Bowhunting Elephants

At the Shooting, Hunting & Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Orlando not quite two years ago, Teressa Hagerman of Kansas City had a friend ask if she'd like to try taking a cape buffalo with a bow and arrow. "Sure," she said. He then asked if she'd try for an elephant with archery gear since no woman had previously collected such a massive animal. "Why not," she replied. Her friend, Larry Sleyton of Orion Multimedia, said he'd set it up, so long as he could document the hunt for the television show "Dangerous Game" on the Versus cable network. So began an elephant hunt, with 14 months of strength training and strict dietary nutrition preparation for Teressa. She contacted Pete Shepley at PSE Archery, who advised her on the right gear and shooting regimen to prepare for the hunt. When she started she could only draw a 45-pound bow. When she began her hunt, 14 months later, she was shooting a PSE "EXCalibur" bow set at 90 pounds, with heavy carbon shafts and special German-made broadheads that cost $40 each. Teressa (left) departs for Johannesburg, South Africa. Tagging along are Mike and Joyce Christianson of Wisconsin. Mike Christianson is a world-class archer who has collected all African dangerous game with a bow, and is Teressa's bowhunting mentor.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Elephant country beckons below as Teressa flies into the rugged African bush aboard a Cessna 206.Outdoor Life Online Editor
After arriving in camp and unpacking, Teressa checks her bow equipment- everything is spot-on for the hunt beginning the next morning.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Also along on the hunt is Dr. Mike Gibson of Kansas City. Dr. Gibson is Teressa's chiropractor who tended to her shoulders and back daily as they came under severe stress drawing and shooting her elephant bow.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Teressa (left) is fresh and strong on her first day of hunting, as she and Joyce Christianson travel roads with trackers looking for elephant sign. But a long and very grueling hunt is on tap.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Teressa stands at the front of a hunting vehicle looking for elephant sign, with fresh droppings in the background.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Professional hunter and guide Dudley Rogers shows the fresh path of elephants to Teressa, while the hunters decide their next move. Every day they encounter shooter bulls and cows, but often the animals spook, or the wind is wrong preventing a stalk into the effective 30-yard bow range.Outdoor Life Online Editor
After every day's arduous hunting Teressa religiously shoots her bow, checking that all is okay with its sights and other components.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Many long miles are logged daily by the hunting entourage. On one day, the group covered 36 miles, but time-and-again hunters are foiled in their attempt to get within close bow range of a mature bull elephant.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Four days into the hunt, the party encounters three poachers. Two escape, but the trackers capture this fellow, who is handcuffed to a tree, awaiting a game warden. When trackers pursue another group of poachers one jumped off a 40-foot embankment, severely injuring himself. Days later he died from his injuries.Outdoor Life Online Editor
The days are long and tough, and the group searches widely for bulls. Some areas are arid, with dry creek bottoms choice avenues for covering country looking for fresh elephant spore.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Other areas consist of vast wetlands, like the Gunguwe River shown here, with bulls and cows in mixed groups. In thick areas, danger is heightened as aggressive elephants can suddenly appear. Often they show within 20 yards, alarmed and ready to charge.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Fresh tracks are easy to locate in big, lush river bottoms. But the going is rugged, with deep mud, thick cover, and spooky elephants that seem to disappear quickly in dense vegetation.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Teressa continues her dutiful daily shooting, making sure her archery equipment is in top shape, and she'll be up to the task of taking a bull when the time arrives.Outdoor Life Online Editor
But the hard work of African elephant bowhunting is constant, with long trails that often lead to frustrating results, like spooked cows, or bulls too small to shoot.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Seven days into the hunt, a tired but determined Teressa takes a break from tracking elephants.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Following the toughest, longest day of the hunt, Teressa hungrily eats "Botong" a high-energy, jerky-like product.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Finally, on May 17, the hunters locate a huge band of 37 elephants- cows, calves and bulls near the Sanyati River. After much walking and stalking, and heart-pounding moments, Teressa locates a bull which steps into the open at 9 yards. She draws, anchors, and the arrow finds its mark. The bull spins and looks directly at Teressa, who, in that moment realizes if it charges, someone is going to die. But the bull turns and crashes off into the brush, falling dead 500 yards distant.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Elation, as Teressa recovers the first elephant ever downed by a female archer. The estimated 10,000-pound animal stood 12 feet tall at the shoulder, with tusks measuring 43 and 42 inches.Outdoor Life Online Editor
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A beaming Teressa is flanked by Mike Christianson (right) and Mike Gibson, with Joyce Christianson and Dudley Rogers smiling, along with some of the native trackers.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Teressa says she never could have succeeded in her elephant bowhunting quest without the dedication and hard work of her African trackers.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Native African villagers gather to claim meat from Teressa's elephant that will be used to feed them for a long time.Outdoor Life Online Editor

Teressa Hagerman is the first women ever to successfully take an elephant with bow and arrow.