September 16th 2019

“Canned” or "Put-and-Take" Hunting

I’ve spent considerable time these last few few weeks capturing and relocating Buffalo and it got me thinking about the above topic...

South Africa has had its fair share of negative publicity for some of the hunting practices followed by unscrupulous Operators. Unfortunately many of these practices take place under the “guise” of “sustainable use” and I find this regrettable as in my opinion there is a big difference between

(1) sustainable utilization of wildlife resources through hunting and;

(2) releasing animals in a small camp for the sole purpose of killing them (i.e. canned hunting).

Now let’s be honest, one of the reasons why wildlife is flourishing in South Africa is, in part, a direct result of hunters’ desire to hunt (and ultimately kill) animals. So one can argue that whether animals are bred to be killed in a small camp or large, free roaming environment the end result is the same i.e. they’re going to end up dead...

But surely there is a difference between buying trophy animals at a game auction and releasing them on a marginally sized hunting property for the sole purpose of shooting them and moving animals to a property where they can breed and grow old before ending up in a hunter’s crosshairs?

Take our Buffalo capturing exercise as example: The Buffalo we captured were all bulls of two to three years of age that came from breeding camps. None of these animals are even close to being considered trophy material and would need another 5-6 years before they’d have hopefully developed hard bosses sought by trophy hunters. These Buffalo were released on properties of between 10,000 and 15,000 acres and will therefore have the next 5-6 years to get to know their surroundings and figure out where and how to hide from hunters. So if we were to hunt one of them in 6 years’ time, can such a hunt be termed as “canned”? I don’t think so...

But then there is of course another scenario... which is where 5-6 year old Buffalo bulls - already with hard or semi hard bosses are bought on auction and released in a 500 acre high-fenced area shortly before the unsuspecting hunter arrives for his “dream” buffalo hunt... Can this hunt be termed as “canned”? In my view - certainly YES...

Are both practices “sustainable”? I believe so - yes! Because as long as there is a demand from hunters to hunt Buffalo, Breeders will continue breeding Buffalo and there will be a continuous supply of animals.

Are both practices “ethical”? I will leave it up to readers to answer this question for themselves but what I do know is that the latter scenario is not my cup of tea and what I do know is that those individuals privileged enough to have participated in a real buffalo hunt would share my sentiment.

Buffalo are expensive to buy and not everyone wants to (or can afford to) carry the risk of having them roam freely for 5 or 6 years before getting a return on their original investment. If an animal gets killed by one of its peers, gets poached, bitten by a venomous snake or trapped in a snare it’s gone. And for this reason some opt to rather buy adult animals and have them shot as soon as possible than to look after animals until they’re ready to be hunted.

There are also some high volume operators who need to keep their hunting camps full of clients and who don’t have access to hunting areas large enough to take off the number of animals their clients seek to hunt. And these Operators often have to buy in extra hunting stock or risk sending their clients home empty handed. Unfortunately the desire to make money above all costs all to often supersedes that of ethical hunting practices.

Of course the example above is not limited to Buffalo but to many other species of African Game or wild animal including Lion. It is indeed a pity that some hunters will come to Africa with expectations of coming on “safari” and end up on a “shooting expedition” instead of a hunt. What is a greater pity is that often all South African Outfitters end up being painted with the same brush while there are many that have a passion for the African bush and its wildlife.

At CT Safaris we can proudly say that we fall in the category of truly sustainable utilization of wildlife resources through ethical hunting.

September 26th 2019

“Canned” or "Put-and-Take" hunting - Crocodiles

I often wonder how many clients are lured into undertaking Crocodile hunts under the pretense that they are participating in free range hunts. Sadly; many Crocodile hunts nowadays are nothing other than put-and-take hunts where Crocodiles are caught and released into ponds shortly prior to the hunt (or should I rather say "shoot"?)

Crocodile hunting can be one of the most difficult, yet satisfying hunts available. These reptiles are extremely weary, has an acute sense of smell and contrary to the common perception that hunting them is easy, quite the opposite is true under free ranging conditions. That big lizard - basking on the riverbank might appear to be asleep and unconcerned about what is happening around it, but try to get withing shooting range and see how quickly things can change...

Remember, you need to hit a golf ball size target from a range of between 80 and 100 yards to secure a clean kill - not easy considering you're going to be shooting under field conditions and not from a bench...

So how do you know your Crocodile hunt is not canned? Here are a few pointers:

  1. Location of your hunt: Whilst possible to find them there, true free ranging crocodiles are not usually found in a dam or waterhole on a game ranch. So if your Outfitter claims that the Crocodile you'll be hunting came in from nowhere and made the waterhole its home - chances are it did not get there out of own accord. Free ranging Crocodiles are found in some of the rivers that flow through South Africa and rarely will venture into a dam or waterhole.
  2. Behavior of your quarry: Crocodiles - especially the old ones are weary animals that will head for the safety of water at the smallest sign of danger or interference. They will not hang around if they see movement around them or smell you - unless they are habituated to humans. Remember that raised crocodiles grew up in pens and were fed by humans so they are less likely to flee when they become aware of you.
  3. Pricing: Does your Outfitter have tiered trophy fees for Crocodile hunts? Crocodile breeding farms charge according to size. E.g. a Croc of up to 9ft will sell for one price, Crocs of between 9 and 11ft will sell for another and larger Crocs (11ft and upwards) will sell for an even higher price. Crocodiles that are bred in captivity can be captured and measured before they are sold so as to determine what they can be sold for. Of course the benefit to the Professional Hunter is that he/she knows beforehand how big the Croc is that he/she is about to guide the client to... Conversely; free ranging Crocs that occur in our open river systems, are not privately owned and their sizes aren't known beforehand other than guesstimating how big they are. Not always but usually a fixed trophy fee is charged for these hunts - irrespective of the size of the animal that is harvested during the hunt.
  4. This is what differentiates the true professionals from those who claim the title "Professional Hunter".
  5. To be continued...