Why are so many sportsmen afraid to post negative hunt reports

Discussion in 'Hunting Africa' started by Cleathorn, Oct 10, 2009.

  1. Cleathorn

    Cleathorn AH Senior Member

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    I am new to this forum because I am new to African hunting. I joined becuase of the great threads and information I saw. I am not an intentionally controversial person, but 2 events have happend to me that has caused me to ask the question: why are so many hunters seemingly afraid to post a negative hunting report about an Outfitter, Guide or PH. If the conduct is truly bad, or deceptive, I think it is a service to both our fellow hunters, and the reputable hunting professionals, to let get the message out about disreputabel outfitters, guides and PHs.

    I have 2 stories to relate to emphasis my point. At the 2009 chapter dinner of the Mid-Atlantic Bowhunters of SCI, I bought a hunt with a new outfit to our chapter, and the outfitter said all of the right things. He came with a single but good industry reference so the chapter took the donated hunt and I was the Chapter guinea pig. Regrettably I took an old friend with limited resources and increasing age. The hunt was a logistical and quality-based disaster. The outfitter mis-represeneted the total acerage he had from 35,000 + to less than 12,000, according to what we could find. No 2 hunting group where to hunt the same ranch on the same day, We saw 3 groups the 1st day, one of which blew a chance on a mature bull by driving past us at 8:00 am in the morning - he was road-hunting elk with a bow! The problems just keep going. Pretty much every guy in camp was unhappy, (there had been 25 guys through the camp hunting elk with a bow on 12,000 acres - everyone was unhappy) but only I said something. I am not going to name him here because I am still giving him the chance to do the right thing. But I have not seem a single negative hunt report filed. Several bad reports with the local BBB, but I did not think to check there.

    Issue 2 involves the start of a dangerous game quest. I started working on an Elephant, Buffalo and Leopard combination safari in Zimbabwe for 2010. Because its Zim, you need to do alot of research. I found a very good PH that has held his license for dangerous game since 1984, has 3 sons that work the business, 2 of whom are also licensed for DG, and I booked the hunt after checking his refereneces, contacting SCI records room, huntingreport.com, this forum and the State Department. I also worked with a very reputable booking agent in the US, we worked out the price, details and made special arrangements to be sure that the funds are held in escrow in the US and not released, except for enough to buy safari specific supplies, until I get back, report on a safe hunt and the game taken. If I do not take the game, no trophies fees are sent and I negotiated a deal to return in the next season for the full length of the original safari for only the cost of the elephant trophy fee if no mature bull is harvested or mortally wounded on the first hunt. All other game at the trophy rate only as well.

    After I did all of that, I started to see postings on various forums, including this one, about a person representing that he was the official US contact for the PH's company. All I could find out was his email (sent an email to which he never responded) and finally his name. He is offering hunts with only this one particular PH by posting on commercial forums like this one, etc. I even saw him on eBay!

    Confused and concerned, I contacted my boking agent, who is SCI endorsed and has all the credentials in the world (and would be known to many people on this forum) and found out that the "official US representative" is just a former client who thought he could sell some hunts to his friends and become on overnight industry expert.

    It tuns out that his pricing is not right (too high) and his terms are incorrect. I cannot find any reputable DG outfit in Zim that requires a full 50% of safari cost at the time of booking, especially in an unstable country like Zim (and this PH does not actually require that deposit either) and the "official US representative" seems to be posting hunts that the PH does not even offer. He might custom tailor the hunt to match what the "official US representative" can book, but its not a usual hunt for the PH, based on his quota structure and season timing.

    There is no website, comany name or background material, only an email address to contact for the purpose of booking $7,500 - $30,000 DG hunt. But he has posts all over the place.

    This thread is not intened to outset the particular African "booking agent", or the Elk hunting operation I mentioned. The purpose is to describe in enough detail things that must have encountered along the way, to ask the more critical question: why are we as hunters and/or professionals in the hunting industry, seemingly afraid to post a negative report?

