Most ten year old boys from my era were occupied by He-Man action figures, riding their BMX bikes through their local veldt and Golden Dragon video games featuring Super Mario Brothers and Sky Destroyer.
A distant second to the first choices in wasting time was any ball sport and the hatred for icky girls and their pink laced double pony tales...
... Although He-Man did have a serious crush on Barbie as the guy from the wrong side of town; ready to lay waste to wannabe metro sexual Ken and his bi-curious blonde crony.
The best part of our lives was the beginning of each December; ushering in the holidays filled with Christmas, firecracker wars and the construction of club houses on some remote hill... normally in the same veldt the BMX made itself famous.
However, on the other end of the seasons and holidays were winter breaks, where some boys were lucky enough to get a taste of the domain of men...
A world where frequent trips to someone’s farm resulted in suffering through a stolen Castle and Camel, out of sight of the grown-ups... experiencing your opinion of the world of men without any of the drawbacks such as bond payments and golf club curfews from their better halves.
Some boys were able to drive a car at the age of seven, try their hand at clay pigeon shooting and the odd Guinea Fowl unlucky enough to disregard the unholy thunder of a semi automatic twelve gauge shotgun emptying seven rounds sequentially at the mercy of your index finger.
You always knew your shoulder would be blue as hell afterwards, but it was a pain of pride... almost like sporting a black eye from a fight you won...
I was one of these boys.
I’ve been hunting game for twenty two years this year, and turning thirty two by the time this is published; simple maths would place me at the manly age of ten when I shot my first Impala.
Like so many others, I undertook my inaugural hunt with arguably the best known and most widely used calibre in the South African bush; the cornerstone weapon of many a biltong hunter... the 30.06.
From there on end my dad took me and my brother hunting each year, normally with other groups of dads and their sons... also bearing the same luck as me.
It was only natural then that the biggest gift I ever received was my own gun, and respectively for my twenty first and my brothers twenty fifth, we each had the choice of calibre we wanted.
The greatest part however was that each gun would be custom made for us by a master gunsmith.
The journey was to take twelve months from the first meeting with the gunsmith, firstly to spread the costs, and secondly to enable the gunsmith to find the correct parts as we ordered them.
Being quite knowledgeable by then, my choice was a 7mm Remington Magnum... in my mind the best all round rifle, and something different from the norm.
As it turned out, my decision was one of the best I’ve ever made and the gun lived up to its expectations. From springbok and warthog to adult eland bulls and everything in between; it truly was... my precious...
It was as if every choice of mechanism and part of the weapon worked in synergy and with the efficiency of a high performance German engineered engine.
The best bolt action I experienced before my 7mil, was that of my dad’s 30.06 Mauser, so I had it sourced by the gunsmith.
After three months, he found a 50 year old mechanism, which he refurbished brilliantly. Incidentally, it was the last bolt actions Mauser made and naturally they are as rare as Pandas in Kruger.
From the sensitive Brno trigger to the Truvelo billet, rosewood frame and Lynx scope, the gun was a work of art above all.
My hunting experiences culminated in huge respect for the bush and fuelled my love for animals to such an extent where it didn’t bother me one bit if I didn’t return with dry-wors-to-be after a weekend.
The experience of walking on unknown grounds and normally finding something way too expensive to hunt was completed by the presence of my masterfully crafted pride and joy.
In some sense it was almost dignifying towards the hunted to meet its end at the barrel of an end product made with so much passion, and which had its own respectful personality towards nature and its inhabitants.
I made sure I knew how to use my gun in accordance with its quality, and regard myself as a crack shot... anyway, if you aren’t one after two decades of hunting then get another hobby, as far more than your own pride is on the line if you’re not.
I’ve seen way too many loud mouthed cowboys on trips that arrive home on Sunday afternoon to sleep off their “babelaas”, leaving wounded animals at the mercy of a slow and agonising death, simply because they failed to follow up their idiotically muttered “...watch this shot!”
A couple of months ago I got married, and a couple of months after that we moved into our new house. Unlike the previous one, it didn’t have a built in safe, and I subsequently stored my gun in my dad’s.
All the procedures were followed and the police clearance done to do so, as it was the obvious and responsible thing to do when you didn’t have the facilities yet. I had planned on buying a shotgun for my wife, and enrolling in a local clay pigeon club in the near future, and figured I’d install a proper safe when I did so for both weapons.
Unfortunately for all of us, my father and sister were the victims of a home robbery at the end of last December and the only good to come of the traumatic experience was that they survived the experience relatively un-scaved; physically in anyway.
The two things that became very clear from the robbery was that references need to be contacted when employing someone at your house, as these things are normally an inside job, and secondly that these guys came for guns... hunting rifles to be precise.
I suppose the market has its origins from the rhino poaching scourge to hit the country the last couple of years, as this is obviously done with stolen weapons.
The second worst thing of it is that neither my, nor my father’s rifles are nearly powerful enough to kill a rhino – with a single shot anyway.
The worst thing is the fact that I know the poachers will still try, bringing back memories of the video footage I saw a couple of months ago of the rhino screaming like a puppy and taking several shots and minutes to actually die! All this after the scumbags surely uttered the words “...watch this shot!”
The bottom line is that no good will come of the gun I have so much respect for, built up a special relationship with and nurtured with care.
The deadly work of art ends up as just another tool in the hands of people I hardly regard as human, whether I define them as robbers, poachers or both.
Their lack of compassion and their ruthless, self centred ways earn them the right to be the victims of their loot in my book, and knowing I’ll never see the gun again, I can only but wonder whether it disbursed some of its own blind justice on them... eventually.
I suppose no ten year old boy hopes for such an end, and looking back over two decades I still see him with his pellet gun in his club house taking aim at some unassuming Coke can... laying the foundation for all to follow.