Trans­for­ming a no­vi­ce

SA Jagter Hunter - - INHOUD - Dirk S­teyn­berg

Ba­si­cal­ly all men are hun­ters, wo­men too, ma­ny of them just don’t know it or ha­ven’t had the op­por­tu­ni­ty to get in­vol­ved in hunting. In t­his ar­ti­cle I want to tell you w­hat hap­pens w­hen the “hunting door” is o­pe­ned for a non-hunter.

A whi­le ago I took my hunting truck, a 35-y­e­ar-old Land Ro­ver to an au­to-e­lec­tri­ci­an to ha­ve its lig­hts fixed. Nor­mal­ly my Lan­dy at­tracts a fair a­mount of at­ten­ti­on, but w­hen the works­hop o­w­ner, B­en­ji, saw it, all work stop­ped – I had to show him the gun racks, stora­ge com­part­ments, jer­ry­can hol­ders and all the gad­gets on the in­stru­ment pa­nel. Then the con­ver­sa­ti­on drif­ted to hunting and B­en­ji, u­nas­ha­med and very a­da­mant­ly, as­ked me to ta­ke him hunting. He had ne­ver be­fo­re hun­ted in the re­al sen­se of the word, a­part from a few ex­pe­rien­ces with an old shot­gun as a kid. I pro­mi­sed him that I would look in­to it and get back to him.

MAKING AN IDEA WORK

Back at ho­me I star­ted thin­king a­bout B­en­ji’s re­quest and how I could ma­ke it hap­pen. Then it struck me that t­he­re are pro­ba­bly ot­her as­pi­ring hun­ters who would al­so em­bra­ce such an op­por­tu­ni­ty. Why not ma­ke it a pro­ject, I thoug­ht. The mo­re I thoug­ht a­bout it, ho­we­ver, the mo­re I re­a­li­sed that such a pro­ject would be much big­ger than w­hat meets the eye.

It would re­qui­re a trai­ning pro­gram­me and pro­per trai­ning.

In­tro­du­cing no­vi­ces to hunting is a re­war­ding ex­pe­rien­ce.

You’d need a suit­a­ble and le­gal shoot­ing ve­nue/shoot­ing ran­ge. I pho­ned a num­ber of ga­me far­mers on w­ho­se pro­per­ties I ha­ve hun­ted be­fo­re. W­hen I ex­plai­ned to them w­hat the ob­ject of the exe­r­ci­se was they we­re all keen to par­ti­ci­pa­te, but their farms we­re too far a­way from my ho­me­town. Then I met Jo­han, a ga­me far­mer and o­w­ner of Pet­zer Sa­fa­ris w­ho­se land is c­lo­se to East Lon­don. E­ver­y­thing fell in­to pla­ce. Jo­han was keen to par­ti­ci­pa­te and his farm had e­ver­y­thing we nee­ded; from a shoot­ing ran­ge and an a­bat­toir to ac­com­mo­da­ti­on and ca­te­ring fa­ci­li­ties.

With our com­bi­ned hunting ex­pe­rien­ces and y­e­ars wor­king with clients, Jo­han and I we­re a­ble to work out the most suit­a­ble i­ti­ne­r­a­ry for our trai­ning cour­se. The aim and pur­po­se of our ven­tu­re can be sum­ma­ri­sed as fol­lows: To en­lig­h­ten the pu­blic or the man in the street a­bout the po­si­ti­ve as­pects of hunting and to en­de­a­vour to coun­te­ract the ne­ga­ti­ve and bi­a­sed mes­sa­ges the an­ti-hunting fra­ter­ni­ty sends out. Furt­her­mo­re, to e­na­ble pe­op­le to ex­pe­rien­ce na­tu­re and to en­joy the ca­ma­ra­de­rie that ex­is­ts be­t­ween fel­low hun­ters.

One sub­ject in­clu­ded in the trai­ning cour­se was kno­w­led­ge a­bout the rifle. How it works; its sa­fe­ty me­cha­nis­ms and sa­fe hand­ling (a­mong pe­op­le, in a vehi­cle or buil­ding, in the veld whi­le hunting, etc); and the cle­a­ning and sto­ring of fi­re­arms. We wan­ted to im­print on the par­ti­ci­pants that fi­re­arm sa­fe­ty is of the ut­most im­por­tan­ce.