    In all likelihood, if you travel to hunt for any length of time, you are eventually going to get caught up with one of those operators that offers a great hunt but once he or she had the check, delivers cold bolona sandwhiches, off brand soda and a guide who still needs to have his or her nose wipped, and we as the hunters are told to "go that way, we saw a monster there (insert # of days or weeks ago).

    I really do not mean to come on this board and start controversy. But I think this is a big issue that needs to be addressed. With the economy so bad and hunts that cost alot of money, who can afford to lose the money, or time, to a bad hunt, when the problem could have been avioded if past hunters took the time to speak up file the accurate reports on the bad hunts, just like we want to do when he have a great hunt.

    I can only guess that it is because if we have a great hunt, we all want to share the pictures and tell the story. But if the hunt wa a bust and we got "taken," we just want to forget about it.

    As a hunter who has had 2 bad encounters in the same season, I am asking my fellow hunters and huntresses to take the time and tell the rest of us the hunting community about bad hunts and operator/outfitters and booking agents as you do when the hunt goes great. In these tight times we all need to look out for each other, since that gives rise to the information we use to look out for ourselves.

    I hope this starts a productive dialogue - and not just name calling and insults, that is not my intention. If that starts, moderator, please pull the tread.
  2. safari hunter

    safari hunter AH Veteran

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    Cleathorn, I'm really glad you did this post. I think you made your point well and I could not agree with you more. I personally do not understand why hunters are afraid to put it out there the same way when they have had a bad hunt as much as when they have had a good one. I think that you may be correct, hunters are embarrassed that they got "taken" and therefore fail to warn their fellow hunters of the bad outfit / service / PH / guide / area or whatever. I think that it is a dirty little secret of the hunting industry that there are a few outfits out there that are "getting away with it" time and again.

    To be fair I would like to hear both sides because just as there are "bad" outfitters out there there are "bad" hunters / clients as well, just ask any guide that you are friends with and he'll tell you stories. So I think that balance is necessary, but like you, I wish there were more hunters willing to expose their dirty laundry, put their embarrassment aside and realize that by telling about their experience they can help others to avoid the same situations and hopefully get some of the less ethical operators out of the business.

    Another reason I suspect that hunters avoid doing these type of posts has something to do with a few of the comments that you made in your post like "start controversy" "name calling" "insults"... Having spent time on a few different hunting forums, all I can say is that the pervasive attitude on some of these forums is aggressive to the point that people don't feel free to put themselves out there to discuss what they really want to. They are afraid of the backlash so they just avoid many subjects altogether, which is sad. One of the reasons that I like it here on AH is that [so far] it is very much a gentlemen's forum where we can discuss controversial subjects without it degenerating into name calling, bashing and spear throwing. I think that strong attitude just stifle the freedom of speech which could and should be taking place on internet forums.

    I am glad to welcome you to AH
  3. Cleathorn

    Cleathorn AH Senior Member

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    Thanks for the support. I agree that there are always 2 sides of the story, and the outfitter/guide/PH should have a chance to respond. But the info needs to be out there to start the discussion. There are situations where a hunter misses 5 moose on one trip and files a negative hunt report (I know because that happened to an outfitter/friend of mine) but the dialogue will flesh that out.

    I am waiting to see if an outfitter with whom I had a bad hunt this year steps up and resolves the issues before I make a negative post, I feel that I owe him and the industry the ethical duty of a chance to cure. But, as a precursor to the ultimate post, how do you justify 25 archery hunters through a single camp in 3 weeks on less than 12,00 acres, when you clearly advertise 35,000 + acres of pristine low pressure acreage?

    Those outfitters need to be exposed so the "dirty little secret" gets opened up and our colleagues in the hunting sport do not get taken. It does so much to defeat the ethics and standards we, as a group, are desperately trying to teach our younger hunters and educate the general public about.

