Humility and Redemption

By Doug Patteson

“Do you want redemption? That’s a nice ram. Not a monster, but definitely a shooter.”

First morning of my first African safari and I’d already screwed up royally. From an absolute high to the bottom of the pit. I’d shot the wrong animal and I was crushed.

Forty-five minutes earlier, Louie had said “Monster ram at the back. Get on the sticks. You’ll need to take a neck shot at this angle. Just under 300 meters. You got it?”

The impala ram at the back didn’t look like a monster to me, but who was I to judge? On the sticks, neck shot, one ram, piel in die sand. Or, dick in the dirt, as we’d say in the states.

“What happened?” asked Louie.

“I shot him.”

“No you didn’t, he ran off”

“No, he went down, he’s right there.”

“Shit … You shot the wrong ram.”

And that’s when I realized “the one in the back” meant two different things.

“Great fucking shot though,” said Louie.

Hunting with a guide can challenge your ego. How do you find the right balance between demonstrating your skill and showing humility? Doing so with a professional hunter in Africa is a whole ‘nuther thing. I so desperately wanted to avoid screwing up, whether being too loud in the bush, blowing a stalk, or making a poor shot. I realized almost immediately that the first morning sighting in on the range had as much or more to do with the PH sizing up my experience and shooting skill as it had to do with making sure their camp rifle was still zeroed.

The range was easy. But I’d blown it on my first animal.

“Do you want redemption?” Tommy loaded up the other impala ram and headed off to the salt shed while Louie and Susan and I headed back to camp for lunch. Still a couple of miles out, we saw what looked like a nice male by himself.

At this point I was doing the math on adding another impala to the list. While not that much money, I was still hoping to take a nice kudu, so budget mattered at least a little.

Susan said, “I think you should do it. Don’t worry about the money.”

We’d driven past the solo ram as he headed toward a water hole. Something was off about him but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Louie looked at me and said, “The wind is in our favor if you want him.” Again Susan said, “Doug, go for it.”

I knew getting back up on the metaphorical horse was the best thing for me, and the longer I stewed over my earlier mistake, the harder it would become.

Did I want redemption? 

I needed redemption.

We drove a couple hundred yards past the ram and then put a stalk on him. Wind and cover in our favor, we got within 70 yards. I put him down with a single shot, again to the neck, the 30-06 easily taking care of business.

An old ram, about 24 inches, much of his coat had fallen off. As we rolled him over, we could see his maggot-ridden jawline, black, blood-encrusted flesh, and the trail of a bullet that had caused so much damage.

He’d been hit with a poor shot a few weeks before and was slowly starving. I hope my shot saved him from more days or weeks of misery. 

It was a righteous kill.

And it gave me redemption.

From the FE Films Archive

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