Meeker locals enjoy ‘hunt of a lifetime’ during African safari trips

Tom and Joy Allen give a thumbs-up after Tom’s successful hunt for a kudu during a safari taken with Meeker’s Bill Wille, owner and operator of Professionals of Africa and Antler Taxidermy. Antler Taxidermy/Professionals of Africa photo

MEEKER | Meeker residents and lifelong hunters Tom Allen and Larry Beck drove by the “Hunt Africa” sign outside Antler Taxidermy/Professionals of Africa for years, like everyone else on Market Street. This spring they took advantage of Meeker taxidermist and hunting guide Bill Wille’s African safari opportunity. Both returned from their “hunt-of-a-lifetime” adventure more than satisfied.
“You will never find a better professional hunter that will care for you better than Bill,” Allen said. He and his wife Joy traveled to Africa in April. Allen has hunted all his life, and worked for years as an outfitter and hunting guide in northwest Colorado.
“I grew up hunting,” Allen said. “My dad taught me how and I loved it, and then I started outfitting. I’ve seen so many animals killed, so many bad shots, so many hunters who, quite frankly, didn’t want to be there, and I kind of lost the thrill. This (safari) brought the thrill back for me.”
Allen filled his list of African animals while on his two-week trip to South Africa, Limpopo Province and the East Cape. He harvested a kudu, a waterbuck, two impalas, a warthog and one common and one white blesbok.
“Everyone should see it, whether you hunt or not. The animals are just incredible. There’s an animal behind every bush,” Allen said.
Allen’s wife, Joy, also fulfilled a goal: she got to dip her toes in the Indian Ocean.
For Larry Beck, going on an African safari was something he had long wanted to do, and he is full of praise for Wille’s work as a professional hunter.
“One time we’re going along in the back of a pickup,” Beck said. “The grass was super high. Bill told the driver to stop, he sees the tips of the horns of the kudu in the grass, just the tips.”
“I’ve been blessed with a good eye,” Wille quipped.
That “eye” has carried Wille through almost three decades of African hunts. Much of what he has been able to accomplish can be attributed to good relationships with his African connections.
“I spot and appraise the animal before I’ll allow my hunters to shoot. There’s a lot of animals and a lot of opportunities, so I’m not going to have my hunters shoot an inferior animal,” Wille said.
It’s that kind of integrity that has earned Wille an exceptional reputation in the industry, that and plain old-fashioned skill. He works with 23 different “concessions”—hunting providers—just in South Africa, and has connections in four other African countries.
“I heard before I left, ‘If he tells you to shoot, shoot!’” Beck said.
Beck’s hunt, in May/June 2017, started with the traveler’s classic nightmare: lost luggage. For a hunter, besides the inconvenience of not having personal items, he didn’t have the gun he was accustomed to for his hunt. Until the eighth day of his safari, he had to borrow everything, even underwear. That didn’t stop him from taking what may well be a world-record quality wildebeest. In fact, all the animals Allen and Beck took will make the record books, Wille said.
Beck harvested 14 animals in 18 days, including kudu, waterbok, impala, warthog, steenbok and duiker in Limpopo; bushbuck and blesbok (probably a top-10 world record animal) in the eastern province of South Africa, and west of Queenstown, a black wildebeest, hartebeest, gemsbok, black springbok and common springbok.

Antler Taxidermy/Professionals of Africa photo
Larry Beck of Meeker, and professional hunter Bill Wille, owner and operator of Meeker’s Antler Taxidermy and Professionals of Africa, pose with the world-class wildebeest Beck harvested on his trip.

“The only thing I didn’t get that was on my list was a baboon,” Beck said.
“Most people don’t get the baboon,” Wille replied.
“Africa was always on my wish list,” Beck said. “He (Wille) told me ‘you’re going to have the hunt of a lifetime,’ and he lived up to everything he promised.”
A lifelong hunter, Beck said learning the differences in “kill shots” for African wildlife was the main thing he had to learn.
“Shot placements are completely different; most animals there you should hit at the shoulder down low. Above the shoulder is not a kill shot. That’s the main thing I had to learn, to put the crosshairs in a different spot,” Beck said.
Asked about endangered species and how that’s managed, Wille, who started going to Africa more than 30 years ago to teach the Kalahari bushmen how to hunt with a bow, said the nations that manage hunting have plenty of animals and the nations that ban hunting have next to none.
All safaris are not created equal, and in recent years, according to Wille, safaris have changed, and not for the better.
“It’s all about how many animals you can get for the least amount of money now,” he said. “Everywhere I take a client the animal has a better opportunity. I want to give a person a real safari. This is real Africa. You actually have the experience of a person in that country.”
“I would recommend it to anyone who can afford it,” Beck said. “Here you’re lucky to see four or five animals a day, or even a season. There, you can see animals everywhere. To see the amount of species over there, and you can never experience that here. I was so thrilled, it was more than I expected.”