JKS

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For me, it's duration of the hunt. I work for a precision metal fabrication company and am paid to be at work. Therefore, I only get 7 paid vacation days per calendar year. I booked my upcoming safari, a four night, three animal package, to coincide with the 4th of July (a paid holiday, obviously). I can make the flights, hunt and return and only use 4 vacation days.
 

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For me, it's duration of the hunt. I work for a precision metal fabrication company and am paid to be at work. Therefore, I only get 7 paid vacation days per calendar year. I booked my upcoming safari, a four night, three animal package, to coincide with the 4th of July (a paid holiday, obviously). I can make the flights, hunt and return and only use 4 vacation days.

I can understand the plight of the working man but for me being retired, I want at least ten full days of hunting. Having said that, I am seeing more and more short duration hunts, anywhere from four to six days. I'm not sure if this is geared toward locals or Europeans in the same time zone but for someone that uses three days or more to travel from the U.S., I feel this is a non starter for a lot of would be hunters going to Africa.
 

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Lots of good thoughts already on here. My priorities are, not in order of importance
1. Is the outfitter also the guide/P.H. or just a "booking agent"
2. Does the area contain reasonable quantities of trophy animals, or just one to target
3. Is it a true free-range or if fenced, how large are EACH concession not the total of all of them rolled together
4. Probably not an "Africa" question, but what is the actual success rate of shot opportunity for hunters
5. Be very clear and upfront about pricing. What is included, what is not, taxes, fees, etc.
6. I have always asked each guide/P.H. to do three things for me. Keep me safe, don't let me do something stupid, and point me to the game. The rest like meals, hunting camp, etc are small details that should be discussed but are not first priority
7. Pricing especially "deals" should be clear as to why the amount is discounted - hunter cancellation, extra tag (did the hunter not tag out?) new concession, ???
8. References, especially current in the last two seasons.
9. The "fit" with the P.H. or guide as to personality or hunting style is vital to what I consider a successful hunt.

I know when I booked with you I only covered about half of these before I got there - Ours was a very short time between offer and booking and arrival. I was happy to have hunted with you and will certainly do so again. I hope this helps
 

Rick Cox

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I can understand the plight of the working man but for me being retired, I want at least ten full days of hunting. Having said that, I am seeing more and more short duration hunts, anywhere from four to six days. I'm not sure if this is geared toward locals or Europeans in the same time zone but for someone that uses three days or more to travel from the U.S., I feel this is a non starter for a lot of would be hunters going to Africa.
I'm with you. Fly to the other side of the world for say, six days?? Not happening. And I am a working stiff as well.
 

Arctic97

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I personally like 3+ weeks. I mean you loose 3-4 days getting there and back. I do not need or want to hunt for the whole time I am there, but having a way to leave the guns and pick up a rental or borrowed vehicle and spend a week or so out exploring is always high on my list. Whether the break is all at once, or in a couple of shorter time frames, it really doesn't matter. Also whether it is after 8-10 days of hunting or in the middle would not matter. An outfitter that can work with me on that would be desirable. And yes, as a working person, price does matter to me to some degree. I can tell you that when I look at a website for an outfitter, if they do not list the majority of their prices, they have lost me right there. I will not P.O.R. Just me maybe, but that's how I am.
 

Rob404

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I don't think this has been brought up but I'd like to hunt with a concession that gives back to his community, I plan to do 10 days in camp but I only I have a limited amount of game on my list, so a few cull animals for the local villages and area schools would be nice
 

Countrylife

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Is it about extra services offered by the outfitter? No, I'm there just to hunt.
My answer is different. The hunt is only part of the reason I come to Africa. First and foremost, the local people have to benefit in some way from me being there. The outfitter and staff obviously benefit, but the people around the camp and not employed by them are the ones I'm referring to. Providing meat to the local schools or senior center is one way. I come to learn more about the culture and to experience Africa. The PH/outfitter does not have to provide access to the culture as part of the hunt package, but being able to pass me off to another guide before or after the hunt would rate highly in my book.

The PH needs to be knowledgable on all the wildlife, not just the huntable ones. Also, knowledgable on the plants, soils, ... essentially all the outdoors environment. Communication between the client, the PH, and outfitter is extremely important.
 

