Updated: Dec 23, 2019
In the days when I started hunting big game with my dad as a 13 year old boy, like with all ranch kids the following had been about the average process of becoming a hunter, and eventually a big game hunter:
1. You hunted birds with a catapult (slingshot) you had made yourself, assisted by an older brother, or dad - upgrading to stronger and longer elastics as your skill and strength improved. You had to cook on an outside fire made from corn cobs, and eat every bird you killed.
2. You received your first BSA under-lever airgun when your arm was strong enough to tension the spring. You only shot what you planned to eat. By now you were given one .22 LR round and grandfather's new Lithgow rifle and told to get a guineafowl or duck.
3. You started shooting the Lee Enfield No.1 Mk.III with its very good open sights when you could carry and shoulder it, hold it on target and dry fire it without dropping a penny from the muzzle. Once a week or so you had the opportunity to fire three shots off-hand at an old 3 ft. diameter plough disk at 100 yards. As soon as you could hit it with every shot it was moved out to 200 yards.
4. Again, once you could hit it with every shot, a smaller, 2ft. diameter disk was used.
5. Once you could hit that off-hand with every shot, a worn down old spade or shovel was used and you were allowed to use a makeshift rest or shoot from prone. This was the first time you ever shot in any other way other than off-hand.
6. Then you went hunting a blesbok with dad and you carried the rifle. He crawled on his belly to about 150 yards while you watched from some high ground. He shot the blesbok behind the shoulder joint, into the angle formed by the humerus and scapula, from prone. The old blesbok ewe ran about 200 metres before falling over. There was a big ugly hole on the opposite side, and he explained that the new fangled Mk. VII military bullet was designed to tumble on impact, and that one normally shoots for the heart, but as it is open grass plains the dead antelope was easy to find. He still had a 100 or so of the older military 215 gr round nose solid bullets but saved that for kudu and other big game on uncle Pieter's ranch in the bushveld.
A month later we went to uncle Pieter's ranch in the bushveld and I walked with dad after kudu, which, when we had followed the tracks, we stalked as close as we could and he shot it offhand from about 70 yards with the long, round nose solid old military bullet - this time into the bulge of the low shoulder. A scene that I would repeatedly see in my future hunting career played out before my eyes - the kudu almost fell over into the shot when the bullet struck it, struggled around in a tight circle into the shot and fell down dead almost where it had stood. There was far less meat damage, and in gutting the animal right there dad showed me the top of the heart having been sliced open. "This is where you shoot anything you hunt in the bush", he simply stated.
Another scene I will never forget was that before every hunt my dad put two .303 cartridges - one in each of his two shirt pockets. That was the ammunition he carried for the hunt.
While the meat was cut up dad asked uncle Pieter if I could hunt an impala the following morning. The answer was "Of course. Can he shoot?" When my dad nodded in silence uncle Pieter called one of the skinners: "Tobogo, tomorrow early take the young master Andries and let him shoot an old m'hara (impala ewe). Get him close so that we do not have a wounded animal lost in the bush".
To me he said: "This is your first impala? Only do a side-on shot, move the sights up the front edge of a front leg and shoot it into the bulge of the low shoulder". So that was what I did and what I still do 57 years later.
Exactly four years later in the winter school holidays of July 1962, as a 17 year old, uncle Pieter took me on that same ranch to shoot my first Cape buffalo with his .375 H&H. The bull was looking at us with his head held high from about 40 yards as we slowly emerged from behind some bushes and uncle Pieter whispered: "Please do not waste time, boy", so I aimed at the black nose tip and shot it. Its rear legs folded first and it went down. I had never seen so much blood in my life before that.
Shot placement into the heart or brain is so ingrained in us that it is no longer part of the discussion in hunter education. Heavy, properly constructed bullets, and getting as close to the target as you can, and breath and trigger control are the things I teach in "hunter education". In the early 1970s when a new craze of fast, lightweight, too thin front end jacketed bullets were imported from the USA by dealers, ranch owners started complaining about animals being wounded, and about meat damage. So we made and reviewed plans for a national programme of young hunter education.