Free range or not?

Discussion in 'Hunting Africa' started by UKHunter, Aug 17, 2015.

  1. Ridge Top Ranch

    Ridge Top Ranch AH Enthusiast

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    Having just returned from my 2nd safari, this time in South Africa, last time in Zim I have a better understanding from my own perspective. Zim was no high fences and animals wandered at will. Densities varied. In South Africa all were high fenced and most of the species were bred and born on the property or had been there for a number of years.

    Several factors must be included in my opinion to constitute fair chase.
    1. Does the animal have a chance to elude hunters on the property for an extended period of time such as a week of hard hunting. If so I consider that fair chase.

    Factors that make that possible are;
    A. Size of property
    B. Cover and terrain of property
    C. Animal density

    A large wide open property is not as hard to hunt as a smaller property with thick bush. Even large properties where animals are stocked at such high levels that animals are literally everywhere you look seems to tarnish the free chase mantle. If trophies are of such density that you do not have to expend much effort to get one that seems to me to diminish the experience.

    Hunting must be a challenge to be rewarding for me. Size of property is of minimal concern to me rather than difficulty of the hunt.
     
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  2. WRudman

    WRudman AH Veteran

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    Gentlemen, what does this constitute? IMG_1343.JPG
     
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  3. Red Leg

    Red Leg AH ENABLER LIFETIME BRONZE BENEFACTOR AH Legend

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    Couldn't agree more - I have hunted there - it would be awful - though I suspect the Zambezi would take care of any fencing pretty quickly.
     

  4. TokkieM

    TokkieM AH Fanatic

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    A happy neighbor:D

    Make no mistake,a fenced area can be hard to hunt,but it can be made just as easy too,free range areas are just hard to hunt.
    Once again I will take a example from the industry.Just go through the hunt report section here on AH and see how many hunters that hunted fences areas not only managed to get the animals they wanted or the package they wanted but also managed to add extra animals in the 7 or 10 days they hunted. Now take the other side of the coin and see how much harder it was for hunters in free range areas to get just 2 or 3 of the animals they wanted. You see 5 or 7 animal packages come up a dime a dozen in SA,but non in free range areas,why? Fences make for easier hunting.
     
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  5. Hank2211

    Hank2211 AH ENABLER GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Free Range.

    Far too much is made of fences in my opinion. If you are a purist, and don't want to see any fences, ever, then the Selous, much of Zimbabwe, swaths of West Africa, are the places for you. But most people will hunt in Southern Africa - mostly South Africa and Namibia, where they will see low fences as well as high fences. Personally - and it is just my opinion - I don't think we should over-play the fence thing, and make people feel guilty for hunting behind fences. The real issue is one of property size and hunting style. I have hunted all of the areas I've mentioned, other than the Selous, and I know you can have as exciting, as difficult and as wonderful a hunting experience in fenced areas as you can in non-fenced areas.

    Much of this discussion - and I'm not trying to stop it or pre-empt it - can have the effect of guilting people about their hunt. See:
    I think it's a shame that UKHunter thinks he's missed out on the buffalo experience by not hunting a "truly free-range Buffalo." Buddy, I've done both, and I can tell you it's the size of the property and how you hunt them that makes the difference, not the presence of a fence. On a large fenced property, where buffalo have been subject to hunting pressure, you may find yourself tracking for days to get a shot at a great bull. It amy happen that way in an unfenced area, but it may not.

    It seems to me we get all caught up in labels - fenced, unfenced, free-range, free-roaming, fair chase, without actually focussing on what's behind the terms. So maybe we should spend less time on definitions and fine distinctions, which often serve to people feel guilty or that they haven't had the full African hunting experience and more time on the experience itself?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 18, 2015

  6. TokkieM

    TokkieM AH Fanatic

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    @Hank2211 I am not saying high fence hunting is easy or that it is not possible to have a great hunt behind a fence,in fact I am making the point that allthough not fences,man made barriers can be a "fence"too. Just like folks in Europe frown uppon fences but are happy to have a chain of beaters (moveable fence) drive game to their guns.

