By Phillip Bronkhorst
Since the beginning of time, human beings have been hunters. Our ancestors were super predators who not only had to fend for themselves against other predators, but also had to provide for their families and gather food in the process. Evidence found at the Cradle of Humankind in South Africa proves that the very first hunters roamed Mother Earth on the very same location where you are intending to hunt — more than good reason for you to follow in their footsteps, only with much more technologically advanced equipment.
South Africa has a very distinctive wildlife model, developed over several years by passionate individuals using their knowledge and vast experience for the benefit of not only wildlife populations, but also landowners.
By gleaning from this wealth of skill and proficiency, you will most assuredly not only enjoy your hunting experience in South Africa, but also learn a great deal.
We also boast a wonderful selection of luxury, family-friendly destinations that offer exciting activities for the non-hunters in your party not joining the hunter on safari.
How large is the area that you are hunting?
The unique ranching model in South Africa, where game roams freely behind fences in private ownership, has proven beyond all doubt that this is the only way game will survive in Africa.
South African law dictates that fences must be of a certain standard and height, and legal ownership of the permitted species may only be claimed by a landowner, if the boundary fencing complies with the law. Game fences are, in fact, part of the survival strategy for wildlife populations.
Game numbers are soaring on most privately owned game ranches — it is indeed a numbers game!! Size does matter, whether it is the size of the area where you are hunting, the size of the trophy you are after or the size of the game population in that particular hunting area. By selecting your Outfitter carefully, you will most certainly not be placed in a situation where you have to hunt a very small track of fenced land.
Where other destinations boast the size of their land, we boast the size of our game populations and you do not have to track your target species for days on end to bag him.
Unlike many free, open range areas that mostly depend on grants and donations, private landowners are responsible for their own anti-poaching and access control. There is no funding from government or international companies. However, you as a hunter form part of that hunter’s care initiative and, by booking your safari with a South African Outfitter who conducts hunts on game ranches, your money certainly heads directly back into nature.
Your safari memories and trophies are your receipt for what you spent to create a conservation value for wildlife in Africa. The game infrastructure on the game ranches you visit are a sure token of where your money will have an input. Nothing is wasted, making every single individual animal valuable.
With South Africa’s success story of increasing game numbers, it is possible to bag more species in a shorter period, without you as the hunter having to travel the length and breadth of our lovely country to hunt for different species.
Is the animal part of a breeding population, or are you just hunting males kicked out of a breeding programme?
South African wildlife managers have realised that wildlife populations have value. Even more so, individual animals with genetic potential as breeding stock. Game occurring in non-hunting areas also has a conservation value.
Due to a non-hunting policy in these areas, sustainable utilisation of resources cannot be achieved. In most of these areas, Apex predators do not exist. Predators such as lion, leopard used to roam these areas many years ago, but man has replaced them as the Apex Predator, using some of the most modern and advanced hunting equipment to perform legal and ethical removal of excess game.
A different way of legal off-take is achieved by summoning the help of highly qualified game-capture teams to selectively remove these individuals or others that are part of breeding groups. These animals are relocated to areas where legal, sustainable utilisation of all species of a certain age and class can be achieved.
Some alternative hunting destinations claim to only hunt trophy game derived from breeding groups and these groups are found in the hunting area. Is it good for a breeding group to be hunted by a hunter and the alpha male removed unnecessarily? Or does it make more sense to remove surplus males from groups and minimise the pressure on these breeding groups?
Whether horns, skins, meat and remains, all will be utilised. Remains are used in vulture restaurants feeding highly endangered species of vulture and ensuring their survival.
Males are only hunted by hunters in natural circumstances. These males are kicked out of the breeding group by their own species when new and young upcoming males show their strength. In the South African model, this system has just been perfected by humans using modern-day technology for the benefit of the species.
Why are these hunts so affordable?
Through the years, it has become clear that there is an overabundance of game in some southern African countries, which has resulted in prices falling dramatically.
By careful research on social media and the internet, you can start eliminating candidates through a system of checks and balances to find your ultimate safari destination fit for your purpose.
As a successful businessman, you can differentiate between a good price and a too-good-to-be-true price, which can land you in a very unfortunate situation. The onus is on both hunters and professional hunters to rid the business of cheap hunting packages. The result of cheap hunting packages is that zero funding will be ploughed back into wildlife areas. We should all realise that we have reached a huge crossroads concerning the legal and sustainable utilisation of a renewable resource. Game with no value has no place. By paying a fair, just price, you will ensure that wildlife has a conservation value for future generations.
How qualified is your PH?
The qualifications and abilities of a South African Professional Hunter are certainly some of the highest available in professional hunting, Our South African PHs are very sought after and successful in numerous safari destinations outside our borders. By choosing your outfit well and by referencing the Hunting Outfitter, you will very seldom find a PH who does not belong in the safari business.
How many hunters hunt on that specific property each year? What is the distance daily that you have to drive to get to your hunting area?
Due to the fact that you can harvest more than 50 species in South Africa, daily travel is needed. This will, however, open a new experience of different landscapes and habitats to you. The choice of travelling or not is yours. Certainly, when you book your safari and make a choice on species, your Hunting Outfitter will advise you on this.
Rest assured that, due to the unique South African ranch model, your safari Outfitter will place you in a suitable hunting area for the time limit and quota limit of the hunt.
Is the property restocked with game regularly?
Sure, it is. To improve the genetic pools and diversity, restocking is part of good farming and ranching practice. The success story in South African game-breeding has also resulted in restocking game in areas where drought and disease have taken their toll. New populations have been established in areas where they have never occurred, such as in some of our neighbouring countries.
What are your free-range options?
The buzz words, ‘free-range’ and ‘ethical’ are very difficult to formulate and put into a reference framework. The division caused by these two phrases among hunters is of huge concern. They are mostly used by purists in situations and conditions chosen by themselves to manipulate the human mind and be part of a window-dressed image. This hypocritical way of creating a self-image can and will lead to a downfall sooner or later.
Most game is free-roaming in hunting areas, covering several territories within that habitat. The size of habitat is dependent on food, water and feeding pressure from all game species occurring in a certain area.
We must be very careful not to be hypocritical.
The onus is on you and me to practise self-regulation and policing to help clean the industry by reporting the few individuals that are giving our beautiful, multifaceted country a bad name as a viable hunting and vacation destination. We all have a huge responsibility towards each other, but also to the increasing wildlife populations, to create a bright and prosperous future for hunters, safari outfitters, wildlife populations and the keepers of the land, namely the landowners, who by their passionate dedication, are making sure that wildlife does have a conservation value.