Hi all, A simple story of the first people I guided as a PH......my family! After months of planning and lots of practice on the range, the time had finally arrived. It was the morning of the 18th February 2012 and we had just packed the Landy for our hunting trip. Originally i had booked the adventure for my wife and i but my brother from the UK had decided to fly out to SA for a visit. I had spent nights lying in anticipation for this trip and there was no ways i was going to cancel it so I included my brother and thought about giving him the opportunity of hunting his own buck. It was almost 2 years since i had completed my professional hunters course but soon after completion my wife and I relocated to the Okavango Delta in Northern Botswana. It would also be my wife's first time hunting and although I consider her to be one of the better target shooters in the family, hunting an animal of any size is a whole different story. She had joined me, and in fact gave me some invaluable advice, on a previous hunting trip where I bagged a magnificent bushbuck ram, but this time it would be her pulling the trigger. So the training began back in the Okavango Delta, at the lodge we ran, when I would set up 3 boxes at a distance of 30 metres away from my wife who had the pellet gun. Each box was labelled with kudu, springbok and impala with a crudely drawn outline of the animals body and neck. I would shout out commands such as "Impala neck!" or "Kudu heart!" and my wife would have 10 seconds to load the pellet gun and fire at the target I had instructed. The training wasn't about hitting the target spot on, it was more about teaching my wife that in a hunting situation things can change at any moment and you need to react as such, it also gave us a chance to have a bit of fun and ease the nerves leading up to the trip. However I also needed to stress the point about taking your time with the shot, I hadn't guided many people but I knew the importance of putting them onto an animal when the time was right. We arrived back in the Eastern Cape in South Africa, our original home, collected my brother from the airport and the real hunting training began. With the use of my Marlin .270 we fired shots at a springbok target poster from a distance of 100 metres. I assured my wife and brother that they would not be shooting anything further than that, as I felt it would be a bit difficult for them to have to take a 150 metre plus shot on their first hunt. The results from the target practice shooting were a little on the poor side to say the least but i was still confident in both of them and knew deep down that it would be a good hunting trip. During the "training sessions" I stressed to both of them the importance of being patient with your shot and only taking the animal when they were 100% relaxed and sure. We set off for the Queenstown district straight after breakfast, Landy loaded and rifle cleaned, we were ready. Arriving at the farm shortly after 3pm I was keen to get my wife and brother out onto the shooting range and to the top of the koppie to glass the surrounding area and devise a plan for the following days hunt, but a tremendous thunderstorm put a stop to all the plans and a deluch of rain pelted the farm. Chatting with the farmer, he informed me that they had recieved 50mm of rain in 2 hours. Thankfully in the last hour of light the rain gave way briefly and we managed to fire off a few practice shots on the range and climb the koppie just in time to survey the area before the light faded. Sitting huddled under an umbrella as the fire did it's best to beat the rain drops that attacked it, we chatted about the following day's plan. My wife had her heart set on an impala ram, but would be happy with any animal, and the farmer informed us of a bachelor herd that roamed a deep gorge that disected the farm. We planned on arriving at the lip of the gorge early in the morning, glassing the area and hoping to see the herd, if it was quiet then we would work the mixed bushveld flats above the gorge. My alarm crackled at 5am and I shot out of bed with excitement, I have always been a morning person. My wife however took a little more encouragement with a cup of coffee. Our tracker was parked waiting outside our room with the bakkie and Gauz the blood hound. A light drizzle greeted us as we stepped outside which i was thankful for as it meant the previous night's storm was clearing. Arriving at the very edge of the gorge we were welcomed by a white as snow mist settling into the gorge and you couldn't see maybe 10 metres in front of you never mind glassing something that is a couple hundred metres wide and almost as deep. That's hunting i suppose, a plan never works out as it should. Undeterred I suggested we move slightly down the slope of the gorge for a possible view beneath the white cloud. We didn't get 10 metres before an alarming whistle stopped us dead in our tracks. A small group of Fallow Deer were in the bushes below us and saw us coming. Their call echoed through the deep valley and Im sure reached the ears of every antelope in