Our trips to Africa have truly changed both Jen and me. We’ve gone from hunting California Blacktail in our hometown to hunting the Big 5 in Africa. The growth we’ve experienced as hunters has been amazing. I want to share with you a story of our recent hunt in the Northern Cape of South Africa. We had the opportunity to do a Vita-Dart Safari. This type of hunt is also known as a Green Hunt. It allows you to have the chance to experience the thrill of hunting an animal, by tracking and shooting the animal, but you do it with a Vitamin Dart. The animal I was hunting was a female White Rhino. She had a three-year-old calf with her and hadn’t been pregnant in that amount of time. The goal of our Vita-Dart hunt was to give her vitamins, check why she hasn’t been bred by pulling blood samples, and to do a check on her microchip that is in her horn if she is ever poached.
The money for these hunts is put right back into conservation and the care of these animals. We had a veterinarian and a team for the safety of those involved and the safety of the rhino. I had all of the thrills of the hunt without killing the animal. This type of hunt is very controversial due to poachers who have used the same methods to cut the rhino horns off and sell them on the black market. It had become illegal and we were able to get a special permit to be the first to do this type of hunt again in that area of South Africa. At the moment, anti hunting groups have been targeting our community of hunters and there has been a lot of backlash, name calling, and flat out attacks, and I’m sure I will now be one of those people targeted for doing a Green Hunt. It is a great honor to have had this opportunity to be the pioneer and a woman to help reintroduce the Vita-Dart Hunt in the Northern Cape of South Africa.
The night before, we all sat around camp strategically planning out our next day. I sat down with Jen and our PH, Yvan, at Wintershoek Safari’s. We reviewed the shot placement book as well as how the Vita-Dart Gun works. The gun is a high-powered 22 air rifle that holds a dart that once hot injects vitamins and trace minerals into the Rhino. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much the night before, and I prayed a lot for the safety of our team. Working with us was the Veterinarian, a man from the South African Nature Conservancy, my PH, my best friend and co-host Jen, as well as our cameraman Kappie who captures our every move for the TV show.
We set out around 9:00 a.m., and we climbed to the top of a hillside of an area that we knew the White Rhino was often found. We glassed over a valley looking for several hours. We finally spotted the Rhino and her calf and set out to catch up to them. We walked and stalked the Rhino and her calf for about two hours. There were so many other animals in the area. It was hard with that many people to do a stalk, and we knew we would only have one chance at this. Luckily after much time of following at a safe distance through the bush, the rhino laid down to take a nap with her butt facing me.
We snuck from 110 yards to 30 yards, which was the range we were supposed to be at for the Vita-Dart Gun. My PH told me where to take the shot above the tail because of the way she was laying down on left side of her body. I was worried that the vita dart would bounce off of her, and by now, my adrenaline had started to kick in. My heart was pounding and my mouth was dry. All of a sudden, she stood up and looked directly at us. I don’t know if you have ever had a close en- counter while hunting, but this was one of those. My PH told me take the shot. I’m not very comfortable with shooting freehand, but in the moment, I took aim and shot!
The dart landed right behind the shoulder, and we all froze as the Rhino was either going to charge us or run away. Luckily for us, she ran the other direction. We looked at each other with excitement and all hugged! My PH called the helicopter in and the vet shot a tranquilizer dart from the helicopter to get the Rhino sedated. Once she was sedated, we took the needed blood samples, checked the microchips in the rhino, and doctored the areas she was darted in. All of this took about half an hour to do. After we took some photos and footage of the process, the White Rhino was injected with a serum to wake her. She jumped up and ran off like nothing had happened. I remember sitting there with tears running down my face hugging Jen with pure excitement of this amazing chapter of my journey being co-host of Universal Huntress TV. - Norissa Harman