Du­ring si­mi­lar trai­ning exe­r­ci­ses in the past, I was a­ma­zed to find that ma­ny pe­op­le ha­ve no idea how far a bul­let can tra­vel and how let­hal a rifle can be at ex­ten­ded ran­ges. As­pi­ring hun­ters al­so ha­ve no idea w­hat hap­pens to a bul­let or w­hat re­co­ve­r­ed bul­lets (from an a­ni­mal or the back­stop of a shoot­ing ran­ge) look li­ke. I wan­ted to in­clu­de t­his in­for­ma­ti­on as well.

To te­ach the im­por­tan­ce of bul­let pla­ce­ment we would use dra­wings and li­fe-si­ze, full-co­lour tar­gets of ga­me a­ni­mals. It is im­por­tant to te­ach the stu­dent not to shoot at an a­ni­mal but at a spe­ci­fic kil­ling a­rea (the vi­tal or­gans in­si­de the a­ni­mal). Bul­let tra­jec­to­ry would al­so be de­alt with brief­ly. We al­so in­clu­ded hunting laws and e­thi­cs as well as hand­ling the car­cass.

Most of the trai­ning would ta­ke pla­ce on the shoot­ing ran­ge. Stu­dents would start with a .22LR rifle and first shoot off a shoot­ing bench, then free­hand from the sit­ting and kneeling po­si­ti­ons and fi­nal­ly o­ver shoot­ing sticks. With the .22 trai­ning com­ple­ted stu­dents are then re­qui­red to use a cen­t­re-fi­re rifle and shoot at tar­gets pla­ced at 100m. On­ly w­hen a stu­dent is ca­pa­ble of fi­ring a sa­tis­fac­to­ry three-shot grou­ping would he be al­lo­wed to mo­ve on to the next step.

Ful­ly a­wa­re of w­hat could go wrong and the dan­gers of our pro­ject, our i­ti­ne­r­a­ry in­clu­ded sa­fe­ty ru­les that so­me would deem un­ne­ces­sa­ry. It is al­ways ex­ci­ting to wa­tch (from a suit­a­ble van­ta­ge point) w­hen an ex­pe­rien­ced hunter stalks his quar­ry; you can ob­ser­ve and no­ti­ce any mis­ta­kes or de­ci­de w­he­re you »

» would ha­ve do­ne t­hings dif­fe­rent­ly. Ho­we­ver, if you gui­de a no­vi­ce hunter and so­mething g­oes wrong, you are ac­coun­ta­ble.

A­not­her im­por­tant as­pect that is of­ten o­ver­look­ed in trai­ning is that it mig­ht be the client’s first ti­me in the bush. Such a client mig­ht not ha­ve any kno­w­led­ge of the a­ni­mals that he or she would en­coun­ter. We thus de­ci­ded to add a­ni­mal i­den­ti­fi­ca­ti­on to our cour­se.

THE FIRST STU­DENTS

To qua­li­fy, ap­pli­cants had to be to­tal no­vi­ces with no hunting ex­pe­rien­ce. With an ad­ded dra­w­card of hunting their first buck at the end of the cour­se, we soon had four ap­pli­cants.

T­he­re was B­en­ji, 46 y­e­ars old, mar­ried with two daug­h­ters, pre­vi­ous­ly from Zim­bab­we and at pre­sent the o­w­ner of an autoe­lec­tri­cal bu­si­ness. In­ga, 32, sin­gle and wor­king as a quan­ti­ty sur­veyor, al­so ap­p­lied. He has ne­ver hun­ted be­fo­re and knew no­thing a­bout guns.

The thi­rd ap­pli­cant was a high school te­a­cher, C­harl. He is 56 y­e­ars old and has one daug­h­ter. He has ne­ver hun­ted be­fo­re but had so­me trai­ning with a rifle du­ring his na­ti­o­nal ser­vi­ce days in the ar­my.

Mi­ke, a 55-y­e­ar-old who works at the VW fac­to­ry in Ui­ten­ha­ge was the fourth per­son. He is al­so a free­lan­ce pho­to­grap­her and took so­me of the pho­tos for t­his ar­ti­cle. He al­so had so­me rifle trai­ning in the ar­my.

It would ta­ke the stu­dents a­bout three weeks to com­ple­te the trai­ning pro­gram­me. On the last wee­kend they would then hunt to test their skills and the success of our hard work would be e­va­lu­a­ted.

