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The adventurous life

Fox Run couple are happiest outdoors

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September 20th, 2011

Many people spend their vacations relaxing on the beach in Florida, and others prefer to explore the cities of Europe. Not many people can say they have spent their vacations watching giraffes and buffalo roam and listening to lions roar from the front porch of their second home in South Africa. For Erwin Wilson, a retired owner of a car dealership and a sporting goods store, the kinds of thrill-seeking getaways most people only dream of have been reality. The Michigan native says he developed a love of the outdoors at a young age, and he credits his parents with granting him the freedom to explore. When I was 16, along with three friends, I went to Canada for a full month. We travelled over 300 miles on the Montreal River. We lived on fish, berries, and whatever food we had taken with us, Erwin recalls. I was allowed to do things that other kids weren t. Erwin had already been trapping muskrats, which he was able to sell because their fur was used to make coverings for pilots in the U.S. war effort. That adventurous trip to Canada, he says, fueled his interest in the outdoors and wildlife.

The start of an ' adventurous life

As an adult, Erwin became an active outdoorsman. He began going on hunting safaris in Kenya, Tanzania, Angola, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Sudan, Botswana and Rhodesia, and was quite taken with the region s beauty and wildlife. Before too long, Erwin found a partner who would join him in his adventures. He married his wife, Joyce, and took her on a honeymoon to the Arctic Circle in Alaska. We spent three weeks in a tent, 300 miles inside the Arctic Circle, Erwin says. Joyce and I shot caribou, moose and Dall sheep and we lived off the land. She had never done anything like that before. The next year, Erwin took his wife to Botswana, and they continued to take adventurous trips together. Joyce, he says, was the first woman ever to hunt in Outer Mongolia. The couple decided to buy a piece of property in South Africa, directly across from Kruger National Park, which is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. Erwin built a brick house on the land. It had a thatched roof, which was covered in chicken wire to protect it from baboons. He and his wife would retreat to their second home in South Africa twice a year for about three weeks, Erwin says. We had a great time with it, he says. We had everything right outside our door. I built a water hole to attract animals, and we would sit on our porch and watch all of the animals go by.

Dedication to conservation

As he became more involved in hunting and the outdoors, Erwin joined Shikar Safari Club International, an organization that promotes the preservation of wildlife and endangered species through the enforcement of conservation laws and regulation. He says the organization raises at least $1 million every year and donates the money to worldwide conservation efforts. Erwin became an active member and eventually the president of his local chapter. On one of his stays in South Africa, Erwin met with the head of Kruger National Park to discuss how the Shikar Safari Club could support its conservation efforts. The park s director said he needed an airplane and equipment to collar elephants and rhinoceroses and Erwin says he was happily able to deliver. We supplied Kruger National Park with a Cessna 180, and they used it a great deal to follow breeding habits of elephants and rhinos, he says.

A keen outdoorsman

Over the years, Erwin has made a total of 23 safaris to Africa. He s also hunted in India, Afghanistan, Brazil, Mexico, and the U.S. He says one of the highlights of his adventure travels was hunting in Iran on the private property of Prince Abdorreza, who was the founder and president of the Paris-based International Foundation for the Conservation of Wildlife. Erwin says he is also proud of his work for wildlife preservation. He s put on programs for local groups to educate people about how licensed hunters and fishermen work to preserve wildlife, and he has won a few conservation awards. I m just a keen outdoorsman, he says. Erwin remains active in the Shikar Safari Club. He says one of the things he enjoys most about the club is its annual Wildlife Enforcement Officer of the Year award ceremony. Each year, the club selects a wildlife officer who has demonstrated extraordinary efforts to promote conservation and enforce responsible hunting practices and presents that person with an award. A few months ago, Erwin and Joyce started a new adventure by moving to Fox Run, an Erickson Living community in Novi, Mich. The couple loves spending time outdoors, so they chose an apartment home with a private patio. When the weather is especially nice, he says, they take full advantage of their patio where they can keep an eye on the wildlife in Michigan.

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