Bill Lockard has a lifetime of hunting adventures that would fill a book. Or perhaps two or three.
The retired Oklahoma City dentist spent 55 years hunting on six continents and in 26 countries, stalking the most dangerous game in the world along with numerous species of sheep and antelope.
He has slept in caves in the Torus Mountains of Turkey, in igloos above the Arctic Circle and on rope strings and straw mattresses in India. In Africa, he spent a night with his wife, Suzanne, high in a tree surrounded by a thorn bush for protection against a noisy lion.
Suzanne has been her husband's companion for most of his 47 international hunting trips. She chose not to go high into the mountains or into the Arctic, but she has endured rodent-infested mud huts and shared dirt floor huts with jumping spiders in Africa.
Once when Bill was miles away hunting a lion in Tanzania, she held the tent together during a strong wind and rain storm while several hyenas rummaged the camp for food. In South America, she spent three nights in the front seat of truck while a jaguar prowled around outside. She survived a bout of malaria in the Central African Republic.
And both survived the “perfect storm” off the coast of Australia on a fishing trip in the Arafura Sea, when the captain was able to escape the 20- to 30-foot waves by beaching the boat on an uninhabited island.
“There are not many women who would endure such unusual accommodations and adventures,” Bill said. “Yet we believe our shared experiences have enriched our lives and broadened our horizons. They definitely have brought us closer together.”
Suzanne's reward for accompanying Bill on his big-game adventures were occasional side trips to Paris and London following the hunting trips.
Lockard has two trophy rooms, a total of about 2,500 square feet in his northwest Oklahoma City home, with 163 animals from 142 species. One room is dedicated to just North American game, the other to the rest of the world.
He's hunted in the Canadian Rockies for Big Horn, Dall and Stone sheep, Rocky Mountain goat, moose, grizzly bear and caribou. He's hunted muskox and polar bear in the Northwest Territories, caribou in Quebec, moose in Newfoundland and brown bear in Alaska.
He's taken 47 international hunting trips, including 13 trips in Asia with shikaris (big game hunters) and 13 safaris in Africa. He's also trekked over Russia, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Spain and Bulgaria.
Hunting such dangerous animals has produced a few close calls.
He killed a rhino only a few paces away after his hunting partner had to toss him a rifle. In Ethiopia, he downed a Nile buffalo that emerged from shoulder-high grass charging at him.
“It sounded like an eighteen-wheeler coming from the tall grass,” Lockard said.
He put one bullet in the buffalo's chest, causing it to swerve, but the animal kept coming. He downed the beast with the second shot.
“He is about two to three feet in front of me when he hits the dirt,” Lockard said.
In Turkey, Lockard was tracking by full moon a brown bear that had been looting the gardens of a local village. Lockard and his guides located the bear above them on the mountain. He fired and the bear tumbled down. The guides then took a cigarette break to wait and see if the bear would move.
Lockard knew not to approach a dangerous animal without a shell in the chamber and his finger on the trigger. As they got close, the bear still hadn't moved so one of the guides picked up a rock and tossed it on the bear's head. The bear lunged at Lockard.
“All I see is a big, wide open red mouth,” Lockard said. “I absolutely shoot from the hip with my 416 (rifle). He lands with his nose on the top of my toe.”
Lockard said he had read many books about big-game hunters of the 1800s who say the animal you hunt the most is the one that eventually gets you. Both of those hunts were his last for buffalo and bear.
Lockard, 82, took his first safari in 1968 and his last in 2003. Now his hunting adventures are limited to whitetail deer hunting in Oklahoma and pheasant hunts in Kansas with his Labrador named Max.
Not every one of his big game hunts over five decades produced a trophy. He never fired a shot on two tiger hunting trips to India. The same for a jaguar hunt in South America. The only polar bears he saw after 16 days on a dogsled in minus-25 to minus-50 degree temperatures were a female and a cub.
Lockard said every one of the animals in his collection fed local villagers, some of whom would walk for miles to get the meat. “I've fed thousands of natives,” he said.
Most non-hunters don't understand that legalized hunting funds wildlife conservation, he said.
Licenses, permits and fees that big-game hunters must buy go to finance wildlife management in those countries and pay for game rangers to protect the animals from poachers who will wipe out a herd, he said.
“If you really want to help wildlife conservation, buy a hunting license,” Lockard tells his non-hunting friends.
A past president of the Oklahoma Station Safari Club International, Lockard hopes one day that his trophies will be part of a wildlife museum. He and fellow retired dentist and Safari Club member Bob Talley of Norman are trying to raise money for one to house both of their collections.
His dream is wildlife museum with a wing for the sight-impaired so they could have a “sensory safaris” by touching exhibits and hearing the different sounds that animals make.
Lockard can't pick a favorite hunt or place. He admits he's spent a small fortune on hunting and taxidermy but said it was worth the “fantastic adventure” of experiencing the diverse culture and customs of people on six continents.
“I just wish I was young enough to do it again,” he said.