I'm incredibly proud and I thought I would share: 2 days ago, we were invited to go take part in a small cull in Pretoria far east. Initially it was just going to be myself, but after Stellie showed some interest in coming along, calls were made and plans were formed. We arrived at the farm on Wednesday morning, a little later than originally planned but as it was still dark out, no harm done. Picking up the manager on the way, we drive past the massive farm house on the way to a rustic shooting range- taking time to stop and appreciate the amazing collection of farming equipment on the way- where we sit and wait for the sun to rise before sighting in the rifles. After much coaching and talking, the lady proceeds to out shoot both myself and my best mate, to our horror. Not because she's female, but because we have 30 years of hunting experience between the 2 of us and here's someone who's never shot anything bigger than .223 driving tacks at her first range trip. So, egos slightly bruised, we go off into the veld in search of Black Wildebeest and Blesbok, a blood red sunrise behind us and a cold May wind in our faces. As we walk and talk, the conversation naturally moves to what Stellie should expect from the day- emotions, experiences and likely outcomes. From the start she had sworn that she'd only pop her hunting cherry if it was on foot, a fact that worried me slightly when I saw just how flat and open the farm was, a worry that turned out to be completely unfounded. I'll only briefly touch on my contribution to the hunt- we got the wildebeest early in the day with a shot to the top of the heart. What I will mention is how beautiful and tenacious I find this animals, even after all this time. I had the crosshairs on him for ages as he was silhouetted by that beautiful red (waiting for him to walk down the mound and allow for a safe shot) and all I could focus on was that wonderful mane & tuft- noting the pride that radiated from him as he strode down that hill, head swaying slightly and muscles rippling. He jumped at the shot, dashing off over the mound and out of sight. He managed 50m with a shot to the top of the lungs. After a few shots of the SWB, we turned our sights and minds to Stellie and her blesbok. We had seen some really nice rams while after the wildebeest and decided to head back in the direction from which we had come all the while wondering how we were going to get her close enough to make a shot she would be comfortable with... Well, we were, Stellie walked next to us in quiet confidence, enjoying the fresh air and and working through her game plan- she would not entertain an ambush, she wanted to earn it. We walked on for a bit, coming to a small rising which made for a great glassing point. Ahead stood heard of about 40 animals, all well aware of our presence and snorting their displeasure. We sat down, binos to our eyes, waiting for them to go back to their morning routing and taking the time to pick out a good individual to put a stalk on. 10 minutes later and we had identified a group of around 6 rams- all shooter and all feeding off to one side- game on! Gun in hand, we head off away from the feeding heard. A few heads rose, but for the most part the herd had remained calm, perfect. We walked slowly and quietly away until we had put a clump of trees between us at which point we turned and the stalk was on. Wind breathing from our right, we made our way slowly to our cover, the fresh and dense cover of E. tef underfoot masking our steps as well as one could ask for, coming ever closer to an experience that would fill me with both a fierce pride and overwhelming joy. If my hunting career has taught me anything, it's that things that can go wrong, will go wrong and at the least opportune time. Whether it's a change of winds sending a skittish stallion off into the sunset or a duiker flushing from meters in front of you to spook the biggest kudu you've seen, these are the things I expect to happen. You can imagine my surprise then, when we arrived at our chosen cover to find that not only had the herd remained behind, but our little group of six had moved closer to the trees and our preferred ram was sitting with his back to us, chewing and contemplating. Amazement aside, we set-up the bag and shootingsticks,waiting for ram to stand. 15 minutes later and he was still there, chewing and thinking-evidently there was a lot vexing him that morning. Stellie had been rock solid till this point- how much my whispering of "it's just a walk in the veld with a gun, there's no expectations of anything else" or "everything's just fine, we have all the time in the world" helped I don't know- and she had handled handled all of this with grace and a noticeably calm mind. The ram stood up slowly and Stellie chambered a round, an action which triggered her first experience of buck fever- her hands shook like leaves in a strong wind and her breathing became short and erratic. I knelt next to her, watching with amazement and awe as she re positioned, took control of her breathing and forced herself to stare through the scope, confronting what she was about to do. I sat next to her watching as her breathing deepened, her muscles relaxed and the determination set in. From this point on, it was trance like- the ram had moved in to mingle with this mates before a shot could be taken. We decided to try move around and as it turns out, a change of angle was all that was needed. As they fed away from us, we moved position- creeping out of the trees to our right, we were seen and hit the dust. Setting up the sticks, I turn to her and say "If you're not comfortable with the shot, it's okay, there will be other opportunities". She nods, placing the 7mm in the V of the sticks she hugs the butt of the rifle to her shoulder and breathes deeply. The ram, looking at us, steps away from the group, a limp evident in his stride. He stops, turns his head away from us and the shot goes off. He had dropped in his tracks, stone dead. Not a single kick, not a twitch. Walking up to him, I don't think the reality had set in for either of us. We had spoken about this for years, plans had been made and unmade, hours had been spent talking about the emotional and physical aspects in equal quantities with a fair bit of time being spent pouring over books going over everything from proper shot placement to how to use shooting sticks correctly. But here, now, was the result of all that effort. The ram was old as the hills with a blind eye, an injured back leg and scars all over a very tatty coat. He measured out at a hair under 17" with some of the thickest bases I have ever seen on a blesbok. It was the closest thing to a "fairy tale" I've ever experienced and I'm not nearly eloquent enough to express just how happy and proud I am. She had done it and even more importantly, she had done it her way. With out a doubt, female hunters add a dynamic to the experience and industry that we require. We're already planning our next hunt- she wants to go after a blue wildebeest- and we'll be dropping off her application for a 30-06 the day it opens up once again. In the meantime, we'll enjoy the meals and memories supplied by an experience that would definitely play in the highlights' reel of my life.