Andriette, Henkie and Laurence

With this in mind, I decided to do my part and introduce a person from the so-called “masses in the middle” to the “sport of kings”. I wanted this person to gain the following from the experience: to understand the sport, to learn about it and to take it further. Whether taking it further meant only supporting hunting (thereby opposing the anti-hunters) or taking up hunting – either choice would be fine with me. It would be a real bonus if this person enjoyed the experience of the hunt and what it meant. There is an old saying, “Every day is a hunting day, but not every day is a shooting day” – which means that every day is a hunting day but you won’t be successful in harvesting an animal every day.
So how does one go about finding the right person who will enjoy and understand the hunting experience, learn from it and take it further? I reached out to several friends and asked them if they knew of a suitable candidate. My wife was not ready to undertake this quest yet and my daughter of four was just too young to fully understand what it was all about. I truly believe that a child that is introduced to hunting needs to fully understand the whole experience and what it means. To be frank, one is taking the life of an animal and the importance of this deed needs to register with the person pulling the trigger. After numerous calls and discussions with my friends, I finally met someone whom I felt would take away from the experience what was needed.
Andriette Kilian had never been on a hunt in her life. She was not against hunting but not fully for it either. To use an old saying, “She was sitting pretty squarely on the fence”. This is perfect, I thought, and it would give me some insight into the feelings of the “masses in the middle”. I decided to take her through all the steps of the process that I would have undertaken before a hunt.

We started off at the shooting range, and after some instructions on gun safety, she finally closed the bolt and moved in behind the telescope for the first time. Andriette was as excited as a child the day before Christmas, and very willing to learn. She finally took the first shot at the target. I will never forget her face when she turned around – she was glowing, smiling from ear to ear!

During several shooting range sessions, I guided her on shot placement. We watched a few videos and I asked her to read some books on the topic as well.
Calibre selection is very important when introducing any first-time shooters or hunters to the sport. Getting this wrong may result in the person never trying it again or developing a flinch. As all hunters know, getting rid of the dreaded flinch is very hard once it gets hold of you. I decided to let Andriette use my .223 Remington for several reasons. Firstly, it is a calibre that has little recoil, as it is fitted with a silencer that reduces the amount of recoil and sound. Secondly, and very importantly, it is a smaller rifle that would suit her better than some of the bigger calibres. Lastly, it is very accurate and easy to handle.
Next I had to decide which game species she would take as the introduction to her hunting journey. I phoned my friend, Henkie Venter of FS Game Breeders in Viljoenskroon, and discussed my plan with him. He suggested the blesbuck. We confirmed the hunt and booked with Henkie for the first weekend of May.
As the weekend of the hunt arrived, we left Johannesburg in the cold hours of the early morning. I could see that Andriette was nervous, and decided to stop for some coffee and sandwiches about 30 minutes from the farm. This would give her some time to get her mind off the hunt and relax a little.
We reached Blesboklaagte and met up with Henkie. After exchanging greetings and enjoying a welcome cup of boeretroos, we headed for the shooting range. The objective was to help Andriette relax and get used to the rifle again before the hunt. She executed perfect shots on the target and we were ready.

Andriette and Henkie

After a short drive, we reached the blesbuck camp. Andriette was taking in every moment and I could see she was nervous but very excited. We spotted some young blesbuck rams off to the side. I talked her through the shot placement, explaining to the best of my ability where I wanted her to place the bullet. After a few minutes I was happy with her responses and we drove further, looking for a big old ram.
The group of blesbuck was grazing when we spotted them. We manoeuvred a little closer, and at about 150 m I could see the animals were getting nervous. After studying the herd, we located a very nice, big-bodied ram. He was standing at the edge of the herd on our right-hand side, facing left. We got Andriette into position and then started to direct her towards the ram. A few seconds later she found him in the riflescope. The ram was standing quartering towards us – not the ideal set-up I wanted for Andriette. I told her to relax and wait until the ram turned broadside, presenting a better shot at his vitals. Her breathing was loud and fast and I could see the barrel of the rifle shaking. Speaking very softly, I told her to look away from the blesbuck and take several deep breaths. This bought her some time, as it gave the blesbuck the chance to move into a better position. It also helped Andriette to calm her nerves and bring the bad bout of bokkoors I knew she had, under control.
Taking aim at the ram again, I could hear that her breathing had slowed down and, looking at her, saw that she was focused. I explained again where the ram was and when she had him in the riflescope, she said, “I’m onto him.” I told her to take her time and shoot when she was ready. Standing broadside, the ram was about to move when she fired. The 55 gr Sierra GameKing was on its way and found its mark perfectly! At the impact of the bullet, the ram started running with his head held low and I knew it was a good hit. About 15 m further he went down with a perfect heart shot.
Andriette was smiling and at the same time shaking like a leaf. I asked her what she felt at that moment and she answered, “Relief!” Walking up to the ram, I realised that she was the perfect choice for this experiment of mine. We stood next to the ram in silence for a few seconds so that she could enjoy the moment. Kneeling down beside him, she just sat there, admiring his beauty. She was overwhelmed by the mixed emotions we hunters often experience, with happiness and sadness clashing after the shot. After taking some photos, we took the ram to the skinning shed, where Andriette watched the whole process being completed. It was great to see how she asked questions about everything that was done and also took part in it.
Back at the house I asked Andriette if she would hunt again. “When are we leaving?” she replied. I think I have succeeded in winning one over for the good guys! ASM

The author and Andriette

Andriette with her ram