Article Credit to Universal Hunter Magazine, December 2014 Edition
We always say “It started with a dream” when it comes to our clothing line, Girls with Guns. As two best friends, we started our business just five short years ago out of our garage and had no idea what was in store for us and our small business that is now a nationwide clothing company.
One day the phone rang at GWG Headquarters, and it was a business acquaintance who wanted to connect us with a mutual business friend, Emaneul Kapp, better known as Kappie, who is a cameraman/ producer. He was looking for someone new and interesting to partner with for a potential TV Show. Norissa and I were on his radar! We, of course, had only been hunting hard for the past 4 years and were blown away that someone would want to film us for TV. It was exciting!
The first thing we disclosed was that we were newer hunters. Norissa grew up in a fishing family and began learning to hunt with her husband later in life as it was his passion. I was raised in a hunting family, but it was the men who mostly hunted. Four years ago, after Norissa and I had established GWG, we started doing everything together and realized how much easier it was to start hunting when you had a partner. Her husband, Brian was truly an inspiration to us. He took both of us out to kill our first bucks and taught us the ins and outs of spotting and stalking as well as harvesting an animal after the kill.
Our new associate Kappie was intrigued by our desire to hunt, and we were excited that we would be learning about new animals, countries, and people along the way. Within one week, we were booking our tickets to South Africa to go on a hunting trip at Rhinoland Safaris. Norissa, definitely being the more cautious one of our friendship, was a little leery of flying halfway across the world to spend two weeks with a man we had never met. She had legitimate concerns. All I thought of was the opportunity to do a hunt that I had always wanted to do! Life was good!! I have always been more of a risk taker.
We departed our hometown of Red Bluff, California, and drove four hours south to the San Francisco International Airport. The round trip to Rhinoland was 33 hours. We both had a restless night with so many thoughts going through our heads. Norissa and I were both wondering, “Am I prepared enough, did I bring the right clothes, what happens if we don’t like this Kappie character?!” Nothing can prepare you for leaving for Africa, so we just went for it! As soon as we arrived, we were greeted at the airport by Kappie and his friend, Tim! What a welcome! We hugged him, and he mentioned how short I was (5’0” tall), and the ice was broken. We had a 3-hour drive to Vaalwater, which was the closest town to Rhinoland Safaris. The anticipation was killing us both! We were so excited to meet our hosts and start hunting.
The first night I am sure that neither of us slept well. The first day hunting we met our PH (Professional Hunter), Marius Kotze, who is the owner of Rhinoland Safaris. He was a fit man in his late 40’s who had almost 30 years’ experience as a PH. Norissa and I were both feeling slightly intimidated by the camera leering in the background. We came back the first night, and both of us had missed our targets. I had shot at a Kudu and Norissa an Impala. It was a little disappointing.
The next morning, we geared up had an amazing breakfast served in the dining room and packed a cooler planning to spend the day in the bush. After having the trackers drop us off, we began hiking through the brush and came upon a water hole after a bit. Marius spotted a male Impala grazing across the water hole approximately 75 yards away. We were down wind from him, and he had no idea we were stalking him! I was as nervous as Norissa was getting prepared for her shot. Marius got her standing sticks ready and she aimed and fired! One shot and the Impala hit the ground! We were so excited jumping up and down as women do! High fives all the way around, we had our first animal on the ground in South Africa!!
The preparation that went on for pictures and filming ensued. Norissa and I had only filmed each other on previous hunts, so it took a bit for us both to warm up to the camera. Luckily, Kappie made it easy, and we started talking to him and not paying attention to the camera.
Now, it was my turn! Excited as ever, we took off in the open truck for a new area to look for a Burchell’s zebra. This animal was high on my list, and one of the animals I wanted to harvest. Within a few hours, we had spotted a herd of zebras with a large male. We snuck into the outside of an opening where we had spotted them. As Marius prepared the shooting sticks, I was calm as ever. The female zebras were standing in front of the male, and I had to wait a good minute, which felt like an eternity, to shoot him. My nerves started to kick in, and I felt the adrenaline going through my body. As the females moved out of the way, he faced me, and I fired approximately 190 yards through the opening! I knew I had hit him, but he took off running! We ran to the opening and found his blood trail. What happened next was the most exciting part of the trip for me...