    I am not ashamed to admit that I am a lawyer by profession. I was in front of a very good Judge one day, examining a witness in a civil trial about a contract. The witness was very reluctant to testify because she "did not want to get anyone in trouble." The sympathetic Judge looked at her from the Bench and said "young lady, my father always told me that the truth never hurts anyone, unless they have something to hide."

    I am now trying to find a good NM elk hunt at a decent cost to replace this hunt I was on. I am not doing it for myself, but because I took the 68 year old father of a very close friend, and cost him valuable time (he only has a few years left) and money (and he is on a fixed income) I feel obligated to do the right thing and help him find I good hunt. I think this whole mess could have been avoided if only I had been warned.
  4. Wildcat

    Wildcat AH Member

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    The problem is that its like the old saying---- the truth may lay somewhere in the middle.
    I once guided for an outfitter for elk here in Idaho. Some were great some where terrible hunts. You cant seem to please some people no matter what ! Im not saying that you didnt get the screws put to you on your hunts,but I like safari hunter would like to hear both sides plus a middle for a bad deal. Slamming someone on the net can be a very dangerous game. Thats why positive review of an outfitter means more to me than negative. If I cant find any positive on an outfit than I look else where.
    I clear over 125 forgein orders of skins and horns from hunts, to the USA a year. I hear every story out there. Some are real horror stories, some made out to be by the hunter
    because something happened that started a cascade of events that built up worse and worse until all involved were pissed. It sucks to get hammered on a hunt but I have talked to hunters that hated thier outfitter and the next guy had the time of his life and rebooked a hunt with him. Im still not saying that hunters dont get nailed, but how are all of us to sort it out ? It normaly leads to brawl of words.
  5. Indy

    Indy New Member

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    I have never had a bad hunt.

    The reason is that I only book with people who have been in the business many years, have booked many hunts, and have many references.
  6. safari hunter

    safari hunter AH Veteran

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    Cleathorn, I can appreciate that you "feel that you owe him and the industry the ethical duty of a chance to cure, make good before posting a bad review" however this might be another way for these "bad" outfitters to continue to operate under the radar. Let's say that they settle with you, give you a full refund, they are still not getting exposed as they should be as they have bought your silence. I don't mean you, I am just speaking hypothetically.

    In my mind there is no way to make up for or to excuse lies such as the territory being half the size they advertised it as, or as unpressured hunting when there are 25 hunters on a given day or to claim that no two hunting groups were to hunt the same ranch on the same day...

    Wildcat, you are correct to say that most of the time "the truth may lay somewhere in the middle". However they are exceptions, there are a few really bad outfitters out there and there are some really bad hunters out there as well. That is why it is so important to hear both sides, so we can use our own judgement to discern where the problem emanates from. Your assessment is right on the money about what can happen in a camp, "something happened that started a cascade of events that built up worse and worse until all involved were pissed".

    Indy, very, very good advice!
  7. billrquimby

    billrquimby AH Veteran

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    One of the things I did when I directed SCI's publications years ago was to read the hunting reports that members filed, and then select those we'd use in Safari magazine. By far the vast majority were favorable, and a great many used glowing terms to describe their hunting experiences and their guides, outfitters and booking agents.

    Only perhaps 1% were negative, and of these nearly all told absolute horror stories. Because of the potential for lawsuits for libel, and the lack of time to query the offender and get his side of the story, I chose to not publish any negative report. All reports were available to members seeking information about outfitters, though.

    Unfortunately, not all negative reports have a basis in fact. Two cases in point were a well-known moose and sheep outfitter in the Yukon and an outfitter in Zambia I personally had hunted with. Both of these men consistently got glowing reports from SCI members who hunted with them, but I was shocked when I checked the reports in our files and found two really awful reports for them. These reports claimed the outfitters' hunting areas had been overshot, accommodations and food were awful, and the outfitters were absolute crooks.

    Then I looked at the name of the member filing the two reports.

