Hunting is very popular in the area. On a given weekend day during hunting season, fields are dotted with orange hats and camouflage jackets. But recently Elizabeth City resident Keith Mallory went on an adventure of a lifetime when he spent 10 days in Africa on big game hunts.
Mallory, 49, who is retired from the Coast Guard and now works at the Coast Guard base for United Research Services on the J-model helicopter upgrade, has done some other domestic hunting trips in places like Colorado, Wyoming and Maine. All these trips, along with the African hunt, were inspired by television hunting shows.
“I’m an avid hunter and I watch a lot of shows in television and just seeing how much fun that everybody had on those shows prompted me to want to travel and go hunting,” Mallory said.
Mallory’s African dream became reality last month and he and his wife Lauren embarked on the trip to South Africa. There, most of the time was spent hunting, with a little sight-seeing thrown in. Mallory went on 11 hunts in 10 days, getting a kill on each trip. Each animal was different, but the first one was the most special.
“I’ve had the passion, ever since I saw one on TV, for a kudu,” Mallory said.
The kudu is a variety of antelope that weighs up to 500 pounds and
is distinguished by it long, spiraling horns. The horns on Mallory’s kill measured 52 inches.
“They call them the gray ghost of Africa. It’s pretty much like the elk in North America,” Mallory said. “My very first hunt was the kudu and everything else was icing.”
On subsequent hunts Mallory added gemsbok, black wildebeest, blue wildebeest, zebra, springbok, blesbok, impala, common reedbuck, red hardebeest and warthog to his list. All 11 animals are currently being crated and will be shipped back to the United States, then sent to a taxidermist.
While the hunts were guided and took place on fenced-in land, the hunting was all done in a sporting way, according to Mallory.
“I kind of had a reservation about going to a fenced-in area,” Mallory said. “But you’re talking about a place the size of Pasquotank County. It is a very rich environment.
“You have to do your research and ask questions. As long as you go to a place that has a lot of land, it’s very sporting.”
Even with a dense population of animals available, it still takes skill to take the shot.
“The only way you couldn’t get what you were after is if you weren’t a good shot or weren’t patient enough,” said Mallory, who used a Rugar No. 1 and a .300 Winchester Magnum on his hunts.
They did eat some of the meat back at the lodge and the group that organized the hunt donates a good portion of the meat they harvest to local orphanages.
“All the meat is consumed, except for the zebra, which they might use for a predator hunt,” Mallory said. “The whole time I was there, the only thing I ate was game meat.”
Lauren Mallory is not a hunter, though she did accompany her husband on eight of his outings with a camera.
“I was the photographer. I didn’t shoot any animals, I’m not a hunter,” said Lauren Mallory, who was participating in her first hunt. “I’d hear him talk about it and have watched things on TV. I enjoyed it. I don’t know if I would enjoy hunting locally here, but being over there and seeing the animals, it was enjoyable.”
There were plenty of animals to see too.
“We’d be riding along and a rhinoceros would run across the road or we might see giraffes,” Keith Mallory said. “It’s just a game-rich environment. You can go sight-seeing all day long. You can sit in one spot and there’s going to be different animals that just come out.”
The couple enjoyed the trip so much, they are planning on returning sometime in future with more of an emphasis on sight-seeing.
Mallory does not have any other big hunts planned, though he thinks the next one on his list will be a trip to Saskatchewan for whitetail deer. In the meantime, though, he is hoping to pass along his love of hunting to some of the kids in his neighborhood.
“There’s a kid down the street I took hunting a couple of times and there is another kid that asked me if I could take him hunting,” said Mallory,. “What I plan on doing is get those two into the hunter safety course so they can have that under their belt, then take them out on the weekends and film those guys hunting.”
Maybe some day those boys will end up on trip to Africa.
“We’d recommend it for anybody,” said Mallory. “I am so glad that we went.”