An early alarm clock woke me and my tired eyes fluttered open. I did not really sleep well. It had been one of those nights when you continuously check your alarm clock so that you do not oversleep. The excitement had been building up for well over a week. If I had to go to school that day, I probably would have hit the snooze button, but instead I jumped out of bed with an eager heart, stepping into my hand-me-down camo pants and shirt I got from my brother. It was a cold winter’s morning, exactly like so many of us experience during the hunting season. And yes, we were going hunting! My first hunting trip with my family was about to start.

That was 28 long years ago. Much has changed since then. The love of hunting and shooting is an evolutionary process – I witnessed this in myself and in many others. In my opinion, it consists of the following stages:
● Concept of hunting and development of respect;
● Credibility as a hunter and sustainable hunting;
● Maturing as a hunter and respect for fellow hunters.

Concept of hunting and development of respect
Back in those days, boys were brought up with a slingshot, an air rifle and a fishing rod. Hunting was in our blood. We had to harvest from nature’s table. I was fortunate to have had a father who shared his passion for hunting and fishing with me. This is where the concept of “survival” and hunting for food originated.
Like most boys, I had an air rifle that I had to share with my two brothers, but it was mine nonetheless. Breaking the neck of my air rifle was one of my favourite pastimes. Unfortunately for many rock pigeons, they ended up on someone’s plate after an honest day of “hunting”. If I did not have any pellets, I used a slingshot to take my prey. However, I preferred the air rifle, as it was more successful.
My first few hunting trips were to the beautiful Thabazimbi bushveld. I accompanied my dad in the field as he was walking in search of a good campfire story. I soon learned the skill of skinning an animal. This is what boys are supposed to do. They skin the animal, and process and debone the meat. I have already started to teach my daughters this skill. They know where the meat comes from, and how it goes from the veld to the plate.
My first hunt was with my father’s Brno .30-06. Blesbok were the order of the day. The open fields and grass plains did not offer any cover for walking-and-stalking. The farm owner assisted me to make my hunt easier, and come to think of it, more memorable. I was on the back of his Land Cruiser. He got me to within 150 m of my first opportunity. The blesbok was in sight and it was over before I realised what had happened. I was initiated with a proper bite of warm blesbok liver, but before that I had to sit for my red “face paint”.
On my 12th birthday, in 1991, I was given a compound bow. Aluminium arrows and shooting with fingers were the order of the day. The bow had steel cables for buss cables, and the string was attached to a cable that was fitted with teardrops. The compound bow was designed only 24 years previously by Holless Wilbur Allen in Billings, Missouri, and there was great opportunity for change. Since then, so much has changed with regard to the technology and performance of these unbelievable machines.
My concept of hunting started at the age of eight, and my development as a hunter started when I was ten. This was followed by the important step of becoming a credible and sustainable hunter and archer.

My daughters shooting their crossbows at the age of seven and nine respectively. They were introduced to hunting three years ago and fully understand what it means to harvest an animal and to process it into steaks, boerewors, droëwors and biltong.

Credibility and sustainability
Over the years, I have experienced many ways of harvesting an animal and have been introduced to many ways of hunting, namely:
● Hunting from a vehicle;
● Being dropped off in the Karoo veld to seize the moment when an antelope is close enough for a shot;
● Walking for hours in the bush, experiencing great satisfaction after a hard day’s work and a suc- cessful shot;
● Going after bushpig and warthog in the sugar cane or mealie fields;
● Sitting in a blind at a waterhole;
● Sitting in a tree stand on a game path or feeding area;
● Waiting in an elevated area to take a long- distance shot.
Some methods proved to be more successful than others.

This life-size blesbok target mimics a real life-size animal. There is no yellow bull’s eye painted on the shoulder. Practising on these targets makes it easier for everyone when the real deal presents itself.

The proof is in the pudding! After practising on 3D animals and participating in many 3D tournaments, my daughter shot this impala at 35 m, using a Ravin crossbow – a very proud moment indeed. She skinned it and made the biltong herself. A skull mount was made of her impala.

For a 20-year period, I hunted exclusively with a bow. It proved to be a great challenge. I was still young and had to practise a lot to shoot over longer distances. To get more comfortable with my bow, and to better understand bowhunting, I opted to either shoot from a blind or a tree stand. My walk-and-stalk skills needed more practice, and my range of accuracy was limited to 30 m. Many people question this method of hunting but it is a very successful way of harvesting animals, and is effective if you can only shoot within 30 m. To get to within 30 m of a herd of impala by walking-and-stalking is a great challenge.
I either had to become more accurate at long-distance shooting, or I had to improve my stalking skills. My hunting trips were also limited time-wise, mostly consisting of long weekends. The desire to harvest something and have some biltong, made hunting from a blind a more convenient and successful option.

