Are game ranch owners in South Africa being attacked from all side your opinion?

Discussion in 'Hunting Africa' started by Spiral Horn Safaris, Feb 14, 2011.

  1. Spiral Horn Safaris

    Spiral Horn Safaris AH Fanatic

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    Good day ladies and gentleman.

    Are game ranch owners in South Africa being attacked from all side your opinion?

    Outfitters complain about the prices that some game ranch owners charge because it cuts in to profit margins but in saying this the Outfitter has cost as well and needs to make a living whilst competing in today’s market. Clients would like to hunt at a fair price and get value for money?

    You have competition from three parties here:
    1 Outfitter who does not own land at all.
    2 Land owner who has now became an Outfitter but still has his day job in the city.
    3 Land Owner who is a full time PH and Outfitter

    It has become a war of who has the most land available or who has the best of this or that? Some of the information is extremely fictional whilst others are trying to price competition out of the market.

    Something is going to have to give.

    Would it be correct to say that each of the parties will still make a living or will there only be one who weathers the storm?

    Best Regards
    Louis van Bergen
  2. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

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    I guess I saw the smoke and fire a few years back. If there is one thing I learned in Africa for the most part....is there is a stiff competitions for clients dollars. And some Outfitters and PH's are trying to get more of their lions fair of the business. Whoever survives the monetary war wins!

    I will state again that prices have gone up a lot in the last few years...and I know guy and gals that won't come back because of it. Like a good friend said to me...only a small percentage of people will ever hunt over seas...if it becomes unaffordable...there are alway other options in life.

    Fictional listings of how much land someone controls (lol)....all a part of the marketing game!

    I think the worst thing that happens in the outfitting world, is people can't find common ground, and grip about one operation or another. You are all in the same business give or take...work together...don't tear each other apart.
  3. TOM

    TOM AH Elite

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    I get ticked off when i read some of the claimed "XYZ acres controlled by my outfit" posts. Some of them (including a group i hunted with a loooong time ago) claimed that they controlled like 300,000 acres in RSA. Now, that's not impossible...but very improbable. I was toured around on different places that the outfit had permission to hunt, but didn't own. They could have been patches of 800 acres or 5,000 acres but i was told they were 20,000 acres each. In fact, every place we went to was "20,000 or 30,000 acre ranches", i will never know as i didn't survey them but i have a strong feeling it was bull$h!t. Point being, too may outfitters are "stretching the tape" on how much land they "control" in order to sound important and entice clients to hunt with them. Wake up guys, if the guy doesn't own the land he hunts, his numbers of "controlled ground" are mostly B.S.
  4. Koedoeberg

    Koedoeberg AH Veteran

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    I hope that everyone can make a living.
    I think that it won't be that easy in the future .

    Louis just have a look at all the specials that are popping up on AH.
    These prices are really good prices. I think it's more tough for a outfitter without a farm but if he has a good reputation and offers a great service he will always have clients coming back.

    It feels to me that the amount of outfitters are increasing and the amount of hunters is more or less the same. That must make the market more competitive.

    To make an entry into the market will also be more difficult but someone with a client base should still do well.

    I think all will survive , maybe just less meat on the bone.
  5. PHOENIX PHIL

    PHOENIX PHIL AH Legend

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    Well my crystal ball has a crack and is in badly need of cleaning, but here goes anyway. From the perspective that a one timer to Africa and what little weight that bears, here's my thoughts.

    1. The outfitter who owns no land : With regards to the RSA only, I'm inclined to avoid this outfitter. At the root of my cancelled hunt last year is this problem. My original outfitter did not own the land and when things went bad between him and the landowner, so did my hunt. So wherever I hunt in the RSA again, I would want to go with someone who owns at least some of his hunting areas. Having said that, it seems in countries like Zimbabwe that a vast amount of the huntable lands are on gov't owned concessions, so I'm not sure that you can avoid entirely going with outfitters who don't own the land to be hunted.

    2. The part time outfitter who does own land : This would I think be the fellow who wants to be full time, but can't yet afford it as he's not yet built up his clientele. There isn't necessarily anything wrong with this outfitter, he may in fact be an outstanding PH. However unless I received a strong referral from someone I trusted, I'd be a bit hesitant to book with this outfitter. I kind of feel for this particular person as this is a classic scenario of "I can't get a job without experience and I can't get experience without a job."

    3. The full time outfitter / PH with his own land : This is the guy I would put at the top of my consideration list. He's in it full time with no distractions to others like scenario 2. He is also not going to find himself locked out of a property. Furthermore he also has vested interest in making his property and the animals that are on it to provide as top notch hunting as he can.

