Play Video
by Deborah Hadfield

Emma Stander believes that big game hunting needs an influx of women. She says it would boost the hunting business – and that it’s up to her to share the reality and beauty of hunting to attract them.

The 19-year-old, who lives in the Northern Cape province of South Africa, says: “I think the main thing that puts women off hunting is the idea that it’s blood, guts, not showering for five days, completely tired and covered in smoke and ash. But that’s not  the reality. Of course it can be the reality, but it generally isn’t. We have to create a better picture of hunting to make people see that it’s actually something beautiful.”

Emma Sander has been hunting since she was a child. She says her first hunting experience was at a farm with her family. She says: “We see a Blesbok standing about 120 metres away, facing us.  I tap on the on the car’s roof and say, ‘Let me get out – I’m going to shoot this thing’. So, I get down with my dad’s .30-06, and the PH [professional hunter] puts me on the sticks and I shoot. It drops and we get there, we take out the stomach, smear my face full of blood and take some wonderful photos with the fading light.”

Blesbok: Emma Sander's first hunting experience

Throughout Emma’s life hunting has been a constant passion, especially with her father. It’s a holiday. 

She says: “It’s packing the vehicle, making sure everything’s there, and then waking up at the crack of dawn, making a fire, cooking water for coffee, heading out, coming back for lunch, and then heading out again. It’s very systematic – and it’s freedom.” 

Emma says it’s a great way to experience nature, everything it has to offer and to have fun.

Hunting is a family affair for Emma and her Father

For Emma there is nothing like the exhilaration of hunting. She says: “Being in nature and experiencing everything it has to offer first-hand is amazing. You don’t truly appreciate the power of a thunderstorm until you’re stuck outside with a rifle, hiding under a bush, or an electrical storm when the hair on your head literally rises up and everyone tells you to climb under the vehicles.” 

Emma enjoys the cold in the mornings, hot afternoons, the blazing sun and the wind. She says: “When it kicks up, it’s just – there’s no other way to experience it than if you’re going out hunting four days in a row and it’s all you know.”

South African hunter Emma Sander says hunting is the best way to experience the beauty of nature

In Emma’s family she is the only woman who hunts. She says: “At the time, my mother and sister came along as well. They did not enjoy it. My sister kept shouting whenever we got close to the animals, and they’d run away. So now I’m the only woman in my family that hunts.”

Emma learns to shoot at the Northern Cape Professional Hunting School

Emma admits hunting can appear to be a man’s world, because of its reputation for being physically challenging. 

She says: “It’s very physical. You have to walk long distances, handle heavy vehicles and heavy animals.” 

She believes there is a niche for women professional hunters, because they take a different approach. She says: “We notice the details. Some clients just want to shoot the animal and be done with. But other clients – they enjoy the details. They enjoy it when you take them out and you show them flowers, insects, and birds”

Emma and a gemsbok

Emma’s advice for women who want to try hunting is believe in yourself and know you can do anything, if you put your mind to it. She says:”When we’re growing up, we’re taught some limitations. We aren’t as strong, we aren’t as forceful. And yes, physically, I’m not as strong as most men and I’m not as fast either. But if a woman wants to become a hunter there’s absolutely nothing that’s going to stop her. She just has to work a little bit harder to get there. Some of the stuff that we do like with the mechanical things, it’s going to take a little bit more effort and you’re going to work a bit harder.”

Hunting is a passion that Emma shares with her father

Emma honed her skills at the Northern Cape Professional Hunting School. For more on their courses, working with African wildlife, visit

Thanks to Keila Van Vuuren for the images and footage.

More from the Northern Cape Professional Hunting School here:


Free weekly newsletter