Story From Sue Brenton

The Accidental Huntress
By Sue Brenton

After travelling for 2 weeks through Namibia in south west Africa and up to the Caprivi Strip it was time to head for the final part of our safari, a week with Mike & Birgit at Okamapu Hunting Lodge.

We went later in the year, this year, and the weather was quite warm. Even the locals were saying how hot it was. It was a long trip back from the Caprivi and like any good hunting wife I was looking forward to a relaxing week at the lodge, sleeping in, brunching and sipping on gin and tonic by the pool. But was this to be?

Safaris' are quite hard work! Sunrise starts, bumping around on rough roads, dodging wayward animals and sunset treks. Not to mention the ever tiring excitement and exhilaration of Africa! This trip we had been charged by elephant, rhino and strangely enough by a giraffe! Near road killed an ostrich and been hooked on the sunnies (so close!) by my expert fisherman (NOT!) husband, whilst tiger fishing in the Okavango River.

Sue Brenton

We first had to go to the airport to collect the safely stored, in the police safe, Boswell. But first we had to get Senior Sergeant back from lunch- Ahh African time! Then off to our 'home' Okamapu.

Being our second time we were greeted with much excitement and exuberance from all the staff and families. This was the first time we had met Mike as he was in Austria last year. And this was the first time we experienced Mikes gin & tonics! Mmmmm more gin with a dash of tonic! Two fellow Aussies Jim & Robyn had arrived before us. Jim had had an excellent and successful hunt overall and regaled us with many stories of what he had done and experienced. Mark, of course, was keen to get out on the birds, as it was the opening of Sandgrouse season, as soon as possible. He headed out and I had the chance to unpack and relax and look forward to a week of rest & relaxation. That night at dinner was when my plans certainly took a different path. Mike unexpectedly sprung upon me the question- Would I like to go on a hunt!

Wow, shock and trepidation and fear! I was gob smacked! I knew this was an honour to be asked as his guest on a hunt. But my only experience was holding a gun, at a Vintagers' shoot while Mark fired for me. What was I going to say and do? Overnight Mark & I discussed it and I thought and thought! Changing my mind every five minutes!

Breakfast the next day, late of course, and upon the boys returning from a morning on the birds, Mike presented me with a breakfast beer and asked again what I thought! I explained my trepidation. But being the professional that he is, he allayed all my fears and concerns and made it sound all too easy! Still not sure, but understanding what a great opportunity it was I said YES, okay, I think so, oh go on then!

No hunting gear, scared of hurting my shoulder and still not convinced I was the girl for the job, I fronted at afternoon tea, ready! Mike re-dressed me! And prepared or not we headed off. First for a spot of target shooting with a .22. First shot BULLSEYE! Instant confidence and instant expert! The other shots, while not as good, still fell well into range. Then came out the real gun! A Steyr in 375 H&H 'elephant' gun! Good lord how was I ever going to hold it up! Ah yes the rest on the trucks for that - beautiful thing!

So off we headed in search of the great wild trophy! Well actually dinner! We were tracking wildebeest or hartebeest for the next weeks food. We belted through the hunting area with Mike giving many instructions to the other boys. Finally we were in position. I struggled greatly with the scope, with my left eye refusing to play the game, so everything looked blurred or doubled! Then the moment came. Boy was I nervous. Mike is a wonderful, patient and professional teacher. He calmly set me up and talked me through it. And ready & squeeze and Bang! I can't remember a thing except feeling like I was flying backwards from the kick of the gun! But I do remember seeing my great (NOT) shot- straight into the ground!!! Scared the hell out of me and the wildebeest! Ah well, a shot of whiskey and we called it a day.

It was exciting and I was proud of myself that I gave it a shot! (pardon the pun).

Photo opportunies could
not be ignored
We headed back, I was disappointed but still thrilled that I gave it a go and did experience something I never thought I would. Back for a gin with a dash of tonic and my chance to tell a hunting story. Sort of! So that was it I thought. You don't get offers like that everyday and even though I had severely injured the dirt, I was still thrilled with the whole experience and considered myself as a bit of a try-hard hunter! But to my shock and pleasure Mike said we would try again in the morning. Oh no! another night of do I - don't I, what if I injure, what if, what if!