    Like it or not there is a difference between free range and high fenced hunting. Now not all of us can go and do those 21 day or even 14 day free range hunts due to financial or physical limitations. That is a choice we make and as long as you are happy with your hunt then that is all that matters,not always were you hunt,but always how you hunt.
    I hunt in both fenced and free range areas in SA and I can tell you that a Kudu that runs around in a free range area is way harder to hunt than one on a fenced property. Any PH/Outfitter that hunts a fenced area long enough will know more or less which species can be found where on the property and if the weather changes were to hunt and were not too,those are a given with fenced hunting.
    The same goes as for a earlier example with limited access to water in a fenced area,buff have to drink daily,not a hard one to figure out if you only have 2 watering points on a property. Now cut out the areas where there is no food for a buff and you pretty much limit his options.
    At no stage does it make it a easy hunt,it makes it a odds for the Hunter type of hunt. Like I said I hunt in both types of places and will much rather not see a fence for a week or two.
     
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  7. UKHunter

    UKHunter AH Fanatic

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    I have no issue with hunting behind a fence, as I have stated earlier in the thread. The purpose of this thread was not to shame outfitters or people who hunt behind fences, I have done so and will again. My concern was that some people are advertising hunts as free-range when they are not. In my view it is dishonest and misleading and so I wanted to gain an insight into how others viewed this as free-range or not, people who have far more experience of Africa than I ever will.

    Perhaps I should have made myself more clear on my comment on free-range Buffalo. It is not that I deem a fenced Buffalo to be easier, it might be but I have not hunted one yet to be able to form a valid opinion on that. Its just I have that dream of hunting a true wilderness area of Africa for free-range Buffalo. People who have hunted both, yourself included have said that a Buffalo behind a fence can be just as challenging. It not the experience of the hunt I feel I would be missing out on, just the setting in which its done.
     

  8. Hank2211

    Hank2211 AH ENABLER GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    I'm really not trying to be difficult, I just think that we sometimes make too much of the fences, and not enough about the size of the property. A couple of points:

    I've hunted "free range" buffalo in the Matetsi units in Zimbabwe a couple of times. I can tell you that there are limited water points (and these areas are hundreds of thousands of acres), and the PH will normally have had the trackers check them, or at least the closer ones, before you've had breakfast. If tracks are found, then you're off. The only real difference I've seen between the two hunts is that in one case you know there are buffalo there, and in the other, there may not be any (had that happen . . .). As for kudu and other animals, any PH who has hunted one of these concessions for any length of time (or has a tracker who lives there, as most do), knows where the various animals like to hang out. So I don't see a big difference there. Again, the big difference I do see is that certainty of the presence of game in a fenced area that is absent in a non-fenced area. If the hunter before you shot a giraffe in Unit 2, the herd may have run into Unit 3 and stay there for a long period of time before they start to wander back. Neither the outfitter nor the PH has any real control over this.

    Having said that, I couldn't agree more that we need truth in advertising. Nothing worse than getting to Africa and finding out the hunt isn't what you were led to believe or what you expected.

    I would add this for UKHunter, and this is completely beside the point of fences, but I'll add it anyway.

    If cost is the issue preventing people from hunting free range areas, they should compare the day rates and trophy fees for the various types of areas. Not every country requires lengthy safaris like Tanzania. You can normally hunt buffalo in Zim on a 10 day hunt, and I think I've even seen 7 days. Day rates are higher in Zim than in South Africa, but the trophy fees are much lower (Buffalo can be 10-15k in SA, and up to $5k in Zim). My experience is that depending on what you want to shoot, all things considered, a hunt in Zimbabwe is very competitive with a hunt in South Africa. You have to pick your areas carefully in Zim, because of poaching and much lower densities, and will often battle for game there, but it will be "the real deal," if no fences is the goal.
     
