The relationship between PH and Client

By Sonja Harmse - Muvhimi Buffalo Safaris

“The duties of a Professional Hunter on safari are essentially the same as those of a ship’s captain and with the same responsibilities. He’s everything from the social director to the ship’s surgeon, if needed. He’s the author of the strategy of the hunting plan, but also the tactician as to make each stalk. He keeps the peace among the staff, oversees the food and drink, translates and interprets, sees that the trophies are properly handled and is shooting coach, gunsmith, stand-up comedian and diplomat any time he is called on to be so.” – Peter Hathaway Capstick

American hunter and author, Peter H. Capstick, hit the nail on the head when he wrote this in his book, Safari: The Last Adventure.  The role of the professional hunter is indeed a complex one.  Even more complex is the relationship between a hunting client and a PH.  Quite often, when a client and a PH share a similar personality, hunting style, sense of humour and respect for the animals hunted, a lifelong friendship is formed.  When a PH hunts with a client for the first time, he will watch two things very closely.  Firstly, how the client handles his or her rifle, and secondly the physical ability of the client.  This will determine how the PH will conduct the days to come on the hunt.  A hunting experience is planned to meet the needs of the client, which includes assessing the trophy animals on the client’s list, time limits, available hunting area, and type of hunt. The professional hunter must ensure that every business transaction and agreement made with the client regarding the animals which will be hunted, are honoured, whilst adhering to principles of honesty, integrity and sound ethics.  This requires in depth knowledge of the hunting law applicable to the province in which the hunt is taking place.

During the hunt itself, a knowledgeable PH offers a more superior experience for the client.  Sharing explanations of the impact of trophy hunting on the genetic diversity within the area, for example, or offering insights about trees, insects, plants, and birds you come across, is a terrific way to entertain the client whilst spending hours together in the bush.  Often, the client will share information about the fauna and flora of the country they reside in and draw comparisons.  Conversations like these helps the client and PH to connect on a different level and form a bond.  This is especially helpful when hunting with a new client, as you still must get to know each other.  It is decidedly important to have conversations with your client about their hunting priorities and expectations.  Back-up shots is another point to be addressed.  The PH might sometimes put in a shot, whether the client likes it or not, should he or she feels that it will be a matter of endangering the client’s life by not shooting.  It is the legal duty of the PH to keep the client safe.  Having a solid understanding between you that when things go awry, the PH will take the shot to defend life and limb, is of the highest importance, and should be included in the hunt indemnity document.

We have all heard stories about professional hunters who are incompetent, lazy, or busy with social media on their phones when in camp instead of looking after their clients. Fortunately, these professional hunters are in the minority, and will very quickly be let go by an outfitter.  This is why it is important for a client to do their research properly and book with a reputable hunting outfitter, as this will ensure that they do not fall prey to these types of situations. Hunting is meant to be a wonderfully adventurous and educational experience, and when it is done right, it will be a memory to treasure until the end of your days.

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