    The guy apparently had hunted with two of the people I had, and came away with a totally different feeling for his hunts. I then randomly checked the reports he had filed on other hunts and found he had never had filed a good report on anyone he had hunted with.

    One of the books I've written was about an internationally known big game hunter who had hunted virtually everything that walks, crawls, flies or swims anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, he agreed to allow me to interview him only if he could see my manuscript before publication. In our interviews, it was obvious to me that, as his physical condition had deteriorated as he grew older, his success at hunting diminished. He did not blame his age, though. It was his booking agent or his outfitter or his professional hunter -- or all three -- that kept him from coming home with a Top Ten trophy.

    He tried to insert phrases such as "worst hunt ever" and "the booking agent lied" into my manuscript, but I was able to keep them out, thank God.

    The point is, there are two sides to every story, and unless we can get both of them we shouldn't try to judge anyone.

    Bill Quimby
  8. AfricaHunting.com

    AfricaHunting.com FOUNDER AH Ambassador

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    I'm glad to see this kind of discussion, I think it is good for everybody. Bill, I always appreciate your balanced perspective.
  9. Cleathorn

    Cleathorn AH Senior Member

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    I am glad I started this thread. I am also glad I joined the AH community - great dialogue without the aggressive bashing. Good job to the moderator.

    I hope more members join in the discussion. I would really appreciate more people's input.

    The author who said that if he cannot find any good references out there, he moves on, is giving some excellent advice. That is something I will start to take into account in the future.

    I have also taken very seriously what those of you have said about "bad hunters." We all know they exist. The person who shows up on an elk hunt or African plains game hunt but cannot shot more than 100 yards - we have all heard about it and it spells trouble. Too often that becomes the outfitters problem and it is not deserved. Hence, as I said from the beginning, getting both sides of the story is the best case scenario.

    Many good forums, I assume AH as well, will contact the person who received a negative report for a rebuttal. That is both fair and helpful. But, I maintain my original point. If you post about a good hunt, post about the bad hunts as well. Be honest, whichever way it goes.

    The unfortunate fact is, like many industries (including mine - the legal profession), the trade associations and forums "police themselves." In most cases you cannot find out if a doctor has a history of claims against him or her, if a lawyer has been subject to disciplinary action, or if an outfitter/PH is running a bad shop with numerous complaints.

    The net has become the place where people do there research. It useless if all you get are glowing reports of everybody. I would like to think that as an industry, hunting has the highest customer satisfaction rate of any industry. But there is no evidence to support that and the antidotal evidence seems to be that there are several "problem areas" in the industry, centered around whitetail hunts, elk hunts, and certain PHs and how they conduct hunts in parts of Africa. The beautiful and once game rich country of Zimbabwe is probably the hardest place to get reliable info from year to year. Many areas are still great, but some have been poached to he point of near extinction.

    Booking a hunt is almost always done on the caveat emptor basis. That being the case, hunters need a more balanced picture of what is happening from year to year with PH's, outfitters, and concessions/hunting areas.

    I agree that slamming a business on the net can mean be real trouble for that business owner. In the highly competitive hunting industry, operating in very tight economic times, it can mean the end of an operation.

    It is something to take very seriously. But so is the money that hunters spend domestically and oversees.

    Take the guy who worked hard and saved for years to take his son or daughter on a dangerous game hunt as graduation gift, to be assured by the "reputable outfitter" and PH of lots of game on the concessions, no problems with poachers or government intrusion, and that the hunters will have the time of their lives. They get their and pay the $1,000+ daily rates . Then they hunt for 14 days without seeing a buffalo, or for that matter any game except for a hyena, but see a lot of evidence of poaching, including encounters with poachers. When its all done, they get no restitution from the outfitter.

    Once they are back in the US, he or she has no recourse.

    When that stuff happens, and unfortunately the dirty little secret is that it happens more often than most people are willing to talk about, the internet can balance the field and generate recourse, especially if it serves the most useful function of all; it warns hunters trying to due their own due diligence about a hunt with the potential for a probelm.

