There is a certain magic this continent offers the visiting hunter. Our challenge is to understand exactly what that is, package it, and spread the word. But what exactly is this ‘experience’ and how does one describe it? As the sun sets on another year in Africa, I’d like to share some thoughts to mull over.
Your experience started when you boarded the plane – and now you’re in Africa. It’s not just the “Dark Continent.” There’s more. We have nearly one-third of the world’s birds, from the heaviest flying bird, (kori bustard), to the booming call of the strutting ground hornbill, the grand martial eagle, and the elegant secretary bird. There are cuckoos that lay their eggs in weavers’ nests, leaving them for the hosts to rear; the exquisitely colored lilac-breasted roller, kingfishers, plovers. Our avian heritage is world-class. And nothing is more African that the haunting cry of the Fish eagle along a river or water’s edge, or more evocative than the guinea fowl and francolin calls to start the day. And in the evening as you sit round a fire, there is the liquid sound of a nightjar.
irst of all – why hurry? After a long-haul flight and perhaps a connection before that, don’t rush off into the wilderness upon landing. As Baloo in the Jungle Book said – “Just try and relax”. Even if you only have a short time in Africa, make it memorable for the right reasons! I often see hunters whisked from the airport to a connecting flight, or being driven sometimes five or more hours in the dark of the night, just to be at the outfitter’s camp. Why?
Our flora. It’s simply African, whether you are sitting beneath an umbrella acacia, walking through dense riverine vegetation, under fig trees, giant mahogany and camel thorns. There is the grotesque beauty of the lowveld baobab. Be amazed at what can grow in the desert, or wonder what causes the fairy circles of Namibia. Perhaps in Namibia you might see a tree hosting a curiosity of nature – the sociable weavers’ nest, where sometimes hundreds of families live in their straw-structured colony, while on the ground are termite mounds, alive with thousands of termites cleaning their waste and neatly restoring their mud home, only to have it destroyed by an ant-eating aardvark searching for food. When walking at first light you might see a giant spider web festooned with sparkling dewdrops on the finely spun silk. All this before I even mention the animal you wish to hunt.
But what type of hunt do we speak of? Some hunters dream of that iconic African spiral horn – the kudu – with no preconditions. Some search for a perfectly symmetrical pair of horns, no matter what size. Some want the elusive 60-plus inch, or at least 56 inches, identified only by an experienced PH. Others merely wish to be part of a management hunt, reducing numbers, particularly in times of drought.
Buffalo – Africa’s most desirable beast to hunt can be hunted in swamps, in dense river vegetation, on open plains, mountainous terrain and dense thornveld, and impenetrable jesse – and that is before we discuss the size and type of hunting area, from government concessions and wilderness areas to private game reserves and ranches. The variables are endless.
The hunters of yesteryear (who everyone seems to love reading about) were out there for one reason: The experience. There was no conquest as such. No competition, no awards and no rush. Just the allure of being in the African bush. That was – and should be – enough.
So if you’re planning your first or your fifteenth visit – brilliant! But let’s think about the word “experience” and discuss it with your outfitter. Spread the word, spread the thoughts.
Next edition, you will see the launch of our African Dawn Program. We are working with a limited group of outfitters as we go to fields far and wide, spreading the word about African hunting, on a quest to bring those hunters home to the cradle of man.
Have a peaceful year end, and a blessed one.