Newboomer

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AH sponsor. They are reliable.
Hunt reports on AH. Make unbiased references.
Quantity, quality and variety of game within reasonable distance of lodge.
Fair pricing up front per my list with no hidden costs or add-ons except what I decide to add (targets of opportunity).
Small number of hunters in camp.
One on one except for two PHs for dg if that's the way the outfitter works.
The usual lodge amenities. Nothing overly fancy.
 

Mekaniks

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When I start researching a hunt of course one of the first things I look for is basic value. That doesn't necessarily mean price. I will explain what I look for in "value", but before I go there I will always look at the background and reputation of the outfitter. If it's an outfitter I recognize and believe has a good reputation such as a an AH Sponsor where I have read good hunt reports I will move right onto answering my value questions. If it's an outfitter that I am not familiar with, I will start researching the background of that outfitter as much as possible before spending anymore time. One thing I will say is that if an outfitter has negative feed back, how that feed back is addressed by the outfitter is some times more telling that the actual negative feedback itself, IMO.

SO...what does value means to me? That is usually accomplished by filling in the following basic questions.....
What are the daily rates, trophy fees, observer rates, and amenities vs other similar outfitters in the same area.
Are there any obvious costs that do not appear upfront, i.e what is the location of the lodge and/or hunting area and how am I gonna get there? If I need a rifle and ammo are those costs upfront? Are the costs of booze, or extra day trips upfront? What about taxidermy or delivery costs to the taxidermist? What is the size of the hunting concession(s)? Fences, no fences, partially fenced? Are there other activities available, and how much? How much $$ for deposit and what is the cancellation/rebooking policy? I don't want to start out with a guessing game or making assumptions. I know I can always ask questions, and I will if we get there. But if I am in the early stages of researching a hunt the outfitter that has covered most of my personal background and value questions upfront he will get points.
 
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Another thing my Eastern Cape outfitter did for me was to quote and accept payment in Canadian dollars. It’s is not a nice experience changing our currency to U.S. dollars!
 

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I’m with @Hogpatrol I think reputation/referrals are the most important. If other like minded hunters had a wonderful time, then I believe I will to.

To me, a hunt is an adventure that only a small part is a stalk and shot.
 

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it's the experience.
Obviously each country has it's flavour, for example when we stalked a stag in the Scottish highlands it was the beautiful and comfortable Muchrach Lodge sipping Scotch by the fire, then climbing the rugged hills in the mist, very special.
Here in Africa it is the heat, the dry earth stepping carefully in Courteneys. Mopane fires at night great company, a golden single malt and a smooth cigar. Then retiring to a camp cot in a genuine canvas tent that smells richly of the grand age, being serenaded to sleep bu lion roar and hyena whoop. Oh yes, and good game to hunt!
On the shower thing, agreed, a bucket with a rose gets cold too quickly, nothing worse. So we have a half 44 gallon drum on its own fire, piping hot all day. Then you dip two half buckets and dilute to just right. Scoop this over you with a pot to wash. The second bucket is pure indulgence, wonderful! Bach to the fire for a Vumba coffee with condensed milk and off to bed.
We prefer doing our own camps because all of this is then on hand, perfect. The carcasses go back to the main camp skinning shed.
 

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Back on the length of hunt, if you traveled from the U.S. and taken multiple days to get to Africa, what does one do if it rains three out of the five day hunt? Depending on the area, you may be SOL. You've got three to four days of traveling and spent a pile of money to hunt two days and the animals you wanted are now in an inaccessible area. I had one hunt where it rained three days out of the ten and with the sloppy conditions, lost a fourth day. Something to consider for those contemplating a short hunt.
 

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For someone making their first hunt in Africa, I am one of those who do strongly recommend the use of a competent and well established consultant. I have used Jack Atcheson & Sons https://www.atcheson.com/ several times - particularly for areas with which I have limited or no experience. Jack Sr. pretty much invented the business model, and his sons could not be more respected. Another is Bob Kern of the Hunting Consortium https://huntingconsortium.com/. Their job is to take your budget, your goals, and your time, and then marry them up with a proven outfitter. I give them both A+ reviews based on meaningful personal experience.

Be very wary of the guy who has been there exactly once. Most African experiences are unique and living conditions, regardless of outfitter, are far better than the typical guided hunt in the States. I would guess 90% of the people who travel and hunt there come back amazed and thrilled with the experience. That is, obviously, a good thing. But the differences in the various African hunting experiences are as vast as the continent in which they take place. The person wo has been there once knows a lot about their personal experience, but very little about alternatives.

