Phil Swearengin helps other hunters 'live the dream' of going to Africa


Rain drums softly on the roof as his mother turns the page.

She continues reading.

Jim Corbett has been stalking the tiger for days and finally trains his sight on a patch between two stripes. Eight-year-old Phil Swearengin's breath swells and catches in his chest as he waits to hear what will happen. Decades later he gets the same feeling as he makes his way through the South African bush to a downed Cape Buffalo.

After spending his childhood dreaming of traveling to Africa and years of his adulthood dreaming of hunting and killing a buffalo, one shot makes it all come true. "We first went to Africa in 2002," Swearengin, now 54, says. "Been dreaming about it since I was 8."

Swearengin says he became interested in Africa after he saw "King Solomon's Mines" with his family when he was a child.

"Once I saw that I thought, 'That's what I want to do,'" Swearengin says. He finally got he opportunity to go when a missionary friend offered to set up a hunt for him in South Africa. Swearengin's wife, Lorelei, also went. Now Swearengin helps make other hunters' dreams come true.

After a friend's pestering he started the company, Juistzoo Safaris, that helps arrange trips for people who want to hunt or take photography trips around South Africa. He got the name from an Afrikaaner friend's farm. Swearengin says it is a derivative of a Dutch word meaning "just so."

Swearengin's slogan for his company is "live the dream," because it was always his dream to hunt in Africa.

Swearengin helps match U.S. hunters with men from South Africa who can help them hunt the animals they want.

He says the "big five" game animals are rhino, elephant, cape buffalo, leopard and lion.

He makes sure the hunters have the appropriate documents and bring the proper equipment when they travel to the camps where they'll stay during their trip.

"I get the person from here to there," Swearengin says. "Make sure they get through without any snafus."

However, Swearengin's job doesn't always end at just booking the trips. If they'll pay his airfare, Swearengin will go with nervous hunters and "hold their hand" while they leave the country.

This is because he doesn't just live his dream of hunting animals like kudu for the adventure. He says he does it because he was called to do it.

Swearengin was a Southern Baptist minister for 35 years, and he says he thinks he has found an additional way to minister to people through his booking agency.

"I think it's more of a calling than it is anything else," Swearengin says. "And the adventure's fun, but I really think it's something I was called to do."

But he says his is not the only beneficial ministry in South Africa. He says commercial hunting has also been positive for the animal populations there.

He says hunters keep the herds healthy because they shoot animals that are beyond breeding age.

This ensures that the only animals feeding in an area are sustaining the ecosystem by producing young.

Swearengin says the hunters have a lot of respect for the animals and have reduced the control the black market has in some areas.

He says the term for what the hunters are doing is sustainable utilization.

Also, what food the hunters do not eat at the camp is given to camp staff or sold at local markets,

Swearengin says. "That's the other thing that's so fun, the food's fantastic," he says.

Swearengin says he enjoys interacting with people, which is another reason he enjoys helping other hunters "live the dream."

"It's fun to watch people who have always wanted todothatgettodoit,"he says. "And it's almost like you get to do it all over again."

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