We recently caught up with PH and conservationist Ivan Carter. During the interview below, Ivan covers a range of subjects, including his upbringing on a farm in Zimbabwe, some highlights of his career as a PH, and the important role hunters play in wildlife conservation. Enjoy!
You often cite your upbringing on a farm in Zimbabwe as part of the reason for your love and fascination of wildlife. When did you first realize that you wanted to make a career out of your passion for the African wilderness?
As early as I can remember, I loved being in the bush. I loved to fish and was an avid collector of bird eggs, butterflies and anything natural. I was a keen falconer and every moment not contained in a classroom found me pursuing something in the outdoors. As I got to the stage in life where I realized that it was a possibility to make a career of being outdoors, I became truly focused on doing so and would take all and every opportunity to learn about and spend time around big game.
Your career has produced a long list of achievements. What is your proudest moment as a PH and conservationist?
I am so very fortunate to have proud moments many, many days a year in the field, leading people on experiences that they have dreamed of and planned for years. When those dreams are realized, be they climbing a mountain, collecting a trophy or simply hunting a specific area, it's a great feeling of achievement. My proudest moments are always those where I feel I have influenced non-hunters and young people. When I see the look in their eye that tells me they are beginning to comprehend the whole idea of conservation through hunting-that makes me very happy.
When you're out in the bush, what's the one item you absolutely can't go without (besides your Global Rescue membership card of course)?
I would never travel without my Global Rescue card, of course, but after that it would be two things: of course, my rifle, and most certainly a great pair of binoculars. There is so much to see and experience out there that a good pair of binoculars enhances every sight. Even a bull elephant at close range when you can see every wrinkle and hair follicle-it's a pretty amazing experience, enhanced by great optics.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received. Given your early start in hunting, is there a particular individual who's served as your mentor or idol?
The very best piece of advice I ever received as a young man with regards to guiding a person on a safari is, "It's not your hunt." Based on the fact that I am the guide in most hunting situations, taking the time to truly understand what a client and fellow hunter is looking for as far as experience and trophy, and then working hard to help them achieve that makes you a far better guide and provider of hunting experiences than someone who just focuses on what they think the experience should entail. As far as the actual hunting scenarios I am faced with, the best piece of advice I received in my very early days of elephant hunting was very simple: the closer an animal gets, the larger the target is and the less chance you have off missing the vital shot -(smile). This is easier said than done, but a simple and profound truth! I have had many, many mentors and people that I truly look up to. Possibly the person I hold in the highest regard and respect is Johan Calitz for his unwavering integrity, passion for his areas and wildlife, and the excellence he strives for within his operation.
If you could meet anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?
Theodore Roosevelt. I would be fascinated by what his safari entailed, as well as how he laid out and planned and made the early decisions with regards to the parks system in the US. He was a true hunter and conservationist, and had possibly the most profound effect of anyone on our wildlife and wild areas as they stand today.
As a PH, you get yourself in some dangerous situations. Has there ever been a time when you thought things may not work out?
It's a funny thing- you get so consumed by the moment and doing what's necessary to try and control the situation, that there is not time to consider it may not work out. In thick brush is always the most difficult to control - you never know what's going to come at you and from where and you have to rely on reactions and instinct. The most difficult part of that equation to control is the other people. Their reaction and actions can often deeply influence the outcome of the situation.
As a world traveler, I'm sure you've been to some incredible places. Is there one place in particular that stands out above the rest?
The Okavango Delta is possibly the most sensational area in the world to hunt. The hunting is extreme-a lot of wading and driving through swamp-the birdlife and life in general that lives there is spectacular- huge elephants and a huge hunting experience. That said, there are many, many areas that are totally unique and that I love very much. Maasailand in the rainy season is spectacular. The remoteness of the Selous Game Reserve and western Tanzania can give you the most amazing freedom. Just recently, I hunted the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan for Marco Polo sheep. It was truly an extraordinary experience. [The land is] so stark with the very high altitude, extreme weather and extreme animals. [It was] certainly an area and experience that I will never forget! Truly, we as hunters are a weird breed- the more extreme the situation, the more we love it. The harder we have to work for a trophy, and the more "rugged" the experience, the more we value the memories. Indeed that's the essence of a great hunter - one who chases the experience more than the trophy.
Lastly, how do you think hunters can work together to improve the future of wildlife?
We need to work hard to promote conservation through hunting-100% of the time being aware of the need to educate non-hunters, to conduct ourselves at all times in an ethical manner and to be willing and able to provide the uneducated with the facts about sustainable wildlife use, the value of hunters dollars and the whole ethos of "conservation through hunting.