“I can't stop smiling when I talk about how my year-long journey will climax in October when I will go to Africa and hunt Cape Buffalo, one of the big five among dangerous game,” said Gross.

HACKBERRY — With her great African hunt only weeks away, south Louisiana native Jackie Gross can hardly contain her excitement.

"I can't stop smiling when I talk about how my year-long journey will climax in October when I will go to Africa and hunt Cape Buffalo, one of the big five among dangerous game," said Gross.

The petite huntress won the trip from the 2012 Extreme Huntress contest sponsored by Tahoe Films. She began her participation in the competition in 2011. The winner was determined by reader votes on the Tahoe Films' website. Southwest Daily News interviewed the Hackberry High 2002 graduate back in Nov. 2011 when she was a top 10 finalist in the competition and then again earlier this year, in April, after she found out that although she initially came in as first runner-up, the African trip could be hers as the winner could not accept it.

"My first thoughts were 'is this a joke, is this for real?' I then became really emotional and a little uncertain. Once [outdoor filmmaker] Tom Opre told me that the first place contestant declined the trip and that I was first runner-up, I immediately told him that I would have to call him back. When I called back, I suddenly became speechless and didn't know what to say. Tom was telling me a few details, and I kept thinking to myself, 'am I dreaming.' I had to pinch myself," said Gross in the April interview.

However, accepting the trip meant postponing her wedding to fiancé T. J. Guccini.

"The wedding conflicted with the hunt schedule. Conflict or not, T.J. was supportive and we chose rifle shells over wedding bells for now. He will be joining me as an 'observer' for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Gross.

Although Gross is an avid outdoorswoman, having hunted since she was a little girl tagging along with her father and brother in the south Louisiana bayous and marshlands, preparations for the African trip has been challenging.

"Learning to use my new Blaser 375 H&H with Barnes VOR-TX bullets and Aimpoint Red Dot site has been difficult and a bit painful. I'm petite and the rifle kick rocks my body after every shot. It is quite comical to watch me shoot with my big ear-to-ear grin, even if it is going to hurt. An ongoing joke is that that I'm going to shoot my Cape Buffalo and then disappear off camera. Bang. Gone. Where's Jackie?"

"An even bigger challenge has been using sticks. I have never shot off of sticks. Executing this task has been more difficult than I originally anticipated," she added.

The journey to Africa will first begin with a 1,500-mile drive from Colorado, where Jackie currently lives, to Hackberry, where she will visit family and friends and drop her dogs off with her parents, George and Jody Gross. The couple will then fly out of Lafayette on Oct. 12 and stay a night in New York City. From New York, they will endure a 15-hour flight to Johannesburg, then trek over to Victoria Falls and arrive in Bulawayo, where they will meet up with Opre and Tahoe Films.

They will then take a 10-hour jeep ride to the Omay Concession in Zimbabwe and hunt for seven days with Martin Pieters. The filmed hunt will later be featured on an episode of Eye of the Hunter. Gross will then begin her trip back to the U.S. on Oct. 23.

Never one to miss an opportunity to be in the great outdoors, the big game huntress already has some plans in mind when she returns to Hackberry after her great African adventure.

"I plan to go fishing."

To follow Jackie's adventure, visit www.bowkrazy.com.