We have briefly touched the question of choosing your outfitter in Part 1 of our “Planning Your First Hunt in Africa” cycle. But the issue is so important it deserves a separate post. The choice of Outfitter can really make or break your hunt. After you have made a shortlist of suitable candidates you need to see who fits your profile and offers the closest experience in satisfying your expectations.
Ethics and Regulations
In the large free-roaming game hunting concessions north of South Africa, everyone is governed by a similar set of hunting concession rules and regulations enforced by the government of that particular country. In many instances, hunts are monitored by the presence of a government game scout to uphold the hunting laws of the land.
However, when it comes to the privately owned hunting territories, things can be significantly different. Whether its high fenced or not, each individual territory owner sets his own standards of hunting ethics and business within the parameters of the law.
Now, it’s up to you to decide what most meets your needs and requirements and what you feel is ethically the correct way to hunt. It boils down to whether you are a hunter, a shooter or a collector. As a hunter, you will only hunt fair chase game. As a shooter you will be prepared to hunt from the back of a pickup which is legal in certain provinces of South Africa and as a collector, you may use the interpretation of ethics very loosely to collect your animals in any way possible. Your ethical standards will determine into which category you fall. So, some may not want to hunt behind a high fence and look for either unfenced or large fenced territories. Some may be prepared to shoot off the back of a pickup and some will be prepared to shoot animals at night with the aid of an artificial light, all of which can be interpreted as legal depending on which province and the private territory you are hunting. Let the choice be yours on this controversial subject.
So, to avoid the possible pitfalls you need to ask the right questions and remember the most important thing of all is to contact the reference list supplied by your potential Outfitter. At BookYourHunt.com our online platform allows for a review system and once a client has booked, hunted and given a review of this hunt with BookYourHunt, the business will receive a “VERIFIED” review.
First you need to contact the Outfitters you are interested in hunting with and see what response you receive. Generally, response time is good but there are still many places in Africa that have poor or even limited communication options. So if it’s hunting season, give your Outfitter the benefit of the doubt and allow for a few day for them to reply. BookYourHunt encourages our listed Outfitters to respond in reasonable time and will even send them a reminder to respond to your enquiry. Normally, first choice is the Outfitter with the quickest response.
Many potential clients just send a two line enquiry requesting an up-to-date price list. Often the response you get from the Outfitter is just as short as they know you are shopping by price and not by quality. Once again it’s your choice.You pay for what you get.
Send some basic information to your preferred Outfitter. Let them know how many hunters, how many non-hunters, number of days and what species you are looking for as many will tailor make a hunt for you and they may even be running a special which includes some of the animals you plan on hunting.
The Outfitter’s response will often give you a good indication as to whether this is the person you want to hunt with.
Many of the African countries require a signed hunting contract be entered into between the client and the Outfitter. But before you sign this contract you are entitled and should ask some more important questions. Remember ignorance of the law is no excuse. You do not want to be involved in an illegal hunt which will be constituted as poaching and you could end up a monetary fine and worst of all losing all your trophies.
PH vs Outfitter
You need to know the difference between an Outfitter and a Professional Hunter.
A Hunting Outfitter, means any person who has the legal rights to sell, present or organise the hunting of game for clients.
A Professional Hunter is the person who escorts a client for reward to enable such client to hunt game.
In many instances, your Outfitter may also be the registered Professional Hunter but in both instances it needs to be either a licensed or a registered legal business entity.
Ask for proof that they are legitimate Outfitter, that their current concession, operating, outfitter and professional hunter’s licenses are valid. Do they have the legal rights to sell the animals they are hunting or are they just an agent? Who will be your professional hunter on the safari if not the same person responding to your questions? Safaris are a very personal experience. You will be spending many days in that person’s company and you want to ensure that you will get along with your professional hunter.
In some instances the animal you intend hunting may not be on the Outfitters advertised territory and in this case he/she must have written proof that they have the right to legally market such animal. If not, you could be walking into a legal minefield and the chances are the animal will never be able to be exported.
Includes and Excludes
When booking a conventional hunt which includes daily rates, it is often very clear as to what is included and excluded in the daily rates and even then, there may be some grey areas, so check things out carefully so there are no surprises at the end of the safari. Ask if you will be sharing the camp and hunting areas, this is especially important in the smaller territories. When it comes to packages there may be significant add-ons which you never expected, so ask what is included and excluded up front. This will also give you peace of mind and best you get it in writing!
Are transfers to and from the airport included or excluded from the price? Who will meet you at the airport and if it’s a transfer company who will be paying the bill? If it’s a transfer or charter company are they legitimate with all the necessary qualifications, insurances, etc. This is critical in the event of an accident as the insurance companies sure will not pay out any policies if all is not above board.
Final payment for your safari is generally made on completion of your hunt but not always the case, so find out when and how you must make final payment. Before you make that final payment ensure that all the paperwork is filled in correctly and the taxidermy information is accurately recorded.
It is important to find out your taxidermy options before the hunt during the planning phase as there are multiple options available. You can get the work done in many African countries and if not, you need to know the shipping conditions and costs. If you decide to ship everything back to your home country, ensure you have your taxidermists shipping details and their clearing agent’s information. Read more about your taxidermy choices in Africa and at home.
Ask your Outfitter for recommendations regarding tipping. It is not a right but a privilege to receive a tip and it is entirely at your discretion. The reason for finding this out in advance is that you may want to take this money in cash to pay directly to the people involved. Also find out if it is better to exchange this money into local currency on arrival as many of these hunting territories are far from any banking facilities and in some countries it is difficult for staff to exchange foreign currency without any formal documentation. Sort all this out prior to the safari as it can save much frustration and embarrassment.
Your Professional Hunter
It is important to choose your Professional Hunter very carefully. You may arrive as a stranger but will most likely leave as a friend. You will spend many hours in each other’s company. There is a famous job description for a Professional Hunter working in the remote wilds of Africa which so aptly describes the qualities of this highly desired career:
“Wanted: Young active man interested in low and infrequent pay to play “Bwana” in remote bushveldt. Must be a proven raconteur and socialite without liver trouble, expert card player, bartender, caterer, barbecue specialist, philosopher and African historian. Experience in sanitary engineering, local architecture, labour relations, navigation, medicine, and pharmacology, botany, zoology, ichthyology, mineralogy, entomology, butcher, taxidermist, dietetics, optics, photography and radio navigation essential. Applicant should speak at least two black African languages fluently as well as one other modern European tongue. A knowledge of mechanics, driving, gunsmithing, toxicology, ballistics, tracking, marksmanship, handloading, and experience as a bodyguard are required. Benefits are twenty four hour a day, unlimited fresh air, including rain, sun and dust, no medical, dental or life insurance and no retirement benefits. Applicant should supply his own rifles. Vehicles on a per diem basis. The duties of a Professional Hunter on safari are essentially the same as those of a ship’s captain and with the same responsibilities. He’s everything from the social director to the ships surgeon, if needed. He’s the author of the strategy of the hunting plan, but also the tactician as to make each stalk. He keeps the peace amongst the staff, oversees the food and drink, translates and interprets, sees that the trophies are properly handled and is a shooting coach, gunsmith, stand-up comedian and diplomat at all time he is called on to be so. A Professional Hunter is perhaps best summed up in the observation that he is the social equal to anybody while on safari, up to and including a duke.”
Peter Hathaway Capstick
The next post in this series will cover what you can do at home to prepare for your African hunt. Sign up to our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages so that you don’t miss this content, as well as best hunt deals, #anotherhappyhunter reports, and more.