We have been hiking for several hours, and although we do see a variety of plains game, it is striking to me how empty this land feels. I share my feeling with Mark, and he confides in me that since the government has taken over administration of this property, the game has been badly mismanaged. Poaching and excessive culling to feed the locals is rampant, and as a result the animals that remain are less abundant and damn spooky. Eventually, we do spot a very nice fallow deer stag, but he quickly senses our presence and takes off into the thorny underbrush. “Let’s have a closer look,” I say to Mark. It’s mid-afternoon now, and I doubt we’ll get another chance. “Yes, yes. Let’s go mate,” he agrees. We set off on foot. Mark carries his double and he hands me a bolt-action in .300 Holland & Holland Magnum that belongs to his father Roy. As I walk with Roy’s gun, I can feel the history and stories of this weapon in my hands. I glance down at the gun and see that the blue finish on the barrel, bolt and receiver has worn off in places, and the wood stock has been rubbed to a dull shine by years of oiling. Inspecting the cheekpiece, I see that it is glossy and smooth from a thousand shots taken against Roy’s cheek. This is a tool, a true working gun. We hike for about 30 minutes without seeing the fallow deer, and I am sure that we have lost him. I unload the round from the chamber of Roy’s gun and turn dejectedly toward Mark. “I think he’s long gone,” I say. “He may be, but fallow deer are curious,” Mark replies, “and that’s what gets them killed. Let’s head back, but I want you to reload Dad’s rifle first. That deer may just double back and give us a follow.” We head back in the direction we came for about 20 minutes, turning to look behind us every 10 or 20 yards. I’ve given up on the deer, and instead I am content to gaze at the blue skies and walk quietly. Mark and I say nothing, and we only hear an occasional bird and the crunch of grass underfoot that has been burned brown by the dry season. We come up to a small rise and go up and over between two acacia trees that stand on the hilltop like sentinels. They are beautiful trees, and their long, stark white thorns look like ice picks against green, feathery leaves. We crest the hill, and when we reach the valley below, I turn to look behind me once again. There, framed by the two acacia trees and standing on the ridge-line is the fallow deer stag. He’s facing us in the tall grass, about 150 to 170 yards off. Mark sees him at the same time I do. “There he is,” Mark whispers to me. I drop to my right knee, click off the safety, and shoulder Roy’s rifle. It’s feels automatic to me now - my right eye takes its position behind the scope while my left eye remains open to stay aware of the stag on the ridge. Magnified, I see fallow deer clearly. I settle the cross-hairs just ahead of his left shoulder and everything gets quiet. The fallow deer stands quartering towards us, staring directly at me. I don’t feel any adrenaline. Instead, an overriding feeling of focused calm falls over me. The fallow deer still looks at me with no sign of fear. He is just curious about us and wants to have a look. I squeeze the trigger. Everything is lost in a crack of silence. For a millisecond, my mind becomes the void. The first sensation I experience as the world opens again is the telltale tympanic thwock as the bullet enters the deer’s chest cavity. I try to re-center my scope on him, but he has taken off over the ridge before I can get off a second shot. “Reload,” Mark yells as we head on foot after him. Less than a minute later, we crest the hill between the two acacia trees and find the stag dead in the tall, dead grass. The bullet entered his body just forward of his left shoulder and exited behind his right shoulder, traversing his vitals. It was a perfect shot, my best shot of the entire trip, and I am elated. I unload the remaining rounds from Roy’s gun. “See! Curious bugger. Got himself killed because he was so damn curious. He had to come back for a look,” Mark says, shaking his head. For the remainder of the day, Mark and I laugh and recount the story dozens of times. With each telling, I know that I have found something here in the bush, and with every fiber of my being I wish I had grown up in Africa.