It was mid-morning on 14 May 1973, when the King Air carried my friends and fellow Michiganders, Joyce and Erwin Wilson, with all their gear, including hunting equipment and food. The plane landed on a dirt runway in Caprivi, the northeastern corner of Namibia. The pilot had deployed the reverse thrust levers a bit late after the nose wheel had already touched down. He then realized the aircraft was quickly running out of the runway, so he raised the thrust levers to the full upright position, putting the engines in maximum reverse thrust. That, coupled with his feathering the brakes with increasing pressure, stopped the King Air within 20 yards of the runway’s end.


Caprivi is a salient strip of land protruding from the northeastern corner of Namibia. Botswana surrounds it to the south, and Angola and Zambia to the north. Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia meet at a single point at the eastern tip, an area Erwin first hunted in the late 50s with his brother Ed.


Greeting them was a long-time friend and professional hunter Peter Becker with one of his MaYeyi trackers. There was no terminal, no petrol pump, and surprise – no help, and they transferred all the luggage and hunting gear into the Rover that Peter had driven to the plane. When everyone was seated, Peter handed Joyce and Erwin a Hansa pilsener, saying, “Karibu (Swahili for welcome). We now have a 10-kilometer drive to base camp over a very bumpy road that will make that landing you had a cakewalk.”

The previous day, Peter out scouting with his lead tracker, had seen fresh hoof prints of Cape buffalo, Snycerus caffer, close to a known watering hole, where they had set up base camp.


Once there and settled into their assigned tent, Joyce joked, “Well, not the Ritz, but It’s not bad. Where’s the shower?”


Erwin and the PH with his head tracker headed out later that afternoon to check if the herd was still there, approximately nine kilometers north and west of camp. On the drive back, as they crested a small hill, they spotted a group of cheetahs watching the grasslands, searching the horizon for prey.


Over a late meal with drinks, discussing the next day’s plan under a star-studded sky, Peter pointed out the constellation often seen in the Southern Hemisphere, known as the Southern Cross.


At 6:30 after onbyt (breakfast in Afrikaans), Peter and the Wilsons climbed into the Rover and, following the old Toyota truck with two of Peter’s trackers, drove several kilometers, scouting different sets of tracks before they located where the herd of buffalo had moved the previous evening. By the time they spotted them it was close to the day’s heat, so they let the herd bed down in some shade for a mid-day siesta.


Peter suggested they should not push the herd, but just find some shade themselves, and wait for the day’s heat to pass. They had located a herd, and, as Erwin had noted, “A meaningful male may well be amongst it.” It’s all about the size of the buffalo’s lethal horns and its age that is relevant. A herd of that size should have a couple of Dagga Boys peripheral to its location.


It was a beautiful time of day, the expansive views highlighting cirrus clouds over the surrounding savanna; a rolling grassland interspersed with the occasional baobab tree; elephant grass, and Acacia trees whose leaves are favored by giraffes, along with jackalberry, a large dioecious evergreen tree that frequently grows on termite mounds. After a three-hour break that included lunch and a nap for the hunters, the temperature started dropping and, more importantly, the wind was still in their faces, a necessity if their stalk was to be successful. After a short trek, they again spotted the herd. The animals had arisen and started moving.


Joyce, Erwin, Peter and the head tracker were downwind about 400 yards in some cover, but they needed to close the distance for a reliable shot. Finally, after what seemed like a long hour of painstaking, silent movement to check the wind and placement of the lumbering herd, Peter got Joyce and Erwin within 120 yards after spotting two old mature bulls with several tick birds on their rumps.


Peter had chosen a tiny patch where the grasses had parted so the five-foot-two Joyce could get a shot off the shooting sticks he had quickly put in place.

“The big one on the left with an imposing boss would be at least 700 kgs,” the PH told her in a low voice, and suggested she wait for her shot. As the buffalo slowly moved, presenting a side profile, Peter whispered, “Aim just above the front right shoulder and slowly squeeze the trigger.” Sighting her rifle with its Griffen & Howe custom Peep Sight mounted on the pre- ‘64 Winchester 458 Win Magnum (which had the stock cut down by Erwin to fit her petite body), Joyce took a breath, exhaled, and pulled the trigger.


Her shot hit the bull exactly where Peter had directed. It stumbled and turned 180 degrees, and limply ran off, creating a whirlwind of trailing dust as the sun illuminated a cloud of tiny fireflies following it. Peter was sure of a good hit as he watched through his binoculars and saw the big animal heave and lurch, a telltale sign of a well-placed shot. Then, cautiously walking to where the buffalo had stood, the group heard a lone bull groaning not too far away. Everyone was on high alert at this point, as a wounded Cape buffalo is one of the most dangerous of game, very unpredictable, and that will fight to their last breath, an instinct instilled in them since the dawn of time.

