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Thrill of the hunt




NORTON -- Russ Erbert is ready to go back to South Africa.

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NORTON -- Russ Erbert is ready to go back to South Africa.

Erbert, accompanied by his wife, Kathy, and son, Weston, traveled to South Africa in August for a big-game hunt. He and his son took six animals. They each took an impala, while Weston also had a bless buck. Russ also took a bush buck, kudu and nyala.

But Russ Erbert wants to return for another hunt.

"My next one, I really want to do a Cape buffalo hunt," he said.

The thrill of the hunt -- and being hunted -- is all part of going after the Cape buffalo, Erbert said. It can weigh up to 2,000 pounds.

"I don't know if it's the attraction of the insanity of hunting something that will hunt you back, because they will try to kill you," Erbert said. "If he charges you, it's not fake. He's coming after you."

Erbert is waiting for the mounts of the six animals taken to be shipped to the United States. He knows what spots on the wall they will take up in his basement, which already has mounts of deer and a bobcat.

"I'm real anxious to see them, and nervous," he said. "What if it's not right? What if it's broke? You can't just take it back."

While Erbert has been an avid hunter since he was little, his wife is a self-proclaimed "bunny lover."

"I don't like hunting," she said with a laugh.

They stayed at a hunting lodge in KwaZulu Natal, a province of South Africa. But while Russ hunted during their week-long stay, Kathy and Weston went to Nambiti Big 5 Private Game Reserve. There, she and Weston saw four of the Big 5 animals on the continent. They saw a lion, leopard, rhinoceros and elephant -- everything except the Cape buffalo.

On a morning game drive, Kathy and Weston went to a cheetah breeding project. Weston petted a cheetah, while Kathy had one sit on her lap while it purred as she petted it.

"It was amazing," she said. "They were as soft as a house cat."

Weston, a sophomore in high school, enjoyed the trip, too.

"It was fun, quite the experience," he said. "The scenery was great. That was one of the best things."

Even though she's not a hunter, Kathy wanted to go with her husband on the trip.

"I wanted to go because it's Africa," she said. "I've gotten better about hunting through the years."

"I don't rub anything in her face," about hunting, Russ Erbert said.

"We have mutual respect for each other," Kathy Erbert said.

Russ Erbert has made other hunting trips, too, going to Canada to hunt moose, in Colorado for elk and Wyoming for antelope. He's gone to Texas for wild boars and also hunts coyotes, turkeys and pheasants. He's even gone deep-sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

"I would, if I could, every week," go hunting, Erbert said.

Erbert, owner of Russ' Jewelry & Repair in downtown Norton for the last 25 years, started hunting at a young age.

"I hunted since I was little, from the time I was 4 or 5, shooting rabbits out at the farm," he said.

Erbert, 55, who wanted to go to Africa since he saw safaris on TV as a child, said now was the time to make the trip -- while he still could.

"I think it's to hit mid-50s," he said. "If you're going to do it, go do it."

And, Erbert wants to do it again.

"I want to go again so bad I can taste it."