    Now having said that, I think the answer to your question of who survives boils down to who is the most leveraged? Anyone of those three could be in a financial situation that he has to give up the hunting business. Strangely enough the first guy who I'd least like to hunt with may be the one most likely to survive since he has the least amount of financial obligations since he doesn't own the land and the mortgage or responsibilities that come with it.
  6. Bushbuck

    Bushbuck AH Enthusiast

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    From what I can tell everyone that has posted here has experience with hunting in South Africa so most likely what to look for and ask when looking for a place to hunt. Back when I started going to RSA there were no where near the amount of people offering hunts as there is today. We made some mistakes along the way and learned what to look for, but it has to be confusing for a new hunter.

    Not everyone is as addicted as we are and spends time checking the forums and continuously reading about Africa. I admit that didn't happen to me also until I had been there. Different people look for different things and I can only speak about what I now look for. I am sure there are some good outfitters out there and I mean no offense, but if they are not the land owner or lodge owner on the property I would prefer to skip the middle man.

    I am not sure everyone knows how the whole thing works, in fact I may be wrong and feel free to correct me. We have brokers, some that sell hunts for money and some that organize hunts so that they themselves can hunt at a reduced rate or for no cost. I don't believe you need a license to be a broker. There is a piece of the pie..

    Then a broker can send you to an outfitter. An outfitter can be someone that has a ranch, does not have a ranch, owns a truck and drives you around to different ranches etc. They can be a PH or not. I believe there are 2 separate licence's in RSA, an outfitter and a PH. You do not have to be both. Not every farm owner is a PH and not every ph owns a farm.

    In order to guide you in actual hunting be that on your own property or on someone else's you must have a ph license. I would think if you contacted a broker that set you up with an outfitter that has a truck to drive you around to different property's, you could most likely do better on price to go direct to the source and make a deal. That is what I have found anyway.

    Now some of the best web sites I have seen out there are actually from PH's that don't actually own land. They quote large tracts of land which may or may not be true, or may be a collective number of different property's. I guess its possible to hunt with someone that had 50,000 acres listed on there site to end up hunting 500 acres at a time.

    Personally I just want to know the truth. I like hunting with people that actually own and or run a property. I like to know the size of the property and what type of hunting to expect. If they have a trophy list, I would like to know if the animals listed are actually available on the property we are discussing or if they are simply available on another property. It is all confusing at times, but someone may have 20,000 acres with many game animals but the ones I am interested in are actually on a neighboring property of 500 acres.

    It has to be tough running a farm in RSA with all the competition and exaggerated statistics. Beyond the infrastructure and continued maintenance of the property, you have the animals and there care also. Then from what I understand there are land claims, employee unions, and there is something about your help if they live there for so long they can make a claim on your land. I am sure there are many other things I don't even know about.
  7. Spiral Horn Safaris

    Spiral Horn Safaris AH Fanatic

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    Good day gentleman.

    Prices do go up a can of cokes was 50c 20 years ago but it would be $1.50 today it would largely come down to inflation.

    The value of money is not the same as in 1950 but in saying that salaries have also gone up with time.

    I am not sure if we can classify anything as cheap these day’s but in my opinion you just can’t beat Africa for value for money!

    Willem you are right there has never been a better time to hunt Africa prices have gone down a considerable amount even and if they have stayed the same for the last 5 years inflation has gone up so for the prices to remain the same it means someone is making less profit?

    All of this would once again come down to the same thing:

    In the first instance: South Africa operates as a democracy embracing the principles of capitalism, freedom of association and all those lovely things associated with it. None of us can change that. (The fact that the ruling party is committed to convert SA to a socialist dispensation is a topic for another day and a another forum).


    A game farm business (like any other business) has to consider all the factors and responsibilities involved in running a sustainable business, inter alia:

    -The capital investment in establishing the farm, lodge, general infrastructure and game breeding herds
    -The operating capital required to exercise decent land management practices, maintaining international (quality) accommodation
    -The responsibility and cost as employer to provide quality employment and to ensure compliance to provisions of our Labour Relations Act (rated as one of the most progressive ones in the world).
    -The risk and exposure associated to ecological, agricultural, climatic, economical, social and political considerations.


    Other role players (i.e. non-land owning/impendent PH’s, Outfitters, Agents, game capturers etc) in the “industry” do not necessarily have any of the above factors to consider (if it is the case, then the level if investment, operating capital, running cost and risk is at a far lower level)

    Gentleman as with any supply chain all around the world you get the producer (game farmer) supplier(all the middle men) and then the consumer (client).

    We might all be part of the same industry but who are vital to the existence of the supply and demand chain here?

    Making cut backs means there is less money to go around and at the same time the simplest solution might be to go directly to the producer?

