By CHERIL VERNON
Since she was 4 years old, Alex Brittingham has been hunting, taking down her first big animals — a greater kudu and an impala — at the age of 7 during an African hunting expedition. But that’s not all. Over the years Brittingham has successfully hunted a leopard, Cape buffalo, hippopotamus, alligators, two bears (one with a bow, one with a rifle), a crocodile, waterfowl and numerous deer.
Going to school and graduating in Athens, Brittingham, 23, has ties to Anderson County, growing up on a ranch in Bois d’Arc, about 15 miles north of Palestine. Her father, well-known world hunter Jack Brittingham, still lives on the ranch. Her mother, Chris Brittingham lives on Lake Athens.
Now Brittingham, who lives in Beaumont, has her eyes set on winning the 2014 “Extreme Huntress” competition for a chance to win a $25,000 hunting trip that will be featured on an episode of NBC Sports’ “Eye of the Hunter.”
Brittingham was named one of 10 semifinalists after submitting an essay and photos about her hunting expeditions. The field will be narrowed down to four finalists, who will then compete in a skills competition at 777 Ranch in Hondo in July.
The finalist will be determined through a combination of online judging by the public and judges’ scores. Locals who want to help send Brittingham, who is the only Texan left in the contest, into the top four and send her to the skills contest in Hondo can vote at www.extremehuntress.com/vote through June 15.
“My dad is big into hunting and so are my older brothers, but hunting was always our decision. I started when I was 4 years old. We had to set our own alarms and make our own choices to get up and go, but if we wanted to go, Dad would help us,” Brittingham said during a phone interview with the Herald-Press. “Most of my early life I spent going to Africa every few years. I’ve been to Argentina for dove and duck hunting. I started shooting with a bow at a young age. I’ve always loved being in the outdoors. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t hunt.”
Graduating from Athens High School in 2008, Brittingham then headed to college, graduating from Texas Tech in 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree in business marketing. She has been living and working in Beaumont for about a year.
“I’ve been more into waterfowl hunting the last four or five years. I am part of a retriever club and on most afternoons I work with my dog, a Lab,” Brittingham said.
According to Brittingham, the Extreme Huntress competition has been around for four or five years, but this is the first year the contest has went beyond an essay contest.
“In the past there wasn’t any true way of showing a competitor’s skills,” Brittingham said. “When I found out there would be a competition, I was really excited. Even if I didn’t win or get the highest score, I would still go for the experience. It seems like a lot of fun just meeting a lot of female hunters like myself.”
While Brittingham is the only hunter from Texas, the closest competitor lives in Oklahoma and others live in the northern states.
“The people in this competition in the top 10 with me, they all really seem to enjoy hunting for what it is — they enjoy being in the outdoors,” Brittingham said.
Working for a veterinarian for three years, Brittingham follows her dad’s philosophy on the importance of conservation through hunting. Her father hunts about 300 days a year and is known for his hunting videos.
“That’s part of it for me — wildlife management. If we didn’t do that, we would lose a lot of animals that we love so much,” Brittingham said.
One of her most memorable hunts were the leopard and Cape buffalo hunts in Africa.
“I’ve gotten two the top 5 game — a leopard and a Cape buffalo. The Cape buffalo is actually very aggressive, one of the most dangerous animals to hunt in Africa besides the elephant,” Brittingham said.
When she and her group hunted the leopard, they were running short on time on their trip, so they ended up sleeping outside on cots for two nights and hunting the leopard at the bait, staying 200 yards away.
“I snuck in barefoot and took my shot from behind a blind. Sleeping outside in Africa was one of the scarier things I’ve done in my life. I was 15 years old at the time. Most of the time leopard hunts are done from around 4 to 7 p.m. but we did it at night — my brothers couldn’t say they did that,” Brittingham joked.
The hunt for the hippo also was exciting for Brittingham.
“It was very unique because we were just walking through the woods and came upon a little creek pad —nothing big — it didn’t seem big enough for a hippo to be underneath the water,” Brittingham said, noting the trackers came upon it accidentally. “He was a big bull. I took him from seven yards, it was an adrenaline rush for sure.”
Locally, Brittingham has shot various deer over the years, some with a rifle and some with the bow.
“I love hunting with a bow, but I haven’t done it in a while. Shooting a deer from a blind with a rifle is still very exciting to me, but definitely bow hunting gives you a huge adrenaline rush,” Brittingham said.
These days, Brittingham enjoys hunting ducks and geese with her hunting dog the best.
“I love watching a dog work, even if it’s not my dog. It’s so unique. It’s a whole experience different from anything else,” Brittingham said.
But her ultimate hunt would be to return to Africa to finish getting the rest of the top 5 game — elephant, lion and rhinoceros.
“The elephant would be the ultimate hunt for me. I’ve stalked an elephant before but never had a chance to get one. It would be an amazing hunt to do,” Brittingham said, noting that she and her mom were once almost stampeded by an Elephant herd in Africa when she was younger. “It was very scary. All of sudden we heard big rumbling and then saw the herd of elephants running toward us. We were very lucky to make it out of that.”
If she can become one of the top-four finalist through online voting, Brittingham might get to return to Africa again.
“I’m not sure where the winner will get to go this year, but for me, it doesn’t matter. I just love to hunt,” Brittingham said.
To support Brittingham, vote in the contest by going online to www.extremehuntress.com/vote.
Stay updated. Follow Brittingham on Twitter: twitter.com/alexbrittingham