Cindy Hilt of Marble Falls snugged the .30-06 bolt-action rifle to her shoulder and peered through the scope at the blesbok about 145 yards away.
She was about to attempt the farthest shot of her life on an adventure of a lifetime.
Hilt fired, sending the 180-grain bullet racing toward the blesbok. Her aim was true.
The South African safari guides told her it was a good shot, but the blesbok retreated into the brush.
This bothered Hilt, but the guides told her to be patient.
“It went maybe ten feet then fell over,” Hilt said of the blesbok, an antelope that gets its name for the white blaze — bles in Afrikaans — on its forehead.
Hilt and her husband, Leonard, won the two-week NB Safaris hunt and South African excursion during a National Wild Turkey Federation fundraiser last year. The couple spent November 11-19 on the trip when the season there was turning into spring.
“I wanted to go at a time when most hunters wouldn’t go,” she said. “This was a dream trip. Their land is as beautiful as it can be.”
While the hunt was a big part of the trip, it wasn’t the only thing the couple did.
As part of the sport hunting ethos, hunters don’t waste the game animal’s meat. After their successful hunt, the Hilts helped cook meals and serve wild game to schoolchildren in Sun City, Limpopo, South Africa, near Johannesburg. NB Safaris collaborates with Blessman International in the Hunt Against Hunger program, which supplies nutritious meals to children in Africa who might otherwise go hungry.
“To be able to give that meal to those children really made me feel good inside,” Hilt said of her experience.
She and her husband joined other safari participants in preparing and serving 140 elementary school students a meal of meat, grits, and gravy using the meat from their safari hunt.
In addition, children took home 2-pound bags of raw meat so they could feed their families.
Cindy’s blesbok, found in South Africa and Swaziland, contributed a good portion of the meal’s meat
Not everyone on the safari hunted. She noted that her husband enjoyed wildlife watching and taking in the scenery but had his own devices to keep him occupied.
“My husband is a computer nerd, and he took his computer along,” she said with a laugh.
The safari included a plane trip for sightseeing and wildlife watching. They spotted a number of African creatures, including giraffes, elephants, hippos, lions, and rhinoceroses. They also saw cheetahs, zebras, and other animals.
It wasn’t a “rustic” safari.
The Hilts stayed in a one-bedroom, one-bathroom cabin on the NB Safaris property. They took their meals in a dining room in the main house with staff members and other guests.
“Every day, we said a prayer and thanked the chef for the preparations,” she said. “It was impressive. We felt like we were being wined and dined.”
The trip did lead her to reflect on the differences between South Africa and the United States.
“It made me realize how much we have,” she said.
The adventure also gave her and Leonard a chance to make a small difference in the lives of the children and their families, something that will stay with the couple for years to come.