THE BIG DAY

The four stu­dents wor­ked their way through the cour­se wit­hout too ma­ny hiccups and then the hunting wee­kend fi­nal­ly ar- ri­ved. The ex­ci­te­ment of the four was tan­gi­ble.

We ar­ri­ved on Jo­han’s farm at 3pm on a F­ri­day af­ter­noon. Af­ter the ac­com­mo­da­ti­on was al­lo­ca­ted, a ga­me dri­ve fol­lo­wed which the trai­nees found very in­for­ma­ti­ve – so­me we­re to­tal­ly un­fa­mi­li­ar with cer­tain of our lo­cal a­ni­mal spe­cies. Af­ter the dri­ve Jo­han in­sis­ted on a fi­nal rifle check be­fo­re going back to camp w­he­re re­freshments we­re ser­ved.

The first-ti­me hun­ters we­re then sur­pri­sed with a clay pi­ge­on shoot, with a shoot­ing jac­ket as first pri­ze. The shoot was an ex­ci­ting ex­pe­rien­ce as no­ne of them had do­ne it be­fo­re and Mi­ke en­ded up win­ning the jac­ket. A braai con­clu­ded the e­ve­ning du­ring which new friends­hips we­re for­med a­round the camp­fi­re.

The next mor­ning was D Day! E­ver­y­bo­dy was up at first lig­ht wai­ting in an­ti­ci­pa­ti­on for the acti­on to start. Jo­han and I we­re e­qual­ly ex­ci­ted as t­his day would pro­ve our pro­gram­me’s fai­lu­re or success.

Jo­han knows his farms li­ke the back of his hand and took char­ge. He split the group in­to two pairs. His son-in-law, who ca­me to help for the day, gui­ded the one pair and Jo­han the ot­her. The two groups would meet a­gain at the farm­hou­se at a­round lunchti­me, ci­r­cum­stan­ces per­mit­ting.

At noon Jo­han re­tur­ned with C­harl and B­en­ji both stan­ding proud­ly on the back of the hunting vehi­cle with their hun­ted a­ni­mals. C­harl drop­ped his im­pa­la whi­le the a­ni­mal was fa­cing him – the im­pa­la sim­ply would not of­fer a si­de-on shot. B­en­ji was quick to tell us that he got his buck with a good shoul­der shot as he was taug­ht by his men­tors.

A­bout an hour la­ter the ot­her truck with In­ga and Mi­ke ar­ri­ved. In­ga had a hard ti­me get­ting within shoot­ing ran­ge and had ma­ny unsuccess­ful stalks be­fo­re he ma­na­ged to bag a good bles­buck ram. Mi­ke ma­na­ged to li­ne up on an im­pa­la ram but un­for­tu­na­te­ly mis­sed. Ho­we­ver, t­he­re we­re hap­py and proud smi­les all a­round!

E­ach hunter had to bleed his own buck and help gut­ting it. The car­cas­ses w­he­re ta­ken to the a­bat­toir with in­structi­ons by e­very o­w­ner on w­hat to do with the me­at. The braai on Sa­tur­day e­ve­ning was a gre­at success with am­ple food, pre­ce­ded by a tas­te­ful en­trée of fresh li­ver. Ma­ny sto­ries we­re told and e­ach hunt re­li­ved.

Sun­day mor­ning found e­ver­yo­ne in a re­laxed mood with a hu­ge bre­ak­fast to end off a fan­tas­tic wee­kend.

Jo­han and I we­re ple­a­sed with the events of the wee­kend, es-

pe­ci­al­ly af­ter lis­te­ning to the po­si­ti­ve com­ments from our par­ti­ci­pants. We ma­de no­tes of pos­si­ble chan­ges to im­pro­ve our pro­gram­me in the fu­tu­re.

He­re are so­me of the writ­ten com­ments by our hun­ters: • “Dirk had a fan­tas­tic idea to

te­ach ne­w­co­mers to hunt.” • “We could ho­ne our shoot­ing

skills.” • “The in­structi­ons we­re cle­ar and the in­for­ma­ti­on pro­vi­ded was very re­le­vant.” • “I en­joy­ed the so­ci­a­li­sing dur

ing the wee­kend.” • “The com­pa­ny was gre­at and e­ver­yo­ne en­joy­ed the sto­ries told by Jo­han and Dirk.” C­harl Wes­sels sum­med his hunt up in the fol­lo­wing words:

“My first hunt occur­red at the ri­pe old age of 56 y­e­ars. Being a fis­her­man for ma­ny y­e­ars I ha­ve ne­ver con­si­de­red hunting be­fo­re. Af­ter y­e­ars of fis­hing my fat­her-in-law in­vi­ted me to hunt as part of his pro­ject for first- ti­me hun­ters.

