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Hunting Packages: What do they entail?

After hunting professionally for 25 years I am quite perplexed to still frequently get enquiries from hunters questioning as to what a hunting package really is about. I may add, as an afterthought, that there unfortunately is no such thing as a “standard, fit all” benchmark. That in itself most probably may be why so many are still perplexed when investigating the possibilities.

Hopefully, after reading this piece the reason for and concept of hunting packages will be just that little bit clearer and would be hunters or first time aspiring hunters for Africa, will be more in the know. Hopefully…

Before embarking on explaining the structure of a huntiung package, I’m going to backtrack a bit and provide some statistical information on African antelope, also popularly known to many as “plains” game, in order to better understand the reason why packages exist and the relativity of the concept as such. This in itself is the pivotal point in trying to explain the concept.

According to scientific biological research, only about 5% (five percent) of the total male population of huntable antelope species in South Africa in general, has the potential to grow so called “record length” horns. Emphasis on the word potential, as many of these animal may never get to grow it due to a large number of reasons, but mainly dying before it reaches that state.

This startlingly small percentage also fluctuate up or down, depending on different cases and in some species it can even go as low as only 3%. This little bit of information is the foundation on which the concept of “African Hunting Package” rests. It immediately brings forth the realisation (or should) that it is nearly impossible to expect to travel to Africa and successfully hunt a number of record qualifying trophies during the length of one hunt.

Secondly, the question of what really constitutes a trophy, obviously enters the equation. This in itself can be a topic of discussion on its own, suffice to say that in this case we will assume that it will be the minimum value accorded to it as set by either Rowland Ward (RW) or Safari Club International (SCI), measured in inches. All of this at base level comes together in “demand and offer”.

On the one side of the coin, well heeled, affluent hunters are more inclined to pay much, much more for an animal exceeding the minimum requirements of a “book trophy” and on the other side of the coin there are three odds:

  1. There are not that many well-heeled, affluent hunters.
  2. There are many such animals.
  3. To successfully hunt such trophies you need to know where they occur and who has access to them.
  4. Due the statistical fact above, the pioneers of modern day African hunting early on realised the odds and that the majority of male animals to be hunted cannot meet the criteria of the high dollar “must have it at all cost” hunter visiting Africa, either that of RW or SCI, if hunted on a large scale. They also knew that there is quite a large pool of fully mature and many at a time old male animals that, due o their age have no less appeal, as their horns in old age have the acquired mass and look of natural beauty, but, alas, “not making the book” which the average hunter with lesser expectations in a get will want to hunt. Hunting such males successfully are no different at all from hunting “book trophies”, albeit with one small exception. There are many more such animals available than the “trophy book” ones offering relatively “easier pickings”.

    Enter, with applause, The Hunting Package.

    In addition to the above, it soon became clear that not all the huntable African antelope are sought after equally by trophy hunters. Some species are much more popular than others. Additionally, some species are highly gregarious and occur in large herds, some others in small family numbers and yet others only in pairs or even solitary.

    The majority of antelope specie animals included in a typical Plains Game Package will be those that’s numbers are the most numerous, specie wise and which obviously occur in herds that are “common”, meaning not expensive. Such species, experience have proved, are mainly Springbuck, Impala, Blesbuck and Blue –or Black wildebeest. Typically these animals are the backbone of such offerings. To a lesser degree may be added Kudu (most of the time the Eastern Cape variety) and Gemsbuck/Oryx. In many cases one of the species occurring in small family numbers and/or even solitary that does not substitute significant dollar amounts almost always will also figure as to “soften the blow” and not make an offer look over inflated. These, most of the times may be one of the following: common Duiker, Steenbuck, Black banked jackal and the old stalwart standby, the dependable Warthog.

    Secondly, but not less importantly, your African hunting outfitter making this offer will not have sleepless nights over the number of animals you want to hunt and will be able to plan your trip to the best of what is available as well as offering you very good opportunities without having to go to the dubious practice of “guaranteeing” you a full bag, knowing that opportunities are well above average. This fact allows a hunting safari business to make ends meet and have satisfied, happy clients at the end of it.

    So, there you have it in a nutshell. The typical hunting package will contain (almost certainly and at the least, most probably, to the lesser degree or more) mainly the most common herd animals; Black or Blue wildebeest, Blesbuck, Impala, Warthog and or a Black backed Jackal, Steenbuck or Duiker. Most other species will be mainly offered on an “A la Carte” style as a pick from the Outfitters Specie Price list.

    I “tip my hat to you, the real hunter”.

    All yours, in good hunting. Wherever you may find yourself, may Diana and or St Hubertus smile upon you, Nimrod!