    If the outfitter looses business because he or she did not provide the services, including the camp, conditions, staffing, concession size and presence of game, the net can do its job and get that operator exposed. Yes, it is possible if the report is true, and verified, it will likely cost the outfitter his or her business. But it should. If you make false promises to induce people to spend money with you and you cannot or do not deliver, its called fraud and the outfitter/booking agent, PH or whomever should not be allowed to stay in business and continue to steal from clients.

    As the Judge told my witness, "the truth never hurt anyone."

    My name is Michael Joy. You can check me out all you want. I answer every PM and give my contact information out to anyone that wants to talk about my specific experiences, good and bad.

    And for the record, I will be posting about the CO hunt on the appropriate section of the forum soon. I am giving the outfitter a chance to cure. I will make the same post, what I am waiting for is to see how it concludes. It will be that he did the right thing and resolved the dispute in a professional manner or he took my money and I never heard from him again. FYI - I told him about the major issues, including hunter safety, as soon as it occurred and again on several occasions while I was there, so he had a chance to correct the problems and he did not do anything. What more should the hunter do?
  10. richteb

    richteb AH Enthusiast

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    Perhaps a section on AH that names dodgy operators that are identified from multiple sources and are continually recieving bad reports. I would think that all operators that are delivering what they promise and not trying to rip people off would be just as happy to make the wider hunting community aware of who the bad ones are. It goes without saying that all this would have to be legaly correct.
  11. BryceM

    BryceM AH Veteran

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    I run an unrelated Internet forum, and from time to time the issue of "exposing" bad apples comes up. For the most part, fear of retribution limits what we can say or do. In our very small industry there have actually been lawsuits filed accusing websites of facilitating defamation or libel. Defending a suit like this, even if it's ridiculous, is way beyond the means of our very small hobbyist forum. Cleathorn, please correct me if I'm wrong, but the law regarding what you can and can't post on the Internet is pretty sketchy. Throw in an international operation with representatives in several countries and it can get messy pretty quickly.

    Some hunters have unrealistic or unusual expectations. Some booking agents and hunt operators do too. Not everyone is trying to establish a reputation. People with more money than brains can be difficult to work with on both sides. IMO, the key to having a good hunt is to check out a number of references, not just the top 2 or 3 guys on the reference list. Ask the hard questions. Lately, I've been talking to people about several different African companies. Within a minute or two it's clear that some of them don't see hunting the same way I do. Any information they pass along is pretty much worthless. Other guys are nice enough to say, "yeah, we had a good time with them, but the next year we had a better time with XYZ company." Paying rock-bottom prices and expecting world-class outcomes is probably not realistic. I dunno, it's like picking a band for the wedding. Sometimes despite your best efforts it's just a bust.
  12. Cleathorn

    Cleathorn AH Senior Member

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    Once again - great points. As for the laws on internet activity, its wide open. Free speech is a different issue. This is not intended as legal advice, just good practice: include a disclaimer if you do not already have one that the opinions expressed on any forums are not necessarily those of the ________ Forum.

    One of the things that has happened, by accident, is that I stumbled on a way to do more due diligence than just looking at positive or negative posts. On another site, I posted a similar question but because of the venue, included the outfitters name. I did not trash the outfitter, or even say one way or the other about the hunting with him, I simply asked him anyone knew anything about him. What several guys did was to send me private messages. Ironically, nearly everyone was the same, and similar to my experience, so at least this time it really seems like it's the outfit and not the hunter. But that is not the point, the point is how to get the information out there. The private message forum is a good way to do it and if you post on a good site like this one, it seems like most hunters or huntress' will help you out.

    A good solution to a troubling problem.
  13. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

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    Cleathorn, I like your posts. I think most hunting comes down to good food, warm bed, a hot shower and a reasonable chance at a game animal. North American hunts in my opinion because of the cost, the fact you are usually hunting for 1 or 2 species, and you are dealing with weather and possible other hunters, are usually going to have a range of experiences and expectations. I'm like you, I just want someone to state where they were hunting, what they were hunting for, the accomodations and food and how they enjoyed the hunt, the good and bad.

