What led you to create the Safari Education program?
I first hunted Africa back in the pre-Internet Dark Ages. I’d read everything I could, but there was so much I didn’t know! Today there’s so much more information available, but in recent years I’ve shared many African camps with first-time hunters. They’re always eager, excited, and full of wonder; a first African safari truly is a life-changing experience! But it’s still an entirely unfamiliar situation and I see some of the same misconceptions and mistakes over and over again. It occurred to me that, after loving Africa for 40 years there was a need for a “nuts and bolts”—and highly visual—African safari ‘primer” that would make inexperienced African hunters safer, more effective, and more successful.
What can a hunter learn from going through the Safari-Ed program?
It really is a hands-on virtual tour of the safari experience! Without question it starts with the basics of firearms safety…but as this relates to African hunting techniques. Here in the U.S. the majority of us are “do-it-yourself” hunters who may not have had the necessity to stalk or crawl after game with guides and trackers in attendance. We spend a lot of time on African hunting techniques, African game, the typical conduct of a safari, packing tips, camp etiquette with professional hunters and staff. Very important is shot placement and what I call “stickology,” shooting off the shooting sticks that are almost universal in Africa, along with guidelines for suitable rifles, cartridges, sights, and bullets for the various types of African game. There’s really a lot to it, but it isn’t a “lecture” scenario; there’s a great deal of embedded video and hundreds of photos that illustrate various points…but is also fun, some of our best images from years of filming.
How long does it take someone to go through the Safari Education Program?
Although some “foot-stomping” concepts bear repeating, we tried to avoid repetition as much as possible as we progressed through the five modules. So, the first module, on plains game, probably requires the most time, decreasing as we get to ever-more-specialized aspects of African hunting. Depending on a person’s experience—and interest—I would hope that each module contains several sections that the “students” will want to review several times…and of course that’s the magic of streaming video. Stop where you wish, go back and forward as you wish! Depending on the person, the first module, viewed carefully, should take up to four hours, decreasing to perhaps an hour and a half on the more specialized modules.
We saw the program is broken down based on various species, why is it broken down that way?
Well, it has long seemed to me that African hunting really is like a “step pyramid.” The broad base is plains game hunting! The plains game safari is one of the greatest bargains in our hunting world, requires the least time away from home, occupies perhaps 70 percent of all African safaris today…and is by far the most popular choice among first-time African hunters.
The logical next step for many hunters is a buffalo safari,…by far Africa’s most available and affordable dangerous game hunting. And, for many hunters, the African buffalo is the first dangerous animal they will face. Then we move on to the great cats, leopard and lion. There are differences and similarities in the ways they are hunted, although today there is much more opportunity for leopard than for lion. The elephant is pretty far up the pyramid, a highly specialized and limited hunt today…but it’s still an important part of the African scene. More importantly, where elephants are hunted today they are overpopulated, must be managed, and well-regulated hunting is a critical tool.
The final module is the aquatic monsters, Nile crocodile and hippopotamus. We thought this needed to be dealt with separately because the hunting is so different from anything else in Africa. This module also deals with Africa’s swamp-dwelling antelopes, which, similarly, are hunted much differently from most antelope species.
What is the future of hunting education?
Good hunting education is essential and, with the urbanization of our society, probably more important than ever before! Some form of hunter education, whether classroom, on-line, or a combination, is almost mandatory for young hunters today. The Europeans are actually ahead of us, with genuinely intensive training required by most Western European countries in order to qualify for a hunting license. In the United States there are several “safari shooting schools” that are excellent, but this is the first on-line training directed entirely towards African hunting…so we thought it was about time!