While local hunters were wrapping up the second season for elk and deer, Silt resident Jackie Gross was wending her way through the South African bush, on the trail of the infamous - and dangerous - Cape buffalo.
The African safari was part of her prize from the 2012 Extreme Huntress competition sponsored by Tahoe Films, and highlighted a year of speaking engagements, convention appearances, and sharing her passion for hunting and the outdoors with others.
"If I had to rank my hunts this one ranked No. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5," Gross responded via email after her return home Oct. 29. "I have hunted in Manitoba, Canada for moose, bear and wolf; and from Louisiana to the Rockies and everywhere in-between, but this hunt to Africa far exceeded my expectations."
During her five-day safari, Gross harvested five animals, "three of them in one day!" Her successful hunts for a bull and a cow Cape buffalo, zebra, waterbuck (a large, shaggy antelope) and baboon, will be featured on NBC's "Eye of the Hunter" program, which will air Nov. 25 and Jan. 5 at 9 a.m.
All the meat from the animals goes to native villagers to feed their families, Gross said.
Gross and her fiance, T.J. Guccini, set out from Colorado on Oct. 13. They drove 1,500 miles to Louisiana (her home state) and boarded a flight from Lafayette, La., to Atlanta, followed by another short flight to New York City.
It's a 16-hour flight from New York to Johannesburg, South Africa and an additional two-hour flight from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls. From there, they drove 10 hours on rough, dirt roads to the base camp.
"The use of the seat belt and holding on for dear life was a workout. Rocks, ruts, 50 mph on a sandy road, river bottoms ... at one point I think my head hit the roof," Gross wrote.
Asked what surprised her the most about South Africa, the Extreme Huntress from Colorado said the heat came as a shock, as well as the rugged landscape and the amount of wildlife.
"The amount of wildlife was saw was truly unbelievable," Gross wrote. "... baboons, Vervet (or blue ball) monkeys, elephants, impalas, bushback, waterbuck, hippos, grysbok, duiker, warthog, bush pigs, crocodiles, Egyptian geese, storks, kudu, Cape buffalo, zebra, steenbok, klipspringers, small wild cats, and leopard and hyena prints. Pretty much you name it, we saw it, and in large numbers."
The other surprise Gross mentioned, coming from a state where hunting laws are strictly enforced, were the number of animals poached in Africa.
"It was pretty sad," she wrote.
Gross has several more conventions and shows to attend this year and early 2013 as Miss 2012 Extreme Huntress, and is one of the judges for the 2013 contest. The top 10 competitors will be announced Nov. 1 on the Tahoe Films website.
Gross' role as Extreme Huntress has honed her passion for hunting and for outdoor recreation to a fine edge, she wrote, prompting her and Guccini to start Bowkrazy, to continue teaching and encouraging others, especially women and young people, to "live for the outdoors."
"We are helping all ages learn how to shoot bows and teaching them the importance of shooting safely. We support all outdoor activities and we want to help people follow their dreams and never give up," Gross explained. "As the Miss 2012 Extreme Huntress, my year has been a whirlwind. I am very proud to represent our nation as a woman huntress and hope to continue to motivate people to become more involved in the outdoors."