Homeschool Student Spotlight: On the Hunt for Big Adventure with McKenzie Sims

Apr 28th, 2012 | By | Category: Featured Articles, Student Showcase

Did you ever imagine that the world of homeschooling could be filled with big game animals, dangerous hunts, and wild adventure on far away continents? Bridgeway Academy student McKenzie Sims of Evanston, Wyoming – and star of the television show “Young Blood” on the Outdoor Channel – tells us firsthand how exciting the life of a homeschooler can actually be with the right opportunities!

McKenzie’s extreme love for the outdoors, animals, and the sport of hunting began on his family’s 90 acre ranch in Wyoming. For the Sims family, hunting is a tradition that they consider a privilege and not a given right. They practice good stewardship toward the land and the care and preservation of the animals that live on it. Hunting together as a family has brought them a sense of unity and pride in their accomplishments. And a homeschool education through Bridgeway is the way they manage to juggle long travel commitments and film schedules!

Here McKenzie tells us of his exciting African safari hunt in his own words:

I became involved with hunting at a young age. At two years old, I was riding horses with my parents as they hunted elk. Once I was old enough to sit in a saddle by myself, my dad would lead my horse in the mountains. I would also go out hunting small game and coyotes. I enjoy both bow and rifle hunting. I enjoy a challenge!

In 2010, I went on my quest to be the youngest kid to complete Africa’s Big 5: the harvest of a lion, a leopard, a cape buffalo, a rhino, and an elephant. I wanted to accomplish this on film in one safari. I knew it was going to be tough and long but I never would have thought it would take 45 days!

I started my adventure in South Africa where I darted (green hunt- no kill) my white rhino and hunted some plains game. When I darted my white rhino, she was put to sleep so the people could check her health and for pregnancy. I spent 7 days there. From South Africa, my dad, cameraman and I flew to Tanzania where I intended on completing my quest and spent 28 days in Tanzania.

When I arrived in Tanzania, we spent the first few days hunting leopard and lion bait. The best bait for lion is cape buffalo. Then I had two of the big five down. During this time, we were also tracking elephants and looked at a lot of them but could not find one legal bull. In Tanzania, there is a specific weight criterion that the tusks on the bull need to be 35 pounds or more. If you shot a bull under that weight you would be penalized by fines and possible jail time. I finally got my leopard on day 10 and I got my third trophy for the big five.

Now all my attention was focused on the lion and the allusive big tusker (elephant). In the 18 days we spent looking for the legal bull we could not find one. I was pretty burned out and thought about giving up. Every day we would either see elephants from the road or track in on them but we could not seem to find the right one. On day 19, I got my lion. That is when my dad decided that we needed to come up with a different plan for harvesting my elephant.

My cameraman called a good friend of his in South Africa to help us find a backup plan. Marius told me “There is a permit available at the Timbivati Game Reserve, would you be okay to wait a couple of days for the paperwork?” I of course replied “Marius, whatever you can do to help us I’ll be forever grateful.” In the meantime, I decided to go out for one last day in Tanzania to try for some of the plains game I had not harvested.

Next, we were off to Nairobi to catch a commercial flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. After another short charter flight and a 30 minute drive, we were at Buffaloland Safari’s. This is the place I would be staying and hunting plains game while I finished waiting on all the paperwork and permit to be completed.

Finally, everything was ready for me to begin. As my group arrived at the Timbivati headquarters to pick up our game scout, I was so ready to just find this elephant and get it over with. After driving around which seemed to be a lifetime but was only 3 or 4 hours, we saw lots of elephants but not a single shooter. As my team and I pulled up to a water hole to have lunch, we spotted a big bull in the water bathing himself and drinking.

I was ready to go after this great animal but by law you cannot harvest an animal within one kilometer of water so I had to wait for the bull to walk away from the water. After about thirty minutes, he slowly went out of sight and I began to track him.

Then there he was 30 yards away from me eating on some Keisha tree. My dad just turned around and asked me, “Are you ready son?” That is when I finally completed my big five by harvesting this magnificent bull. His tusks weighed 78 and 83 pounds. I was so happy that words could not explain. All the effort we made to get this quest completed was all i could ask for but being able to make it a success was the icing on the cake.

I want to add that I am able to do all of these amazing travels because of my dad and mom. They have been very supportive of me through all of this. My dad finances everything for me – I am very grateful for all they have done for me.

McKenzie dreams of one day becoming a professional hunter and opening his very own museum to showcase the amazing animals he has come across in his worldly travels. Good luck and happy hunting McKenzie Sims!

 

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