    I think people have a lot of unrealistic expectations when it comes to hunting in North America. If you need a big animal expect to put in the draw for 10 to 20 years and hire a great local guide or plan on spending 3 weeks of vacation to pull off a successful public land tag in a area you might be a 1000 miles from where you live. Private land is always an option and there is a price to pay too.

    That being said I have had some great hunts in North America. And can say with out a doubt you have to do a lot of homework. I think the wilderness of Canada is great place to go! I have had good luck in Montana and Wyoming on the east side of each state on private land mixed with public.

    I think Africa is a great destination! But like you said be forewarned. I know a guy in Wisconsin that has been on over 40 safaris and had a terrible trip in Zimbabwe for elephant last year....so bad so that he doesn't like to talk about it....and he thought he knew it all.

    I like to read hunting reports and look at all the angles or sides of the coin before I think about labeling a outfitter as bad or good.
  14. safari hunter

    safari hunter AH Veteran

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    Cleathorn that is really great advice and I do think that you have stumbled upon something that is really useful for all of us. Thanks for the tip!
  15. Wanderer

    Wanderer New Member

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    Me, too.
  16. Wanderer

    Wanderer New Member

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    Don't forget Usangu and Zahir Mulla. He ripped off so many people he's banned from any convention and after all that, he's still in business. He was in a show in Dubai the other day, or maybe it still hasn't come off, but he's still out there doing his thing.
  17. BryceM

    BryceM AH Veteran

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    Great thread. I'm active on maybe three or four forums and this one, by far, is the most civil. You wouldn't expect such polite behavior from a confessed bunch of animal killers now would you?
  18. tap

    tap AH Enthusiast

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    if you want a top quality ro elk hunt with a bow in the gila i know the man u should call. hes booked for this year but next year he can get you in. his hunts are around $8500. my wife did late season muzzy there last year and smoked a 360 bull. if u want no ro which is ranch only i can hook you up with my old standby guide in the gila. u will hunt public lands for elk. i would say you would most likely get a bull and the hunt will be around $5000. this hunt is not fully guided. however if u need a guide to hold your hand in there u probably dont need to be hunting. u definitely wont be catered to hand n foot but the guide makes dern sure your success in the field is his top priority.

    also, people dont post negative reports for the same reason you didnt. you explained a concern but named no names in your original post. by reading your post you did the same that every one else does. this leads me to believe you know exactly why everyone doesnt post bad hunt reports because you are one of them in your first post meaning you understand their reasoning. i for one am not that. i can publicly rattle of a list a mile long and have. numzaan, mick chappel, uso, antler addiction outdoors, safrique, etc..... see that was t so hard. my question is this. why cant more people name names for gawd sake? i can also name good outfitters.
  19. Stretch

    Stretch AH Fanatic

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    I agree.

    Nonsensical expectations on both sides can be the agitator. On the clients side, expecting everything to go perfect and to easily kill the biggest animal every time is impracticable. Clients need to be realistic,find more satisfaction in the chase and be willing to work with the situation when things don't fall into place. A clients attitude can make or break an adventure.
    On the outfitters side expecting each client to be similar in hunting ability's is a recipe for disappointment. Promising improbable outcomes will sour a hunt quickly. Honesty and integrity come from telling the truth when selling a hunt as well as "doing what is right" when a issue surfaces.

    Just an idea....Maybe what the industry needs is a panel of hunting mediators that can hear both sides of the story to impartially sort things out.
  20. Ontario Nimrod

    Ontario Nimrod AH Member

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    Aug 3, 2011
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    0
    Member of:
    Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
    Hunted:
    Canada, U.S., Namibia
    Can't say I've heard the skinny on USO. Care to share?

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