As long back as I can remember, I’ve always had a picture of my dad in my head – with his boots, hunting pack and his rifle slung over his shoulder as he went out to get food. My dad is a figure I’ve always looked up to and when he went out on his hunting trips, I always wanted to go with him. But I was too young and I wasn’t allowed to go.
Sometimes he came back by late evening and sometimes he came back after a few days – but he never came back empty handed. My dad always put food on the table.
As I grew older he taught me how to shoot. It’s one of the traditions in our family – all of us know how to shoot and we shoot well. That was a matter of pride for my dad – that we weren’t going to grow up to be like some pansy city folk who couldn’t hold a gun.
He always believed that it was his birthright and I grew up thinking just like him.
By the time I was 16, he allowed me to tag along with him on his hunts even though my mum didn’t really like the idea. But I idolized my dad and was determined to go. I had a Ruger 77, and I was used to its feel. You can’t just pick up a gun and go off on a hunt – you should know your rifle inside out. I’ve tried out other rifles, but nothing compared to the craftsmanship of the Ruger 77. In fact I even got my own cover custom made. The .308 chambered 77, used with a Leupold optic made mince meat of any deer – what I mean to say is that it’s a gun that always comes home with deer.
But I always saw my dad leave and come back with his animal – I never saw the endless hours of lying in wait in the cold, with wind that swept through our bones. I never realized how cramped our bones and bodies would feel from constantly being in the same position for hours, not moving a muscle in fear that the deer we were preciously waiting for would get spooked and run. No, I didn’t see all that. But you know, if you’ve been through all that and you’ve managed to get a hit in, that’s a feeling like I can’t describe.
That day when I went with my dad, we waited patiently since dawn for the deer to come. It was a spot that my dad had bookmarked because a lot of deer were seen in that area. Sometime around 2pm, my dad spotted movement. Quietly he signally to me and told me to take the shot. I was nervous because this was my first opportunity and I wanted to make my dad proud. I calmed my mind and my fingers stopped trembling. I was used to shooting and this gun was an extension of me. I took careful aim and took the shot when the time felt right.
I hit it! I said a small prayer in my head for the deer but gave thanks for the food we were going to have and also for the proud light that shone in my dad’s eyes. That memory will live with me for as long as I live.