There are big game hunters, and then there are hunters of dangerous big game. Waterville native Kenneth T. Winters, who has hunted 223 big game species throughout the world, spent the better part of his adult life hunting dangerous big game in his beloved Africa.
In his new book, “Chasing High Adventure,” Winters relives those memorable days in the African bush. The book’s dust cover blurb cuts to the chase: “This is a true story that reveals the depth of a man’s four strongest emotions: his determination to pursue his passion in life against all odds, his total dedication to God and country, his insatiable quest for high adventure and his tenacity to survive five near-death experiences.”
Winters’ first brushes with death were in combat as an Army Green Beret in Laos and behind enemy lines during another conflict. Although one chapter in the book touches on this, Winters prefers today to avoid lengthy discussions of his military “adventures.” Not so with his hunting career, however.
Winters’ early days as a big game hunter got off to a very bad beginning in Zimbabwe. An elephant charged his vehicle, flipping it and nearly killing Winters. He was pinned under the wreck and almost given up for dead. Extended hospitalizations and a number of operations to repair his battered body, as well as months of physical therapy, eventually brought him to the point where he could once again pursue his hunting passion.
Over the years, and many trips to Africa, as well as New Zealand, South America and the Arctic, Winters eventually bagged the Big Five, as well as 200 additional big game species. According to Safari International, he also holds 103 big game world records.
As you might guess, an African lion represents a formidable quarry. Winters wanted more than a lion. He held out for a trophy cat, turning down 12 different opportunities to take a lion. He writes, “When you set your goal, you must honor your commitment. Refrain from compromise, never settle for less! Should you in any way dilute your commitment, then so do you dilute your reward!”
As it turned out, the big game hunter’s reward — a large male lion — almost killed him. He writes: “… a large male lion on a full charge, sprang into the air not 20 feet from where I stood. Frozen with fear I fired, not having time to aim or even realize where I was shooting. That lion hit the ground less than 5 feet from me, not moving a muscle. He was stone dead. I couldn’t even conceive what had just happened. How could that enraged lion not have done bodily harm to me in his throes of death?”
Today, in the twilight of his years, Winters has sold or donated most of his guns and big game trophies. He remains proud of his hunting legacy, his tenacity in adversity and insists that “God willing, passion will surmount all adversities of a physical or emotional catastrophe. Finding that passion and staying the course, be it a hobby, occupation, sport or stimulating diversion, will set you free to enjoy life to its fullest.”
Again, Winters’ book, “Chasing High Adventure,” which is co-authored by Bob Markworth, is soon to be available on Amazon or can be purchased from the author, who lives at the Country Villa on Kenduskeag Avenue in Bangor, tel. 942-0617.