Sunrise came, I was still sort of unsure. Some of that was hurting my shoulder, as I had seen shooters with massive bruises, from the kick of large caliber guns. Also I was bothered with this scope business! I just couldn't get the hang of it. Robyn- bless he - came up with an idea of padding myself. But what to use? A bra strap comes in handy for holding something, but travelling and luggage restrictions gives you little options. Ahh Robyn again- the ideas girl! A beanie. Double bonus as I had dragged the damn beanie all over Namibia and not used once as we averaged 38C.

One down, now the scope. Mike of course fixed this. A new scope and a test run on stacked cushions on the bar! Love it. And we completely confused the house staff! So again I got a chance to try this hunting stuff. But still nervous as hell and not sure what vegetation I was going to cause harm to this time! The day before we had banged around the truck for quite a while searching for dinner. This time however we were only out for a short time and found the wildlife, Here goes! Mike set me up and told me which wildebeest I was to aim at. Not the time to confuse your lefts to your rights! That moment came. Steady, ready, go! And squeeze and bang! Lordy what had I done this time! I had no idea and no time to ask or think! We were off, belting through potholes and mounds like we were on a race track!

Suddenly Christian, the other PH, started excitedly yelling in Namibian - great! I had no idea what was going on! But then he started pointing and pulling on the rope attached to Willy, the drivers, arm to stop the truck. He jumped off the truck, Mike pointed saying look, look!! And there was one dead wildebeest!

I couldn't believe it. I had shot it! And to add to it all straight through the heart! The perfect shot, so Mike advised me, oh and I continually told everyone all night and beyond! My heart raced, I was in total shock. It raced even more after Mike gave me a shot of whiskey! I think I stared at the poor thing for ages.

Mike set up for all the proper hunting photo opportunities! Beest on the truck we all headed back with my smile taking up more room on the truck than anything else! We arrived back at camp, me, with my gun in hand, beest at foot and a grin that would go! Robyn came running out shocked, excited and I think a bit shocked!

Now this after all was MY beest! But also dinner, so the idea was to get it cut up straight away. NO WAY! I wasn't letting anyone near my beest until Mark arrived to see my 'prize'!! I think Mark figured something was going on when his accidental huntress was standing there grinning from ear to ear with blood all over her! I don't know who was more excited or shocked- Mark or me!

Sue and her 'Beest

Proudly I made him have the photo shoot with me, stunning Mark whilst I pulled the bloody beest toward me! And not wanting to leave it for a moment! Babbling madly I think he got the gist of what had happened. Finally they all dragged me away from my prize, to go have lunch and celebratory drinks.

Well what excitement reigned!! And what madness kicked in!! Ohhh so this is hunting!! 5 bottles of red wine later, and madness prevailed with me running around Mikes prized new golf course! So how did I feel? Exhilarated, up and down, excited, overwhelmed and shocked! What a whole new world, I had been introduced to. I couldn't believe the emotions that ran through my mind. I don't think I had ever felt like this in my life! But I was hooked. How long had this been going on?? I did go back to the room at one stage and have a cry but Birgit assured me this was quite normal.

Now to Mark. Did he cop it? You bet ya!! I had become the converted hunter! And gave Mark hell! I was the great white huntress! I teased him greatly that I was the real hunter, getting the meat with the real gun. And he only got the entrees with his "pop gun" and his little birds. Yep he had created a monster.

Celebrations were abundant!

Honestly this was no trophy, but it was my trophy and boy was I proud! Christian made me a souvenir, my beest's tail clamped in the spent cartridge, which sits with Marks prized birds. The head is to be mounted and hung in the gun room! And me- well the hunt is on! Plans are abreast for the next hunt - zebra maybe! Yep I'm hooked and ready to go again.

So again my question- how long has this been going on!? And thus the accidental huntress has become the converted and eager hunter!