You all know the saying – you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But this old ‘dog’ here wants to prove that saying wrong. I’m 45 years old, and have never hunted. Sure, I’ve been surrounded by hunters for years, have cooked the game meat my family brings back from their hunts, and am part owner in a hunting business. I’ve even been out on a pest control hunt with my family before (as a spectator). But I’ve never actually pulled that trigger myself and taken an animal’s life. Don’t get me wrong. I am a vocal supporter of people’s right to hunt, but had no real desire to do it myself.
The first time I ever picked up a firearm was at an open day at our local shooting range. My husband and kids were trying out skeet shooting for the first time and dared me to have a go. I took one shot (missing everything BTW), was completely unprepared for the recoil, and shied away, vowing to never pick up a firearm again. I even convinced myself I was too vertically and horizontally challenged to learn to hunt (I’m rather short and no longer as slim as I once was).
About six months ago, my husband and I added Keto to our fitness regime (hubby was pretty keen to get in shape before we returned to hunt in New Zealand), which meant I was pretty keen to get outdoors as much as I could. I accompanied him along to the range where he was testing some of his rifles. He looked at me and asked if I wanted to have a go. I was a little nervous (once kicked, twice shy and all that), but he convinced me it would be different this time.
Second time lucky
For starters, it was a rifle, not a shotgun, and it was shooting off a bench not freehand. So I stepped right up and had a go. The target was a 75mm Bisalloy 500 Armour Plate at 100 yards – so not the biggest target to aim at. But I sighted it in and gently squeezed the trigger, bracing for the kick… But what I felt instead was an intense rush of adrenalin as I heard that unmistakeable ‘ping’ of metal hitting metal.
I couldn’t believe it. I’d actually hit the target. I had to make sure it wasn’t just a fluke, so I lined it up again and ‘ping’ I hit the target again. I did miss the third time, but as Meatloaf so eloquently said, ‘Two out of three ain’t bad!’
Anyway, I reluctantly handed the rifle back to the real hunters and went back to spectating, not realising that something so inane and simple had planted a tiny little seed that would sprout and grow over the coming months.
My first taste of real hunting
Fast forward to April and the start of our New Zealand hunting trip (the one hubby had been working so hard towards). I accepted years ago that hunting was going to form at least some part of every family holiday. I’d also accepted that my role during the hunt was to keep my 4 year old grandson entertained while everyone else went off hunting, and to make sure the fire was stoked and warm for when they returned.
But remember that seed? Well, unbeknown to me, it had been growing beneath the surface and had finally decided to pop it’s head up.
One afternoon, as my family reminisced about their early morning hunt, I felt this overwhelming desire to be up there on the hills with them, hearing the big red stags roar for myself. I even found myself wanting to climb the massive hills that surround the sheep station where the outfitter is located.
Unfortunately, with four hunters in our party trying to get stags, there wasn’t enough time for me to actually accompany them on a hunt. But on the last afternoon, once everyone had their stags on the ground, I did manage to wrangle a trip up to the top of the hills with the guide in the 4×4 and hear those red stags roaring, and the fallows croaking in the valley below us. In that moment, I decided I was ready to become a hunter myself.
Becoming a hunter myself
Yesterday, I took the first step in that direction, applying for my firearms license with Services Tasmania and booking a ‘Learn to Hunt‘ package with our outfitter in South Africa, where hopefully, like my son 10 years ago, I’ll shoot a springbok.
So the countdown begins. I have just 98 days to get my firearms license, get comfortable with the rifle, improve my fitness (and lose a bit more weight), find some hunting clothes that actually fit my short legs, and learn everything I can about springboks in preparation for my first hunt. I also need to tackle my aversion to being on camera as I’ve already been told it will be filmed.