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When I took my wife, Ann-Marie to South Africa, she had never hunted before. She wasn’t against it, she just wasn’t a hunter. But Africa has a way of changing all of that. If you have hunted in Africa, you understand. If you haven’t, you need to.

Image a giraffe looking into your blind to try and figure out what on earth you are and what you are doing. You truly have the opportunity to see different species of animals all day long. It’s a far cry from the whitetail woods of the states where might not see anything all day. Africa is an experience every hunter needs to enjoy.

After sitting in the blind with me for several days, taking a few photos of my trophies and participating in the chit chat around the skinning shed, my wife Ann-Marie developed this strange desire to give hunting a try. We discussed it after dinner with our "PH" and decided if she wanted to we would spend then next morning on the archery range and if she felt comfortable we would go.

After a couple hours of target shooting with a Horton crossbow and discussing the hunt we all agreed she was ready. She wasn’t sure if she would shoot, but at least she was comfortable if she decided to.

While we changed into our hunting clothes and had a small snack, our vehicle was loaded and we were ready to head to the blind. It wasn’t long before our first visitors arrived. A small herd of impalas made their way to the water hole. A nice ram appeared from the bush and slowly made his way towards the rest of the herd.

Ann-Marie silently picked up the Horton crossbow and searched the herd for the ram. "I’m on him," she whispered. At twenty-five yards I quietly reminded the new hunter to continue to breath. "You still on him," I questioned? A hardly visible nod affirms her concentration. "When he stops, take him." A couple more steps and the ram bends down for a drink and as I watch through my Brunton binoculars I hear the twang of the crossbow string as the trigger was squeezed and the bolt took flight. In the blink of an eye the impala jumps up and after a hand full of steps he crumbles to the ground and was dead. It was a perfect shot and a quick humane kill. Ann-Marie had just taken her first African trophy with her first pull of the trigger. What an accomplishment!

After several hours and an impala ram of my own, we once again had an opportunity for Ann-Marie to harvest another trophy.

Only this time it wasn’t an impala or a warthog. It was a monster waterbuck! We had watched this herd most of the week. We had seen the juvenile bulls and the cows several times, but we had never seen this new bull. He was a smart old bull. He stayed back and let the rest of the herd drink first. It was as if he had seen this film before and new what the out come would be if he stood in front of the blind.

As the waterbuck cautiously made his way towards the blind I encouraged Ann-Marie to take the shot.

"I can’t! He’s too big, you shoot him. I’ll miss him. I’m too nervous," she said. I told her that was part of hunting and if you miss him so what! We’ll hunt another day. I picked up the Horton crossbow and handed it to her, reminding her of the safety and encouraging her to, "Breath."

I leaned back, picked up my Brunton binoculars and peaked through a small opening in the blind. When I had him in my glasses and he was in range I whispered, "Take him." Nothing happened. "Take him," I whispered again. Only this time the crossbow fired.

I watched the arrow as it passed through the animal as if it were in slow motion. It was another perfect shot. As I turned to my wife to congratulate her, she lower the crossbow and with quivering voice and eyes opened wide she whispered, "I think I hit him. I think it was a good shot." I leaned over took the bow from her and confirmed that she had placed the arrow exactly where it needed to be and her waterbuck trophy awaits her in the bush just across the waterhole.

Ann-Marie had taken 2 beautiful trophies the same day with 2 shots. What an accomplishment for someone who had never hunted a day in her life before that day. I couldn’t have been more proud of her.

If you’ve ever taken a new hunter along with you and they were able to harvest an animal you know and understand the emotions that bubble up when you revisit those memories. Those are the opportunities in life that can change someone forever. If you’ve never taken anyone hunting before, take someone. Share your experience with a person who can benefit from your time in the field. It could change their life and I can assure you that it will enrich yours!

Paul E. Potemski


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• When things go right Part 2 •
• The hunt is over - but the memories remain •
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