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  9. Scott Slough

    Scott Slough AH Fanatic

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    Hank basically wrote my thoughts before I got a chance to get back to the discussion!

    I think when many people think about high fences and hunting, this is the mental image in their mind.

    upload_2015-8-18_14-1-3.png

    When the reality in South Africa is very different … sorry I can’t seem to place some of the high fence photos that I took, so the best I can do is describe them, hopefully someone can add one to the thread.

    I hunted a single concession of over 90,000 acres that was still expanding by buying neighboring sheep ranches. It was high-fenced along the public roads but was not always fenced at the “back” of the property. Even the “high-fence” was often an old internal fence that was dug up and added to the top of a regular sheep fence. There were miles of this type of fence. The gates were only four foot tall in most instances. The top fence sagged and gaped to an extent that it was typically only capable of encouraging wildlife to stay and not containing wildlife. I am not sharing this to denigrate their fence or their practice, but to differentiate this from the types of high-fences that we see in the US.

    The net result is that I was comfortable with a “free-ranging” description (breed, born, live, and die -- sorry, as a scientist, I couldn't resist the urge to put breed before born!) and certainly a fair-chase description.
     
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  10. Hank2211

    Hank2211 AH ENABLER GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    So the egg did come before the chicken . . .!
     
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  11. Scott Slough

    Scott Slough AH Fanatic

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    .... Yes!
     
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  12. broncolcj

    broncolcj AH Enthusiast

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    I believe that constitutes a "Ha ha! Nice try human!"
     
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  13. bluey

    bluey AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    if that area is open farmland and not just internal low fence which has a high fence boundary, id be inclined to call it wild and free roaming
     

  14. enysse

    enysse AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    I think if you hunt by foot, you'd be surprised how hard it is to hunt 3000-5000 acres. Yes, it's real easy to hunt by truck, but hunt it from the ground and it's a whole new game.
    But like most people have said before, most trackers and PHs know where the game is.
     
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  15. mark-hunter

    mark-hunter AH Fanatic

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    I am reviving an old thread, but I was reasearching this topic...
    As I understand, also some large conservancies in Zim, are alse fenced? Or even double fenced?
     

  16. Hank2211

    Hank2211 AH ENABLER GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    That’s true. The Bubye Valley Conservancy, for example, is “double fenced” (not sure why that makes a difference). But you have to ask if it makes a difference to “fair chase” when the area enclosed is almost 1,000,000 acres - or about 1,500 square miles? I’d suggest it makes no difference at all.

    What the fence does do, though, is make it easier to control poaching, properly manage animal populations and ensure the survival of animals in an environment more ‘realistic’ than that which is typically found in parks.
     

  17. Bushpig4Ever

    Bushpig4Ever AH Enthusiast

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    5,000 is excellent for kudu, impala and warthog etc, but tiny when it comes to the Big5.
    I would never hunt Big5 animals on such small property.

    Soon I gonna hunt buffalo at Bubey Valley Conservancy in Zimbabwe. That can be called hunting.
     

  18. Rickmt

    Rickmt SILVER SUPPORTER AH Senior Member

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    I am exactly in agreement with Hank! My first Sable had an ear tag and 20,000 is also my cut off . No put and take . All must be born and raised upon property.
     
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  19. mark-hunter

    mark-hunter AH Fanatic

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    So, it is true that there are some animals with ear tags? (smaller properties, I guess?)
     

  20. IvW

    IvW AH Legend

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    Most properties are fenced in South Africa.

    Many owners may bring in some animals from time to time in order to keep the gene pool healthy, introduce some new blood. These may have ear tags. It would not be cost effective to dart them to remove the tag.

    Size of the property would not have any relevance with regards to tags.

    Some owners may also introduce species that are not on the property in order to diversify and increase the number of species.

    Likewise for properties that convert to game from domestic stock, they need to bring in animals.

    Game ranching and auctions are all part of the game farming industry.
     
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