It’s not the stories that I often tell that haunt me, the fun ones around the campfire celebrating the success of a good sporting trip. No, the ones that keep me up at night are those where pure instinct took over and adrenaline coursed through my veins as I overcame inescapable odds. Those are the ghosts that surround me.
I follow the hunter’s mantra to be cautious to remain the hunter, not become prey, and always act as ethically as possible. I approach each day afield with the attitude that it could be my finest experience yet. It is the chase that draws me like the moth to the flame, not necessarily the result at the end of the day. Some of my friends truly understand this, but to most, I don’t even try to explain that passion, that feeling for hunting and fishing, that drives me. For me, nothing even comes close when compared to the thrill of the chase.
Sitting quietly in the woods waiting to hear the gobble of an old tom turkey is one of my favorite pastimes. It is often met with memories of beautiful foggy mornings and sunset walks back to camp, coupled with an innate sense of wellness that comes from being surrounded by nature. But not this morning. Something in the trees jogs my memory, and I begin recalling an experience that found me on a dry riverbed in Africa, my trusty 416 Rigby in hand, watching as a wounded Cape buffalo made a charge toward my friend, professional hunter Ian Bachelor.
I can’t say that my memory of the moment is perfect, but my memory of the feeling of that moment I carry with me just as clearly as the dew on the leaf I am looking at this morning, patiently waiting for a turkey to respond to my call. This memory is not of calm and serenity, as I feel here in these woods. It is a memory steeped in terror and adrenaline.
Ian’s first shot hit the buffalo in the horns just before he was knocked backwards about 15 feet. The buffalo had been wounded prior to our arrival, and I watched in horror as it made its second charge toward Ian, goring him in the leg. I shot twice, my second shot ending the battle and ultimately saving my dear friend’s life. Despite the struggle of the next many hours to get him to a hospital before he bled to death, Ian overcame incredible odds and survived.
Whenever this memory surfaces, I am overwhelmed with the feeling that there is still a score left to settle. My desire to return calls to me as loudly as the cry of the dying buffalo. My beloved says never again, but honestly I can’t wait! I know it is only a matter of time before I return, seeking to find peace with that harrowing experience. But I suppose that is the call of the wild, isn’t it? To enter into a situation without complete control and use your knowledge and instincts to overcome the challenge.
I am off in pursuit of another adventure, but before I go, consider this. Choose to be the hunter and go through life seeking that which will bring you the greatest joy. Even when you are met with failure, endure. Be respectful but don’t let others make your critical decisions. Hold a picture of success in your mind as you continue the journey that will ultimately define your legacy. Go hunt for what will make you great.
May your heart be calm and your aim be true no matter your quest.