The holidays are over, winter has made its presence felt, the last of the hunting seasons will soon be over. The only thing to do now is waiting for the doldrums to set in. But, wait! What are those circled dates on the calendar? What’s this feeling of anticipation and excitement? It can only mean one thing – January and February in North America is the time for the best of the hunting industry shows and conventions.
It used to be that there were only a handful of these shows nationwide. Now there are MANY of them and some have become very target specific. There are regional shows like ISE’s that cover hunting and fishing in the west: Sacramento, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Denver. The Eastern Sports Show in Harrisburg, PA has a HUGE attendance each year. The SHOT Show is a trade show for hunting industry members only but attracted almost 60,000 attendees last year. There are three exhibit shows this year for Africa only outfitters: Toronto, Atlanta and Charlotte, NC. Grand Slam Club/Ovis and the Wild Sheep Foundation both focus their attention on the wild sheep of North America and the world. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation concentrates on the elk species of North America. The Dallas Safari Club show starts today in Dallas. The Fred Hall shows are in March but for west coast saltwater fishermen and women they are the ultimate: acres upon acres of boats, gear and trips at the shows in Del Mar and Long Beach, CA.
The best show of them all is the Safari Club International Convention. This year’s show is in Reno, NV from January 26-29. I don’t care what it is you’re looking for in hunting, it will be there: safaris, hunting trips, firearms, accessories, clothing, jewelry, furniture, artwork, optics, books, and a whole lot more. The taxidermy work has to be seen to be believed – full-body mount elephants, a group of Cape buffalo “dugga boys” at a water hole and charging rhino. It seems each year the taxidermists try to better the previous year’s exhibits so it will be interesting to see if they can top those just listed from the past. More and more, the SCI show brings in lots of hunting (and other!) celebrities that will be walking the same aisles as you – just seeing what there is to see. Along with the over 2200 booth spaces there are seminars and auctions conducted each day that always pack the rooms. Over the years, SCI has learned how to balance their show by not having too many of this type exhibitor and not enough of another type. They maintain that balance well and the result is a truly spectacular event that everyone even remotely connected to hunting should attend at least once.
I know it’s winter and the economy here in the US sure isn’t doing well but you can forget about that for a short while by attending a hunting show. You’ll also lend needed support to the exhibitors and people in the sport we love. As always, never hesitate to leave a comment. Just click on the “Comments” link at the top of the page.
The first-time African hunter almost always has a myriad of questions regarding his initial safari but the most prominent ones are usually: where do I go? what am I going to hunt? and which outfit do I hunt with? Time, money, physical ability and many other factors will go into determining those answers but I feel the most important thing the prospective bwana can do to get those answers is to educate himself in as many facets of his hunt as he possibly can.
The last time I looked there were no graduate degrees being handed out by “The University of Hunting.” That being the case, the hunter will have to learn on his own. And in order to do so, the nimrod must use a multitude of sources: fellow hunters, references, writers, printed material, booking agents and the medium we are using at this very moment, the internet. One of the most important things to remember while gathering all this information is that, verbally or written, you are getting that person’s opinions. They may have formed those opinions over many years and experiences – or they may not have. There have been a lot of “one safari experts” over the years who have come back from Africa and their opinions may or may not be valid. That is something the hunter is going to have to weigh out and consider. Africa has some of the bluest skies imaginable but please do your best to keep the “blue sky” out of the facts you are trying to gather!
Over the following blogs I will try to cover the topics I (remember this is just one opinion!) consider important for the first-time African hunter. I’ll cover countries, areas, species, costs, travel, rifles, cartridges, gear, clothing, accommodations and, depending on feedback, any other topic you readers may think belongs.
You’re sitting there dejectedly, head down, mad, disappointed. You have a whole laundry list of bad feelings because you’ve made a serious mistake while hunting. Thankfully, no one got hurt but this situation could have been avoided had you prepared properly. Has this ever happened to you? It sure has to me but I’ve learned from it and hopefully it won’t happen again.
