The age old sport of hunting has evolved over centuries and is continuing to evolve everyday. The question of ethics is not really the topic of this post, it will suffice to say that, for the most part things have changed for the better over the past hundred years. Hunters today have a much better understanding of their impact on, and responsibilities towards the game they hunt. The wholesale slaughter of yesteryear is thankfully something of the past, and a much more conservation minded generation has emerged.
Where I really want to go with this topic is where and how to spend your hard earned hunters dollars to get the most bang for your buck…so to speak. In a time where hunting has become “big business “, finding the right deal can be quite a daunting task, as anyone who has ever attended one of the big hunting conventions can attest.
Now before going any further, and potentially stepping on toes, I have to make it clear that the safari hunting operators of Africa are the backbone of the industry and they are to a large extent responsible for most of the conservation efforts outside of national parks in any country that allows hunting on the continent. For that they deserve our respect and support.
Whether you are booking your once in a lifetime buffalo hunt, or your hundredth trip to the dark continent, I find that in most cases clients prefer to deal directly with the “boss”, and in any normal business environment, where you are about to spend a hundred thousand dollars, this would make perfect sense. The hunting industry is different in this respect though. With this I am not implying that operators are dishonest people, the reverse is true, most of them are upstanding gentleman. They are however gentlemen who are business men, and business men in a tough industry. They have quotas to meet, schedules to fill and bills to pay. As a direct result of this, the “ideal time ” and “best area for a certain species” often happens to be the blank line on a booking schedule. In most cases this works out just fine, with hard work and lots of determination almost any good professional hunter can pull of a good safari in a decent area, even at the worst time of the year.
This brings me to the core of the post. Professional Hunters are in most cases poor business men, they are hunters, that’s what they do and do well. The professional hunter and his team are the guys on the ground, the ones on who’s shoulders the ultimate success or failure of your hunt rest. They are also a proud, success oriantated group of individuals whose main goal in life is to produce the very best they can from the hand they are dealt. You might argue that, like everyone else, at the end of the day they also have bills to pay. This is true, but if money was the number one objective they most certainly wouldn’t be out in the bush eight months of the year. It simply doesn’t pay well enough to be a PH. No, these gentlemen chose a lifestyle not a profession…a lifestyle doing something they are extremely passionate about.
Now sit back and take a minute to process everything I have written so far . If you were a betting man who would you rather take advice from before placing your bet…the horse’s owner or the jockey .
My money would be on the “jockey”. Professional Hunters have an intimate knowledge of the areas they operate in, they know the seasonal game movement and have everything to gain and nothing to lose from giving you the very best advice on they very best times and locations for your adventure. They are after all the ones who will be on the ground with you during your safari, and the ones who will have to face the music if they got it wrong.
Keep on choosing the company you hunt with wisely, but next time you visit a booth of one of the good companies at the hunting conventions, consider chatting to the scruffy looking chap who looks out of place in a jacket and tie, rather than the smooth talking salesman. They might not always be able to talk the talk on the convention floor, but I will bet my beer money that that’s the guy who can walk the walk in the African bush. The guy who’s advice you can bet your hard earned hunting dollars on without any qualms.
As an added bonus, if you follow your professional hunter’s advice, you will find that booking successful trips in future will be a lot less of a hit and miss affair. The professional hunting fraternity is a very small, very close knit group of individuals. Everyone knows who the “good guys ” are and who to avoid.
In closing all I have to say is trust your PH, trust your instincts and enjoy your hunt!