We watched the trackers and Marius track this animal. There was a lot of blood, and we were running through the brush with thorns hitting our faces trying to keep up. We came to an opening where he was laying, and just before dark, I took the final shot to finish him. Just in time to get a little camera time and a few pictures before dark!
Norissa and I retired that night feeling accomplished and exhausted after celebrating with a five-course meal in the Rhinoland dining room. We were excited to do it again the next morning. Unfortunately, due to the full moon, it was two days before we both took our next shot at an animal.
We hunted that third morning with Marius’s son Michael. He got us close to a large male Impala in the bush, but I couldn’t get a clear shot so I didn’t take one. That evening we came upon another opportunity for me to take a shot. There was a male Impala grazing near some trees off the side of the road. I stepped out and made a clear shot and dropped him! Excited as when Norissa took her Impala, we were high fiving all the way around!!
The next day was spent unsuccessfully. Norissa came down with a bad cold, and that put me back in the hot seat as we like to call it! My final animal of the hunt was a Kudu. It was high on both mine and Norissa’s list of animals that we wanted to harvest in Africa. We had ate BBQ’d Kudu backstrap a few nights before, and we were looking forward to having some more!
We were in the area we had started calling GWG Mountain. It was where I had missed my Kudu the first day of the trip. Talk about pressure!! We were all on high alert as we only had that evening and one more day to finish our hunt before we headed back to the States. While driving around a corner, we suddenly spotted a large male Kudu from between some brush. We jumped out and got set up. I remember Marius whispering, “You have 5 seconds!” I took the shot, and he took off a bit in the brush! I was so nervous as this was the main animal I wanted to take from South Africa. Norissa and I approached cautiously, and approximately 10 yards from where I had shot him, he was down!! What an amazing feeling!!
We ended that evening with that hunt so we could get rested for our final day. Our last day in South Africa and Norissa was up. Just like me, Norissa wanted to take a Kudu as well. It was number one on her list. That morning, we tried to get close to a male wildebeest but didn’t have any luck. Now looking back, I think that happened for a reason. We spent hours driving and hiking looking for Norissa’s next animal. We saw glimpses of hartebeests fighting in the brush, but couldn’t get close enough for her to take a shot. Marius decided that since it was getting warmer that we should take a spin by the waterhole. It all happened so fast! I remember pulling up and all of a sudden two animals took off through the brush. I tried to get a good look through my binos, and a large male Kudu stopped for an instant. I heard Norissa setting up for the shot and she asked me quickly, “Jen, is he good?” I said, “Yes! Take that shot!” She did and, he was down!! We were so excited!! We had both taken the animals that we wanted on this trip, and she couldn’t have been happier!!
The pictures say it all. The happiness we felt was contagious. We got the animal ready for one last time in front of the camera. There were so many emotions on this trip. Norissa and I embarked on a dream hunt sponsored by Rhinoland Safaris, and for that, we couldn’t be more grateful. This is a trip of a lifetime for most people, and we got to experience it. We had a lot of other excitement during our time in South Africa. We skydived, took a ride on a hot air balloon over the Kruger National Park, and even swam with the horses and played Polo Cross at Horizon Horseback in Vaalwater with Jenny’s Horseback Tours.
One memory that stuck with us was a day spent at Ellisras School. Norissa and I adopted this school. We donated GWG clothing, food, candy, and school supplies to them. We also donated the meat from one of our impalas to the school to feed the 129 children. The children did skits for us and sang to us. It was an amazing experience that makes us both forever grateful for all that we have.
You’ll have to stay tuned to the TV show to see it all! Our TV show, Universal Huntress, will launch in 2015. We hope you will join us on the journey of two best friends who love to hunt and want to learn all about the new countries, amazing new friends, and animals that we will harvest along the way. ♥