpassed the food, as I shared a seat across from Willie Cole, former director the prestigious West London Shooting School, Lars Magnussen, fellow shooting instructor and owner of Blixt and Company, his beautiful wife Jen, the mastermind of the week, Mike Stewart of Wildrose Kennels, known for his well-trained gentleman sporting dogs, and another couple affiliated with the magazine Garden and Gun. The conversation ranged from memories of favorite shooting stories, time spent as a butler in the United Kingdom, and other special experiences. After hours of talking past the sunset, we retired as we had several events planned for “Girls, Guns, and the Grand.”

base camp

While base camp is the only term that comes to mind, it does not fully describe the beauty and refined taste of the site in the field. Upon arrival to the driven shooting area, we were met with a cup of warm coffee and a variety of pastries, housed in a canvas tent that looked like an advertisement for a Ralph Lauren catalog. After our quick breakfast, we were transported to the shooting site, and introduced to the full line of Krieghoff shotguns available for us to test. This was followed by a three-hour, semi-private shooting lesson with Willie. The targets simulated upland birds that one would find on a driven shoot. Some flew high over trees, a difficult crossing shot, while others were incoming or going away. With every passing target, and Willie’s direct instruction, more and more clays began to break. By the time that I had my private lesson in the afternoon, my percentage had increased significantly. I also had never shot a Kreighoff before, and that in itself was a delight. It was a near perfect fit, and the weight of it felt perfect in my hands as I guided it through the clay. That night, after a full day of shooting, we enjoyed a lovely lamb dinner overlooking the purple Tetons at sunset, toasting to the “sporting life” and what it represents. 

shooting and more

The following day, we resumed our shooting. By the time I had a private lesson with Lars, there was very little to improve in my shooting form, and clays consistently broke in every direction. I am thrilled to return to Arizona to practice these shots and further developing my skills, as well as get bak to competitive shooting. In the afternoon, I also enjoyed the opportunity to work with Mike and some of his British Labradors on their retrieves. We also practiced the tenkara style of fly-fishing, and I’m hoping that with the purchase of this new rod I will no longer get tangled in the trees when I cast downstream. That night was especially memorable, as Jen had planned for us to learn to cook in the field. While in the past I would have considered roasting hot dogs a fine meal for the outdoors, I learned that outdoor cooking can indeed be gourmet. We made a roasted poblano, arugula, and watermelon salad, pheasant sausage-stuffed pork chops, grilled onions, the most delicious macaroni and cheese, and plum cobbler, all over a wood-fired Cowboy Cauldron. Again, the company surpassed the food, as more women had joined the group and we had much in common.

the "wildrose way"

During my last day at Blixt and Company, Mike of Wildrose Kennels led me and two other participants in a clinic going over the “Wildrose Way.” While his book is currently sitting on my coffee table at home, he was quick to inform me that it was meant for the field as a manual, and should be worn down and written in. Before we were able to work with the dogs, we received several lectures on the Wildrose Way and its techniques, research, and effectiveness. In the field and in the home, I was so impressed by the dogs. They are a true sporting gentleman’s dog, demonstrating both high performance in the field and understanding of place in the home.

the finest hospitality

In all, it was the most incredible experience. Lars and Jen demonstrated the epitome of the sporting lifestyle, from their hospitality and staff to the quality of shooting instruction and dog demonstration. I so look forward to returning to Blixt and Company, especially for a driven shoot, but also in the off-season during their Sporting Week and women’s events. For me, the time that was spent there was invaluable, and my head continues to spin as I process the events of the week. As a result of attending this event, I now have a fuller picture of what it means to embody the sporting lifestyle, gained significant confidence in my shooting abilities, and developed what is the start of a long-lasting relationship with others in the field.