there...not a good start for a PH's first guided hunt! With the plan now well and truly abolished we opted to drive the farm to the next vantage point and glass the flat areas from a higher point. We came across a breeding herd of Impala with a very nice ram amongst them. Exciteldy my wife and I jumped off the vehicle and sent it along with the tracker, my brother and Gauz to the top of a near by koppie to observe the hunt and keep a safe eye on us. The herd were moving across us some 400 metres away and seeing as I had promised my wife a shot of no more than 50 metres, i knew we had some ground to cover. Skirting along a tree line trying to get in front of the herd, we did our best to keep our footing as we slipped and sludged through the infamous East Cape red mud, we would of made better progress if we had on ice skates. Now in line with the herd but still a 100 metres from them, we began our leopard crawling and closed the distance to 60 metres, close but not yet there. The wind was good and the falling rain muffled our movements through the grass. I painstakingly lifted myself onto my knees to view the herd with my binocs and like that they were gone! Another hunting lesson learnt, just when you think you have it all set up, the animal has other ideas. A little dishearted we trudged our soaked to the core bodies back to the vehicle. It seemed the only one that was still excited was Gauz as he covered us in slober. But what hunt is 100% successful on the first day? Certainly not this one, and after a small pep talk amongst our selves we continued our search for impala. By now the dark clouds had parted and the farm was coated in splashes of golden sun. A large herd of impala warming themselves in the sun through a break in the thick bush caught our attention and our hopes soared high once again. We weren't 10 minutes into our stalk when a nasal snort dashed any hopes of getting close to our quarry. The thing about a large herd of impala is that although they are easy to track through thick bush, there is evidently more eyes to spot you tracking them. By now my ambitions of guiding my wife onto her first buck were fading fast and I needed to pull something out of my already un-experienced sleeve to get her that prized animal. So i suggested we climb a rocky outcrop near by to glass for the herd once more and possibly attack from a different angle. The herd was no where to be seen and so we decided to call it a morning and head back to the lodge for a hearty brunch, on the stoney road back to the vehicle and discussing our options for the afternoon we inadvertantly stumbled into the herd who had no idea we were there. We used the thick bush alongside the road to close the distance quickly and suddenly we were within 40 metres of the herd. I ushered Justine up along side me and told her the ram was standing off to the left of the road with his head in the bush but his shoulder and vitals showing. Justine raised the rifle, placed it in the shooting sticks and I kept a close eye on the ram through my binocs, i waited but nothing. I looked up quizzickly at my wife to enquire why she had not taken the shot when she motioned to me that she did not have a clear shot of the animal and with that the Impala had seen her movement and vanished. From my seated angle, I could see the ram perfectly but a heavy branch from an Acacia bush sat directly in my wife's line of sight once she stood. Now my hopes were truly dashed and my body had given in to exhaustion, I was hungry, wet, tired and angry. My wife, as all wives can, saw the look of dispear and slight anger on my face and gently apologised for not taking the shot. With that I realised that she had in fact done everything i had taught her, it was not a clean clear shot, she was not confident and therefore did not take the shot. My mood changed instantly and i told her I was proud of her for making that tough decision, and we enjoyed our brunch knowing that there was not a wounded animal running around the farm. Soon after brunch the rains returned and seemed to try and make up for those few hours that it did not rain. My brother opted out in joining us and decided to remain at the lodge, I thought it a good idea and would of enjoyed a beer around the fire but my wife out right refused and insisted on heading back into the bush to hunt her quarry. As exhausted and tired as i was, she was not only my wife but my first client and so I obliged. The rain seemed harder, the temperature colder and the plains that were teeming with animals that morning were now abandoned. The infamous East Cape red mud of the Queenstown area did its best to claim our vehicle and after much pushing, shoving and digging we managed to free the vehicle from the mud. Soaked, covered in mud and unsuccessful my Irish blood began to flow through my veins, my hair raised to attention and I was now more determined to put my wife onto a fine animal than ever. I ordered our tracker to stay with the vehicle and Gauz and instructed them to not go anywhere until they heard a shot. I climbed a nearby bow hide and glassed the area. To