Af­ter days of practi­sing on tar­gets, I was re­a­dy to hunt. My shots we­re jud­ged to be good e­nough to hit the he­art of a buck at 100m.

On the mor­ning of the hunt it felt stran­ge to think that I was going to kill a warm-b­looded a­ni­mal. W­hen fis­hing I did not ha­ve the sa­me sen­ti­ment. I was al­lo­ca­ted to Jo­han’s te­am and we he­a­ded off to­wards the top part of the farm. Soon af­ter spot­ting a herd of im­pa­la we got do­wn from the hunting vehi­cle to stalk the a­ni­mals on foot. W­hen we ca­me to within a­bout 40m from our prey I li­ned up on a buck, the on­ly pro­blem was that he was fa­cing me. We we­re well hid­den be­hind thick bush but the wind was blo­wing from us to­wards the buck. Ho­we­ver, the a­ni­mals did not run – thank good­ness I did not use de­o­do­rant that mor­ning. Be­cau­se the im­pa­la was fa­cing me I did not know w­he­re to aim – we had al­ways practi­sed on a si­de-on buck tar­get.

The im­pa­las mo­ved on and we fol­lo­wed si­lent­ly. In a whis­pe­red voi­ce Jo­han quick­ly told me w­he­re to aim w­hen an a­ni­mal is fa­cing the hunter. We found a­not­her gap in the bush but t­his ti­me the a­ni­mals we­re bun­ched up. Re­mem­be­ring Dirk’s war­ning that shoot­ing in­to a herd can re­sult in woun­ding a non-tar­get a­ni­mal, I did not pull the trig­ger. A­gain the im­pa­las mo­ved off and we fol­lo­wed.

On our thi­rd at­tempt I on­ce a­gain had a buck fa­cing me. I ai­med to the left of cen­t­re on the chest w­he­re I i­ma­gi­ned the he­art to be and smoothly pres­sed the trig­ger. The crack of the shot shoc­ked me in­to thin­king w­hat if I had on­ly woun­ded the a­ni­mal and that it would be run­ning a­round in tre­men­dous pain. T­hank­ful­ly it was a cle­an shot and the im­pa­la hit the ground af­ter run­ning a few me­tres. We wal­ked up to it and the cle­ar, big eye sta­ring up at the sky re­min­ded me that it was a­li­ve a few se­conds ago. How did I feel? A litt­le sad but very re­lie­ved that I did not cau­se any suf­fe­ring. My a­dre­na­lin was still pum­ping – we had ma­na­ged to out­wit, on foot, an a­ni­mal with very keen ey­e­sig­ht and very good he­a­ring.”

My mes­sa­ge to my fel­low hun­ters is to ta­ke the step and in­tro­du­ce no­vi­ces to hunting. We need to spre­ad the word that hunting is the best way of con­ser­ving a­ni­mals and to coun­te­ract the lies and bi­a­ses of the an­ti-hun­ters.

Mi­ke trying out a shot­gun. He won the shot­gun shoot­ing com­pe­ti­ti­on (and a shoot­ing jac­ket) that was or­ga­ni­sed for the stu­dents.

A proud and hap­py B­en­ji with his im­pa­la.

In­ga on the shoot­ing sticks whi­le Dirk, B­en­ji and farm o­w­ner, Jo­han Pet­zer look on. All the par­ti­ci­pants we­re pro­per­ly trai­ned with a .22 rifle be­fo­re they we­re al­lo­wed to fi­re the cen­t­re-fi­re rifles.

TOP: The farm’s well-e­quip­ped but­chery. ABOVE: Proud hun­ters with their car­cas­ses, from left to rig­ht, In­ga, B­en­ji and C­harl.

A lek­ker braai to con­clu­de a success­ful hunt. From left to rig­ht is Jo­han’s son-in-law, Jo­han, C­harl, In­ga, Dirk, B­en­ji and Mi­ke. En­joying a good me­al af­ter a hard day in the veld.

The lo­ve­ly ac­com­mo­da­ti­on fa­ci­li­ties at Pet­zer Sa­fa­ris.

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