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When they fired their first arrows, chances are the Peyton brothers never figured that one day their love of archery would lead them on a trip of a lifetime.
But it did.
Braden, 19, and Cameron, 17, each spent a portion of their recent summer vacations in Africa, where they successfully harvested zebras while working on a game farm.
Cameron, now a junior at Anderson County High School, also participated in the National Archery in the Schools All-Star World Championship, where his team handily defeated teams from around the world and he was able to share his love of archery with African children who had never drawn a bowstring.
Their journey to Africa started at the end of May when the teenage brothers left Lawrenceburg and their parents — Brian and Holly — behind after being invited there by a professional hunting guide they met during the NASP World Tournament in Orlando last year.
While there, the brothers said they worked on what natives call a farm, skinning harvested animals, carrying around gear and building hunting blinds.
During that time, the brothers were allowed a chance to try their hand at hunting wild African game, and each were able to harvest a mountain zebra.
“It’s supposedly one of the harder ones to kill because of where they live,” Braden, an engineering student at the University of Kentucky, said. “It’s rough, rocky terrain at a place where a volcano erupted millions of years ago. There was rock spewed everywhere.”
The brothers used a guide, known in that area as a rifle bearer, to carry their rifles and lead them to game.
“Any hunt you go on you have to have a rifle bearer,” Braden said. “They know the terrain and carry your guns.”
Braden said the days were hot, forcing him and his brother to drink 3 liters of water during each day’s hunt.
The rifle bearers drank none.
“They wouldn’t eat or drink for the entire day,” he said. “They see that as weak and say it slows them down.”
Once they bagged their zebras, they had the daunting task of getting them back to where they were staying by carrying them out one section at a time.
“We were about a mile and a half away from the trail,” Braden said. “We had to carry it out piece by piece, over a mountain. It took us 18 hours and we got dehydrated and lost.
“They’re a lot heavier than a deer. They’re basically donkeys with stripes.”
The effort was worth it, however. The teens said the meat is terrific if cleaned properly and the zebras’ hides are worth about $2,000 each.
“They are currently being dried at a taxidermist’s in Africa,” Braden said. “You can make a carpet out of a zebra hide, or hang it on the wall.”
The brothers had hoped to hunt for other African game, but a mix-up while entering the country cut their trip short.
“We were supposed to have gone hunting for elephants and more exotic things, but Namibia [the area they visited] has a surplus of unskilled labor and they are touchy about it,” Braden said. “I made the mistake of telling them I was helping a big game hunter, and they limited our stay to one month.
“It was cut short because I couldn’t acquire an extended visa.”
Cameron Peyton knows a thing or two about competing on some of the world’s biggest archery stages.
An archer since he and his brother received small bows for Christmas as small children, Cameron has helped his school teams win a host of titles, including a world title a couple of years ago in Orlando.
Cameron earned his way to South Africa after placing third out of 2.3 million shooters in the NASP national shoot earlier this year.
He was joined by 15 other American shooters on the trip to Africa in July, including several others from Kentucky.
The American all-stars were divided into four teams of four, and handily defeated teams from across the globe.
Cameron, who shot on the United States’ first team, said that tournament wasn’t without its struggles, though, as he and other team members became sick just before it began.
“Several of the team members had a virus,” said Cameron, who was accompanied on the trip by his parents and Anderson County resident Roy Grimes, president of NASP.
“I woke up in the middle of the night with a stomach ache and threw up 10 times. The day of the shoot, we got up and half the team had the virus.”
Peyton’s problems didn’t end once the shooting began.
After posting scores of 295 in the first two rounds, the arrow rest on his bow broke.
“When you shoot in a tournament you can’t adjust your sites,” said Cameron, adding that unlike most hunting bows, shooters cannot use pin sites on their bows and must rely on what is referred to as “Kentucky windage,” which dates back to the days of cap and ball firearms.
“You use the tip of the arrow to aim with and hold it on your target,” he said. “You have to memorize where you hold for certain distances.”
Despite his broken arrow rest, Cameron was able to shoot another 295 (out of 300) in his third round and help lead the United States to victory.
The competition, he said, was fun, but he also enjoyed the opportunity to share his love of archery with native children who had never shot a bow.
“It was cool spreading what I know … what my father taught me,” Cameron said. “Not everyone has a father who can teach them archery at a young age.
“We were almost like heroes when we went to their schools. It was surprising how good they were.”
The trip was topped off when the Peytons and other Americans were treated to a five-hour bus trip to Mokopane, South Africa and the nearby Shikwaru Lodge. There they enjoyed tours by open-air safari trucks where they encountered wild giraffe, rhinoceros, wildebeest, hippos, a possum-playing jackal, according to Grimes.
Before returning home, Grimes said families were treated to another wildlife safari, which culminated with them being able to “walk with the lions.”
Grimes said they were able to get “close and personal” to the lions and soon discovered that about three licks from a lion’s abrasive tongue can draw blood.
“Those who discovered this wore the mild abrasion as a badge of honor,” Grimes said.
The Peytons recounted their own lion experience, including getting “nipped.”
“I got nipped by one and my father got bit,” Cameron said with a laugh, adding that neither was injured.
“[The lion] bit me and came off, but my father got bit and [the lion] held onto his hand and wouldn’t let go.”
“They were beautiful, though,” said Cameron’s mom, Holly. “The little cubs looked like stuffed animals.”
The entire experience is one Cameron said he will never forget, including a chance to bond with shooters that until now, he had only competed against.
“God has blessed me with what I have,” Cameron said, adding that he hopes to one day shoot at the Olympic level. “I had heard about these other kids forever, and had always wanted to meet them and get to know them.
“Now, instead of wanting to beat them, I see them as good friends. We usually shoot against each other to beat each other, now we’re all united together.”