Big-game adventures – and marriage – on the safari for Barb Wright

Wright wears hunter orange when deer hunting and just camouflage when going for upland birds. (By Barb Sieminski for The News-Sentinel)
Two of Wright’s hunting dogs Pippa and Rascal; the dogs accompany her when she is hunting upland birds. Pippa will go on point and Rascal will flush the birds out. (By Barb Sieminski for The News-Sentinel)
(By Barb Sieminski for The News-Sentinel)
Barb Wright checks out the scope on her crossbow which she uses for hunting deer and elk. She uses a shooting stick with rifles and the crossbow, which weighs a hefty 8 lbs. (By Barb Sieminski for The News-Sentinel)

When someone gets married on an African safari on the 4th of July, you’d better believe that person – in this case, Barb Wright – loves guided hunting jaunts. (She is crazy about her husband, too – after all, he came with her, didn’t he?)

Born in the mountains of Colorado where Wright and her family camped and hiked was the precursor of an intense passion for all things outdoors, especially later in life when she began hunting and fishing.

“I fished occasionally as a kid and with my first husband,” said Wright, a licensed CDHC-certified Client Services Representative at Employee Plans, LLC.

“Prior to meeting my current husband, I dated a few guys who hunted and fished, but my interest in tagging along was discouraged. My brothers weren’t interested in hunting and my grandfather never invited me or my sisters to accompany him.”

Enter a man who has been Wright’s primary mentor – her current husband Denny Wright.

“When I first met Denny in 2002, I was 39 and had never fired a gun until I met him,” recalled Wright who lives in Columbia City.

“I was uncomfortable with firearms, primarily because I didn’t know anything about them.”

Wright was an eager learner, however, and within the first few months, she became proficient enough with a rifle to go on her first Wyoming hunt with him.

“I tagged along on his guided antelope hunt and it was an incredible experience!” said the mother of three. “Denny got his antelope 3 hours into a 3-day hunt so he and the guide agreed to take me on a whitetail deer hunt. The following three days of glassing field and watching deer and other critters was unforgettable. And on the last day of the hunt, Wright took her first whitetail.

Back to the Zimbabwe plains game safari in 2006, where the couple tied the knot, wearing khaki safari pants and matching sky-blue fishing shirts on an open deck overlooking a river.

“The ceremony was performed by our pastor right here in Fort Wayne via satellite phone,” said Wright, adding that the safari staff, the native trackers and the camp cooks were in attendance.

“We were told it was a huge honor by the natives to be invited to the ceremony and the reception. We hired a group of native dancers to perform celebratory dances, which essentially recreated hunting dangerous animals. The reception was held outside of camp on a bank overlooking the rice fields and in the shadow of the oldest baobab tree in Zimbabwe. There was a semi-circle of 3 campfires with our party inside the circle between the fires and the river. Lions, elephants and hippos were in the area, so the fires were necessary outside of camp.”

Next summer will be the couple’s 12th anniversary and what made the couple’s unusual wedding even more memorable was the hunt for exotic animals during the safari.

“The biggest animal I’ve harvested so far was a 2,000-lb. bull giraffe,” said Wright, who also hunted kudu, impala, and black wildebeest.

“In the region we were in, news of the giraffe spread FAST! The natives are very poor and they are not allowed to hunt. One of the ways they discourage poaching is when the larger animals are taken, the meat goes to the natives. It really irritates me when I see social media blowing up because someone took a giraffe.

“Male giraffe have brown spots that get darker as they get older. The giraffe I took had solid black spots, so he couldn’t be aged by the trackers. He was well past his prime and thin. The outfitter who was guiding us cautioned that they would only allow me to take an old bull, and if we didn’t find one then I would not be allowed to take one at all.”

After the animal was down, Wright’s husband tried to get her to climb up and sit on it for the camera but aside from the fact that it stank horribly, she refused, because it was all covered in ticks.

“There’s a very good reason they call giraffe bulls ‘stink balls,'” said Wright, “and there was no graceful way to climb that massive beast.”

Though the area natives got the meat of the giraffe, Wright brought home the head (approximately 25 lbs.) and the dried green hide, which weighs well over 100lbs.

In Africa, a guide will carry an elephant gun because part of his or her job is guarding the rest of the party from dangerous animals, and they have to be licensed to do that, according to Wright, who shared another spine-tingling adventure.

“Denny wanted an Eland but they are elusive and extremely hard to find,” said Wright. “One morning we had spotted a pair and gotten off the safari truck to track them through a Mopani forest. We were pretty deep into the forest when our guide and tracker suddenly turned around and started rushing us quietly in the other direction. We had gotten into a herd of female elephants with calves. The lead cow in the herd was very aggressive and had killed a tracker 3 weeks earlier. The guide had not brought his rifle with him because they did not expect to go far from the truck. He grabbed the client’s gun, told the client to run for the truck and the guide ran in a different direction and the tracker went in the opposite direction. The elephant chose to go after the tracker. The guide shot at the elephant to try to save the tracker, but the gun was not a heavy enough caliber to do much damage to the elephant. I will not go into graphic detail of the tracker’s injuries. They did not tell us this story until after our encounter with this herd. Fortunately, our own guide never left the truck without a very large caliber rifle.”

Back home again in Indiana Wright hunts upland birds, deer and turkey. She was ecstatic when she heard that the Department of Natural Resources came out with the combo tag, which was good for 3-season hunting. Wright takes deer with a shotgun, bow and muzzleloader. She also hunts elk, bear, and antelope in Wyoming.

The couple owns four hunting dogs – two Black Labs (Dewey and Rascal) and two English Setters (Pippa and Indy) – that either go on point when hunting upland birds or flush the birds out.

“I also have a Pomeranian named Shadow who keeps the others in line,” said Wright, who has been trying to talk her husband into a spring bear hunt in WY but that has been put on hold. Fingers crossed, though.

For now, the couple is planning on hunting in Indiana and Michigan this year and will take a fishing trip to the Keys this winter, where they will go after yellow perch, mackerel and toro – and grouper when in season.