    In saying this it might be extremely important to acknowledge that, despite the fact of not owning land there are numerous examples of great Outfitters who have made the industry their home and with years of experience they can contribute greatly to the management of game farms whilst running an extremely well organized business.

    The facts are that land is becoming more and more of a rare commodity, privatization is making a massive contribution to the future conservation of wild life populations in South Africa example white Rhino.

    The people who invest the large amounts of money would preferably like to see some returns on their initial investment?

    Game farmers are not only cutting out freelance Outfitters but game capturers as well by constructing their own boma’s to passively catching game and selling these species to other land owners who are either in the hunting industry (usually both local and trophy hunter) or who would be looking at breading with this particular game species.

    The very same owners who are acting out their rights are being scrutinized by all the parties who were making a living out of being the middle man? This would not be fair in my opinion.

    Should we all be working together and just give that return on money invested to the middle man I don’t have the answer?

    Please bear in mind that there is a massive difference between being a land owner and running a good hunting outfit. I honestly believe that this is where the Outfitter with years of experience comes in but he would be working for the ranch owner in the same way as you will get an owner of a company and he will have employees who run and manage his business for him. Having good managers and staff who look after the quality of the product, managing stocks and being attentive to good clients service is vital to the success of any business be it hunting or managing a general store.

    This has it’s advantages as well the Outfitter would become a permanent employee meaning he will be paid a salary the whole year round while performing his duties (and there are a lot of them) the whole year round.

    Good PH’s with experience will also become vital to running the operation to its full potential.

    It might be wise to act as both this can lead to saving more on costs and by doing so provide a better income?

    I am not saying that this is what is going to happen but it might be a great solution to the problem that way each person brings a level of expertise to the table and in turn everyone works together and gets rewarded according to their contribution.

    With regards to the whole land issue and the marketing of ridiculously BIG hunting concessions well it may be a lot easier to get all your neighbors to form part of your total hunting area than it will be to drive from ranch to ranch and hunt.

    The bottom line is if you intend on buying land in the Limpopo province you will be looking at about R10 000- R20 000 per hectare. Prices might be a bit cheaper in other provinces but not by much.

    Ranch owners have come to except that it is better to let one company hunt on their land than to give hunting rights to everyone it would be a lot easier to control quota’s and should something go wrong witch does happen there is no need for finger pointing.

    Gentleman we need large areas to hunt on a stainable basis no one can hunt a full season’s trophies on one property.

    By having neighboring concession we can harvest game selectively, provide our client with the best possible trophy and at the same time provide an income for the land owner who is not up to running a full time hunting operation, but comes to relax on his ranch after a long week of work in the city.

    There are some operations who privately own massive stacks of land and don’t need neighboring concession but I can literally count them on one hand, for all the other operations it is vital to have numerous neighboring concessions to hunt on a sustainable basis.

    I would be talking about the 15 000 – 80 000 acres range here.


    I sincerely hope that all will survive but highly doubt it, people who really want to be in the hunting industry might find alternative methods to make it work for them?


    Thanks once gain for all the contributions it is appreciated!

    Best Regards
    Louis van Bergen
  8. CT Safaris

    CT Safaris AH Enthusiast

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    Louis,

    You are touching different topics in your post - 1) Are Game Ranch Owners being attacked and 2) issues pertaining to Outfitters who own / don't own land / hunt full time etc...

    I would like to respond primarily to the title of your post but also first touch on some of the other issues raised.

    Let me say first-off that I am a fulltime Outfitter and PH. I own land and hunt on it but I do not regard any of this as some kind of achievement or consider those who are not in the game fulltime as inferior. Quite frankly, I don't think anyone in this business became a fulltime PH overnight... we all had to start somewhere and mostly that happens through freelancing first. Some PH's are freelancing because they love the sport of hunting but they are realistic about the fact that in RSA at least it would be extremely difficult to make even a semi-decent living and take care of a family with children by being a fulltime PH. I have one of these so-called part time "city PH's" working for me during peak season and let me say - I have yet to see someone as dedicated, capable and professional as he is. His people skills are excellent, he brings back good trophies and he is a joy to work with. Very important for me is that he has no interest in becoming an Outfitter so there is no risk in him trying to poach clients from me...

    What I do find interesting are the Outfitters that surf some of these forums who speak out so strongly against part-time PH's and whom I doubt earn a living from hunting alone... Again - in my view there's nothing wrong with having interests in fields outside hunting but it seems these guys feel they will get more credibility by claiming they're in the job fulltime when they clearly are not. Interestingly enough these are also often the guys who claim to "manage" large concession areas of 100's of 1,000's of acres...