Peter and one of his trackers, noticing good blood on the ground, started to slowly follow the blood trail and move toward the sound of the groaning buffalo, with Joyce and Erwin following, all guns raised and in the ready in case of a sudden charge. The only other sound they heard was their beating hearts as they slowly and cautiously moved to the dying beast. Then they sighted him, down, and they waited as he expired.


His magnificent horns extended from a significant boss, slightly curving about seven inches above the big beast’s head. From point to point, there were just over 26 inches between those lethal points, as if the horns warned, “Lion beware.”


Before they returned to the vehicles, Peter and Erwin oversaw the big brute’s gralloching. Once gutted, they began trimming the backstrap and hind legs for their needs. On the return to camp, Joyce took a backward-facing seat, allowing a view of the Chobe River as the waning yellow sun highlighted its undulating flow. The drive back was, in some respects, a reflective journey. The thrill of a successful hunt, coupled with the challenge and teamwork between all, filled Joyce and Erwin with a deep appreciation of the vastness of Africa, and the fragile balance between nature, human encroachment, and the needs of the indigenous tribes.


Back at base camp, the hunters had welcome showers before sitting round the fire with their drink of choice and reminisced about the day’s events while waiting for dinner which started with a toast and a glass of celebratory champagne – a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label that Erwin had brought on their flight, a favorite of Joyce.

The main meat dish was thin slices of backstrap from their buffalo, chicken fried with a dollop of Peco de Galloand, and cuts of guinea fowl. Afterwards they enjoyed nightcaps as they discussed the wonders of Africa and their privilege to have returned to the enchanted continent.


The hunt planned for the next day was for a greater kudu, Tragelaphus strepsiceros. Peter had heard from one of his trackers that kudu were spotted in bushveld lowlands south and west of their camp. So, at 6:30 a.m. the following morning, the PH, head tracker and the Wilsons, drove approximately 10 km to the area. They checked several tracks and finally located a small group 400 yards away, including a couple of males.


However, the two males seen were not trophy size, so Erwin declined. On the drive back, Erwin and Joyce bagged two warthogs, providing meat for the dedicated tribe members.



Erwin had taken his first big-game hunting trip in 1956, again with his brother Ed as his companion. Ed and Erwin traveled from Michigan to Kenya – no easy feat in those days, as traveling from London to Nairobi required a minimum of two fuel stops. The Wilson brothers had hired a rookie Kenyan PH named Peter Becker as their guide. Becker was even younger than 31-year-old Erwin at the time but had already started to gain a significant reputation as a tracker, thanks to his efforts during the Mau Mau rebellion a few years earlier. (In fact, Becker’s tracking talents were so impressive that he was presented with a medal from King George VI in England for services rendered to the Crown, shortly before the king’s death.) Erwin formed a fast friendship with Becker and would go on to hunt with him for decades after that first trip.


Erwin joined the Shikar Safari Club in 1964 after learning about the club and received an outstanding achievement award for a record book, Alaskan moose and caribou.


In September 1970, Safari Club members arranged a hunt on the Shah of Iran’s private hunting estate, where Erwin shot a sizeable Urial ram. Joyce noted that the hosted dinner that evening was a 5-star event, with caviar “to die for.”


Shikar Club members had set up another adventure with the U.S. State Department to bring American astronauts Jim Lovell and Stu Roosa (also a Shikar member) on a goodwill trip to the Central African Empire. The coordinated program was named the, “People to People Sports Program.” First Emperor Bokassa, head of the C.A.E., lavished his celebrity guests with gifts and remarkable local experiences. Then he took the entire group on a Cape buffalo hunt to show off his hunting prowess. Joyce diplomatically noted that, unfortunately, “His shooting wasn’t so great. However, the trip out and back was fantastic as were the gifts of precious stones.”


The highlight of a following trip to the C.A.E. resulted in Joyce bagging a trophy-sized Lord Darby eland Taurotragus derbianus.


Over the years, Joyce and Erwin had fallen deeply in love with Africa. In the early 1980s, they became some of the first homeowners in the new Sabie Park development on the western border of Kruger National Park,



In Erwin’s lifetime, he took over 37 individual trips to Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America, plus hunts to Alaska and northern Canada, too numerous to count. He was often a Weatherby Award candidate but was never awarded the trophy.


Joyce passed away in 2014. She was 91 years old.


Erwin passed away in 2019. He was 93 years old.



I have no question Erwin believed Theodore Roosevelt’s quote: “In a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist when preserved by sportsmen. The excellent people who protest against all hunting and consider sportsmen as enemies of wildlife are ignorant that, in reality, the genuine sportsman is, by all odds, the most important factor in keeping the larger and more valuable wild creatures from total extermination.”