January 19, 2015 |
Betsy Spomer fresh out of high school at just 17 entered undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt. Four years later, with a nursing degree burning a hole in her pocket, she did volunteer nursing in Appalachia before returning to Vanderbilt to complete one of the first nurse practitioner degrees in the nation. With it she migrated to Idaho where she helped start the Terry Riley Health clinic for low-income farm workers. When a local hospital initiated Boise’s first Life Flight helicopter service, Betsy climbed aboard as one of the pioneering crew nurses. During her spare time she parachuted out of airplanes, kayaked whitewater rivers, skied, ran half-marathons, trout fished, backpacked and raised a couple of babies. Nurse Betsy has restarted hearts, scraped human limbs off highways, pulled horse-kicked hunters off mountains and plucked windshield glass from noses.
Betsy is now married to outdoor writer Ron Spomer. Betsy wasn’t a hunter when she met Ron but wasn’t opposed to it. She shot tiny groups with Ron’s Kimber .22 and killed a lot of cans. She went along on safari in 1995 and enjoyed the hiking and hunting but walked away when they did the field dressing.
Their next safari was in Namibia. Betsy watched Ron take a mountain zebra, a spectacular kudu, 39-inch gemsbuck and 17-inch springbuck before announcing she wanted to stalk and shoot something. I handed her my custom rifle in .300 Weatherby Magnum. “Will it kick?” she asked.“Naw, you won’t feel a thing.” The rifle weighed a bit over seven pounds.
Her and her professional hunter got on a herd of springbuck. He told her to rest her rifle in the forks of his tripod, place the crosshair on the buck’s ribs where the belly met the tan shoulder and squeeze the trigger. The springbuck collapsed. Betsy beamed. She didn’t remember the rifle kicking at all. Now she wanted to shoot a cape buffalo but was told there weren’t any in the area they were hunting so that would have to be an animal for another trip which she was already telling Ron she wanted to do.
August of 2011 Betsy and Ron did Mozambique. Betsy had a Blaser R8 in .375 H&H fitted to her frame and topped with a Zeiss Victory Varipoint 2.5-10X50mm iC scope. It shot Barnes’ 300-grain Triple Shock slugs into 1-inch circles from the bench. More importantly, those bullets carried some 4,800 foot pounds of energy. Their monolithic construction guaranteed they’d smash massive muscles and bones and penetrate through the vitals, if not completely through the buffalo. A magnet in the Blaser’s cocking lever activated an illuminated, red center dot on the scope reticle, a highly visible aiming point against black targets. That increased Betsy’s confidence markedly. The unloaded rifle stood in the living room where Betsy could lift, aim, fire, cycle and fire again, several times each day, building muscles and muscle memory. She trained at the FTW Ranch SAAM Safari Shooting School and worked in the desert near home targeting 9-inch balloons. She’d take her first shot standing with the rifle supported in African Sporting Wood’s tripod legs, then step away from them for two quick offhand shots. The balloons popped. She was prepared. Still concerned and slightly nervous, but prepared.
“Ready to get wet?” Michael the professional hunter asked? Betsy hung on to Michaels back pack straps wading through ankle deep muck and thick mud which eventually turned to knee-deep water which quickly deepened and deepened again to get as high as her chest. She wondered if she was about to disturb a sleeping hippo or crocodile. Eventually the swamp rose to the level of soupy muck again, then thick mud, wet grass and finally solid ground where Johnny the tracker who had forged ahead was waiting. He had found the herd of buffalo and slowly and methodically turned and cocked his head in their direction. Everyone hunched and stalked forward into the wind. The sheltering sawgrass thinned. The hunters bent double, stopped and sat on their heels. Johnny pointed west and Mike slowly rose to look. Then he pantomimed loading a cartridge. Betsy did. Her guide spread the tripod he carried and wiggled his fingers to signal “up.” Betsy rose and poked her Blazer into the crotch of the tripod. Mike spread its legs farther to lower it. The buffalo stood in a swishing herd beyond the last of the saw grass, tossing horns and tails, battling flies. Egrets paraded through a forest of black legs. Some stood on broad, black, bovine backs. Mike pointed to a bull standing apart from the herd. “Last one on the right,” he whispered. “Put it right behind the shoulder.” There was no hesitation from the nurse. She shoved the cocking lever forward, pushed her face against the familiar walnut cheek piece, held the glowing red dot over the bull’s chest and calmly but decisively pulled the trigger. The rifle merely popped in the wind, the explosion dissipating in the big African sky where vultures were already patrolling. The sound of the striking Barnes’ bullet recoiled back reassuringly. The bull bucked and charged forward with the herd, a black mass swarming, surging into the wind where it ran headlong into another bunch emerging, confused, from sawgrass beyond. The herds massed together and turned to face us as if uncertain we justified a general panic. Then, with the swish of a hundred heads and tails, it stampeded back across the meadow before thundering into the saw grass, leaving behind one bull lying on its side, shot perfectly through both lungs. “Give it one right on the brisket, between the legs,” Mike instructed after they’d walked within 30 yards of the massive beast. Betsy fired. The carcass shuddered. It was finished. “Perfect shot! Perfect,” Mike crowed. “Right behind the shoulders. You couldn’t have made it anymore perfect! Look at that.” He pointed to the entrance wound, a little pucker behind the massive shoulder. Betsy beamed, looking a bit dazed, not quite sure it was over so suddenly. We found the expanded bullet against the hide on the far side, classically mushroomed.
Betsy now had her much talked about and much planned for Cape buffalo.
Betsy also took a Red Hartebeest, Zebra and Warthog on this trip.
Betsy now has hunting in her blood and is a hunting partner forever with her husband Ron.