Practice makes perfect. A total of 20 arrows were shot at 50 m, with the group size no bigger than 8 cm. Although this was shot with a target bow, the process remains the same with a hunting bow. For the bow-hunter, 50 m is far to take a shot from, but I felt confident after practising longer shots from this distance.

To become a better hunter, I decided to compete in local tournaments. The 3D archery circuit was the perfect tournament in which to participate. These events mimic real-life hunting situations on 3D life-size foam animals. Being able to practise long-distance shots on life-size animals improved my skills dramatically.
To improve my accuracy in general and to enhance my shooting form, I decided to join the indoor and outdoor shooting events. Shooting at 20 yards, one must hit the middle (X-ring), which is the size of a R5 coin. Doing that for 60 consecutive arrows helps you focus and improves your shooting skills. The world archery outdoor events are shot at 50 m, with an X-ring of 4 cm in diameter.
Walking-and-stalking was easier on the next hunts. Although it was far less successful than other methods, I found it more enjoyable and rewarding. What proved to be a greater challenge was that many farm owners did not allow you to explore their farm on your own. I do not blame them and fully understand why they do this. When a guide would join the morning stalk, I asked myself many times why I bothered to paint my face and wear camo clothing, as the guide only wore an overall. I also did not see the point in using any scent killers. Need I say more?
Experienced guides are a treat. They understand bowhunting and what it takes to get close to the quarry. Everything needs to be perfect – patience, wind, luck, the sun and your gut. Getting to within 15 yards of any animal and pulling off a successful shot is indescribable. Getting to within 2 yards and getting off the shot is surreal. And this has happened before.

I hunted this gemsbok with my friend, Corne Mitchell. This was one of my most memorable hunts and it is one of my most prized trophies ever. This 44.5″ gemsbok cow is ranked #2 in the SCI record book for bowhunting. She was harvested with bow and arrow on a walk-and-stalk hunt. She was past her prime and this was conservation at its best.

I shot this beautiful red hartebeest with my American friend, John Dudley, who hunted in South Africa for the first time in 2007. The methods and preparation in America before going out to hunt and harvest whitetail, moose, elk and bear are very different to what we do in South Africa.

Maturing as a hunter and respect for fellow hunters
Hearing the opinions of so many fellow hunters at the annual hunting expos and shooting days makes good conversation most of the time. I have heard many opinions on bowhunting; with some I agree, with others I don’t.
These days many people are opposed to hunting in general, and some are even against consuming any animal product like meat, milk or eggs.
As I became more involved in the industry, I learned that there were many opinions and methods deemed more ethical. With all the different opinions, I sometimes get confused about what is ethical and what not – a heated debate that neither party ever wins. I have learned to respect the method the hunter chooses to use. I appreciate mutual respect, and this never leads to any heated debate.
Definition of hunting: “The activity to pursue for food or in sport, or to manage in the search of game.” Therefore, the hunter will attempt to harvest an animal for food or for sport.
Definition of a game farmer: “Game farming and game ranching involve the raising of native and non-native animals such as kudu, eland, impala, warthog, blue wildebeest, zebra and ostrich for a variety of products, including meat, hides, feathers and horns.” Therefore, the game farmer produces and raises animals to generate an income to be able to reinvest in the conservation of these animals.
In my evolution as a hunter, I have come to the following conclusions: I do not hunt just for the sake of killing, and I do not shoot anything and everything that presents itself. As someone hunting for meat and trophies, the primary goal is to let the animal expire soon after it has been shot. Game-farm owners usually determine the hunting method I should use, which is mostly from a blind. The odds are in your favour when hunting from a blind, and the possible income the game farmer can generate is much higher. I would rate the odds of shooting from a blind versus walk-and-stalk at 5:1, depending on your experience. Game farmers need to generate income to continue the conservation of the animals they breed.
When I accompany first-time bowhunters, I prefer them to shoot from a blind to give them the biggest chance of success. When I accompany a first-time rifle hunter, I sit and wait in a specific area, or sometimes drive around to look for an animal that can be harvested.
The primary method I prefer, and get the most joy from, is hunting on foot, whether it is with bow and arrow or a rifle. ASM

My first Cape buffalo that I hunted in 2004. I hunted it on foot with a bow and arrow. We were four in the group, namely two professional hunters, the guide and me. It took us hours to get within shooting distance. Finally, at 31 m the shot was on. Being this close to this type of animal is extremely intimidating! This was my one-arrow buffalo. She started running and expired after a mere 130 m, six seconds after she had been shot – a successful hunt and an effective hunting method. That bow was set at 88 lbs and the arrow weight was 716 gr. New-technology bows set at 70 lbs, generate the same kinetic energy I got with this bow back then. This makes it possible for more people to hunt this kind of animal with a bow and arrow.