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15th Sterkrivier Traditional Shoot
By Viktor Kühn
The crosses on my calendar reached April, our leave was finalised, a cat sitter was booked, the fish were fed and the camping kit and equipment for the long weekend was packed in the courtyard for final inspection. It was a motley assortment of sleeping kit, cooking utensils, my personal katandu, such as biltong, filter coffee and cigars, and of course a few odds and ends that are important survival gear for the missus... (You magazine, People magazine, red liquorice, iPad, fireballs and a small box of Woolworths croissants..,) and then the rain gear. Lots of rain gear! Big umbrellas, small umbrellas, tarpaulins, a massive tent with extra awnings, an industrial-strength gazebo, as well as a set of white Wellington booties for the wife. A few of our favourite bows and a bushel of arrows and we were ready for our annual pilgrimage to the 15th Sterkrivier Traditional Archery Shoot held on the farm of Henk and Gerda du Plessis.
A few minor speeding violations later we made our way through Mookgopong en route to Aloe Rock lodge, a bass fisherman's and bushpig hunter's haven. We scraped the undercarriage of the Subaru a few times cross country in our haste to make sure we get to our regular camping spot. We found our spot vacant under our thorn tree, perfectly situated between the caravan of the De Wet family from Cupido Bows, Jaco Wessels's archery shop and Gerda's Hot Dog, Coffee and Curry stand. As usual all the old faces were there, and in the same camping spots. The anticipated rain did not show and we had great sunny weather, and it was with relief that I could hang a hammock instead of a tarpaulin in front of our tent.
We all arrived a day early to enable us to pitch camp, and for the obligatory socialising around a communal cooking fire in the evening. The main focus of the shoot is not just our common passion for traditional archery, but it is the camaraderie of old friends, new friends, good food and a great outing in nature. It is about listening to hunting stories, the laughter of the ever jovial Potchefstroom guys, Johan Smit in the background on his guitar, cooking the rewards of a successful hunting season, a hardwood fire, or just being around the camp where the cares of the rest of the world does not matter for a few days. It is about sundowners, braais and boerewors, talking about your latest hunt, or planning your next one.
The camp site features all the added amenities such as hot showers, a communal braai area with chairs and tables, and clean flush toilets. The river has a good swimming hole for the young ones, or the young at heart, who want to incorporate a spot of bream fishing into their afternoon bath. Your personal camp set-up is left entirely to you; there were five-star set-ups that would put the Sheraton to shame, right down to the "Engelsman" who just slept in the back of his Land Rover. It doesn't really matter. We all came together just for relaxation, socialising and archery.
The shoot started as usual with the archery golf event, which is similar to regular golf, with long driving shots, planning your windage, staying on the fairway, and of course as I experienced, ending up in the rough. It is great to have the freedom to really fling your arrows long distance and see how far your bow can actually cast an arrow.
The next event was the 3D-shoot, where we all divided up into teams, and moved through the bush where the animal targets were set up as it would be in a real hunting scenario. That meant that there were no real open lanes, there was always an interesting obstruction in the way, which resulted in some unique and not necessarily dignified shooting positions. It all added to the fun, and not too many arrows were lost, although I had to do some amateur surgery to remove some of my shafts that penetrated all the way to the gallbladder of a tree. At the end of the shoot you felt pleasantly tired and dirty enough to acknowledge that you had an honest day's exercise, which was concluded with a hot shower, clean clothes and a night around the fire with the appropriate sundowner in hand. Salads, pap and sauce as well as homemade bread and coffee were supplied by Gerda and her staff, and the terrain was lit by fires and lanterns, so you just had to bring and cook your own meat.
The next day the 3D-shoot was repeated, after the targets and shooting markers have been moved, to make things more interesting. The targets were placed in such a way that you were able to judge your proficiency with a bow, and your ideal hunting distance, without having to learn the hard way on an actual hunt. The competition was not just confined to 3D-shoots, there were teams of youngsters who were taken on their own and chaperoned around the course, and there were fun shoots as well, to hook the children on the sport. There were also other events, such as the Golden Arrow Shoot, where the long range marksmanship of everyone was tested.
The prize-giving was held on the final day, prizes and medals were awarded in the different categories: men, women and cubs. These categories were again sub-divided into longbow, recurve and primitive classes. Primitive is for the guys who shoot a bow made from a single piece of wood, and no laminations, with wooden arrows. And for those who think it is just cavemen who club their women, wear buckskins and who still haven't discovered the wheel that compete in the primitive class, those are the bows that have been the overall winners on the event numerous times.
The Sterkrivier Shoot is strictly non-profit; all the money from the entries is spent on food and prizes for the competitors. The prizes are not worthless trinkets either; it is all quality hunting, camping and archery gear. After the winners in the respective categories have been awarded their prizes, there are still the lucky-draw prizes to make everyone feel like a winner. I have always walked away with worthwhile prizes in the lucky draw!
At the event you will have the chance to meet some of our prominent bowyers such as Pierre de Wet, Johan van der Merwe, Jaco Wessels and Johan Smit who are always in attendance. You can see their wares, test their bows, and have them tailor a bow to your specifications. You will not be sorry. Knife makers Jan Wahl, Neels van der Berg and Martin Schutte also display their wares at the event and they are ready to take your custom knife order, just in time for the hunting season.
So if you are looking for a great way to spend a long weekend, at minimal cost, and if you want to relax and clear your mind, and make room for some good memories, pack your stick and string, bring the whole family, and come and shoot with us the old way... No cams, no sights, no let-off, no problem...