On safari

When Ray Penner is not sitting behind a desk managing?a bank, he lives the life of an adventurer. He has a?passion for hunting, both in exotic locales, such as New?Zealand and Africa, and closer to home in New Mexico,?Texas and Kansas.
The president of First Bank in Newton has hunted for more than?25 years, and he looks forward to returning to Africa to hunt a blackmane?lion. Penner first visited South Africa in 2011, drawn to hunt?there by the unique and rare wildlife, as well as the beautiful landscape.
?The South African experience is so different than North American,??Penner said. ?Once you?ve been there, it calls you back.?
While Penner?s focus on the trip was purely hunting, his wife and a?friend experienced the South African culture with the help of a guide.
They toured schools, went on river cruises, visited cafes and experienced?the open vendor market.
On his first South African hunting trip, Penner successfully hunted a?variety of unusual animals, including two waterbucks, two impalas,?two warthogs, a zebra, a blue wildebeest, a bushbuck, a bushpig, a?kudu and a nyala.
During the expeditions, Penner was accompanied by a hunting?companion, a tracker, a skinner and a driver. The group was surprised?Penner succeeded in landing a bushpig, as one had not been shot in?four years.
?The coloring for this animal was really unique,? Penner said.??Although most bushpigs are black and white, this one happened to be?red and white and black, so it was really a catch.?
Penner emphasized that with the volume of animals he hunted in?Africa in 2011, it was important to him that the meat was put to good?use. It was sold to local meat buyers for human consumption.
?We never leave anything behind,? Penner said. ?No meat goes to?waste.?
Through the years, Penner has become somewhat of an expert in?hunting equipment. During his African trip, Penner used a 300?Winchester Magnum. For his return trip, with a black-mane lion in his?sites, Penner plans to hunt with a Kimber 375H and H rifle with a 300-grain bullet measuring 4 inches.
As he described his upcoming trip, Penner stressed his philosophy?about responsible hunting. He will pursue only an old lion, one that?no longer participates in the breeding cycle. Additionally, Penner won?t?interfere with natural reproduction of a species by killing females.
Holding to this standard has been a challenge at times, and in the past?has resulted in four missed opportunities for grizzly bears that were
females.
?I?d rather come home empty than to shoot the female,? he said.?Hunting is not without its own inherent risks.
?When you become the prey, sometimes it gets a bit gut-wrenching,??Penner said.
He recalled ?one of the scariest? incidents with a large cougar.
With the animal 50 feet up in a tree, and the guide advising him to?not lose eye contact with the cat, Penner approached the tree in search?of a good shot. As he circled the tree, the cat?s head and eyes slowly?tracked him. There was a real possibility that the cougar could jump?the 50 feet to attack Penner, but the cougar did not win the showdown.
Some grizzly bear hunts became unnerving as well, including a?sleepless night in a 9- by 9-foot tent as large rocks rolled down the?mountain. Although the guide assured Penner that small animals were?responsible and there was no need for worry, the bear scat Penner?found 15 feet from their tent in the morning indicated otherwise.
?I slept a lot of nights with the rifle loaded right beside me,? he?said.
The venues in which Penner has hunted have afforded him a range?of experiences and animals, including a tahr in New Zealand, two?black bears in northern British Columbia, a cougar from southern?British Columbia, elk from Colorado, a caribou, bobcat and cougar?from the Yukon Territory, and from Texas a dall sheep, Armenian red?ram and a blackbuck, which Penner said is the true North American?antelope.
Penner has been hunting since he received his first BB gun when?he was 5 years old.
?I?ve been doing this (extended hunting trips) for 25 years,? he?said. ?I?d always try to plan something in the summertime or fall?and take off and do something that was out of the ordinary.?
In addition to being adventurous, Penner also can also be persistent?when hunting. An orex expedition in Texas began at 6 in the?morning and finally ended when Penner felled the animal at 5 that?evening.
Penner generally prefers not to use the same outfitter for his trips?twice in a row, and as a rule, he likes to have his taxidermy work?done in the area the animal is killed. Penner uses a variety of taxidermists,?including a woman in western Kansas who learned the trade?in prison. Penner relies on his taxidermists as a source for good?hunting sites, since they know where good animals come from as?well as the quality of the outfitters that coordinate the hunts.
Penner?s home is a showplace for his hunting successes over the?years, with his unique animals displayed in two rooms. His favorite?animals to hunt are those in the cat family. He dismisses any thought?of going after larger animals, such as elephants, giraffes, hippos, or?rhinos, citing logistics in displaying game that size.
Penner plans to keep hunting as long as possible, provided he?still has his health and legs to carry him, he said. Getting away from?the distractions of daily life is a prime reason he enjoys hunting.
?Being outdoors, away from the telephone,? Penner said. ?(I) get?to see different parts of the world. I just love to be outdoors with?nature.?

African trip
On his first South African hunting trip, Penner successfully?hunted a variety of unusual animals, including two waterbucks,?two impalas, two warthogs, a zebra, a blue wildebeest, a bushbuck,?a bushpig, a kudu and a nyala.

 

Photos and story by?Wendy Nugent