N amibia probably has one of the highest standards when it comes to qualifying for this profession. We currently use a system where you cannot write your professional hunter’s examinations before passing your hunting guide and master hunting guide levels. Rather than bore you with the finer details, I will proceed along the lines of ‘hats off to anyone who has walked this four-year period to qualify’.
In my position, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing many professional hunters work, and I cannot help but evaluate each and every one of them each time. I guess I measure myself against this, as I keep on reminding myself that the biggest part of being a good professional hunter probably comes with experience. Consequently I am a sponge when it comes to the ‘old boys’. The listening, reading between the lines, sweating it out in the mountains, and simply enjoying their company has definitely contributed to the type of professional hunter I am, and still hope to become.
In the process, I have also noted the pitfalls and challenges that need overcoming, especially in the hunting culture in which we grew up.
According to Namibian legislation, a professional hunter needs to have ample knowledge of all Namibian game species, including their habits and anatomy. He must have successfully passed his/her first-aid courses and be able to apply first aid competently. He must ensure the safe handling of firearms and have a comprehensive knowledge of the different rifle calibres and ammunition. He must be able to communicate in at least two languages, handle trophies according to the correct procedure, be up to date on all stock-disease control regulations, and know the provisions and regulations of the Wildlife Ordinance as well as those of the Ordinance on Accommodation Establishments and Tourism.
His abilities should also include tracking and being able to distinguish between different tracks, male and female species, stalk game successfully and put a hunter in the best possible situation to kill an animal with one shot, estimate trophies accurately, measure trophies, be a good marksman on game, be able to erect and manage a safari camp, communicate with all classes of hunters, and be physically fit.
Over and above what is required by legislation, I would like to pinpoint a few extras that in my opinion will make you an even better PH.
A good PH is a follower of Africa. Of its people, of its rules, and of its flag. Respect the places where you go, who you meet there, and what you stalk. A very good attribute and the forte of a good PH is respecting what nature has given us in all its diversity. A good hunter should not to try to manipulate it in ways that will ensure a bigger income for the human race. Our heritage has provided us with an outcome of the rule only nature can teach us, namely the ‘survival of the fittest’ principle. If this cannot be respected in the natural state and sense we received it, we cannot call ourselves protectors and followers of Africa.
Communication in all its facets embraces a hunter and makes Africa the hunter’s second home. To be able to relate to your clients entails many traits, such as self-respect, discipline, compassion and zeal for African wildlife and nature. But we also need to pass the experience on to a hunter properly. We must appreciate the small things we often overlook, because this is what makes things big. We must accept and appreciate the cruelty of nature, as well as its creation. If you are able translate this efficiently to your hunter, you have already succeeded in your hunt, as well as earned the trust your hunter expects from you. Be humble in this regard and your hunter will trust you with his life.
Persevere in your practice of making the right choices, even though this is not always easy. Walk away from that 56”-er if he is not yet mature. This is probably the most difficult decision for any PH, and this is most probably also the most important trait of a good PH. To find an exceptional kudu bull (and any other trophy-worthy animal for that matter) takes perseverance, persistence and a good measure of patience. And… to reach the end of a hunt after stalking numerous great bulls and then finding this glorious bull in a perfect shoot-worthy situation but realising it is not yet mature… if you can walk away from this, I salute you.
Educate and re-educate your client. In this day and age of hunting, we need to sit back and really think about what we’re trying to achieve. I know that a good PH has a good conscience, value system and beliefs that will ensure self-sustainable wildlife for decades to come. Educate your hunter on this aspect. Teach him over and over again about which trophies to take; that manipulated genes are wrong; that every animal, no matter what it is, exactly the same value of life as the other. Guide him into making the right choices and into choosing the fair outfit.
I believe that one of the main necessities of being a good professional hunter is often overlooked: beauty. To be exposed every day to something that is breathtakingly beautiful, to be involved every day in the discovery, rediscovery and creation of beauty, this is what every good professional hunter cannot live or remain healthy without.
We live in a wonderful and unique country, but sadly we are all too often surrounded by things that are ugly… wrong decisions made, envy between outfitters and hunters, misconceptions and ignorance regarding trophy hunting, bribery, to name but a few.
To be in the presence of beauty reminds us of our innocence, hope, humility and possibilities. It helps us restore our focus. An ancient tree, visibly flowing water, the starry nights in the winter evenings, the greeting of a francolin in the riverbeds early in the morning or late afternoon, a lion’s mighty roar, and the rush of meerkats back into their burrows, transform a working day into a miracle.
To notice and translate this correctly to your hunter does not cost a penny extra, just a persistent need and a decision.
This article was first published in the HUNTiNAMIBIA 2014 issue.