the east at a distance of 400 metres I found a group of Zebra, Black Wildebeest, White Blesbok and Springbok gathered beneath some Acacia. "Come love, lets get you a blesbok" I ordered and we began our fourth stalk of the day. A gentle wind blew into our faces and the rain splashing against the earth helped to muffle the sound of us crawling through the grass. Thorns pierced our clothes and drove themselves into our skin, low hanging branches scrapped our backs and Zebra dung seemed to be strategically placed directly in our intended path. I peeked over the tips of the grass and saw the unmistakeable white back of a blesbok, 70 metres away. A tall Acacia with a thick base lay 15 metres infront of us and I was sure if we could make it to the tree un-noticed then my wife would be in with a chance. The crawl to that tree seemed like an eternity. Again I peered above the grass, the light now fading fast. Instructing my wife to stand up slowly behind the thick tree trunk and place the rifle in the natural V of the tree, we caught movement of seven zebra to our right atleast ten metres away that had no idea we were there and I knew that my wife could take her time with this shot because if the zebra hadn't of spotted us then the blesbok 55 metres away would be calm. I whispered one final set of instructions to my wife and took a step back. The rifle cracked through the gentle noise of falling rain and the blesbok disappeared into the long grass. It was a solid hit and a rush of adrenaline and excitement pumped through my veins. My wife had hunted and truly earned her first buck. Sore bodies, cut elbows and swollen knees, we celebrated that night and toasted to my wife and first client's success on the first day of hunting. 5am and the alarm clock woke me from my slumber, I would have to do it all over again, this time as my brother's PH. Slightly wiser and full of optimism we repeated the routine of the previous morning, glassing the deep gorge for the bachelor herd of impala and then moving over towards the flat mixed bushveld where we knew an abundance of game would be. En route a breeding herd of black and common springbok dashed across the front of the vehicle and settled almost 100 metres to the east. Calmly our tracker drove on past the animals as not to draw attention to us and when the road bent off behind a clump of thick trees my brother and i jumped off the vehicle and began yet another gruelling stalk. The moment my knees hit the rocky ground, I felt almost every nerve within them ache and tense with pain. A 100 metre shot would be easy pickings for most experienced hunters but I had promised my brother a closer shot and also deep down felt he would truly appreciate and respect the animal if he had "earned" it. We coverd a distance of 40 metres before the trees ran out and with it our cover. Peering through the binocs I noticed all the springbok were females which was fine as the farmer instructed us that we could take a female as he felt the springbok had reached their capacity. Setting up my brother on the sticks I whispered to him to take the one furthest to the right, that was standing broadside. Lowering his head onto the butt of the rifle, he gently slipped off the safety and I could hear he was working hard to control his breathing, I focused my eyes on the animal and braced myself for the shot when a familiar sound danced into my ears. I gently placed my hand on my brothers shoulder and told him to wait. Again the gutteral bleeting sound rang in my ears, and almost from no where a large male springbok came pronking into the middle of the females. He nudged all the females getting them to stand as one by one he checked their reproductive status by curling his top lip and using his Flehmenn gland. The ram had a strong body and a good set of horns but he wouldn't stand still and was constantly harrasing the females, my brother kept his cool and waited patiently for the ram to stand broadside, when it finally took a moment to rest my brother pulled the trigger but the shot missed, the springbok all stood to attention but did not run as they were unsure of the source of the loud noise. Again my brother fired and again the shot was high, this time the herd took off and left us scratching our heads. I asked my brother if he was confident in his placement of the rifle and he told me that he had aimed high above the springbok's shoulder. I then remembered that during our quick practice session 2 days ago, we found the rifle to be shooting a few inches low, to add to it the shooting range was on a slight down hill which made the rifle seem to be shooting lower than it actually was. Before we set out I explained to my brother to aim higher than the shoulder but did not tell him by how much, another lesson learned on my route to becoming a good Professional Hunter. He had compensated for the drop in the bullet a bit too much and had inadvertadly aimed over the top of the buck. I was more thankful that he had missed and not wounded the animal and that we were able to source the reason for the missed shots. My brother saw the positive