Preparation is key to a successful hunt. Yes, luck always seems to play its part in the hunting game but luck also seems to follow those who are well prepared. Branch Rickey, the old Brooklyn Dodgers baseball club general manager, said it best: “luck is the residue of design.” Let’s look at how to design your luck.
1. Physical conditioning is HUGE! You can’t expect to just plop your money down and have a successful hunt. If you’re after sheep do lots of uphill hiking. For Africa you should be ready to walk many miles over relatively flat terrain. On a horseback hunt you should be able to ride and have your backside ready for the saddle before you show up in camp. Get in the best shape possible and your hunt will be more enjoyable and success more likely.
2. Whether it’s a rifle, bow, muzzleloader or crossbow – practice, practice, practice. Get to know your weapon of choice intimately and be able to use it proficiently. I’m talking about hundreds & thousands of rounds or releases – not just a handful. You owe it to yourself, your guide and, most of all, the animal you’re after to make a quick, humane kill
3. Know your quarry. Get familiar with the animal you’re hunting. Know where they live, what they eat, when they’re rutting, what a BIG one looks like. The internet is a great source to find all this information. Learn it and use it and your hunt will be more enjoyable and it will probably increase your respect for the animal.
4. Be flexible. You’ll have to adapt to conditions that are out of your normal realm and can constantly change: weather, terrain, animal behavior, PEOPLE behavior, and a host of others. Go with the flow; maintain a good & positive attitude and things usually go easier.
5. Be honest with both yourself and your guide. If you can’t accomplish something physically, be upfront about it so that no one gets hurt. In conjunction with this, always let your outfitter know before the hunt about ANY physical, dietary or medical limitations you have.
These are only five of the things I believe will help make you better prepared for your next hunt. I’m sure there are many more that can be added by outfitters, guides and other hunters. In that vein, don’t hesitate to leave a comment! Just click on the “Comments” bullet at the top of the page.
You hang your head dejectedly as the game warden finishes filling out your citation. Your dream hunt is ending in disaster as you sign the line at the bottom of the page and he tears out your copy and hands it to you. How did this happen? You didn’t know there even was such a law. Shouldn’t the guide or outfitter have known about that law? It doesn’t matter now because your hunt is over and you’ll be making an early departure to return home. How did this all go so wrong?
The above scenario is carried out countless times each hunting season because the hunter didn’t know the laws of the country/province/state where he was hunting. It is always the hunter’s responsibility to know the game laws – not knowing them can have severe consequences. I have seen many examples of game law violations: same-day fly and shoot, purchasing a tag after the animal is killed, shooting the game department’s roadside, mounted bull elk from a vehicle (really dumb!), illegal baiting, spotlighting at night and the list goes on. The local jurisdictions all deal with these through their own systems and the penalties can range from fines and suspended sentences to actual jail time.
Where the stakes get a lot higher is when there is a Lacey Act violation. The Lacey Act became law in 1900 and it is a federal law. The maximum penalties are $10,000 per violation up to $20,000 maximum and up to five years in federal prison. Also, like the drug enforcement laws, any vessel, vehicle or aircraft used in violating the Lacey Act is subject to permanent seizure. We are talking serious penalties here. The Lacey Act is designed to prohibit the trafficking of illegally taken animals and plants. I’ll give an example: You go hunting and break a law regarding the killing of an animal; this doesn’t become known to the officials that have jurisdiction where the animal was killed until later; they discover your actions; you are charged and plead guilty or are found guilty of the charges – end of deal, right? Wrong! The instant that you carried, or caused to be carried, any part of that animal across state lines you could be party to a Lacey Act violation. Even if the game law violation took place in your own state and you did no traveling, if your taxidermist sent the animal hide to an out-of-state tannery you could be in very hot water because you caused the animal hide to be carried across state lines. I have seen huge fines, airplanes forfeited and careers ended due to game law violations. Yes, your guide/outfitter should be able to recite his area’s game laws backwards, forwards, sideways & down but the ultimate responsibility rests with you, the hunter, to know the game laws where you hunt – do so, don’t break them and you’ll be fine.