I am Man. I am Hunter. I am the villain. I am the reason why countless kids (and adults) cried their eyes out in the beginning of the movie. But I had me some great biltong. (Jerky for my American readers… I am so damn considerate, it should balance out with the one time my primal instinct took over.)
In my defence I was pulled into the murder spree by my friends, who has long been begging me to join them on a hunting weekend. With promise of only men, many bonfires, clear starry sky’s, the untamed bushveld, some cigars and the ability to discuss and solve the world’s problems, I reluctantly accepted the invitation. I am only human you know.
We were off to shoot us some biltong.
My choice of deer settled on the cheapest option, Blesbok. It’s cheap because it’s bountiful. I’ve never shot anything before so the weekend started, wisely so, with some target practise. I suggested we use photo’s of people we hate, but the guys thought the normal circular target sheet would suffice. Besides ten men aiming at a picture of Julius Malema will not be pretty. The theory was that no-one would aim for the head. (Google Julius Malema, wait, on second thought don’t.)
It turned out I had a lot of repressed anger and was a pretty good shot. By this definition I mean that the bullet actually pierced the piece of paper. This miraculously happened after a few tips from the ranger, who probably was on drugs, for he was inexplicably calm throughout the process. This guy was giving advice to a novice with a lethal weapon, inches from his face. Death wish anyone?
It was the morning of the hunt. Obviously everyone was perky, refreshed and in great spirits for there was no drinking, eating, laughing and or any other fun had during the previous night. Breakfast was a few headache pills washed down with a Redbull or two and off we went. I was assigned to the head ranger. I figured that it had nothing to do with my dashing personality.
We drove off standing tall in the back of the Ranger’s off road vehicle. We were going to kill us some Bambi’s mom. I felt like a gangster in Africa. Khaki clothes, wide rimmed hat, boots and a rifle. Bring it on Tupac.
We drove for awhile, dropping of my mates one by one, who were doing this on foot , each with their own scout. I got stuck on the vehicle alone and after awhile we saw a herd. It was a big one. It suited me perfectly as I thought the chances of missing anything in that big herd would be very small. When the ranger stopped the vehicle, I jumped off, as I knew we would have to get closer to the animals to increase the chances of me hitting something. While crawling, walking closer there was a lot of silent whisper. Stuff like above or below the wind, and be quiet, and can you take of those shoes, and keep the safety on.
I seriously don’t recall any specifc details, I just remembered that I have never had so much adrenaline in my own blood stream. I felt like I was going to explode, as if my body would not be able to control the torrent of blood coursing through my veins. I battled to breathe. I know it should be a natural process, but on that fateful day I had to concentrate. I had to tell my lungs to “breathe in, breathe out.” And I did it violently. At one stage I thought my eyes would pop, just like Arnold Swarzenegger at the end of the original and only decent Total Recall.
We eventually reached a tree with some scattered rocks in perfect view of the herd, which was still blissfully ignorant of the crime that was about to be committed against one of their own. I manoeuvred myself in a semi-comfortable position and looked through the scope. Only problem, I couldn’t focus. I was shaking like a leaf due to the excess adrenalin pumping around my body. My loud breathing made me sound like a beached dolphin.
“Relax.” said the ranger. “No shit Sherlock,” I wanted to say, but no words could escape my jerky-dry mouth. I aimed again, forcing myself to calm down. My breathing changed and the air escaped my lungs like a machine gun, in short exploding concession. I am not sure how long I laid there in the sun. I know the Ranger had the patience of twenty mothers all rolled up in one, because he didn’t say a thing.
Eventually I knew it was time. I looked throught the scope. Saw the herd. Focused on an animal. Filled my lungs. Aimed. Wrapped my finger around the trigger. I breathed out slowly. Pulled the trigger. The bullet rocketed through the barrel. A shot echoed in the valley. The animal ran. I said: “Shit.”
Forever later I heard “You got him.” It was Mother Theresa, the patient ranger. Only then did I notice his binoculars. “Really?” was my only reaction.
I am not sure who sounded more surprised. We ran towards the empty space that was quickly vacated by the whole herd of Blesbok. To the left lay my slained victim, motionless in the grass right next to the gravel road.
“Good shot man. Even though you got me worried for a second. I have never seen anyone shaking like that. I’ve heard the stories, but seeing it for real. You made my day.” And he started laughing, this big, jovial, Santa Clause laugh, deep from his stomach.
And all I could do was join him.
Moments later when I lifted the animal’s head for a quick photo, I didn’t know if I would ever feel so alive and sad and proud again in one moment. We got the animal on the truck eventually, as it turned out I didn’t manage to kill the smallest one, and I felt like Davy Crockett riding back into camp.
So yes, I confess, I am a murderer, I have killed an animal for food, I have provided for my family, I was able to let the caveman in me sing, loud and proud.
And the biltong from Bambi’s mom was really good.