side of the two missed shots and said he felt alot more relaxed now that he had atleast fired the rifle a few times. Iam always a sucker for a positive attitude and I felt alot calmer and hopeful for the rest of the day's hunt knowing my brother, second client, was also relaxed and not wound up tight itching to pull the trigger. The vehicle bounced along the double tracked roads of the farm and the mood amongst us was jovial and happy as we watched plenty of springbok, impala, hartebeest, zebra and wildebeest run from one bush thicket to the next in front of us. There was still plenty of time in the day and I wanted my brother to earn his first buck, so I opted to pass on the many fine animals that ran before our eyes. Instead I instructed our tracker to take us to the top of a rocky outcrop in the middle of the farm, from where we could do some more glassing and hopefully find something challenging to hunt. The noise from the engine had just about ceased when I saw a nice group of springbok mixed in with some blesbok and zebra about a kilometre from our position and I knew it would be a fitting challenge, for us both. We moved swiftly through a winding depression caused by years of erosion, which brought us out behind a thick standing of trees and bush, providing ample cover to begin our stalk. Using the tall grass as cover we "tree hopped" along the ground, using each tree to stop regather our breathes and use as a natural shelter from where we could scope the springbok and ensure we were on the right path. My brother mentioned a few times that the springbok were gone and we should abandone the stalk, but I knew in the heat of the day the buck would not move. Raising myself slowly onto my knees I could see only the tips of the horns protruding through the long green grass, the springbok were beded down, waiting out the heat of the day. This provided a perfect opportunity for us to really close the distance to within a comfortable shooting range for my brother and get him comfortable and ready for the final shot. Reaching the final tree between us and our unsuspecting quarry, my brother crawled up beside me and i suggested he take a few minutes to relax, regain his breathing and savour the moment of being in such an incredible place. Excitement prevailed and it wasn't three minutes before he gave me a simple nod and rye smile suggesting he was ready. We both eased up into a crouching position, my brother resting the .270 snug against a solid tree branch. A fantastic common springbok ram stood up from the grass and I was immediately taken a back by the sheer size of his horns and strong body. I whispered to my brother "He will do!" trying not to convey my sheer excitement and disbelief at how fortunate my brother will be to bag such a fine specimen on his very first hunt, and then the ram sat back down in the long grass. We both held a quite chuckle under our breath as we saw the irony in the way we had just been teased. I knew if we held our patience we would be rewarded and soon after the big ram lay down an equally impressive black springbok stood up broadside about 50 metres from us. I gave the instruction to my brother to take him when he was ready and held my gaze on the animal. For what seemed like an eternity the ram groomed himself, licking and nibbling his right shoulder, then his left, then back to the right and onto the left again, by now beads of nervous sweat were running from my forehead and down my cheeks as I said to myself "don't shoot now, wait for him, wait for him to stop grooming." The silence was deafening but also a relief, as my brother waited patiently for the right moment. The ram stopped grooming momentarily and the rifle was quick to break the silence of the bush. He dropped instantly into the long grass and six springbok rams sprung to their feet, confused at what just happened. I slapped my brother on his back congratulating him, but his attention was still fixed on the spot where the ram had fallen, ready in case he had wounded him. But he hadn't. The giant common springbok ram unknowingly trotted towards us and stood broadside 30 metres from our position. My brother handed me the rifle and I took aim, the cross hairs fixed on its vitals, he was magnificient, a truly impressive representative of the species, and so I lowered my rifle. It was my brother's time, he had earned his animal and all the glory that comes with it. As spectacular as that springbok was, I myself had not earned his life. My focus was on getting my brother his first animal and I took pride in achieving that. We approached the ram who lay silent in the grass, we hugged and I comended my brother on his patience and respect for the animal when waiting for the right shot. He leant down stroked the springbok and apologised, showing his gratitude, respect and understanding of what it means to be a hunter. My career as a Professional Hunter may only be starting out but what I thought I had taught my wife and brother about hunting had in fact taught me so much more. And those lessons and memories will be with me on every hunt from now on.