    On the issue of Game Ranchers being under attack I would like to respond as follows... If the current trend continues they will slowly but surely price South Africa out of the hunting market. A Kudu bull that sold for ZAR 5,000 5 years ago is now selling for ZAR 10,000 - ZAR 15,000 (even more). A 60" kudu bull is sold on auction for ZAR 100K! Prices for all game have gone up - even doubled. When the US$ gains value against the ZAR they see this as a sign to increase their game prices because "The Outfitters are making more money from "their" game than what they are". But I have yet to see them adjusting their prices downwards when the $ loses value...

    "Free-market system" is what some would call it "Supply and Demand" but this particular "free market system" and greed is going to harm us all in the end. As result of 2010 being disasterous for some as far as International bookings were concerned, one of the landowners I know stopped all trophy hunting on his property and is now only catering for local meat hunters. According to him he is fully booked for 2011 by biltong hunters who are paying him ZAR650 for an impala. Well I'm glad that he found a niche in the market and can continue doing business but this reminded me of a discussion I had with him at the end of '09 where I suggested he lowers his TF's to Outfitters such as myself so that we can bring him more business... he refused...

    Then there are the owners of unfenced properties who are starting to charge the same prices for their free ranging animals that game ranchers do. These guys did not buy in any game, the animals on their properties have been there for years and is costing them nothing - yet they want to charge by the inch...

    And whether you own your own land or not will make no difference in the end. Because if you start taking your animals off and do so frequently - at some point or another you are going to have to replace them...

    This is not an attack against anyone - least of all Louis. It is only my perception and I may be wrong.
  9. Spiral Horn Safaris

    Spiral Horn Safaris AH Fanatic

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    Hi Chris

    Your response is much appreciated I would like for more Outfitters to get involved in this one it is controversial but the more opinions we get the closer we can get to a solution.

    Chris you are right I am touching different topics here and well to be perfectly honest you put it right back on track with your post thanks!

    It might be good to differentiate between Outfitters and PH’s here I don’t think the freelance PH was ever a topic of discussion?

    Chris you would be right to say that every person has to start somewhere, I never suggested that any of the parties involved are inferior to the other but would you say that the average Outfitter will be able to buy a game farm out of what he makes from hunting on other people’s ranches? I clearly pointed out that there are a lot of Outfitters out there who don’t own land but run great operations!

    In an effort to be realistic I brought up the example of ranch owner, outfitter and or ph working together and creating a good opportunity for all involved.

    Now we get to the part I wanted as a topic.

    Game ranch owners asking unfair prices for their animals, as you pointed out the prices of game has gone up a lot, the average Outfitter is making a lot less than in the past and he has no choice but to keep his price where it is because he has to stay competitive in today’s market?

    I am well aware of the prices that land owners are charging since I have to pay those same prices when not hunting on my own land, in saying that there is no choice in the matter for me I would have to take animals on neighboring properties or I would be hunting my future trophy populations as well as the trophy quality, buying game in to shoot is not the long term solution it is not sustainable and might be the very reason for prices jumping sky high?

    You might be making a massive turn over but a small profit since most game captures have also seen that there is an opportunity to charge top dollar for trophy animals as you pointed out as well?

    Hence the only sustainable way to hunt is to do it on numerous properties or cut back on the amount of hunters you take in and only hunt on your own land.

    There would always be the risk of a land owner having a disagreement with you and then you have a client there wanting to hunt but the land owner wants more money or he does not want to hunt that particular species so just to be practical here what do you do then?

    I think we all can appreciate working with people is difficult and that sometimes things can go wrong.

    A contract stating the transfer of hunting rights and tams and conditions might be one way of solving the problem get fixed prices on game for the year on there as well?

    There is no easy solution to this problem but some more opinions might help to put some more light on the subject and at the end it we can determine if the land owners have gone crazy or are they simply looking for a return in their initial investment.

    Chris I agree with you this is not a post to attack anyone but merely a controversial issue that could to with some discussion.

    Best Regards
    Louis van Bergen
  10. Koedoeberg

    Koedoeberg AH Veteran

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    I would like to say that if I didn't own a farm I wouldn't be interested in being a outfitter . It's a very tough trade.

    The outfitter that doesn't have a farm has to provide a very good service to his clients and I am sure that most do it in such a manner.

    There are clients that would also prefer having a outfitter hunting at different farms and areas. That makes alot of sense to me .

    In my situation I have a number of trophies I have to harvest on my farm every year. I wish to have as many of my own clients as possible but do also have other outfitters hunting on my farm. So I go for a mix of clients . Local , corporate and trophy .

    I think even if the US economy picks up that the hunting industry will get even more competitive. That means that anyone making an entry into the market will find it difficult. I think that clients will move towards value for money hunts .Land owners and outfitters with low priced concessions are maybe better positioned than others to perform in a more competitive environment .

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