“PH” is short for “professional hunter”, You hired him. You did your research on hunting outfitters in Africa. He knows his area and his game…so take his advice!
You probably won’t take everything on your “wish list”—but you’ll probably take some extras, and, if it’s your first safari, you will take more game (usually at less cost) than on any previous hunt in your life. Enjoy the experience, but don’t chain yourself on a safari checklist when you hunt Africa.
Three-legged African shooting sticks are almost universal in African hunting there because they fit the conditions. Get a set and practice. Practice with them a lot!
It’s good to measure your your animals and make a record before you depart, but don’t take the tape measure into the field. Please return to (1) and (2). Your PH knows a good animal in his area. At the end of your safari your animals will probably follow a bell curve. Some will be fantastic. Some will be average. In some cases, if you really want the animal, you may take a below-average specimen. Your PH will give you his best and most honest assessment…but once you have made the shoot/don’t shoot decision, the animal is yours. Enjoy the moment. Don’t spoil it with a measuring tape.
Some PHs are calm, others are excitable. Taking the shot is always your decision. Never shoot unless you, personally, yourself, are certain you can make a good hit. In the case of dangerous game, an unwise shot places the whole party in peril. In Africa: Blood equals = trophy fee. There often is no option for a second permit.
African game isn’t bullet-proof. Your favorite deer rifle that you shoot well will account for the vast majority of plains game. For dangerous game bigger is better…but you’re much better off with a .375 you shoot well than a big gun you’re afraid of.
The majority of the safari industry today lies in southern Africa—and the primary safari season is in the winter months, June through August. Days are usually sunny and pleasant, but mornings are cold, and the temperature drops quickly at sunset. Bring layers, including gloves and a watch cap!
Choice of bullets is more important than choice of cartridges. African game varies tremendously in size, and the bullet simply must be tough enough to ensure penetration on the largest game to be hunted. We Americans often choose our bullets based on raw accuracy. In Africa terminal performance and penetration are far more important.
Most African hunting is based on “trophy fees” payable after the animal is taken. Hey, we all have budgets, and some animals may be beyond our means.
However, once you’re there you’ve already paid travel costs and the basic safari fees.
If you have an opportunity to take an extra animal or two that you hadn’t budgeted, do so if you can. If you don’t you will regret it later. Along the same lines, some African animals are very widespread…and many are extremely localized. Most areas have both: Animals that occur in many areas; and a few animals that are “indigenous rarities”—not necessarily uncommon, but only found in specific areas or habitats. The latter may seem insignificant compared to high-profile species (such as kudu), but ignoring them is a mistake. Pay attention to local specialties, and hunt them if you can. It won’t seem to matter early in your hunting career, but may greatly impact your planning ten or twenty years down the line.
No matter how lengthy the game list there is only so much that can be accomplished in the time you have. Do all you can, but make sure you leave time to enjoy the sunsets and time around the campfire. Africa is a special place, and what winds up in the skinning shed is only part of the magic of safari!
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