CSC student hunts in Africa prior to cracking the books

September 5, 2013

Tomilyn Trask Tomilyn Trask

Thanks to modern technology that can keep students connected with their classes even when they aren’t on campus, a Chadron State College coed was able to accompany her parents on a hunting trip to Africa during the first two weeks of the school year.

Tomilyn Trask, 20, junior, of Wasta, S.D., was in Namibia, a triangle-shaped country in southwestern Africa, when classes began on Aug. 23. She didn’t attend her first classes until late last week.

The arrangement wasn’t ideal, but Tomilyn said she and her parents, Tom and Sheila Trask, weren’t able make the arrangements in Africa until mid-August.

This was Tomilyn’s second hunting trip to Africa and she was able to fill her permits for four animals—a springbuck, a steenbuck,a kudu and a mountain zebra during the 10 days there.

In 2011, she bagged 11 animals on a trip with her parents shortly after she graduated from Philip High School in Philip, S.D.       

Hunting is definitely a big part of the Trask family’s life.  They are outfitters who host deer hunters in the fall and turkey hunters in the spring on their cattle ranch west of Wall, S.D. on the Cheyenne River. Hunters from California and many eastern and southeastern states stay in the family’s cabins.

Several other area ranchers are involved in the hunting corporation that her father helped form and manages. About 70 percent of the deer taken at the Dakota Trophy Hunt are mule deer, but some trophy whitetail bucks are also available. 

Tomilyn said that while cell phone service is flourishing in Africa, even among the Herero people who still herd goats on foot and cook over an open fire, the Internet service is spotty.  That made it difficult to keep up with some of her CSC classes, but she said friends have offered to share their notes and she studied nearly fulltime during the Labor Day weekend.

“I’ve got four assignments that are due this coming week,” she said. “I’m just glad I was taking several hybrid - a mixture of classroom and Internet work - courses and was able to use my computer to keep up some of the time while I was gone.”

Through the years, the Trasks began traveling to faraway places to hunt, using the proceeds from what they charge visiting hunters to help pay for the trips. Northern Canada, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah are family favorites.

While Tomilyn has gone along on trips into the Yukon and Northwest Territory, she’s never shot anything in Canada. However, when she was 15 and a high school sophomore, she bagged a bighorn sheep with nearly a full curl in his horns after spending six days on horseback in New Mexico.  

“Hunting is just something we do,” said Tomilyn, a math education major at CSC. “My grandfather started our hunting business in 1966 and both dad and mom and now us kids have all gotten involved. Both of my brothers, Mark and Mick, are taxidermists who also help with the ranch.”

A neighbor, Kelli  Wilson, who also attends CSC and is Tomilyn’s roommate, said the Trasks’ home “is about like Cabela’s,” with a variety of mounted animals gracing the walls.  A few years ago, a new room was added to display the trophy mounts.

Some of the animals exhibited include moose, elk, caribou, brown and black bears, a mountain lion and bighorn, Stone, Dall sheep that have been bagged in North America along with a variety of species taken in Africa.  The latter includes a leopard and a cape buffalo her father downed.

Tomilyn adds that her brothers are so busy with customers that they have not had time to mount any of her 11 trophies from the 2011 trip to Africa.

The 2011 experience lasted three weeks in South Africa, Namibia’s southern neighbor.  Her collection there included seven varieties of antelope, including an Impala, a warthog, an ostrich and a plains zebra.

Her parents made their first trip to Africa in 2005, her father went again in 2007, and then he and both sons went in 2008.

In both South Africa and Namibia, some of the hunting was done on privately owned ranches, which are surrounded by high-wire fences that can enclose as many as 20,000 acres.  The remainder was on government-owned land that not only contains a variety of animals, but is also the home of indigenous people.

“When you hunt on the government land, you are helping feed the children of Africa,” Tomilyn said. “Once an animal is taken, the guides use their cell phones or a radio system to let the people know that meat will be available and people from the tribes come from all directions to collect it.  The hunters get to keep the hides and the horns, but literally everything else goes to the people.  Some of them come in donkey carts and the others by foot.  It is pretty amazing.”

Tomilyn said this is especially true in Namibia, where the tribal chief may own a herd of cattle, but they are butchered only for special occasions such as weddings and funerals.  The rest of the time, the only meat the natives eat is from animals that were taken by hunters, of if they kill an animal themselves, using a bow and arrow or spear.

She noted that because she is the youngest of the three siblings, she has a hard time matching her brothers’ lists of trophies.  For instance, she said both have shot two moose but she has not yet had the opportunity to go moose hunting.

However, she does have a couple of firsts.  She is the only family member to shoot an ostrich and during the recent trip, she met a friendly giraffe that took an apple that she was holding in her teeth.

“He was kind of slobbery, but I figured this would be the only time in my life that I would be able to do something like that,” she said with a grin.       

—Con Marshall, CSC Information Services