You need to decide what is important to you. Do you wish to hunt native animals in their native environment? Then a South African game farm may not be the best choice and low fence Namibian ranch country would be. Do you want to see a lot of different game animals? Then perhaps the game farm is the best choice. If you have a specific animal that is important, do you want to take him in the "wild" on his native ground, or is behind a fence far away from that environment ok?

And always remember, anyone can build a cool website these days.

A hunting consultant can be a sounding board for all these issues and will make recommendations based on current information across a wide range of options. It is a fun journey you are embarking upon. Best of luck.
 

Rickmt

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1- large hunting areas where game is not put and then shot. Over 10,000 acres
2- quality older animals available
3- comfortable camp with good food and variety of food.
4- no large groups of hunting parties.
5- no long drives between hunt areas.
6- I prefer to hunt every day and nothing else
 

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For someone making their first hunt in Africa, I am one of those who do strongly recommend the use of a competent and well established consultant. I have used Jack Atcheson & Sons https://www.atcheson.com/ several times - particularly for areas with which I have limited or no experience. Jack Sr. pretty much invented the business model, and his sons could not be more respected. Another is Bob Kern of the Hunting Consortium https://huntingconsortium.com/. Their job is to take your budget, your goals, and your time, and then marry them up with a proven outfitter. I give them both A+ reviews based on meaningful personal experience.

Thank you for these recommendations. For those of us without African experience and extremely limited free time to research, such resources are invaluable.

To add to my previous post, strong business connections and friendships are extremely important. Whenever I choose an outfitter, especially one outside of the United States, knowing that the outfitter has strong connections with other reputable businesses and is recommended by friends is hugely influential.
 

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Once I have decided what and where I am looking to hunt, I look for value and upfront, honest, straightforward pricing.

Then I look for reviews, hunt reports, YouTube videos and references to help me shape what the experience would be like.

Through all this, I am sizing up the communication with the outfitter or outfitters I am considering. Are they answering my questions in full or just saying what they think I want to hear. Do they reply in a reasonable amount of time? I can wait a week for a reply, but weeks to months to no reply? Not good. Especially if they then don’t even bother to answer the questions I asked.
 

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Is it price?
Price matters, however, my observation is that for basic plains game there isn’t a lot of variation. I see packages that, when averaged out over the entire hunt, consist of about 1 animal/day and $1,000/day (including everything but tips).
When you get into hunts for dangerous game or even for some of the less common plains game (such as sable – those in your picture are outstanding!!!) then there is more variation in price, but in general, I feel that you get what you pay for.
I **strongly** prefer to sign up for a package deal. That is, one price covers everything. There may be an extra charge is I shoot an exceptional animal (e.g., 62" kudu). I don't mind that. Other hunters will prefer the "pay by the drink" (trophy fee for each animal shot) approach to safari pricing.

Is it size of hunting areas?
Yes. I don’t want to feel like we cover every inch of the entire ranch each day for the duration of the safari.

Is it accommodation?
I do like to be comfortable. Also, I think that the quality (or appearance of quality) of the accommodation does give some indication of the outfitter’s attention to detail and the pride that he takes in his operation. However, even tent camps can be comfortable if well-managed.

Is it about extra services offered by the outfitter?
Not really a consideration.

Is it quality of the trophies the outfitter has constantly been producing?
Not exactly - I am more concerned about the experience than the size of the animals I shoot. I want to take representative animals, and, yes bigger is better, but that’s not my main criteria. I’d rather take “average” animals and have the opportunity to learn about each of them, their environment, observe their natural behavior, etc.

Is it personal service and exclusivity of the outfitter / area?
If by “personal service” you mean that all of the little details are taken care of, then yes, it is important. When I say “little details” I mean things like housekeeping, quality of the meals, catering to the preferences, abilities and limitations of each client, etc.

Reputation of the outfitter
I agree with Tanks who first mentioned this. When it comes to booking with an outfitter for the first time, I can’t know anything about him except what I am told by other people (clients and outfitters) and that is how you can learn what an outfitter’s reputation is – from people who are in a position to have an informed opinion.
To the extent that I can research it, reputation is huge.
Checking references is important.

Honesty and Integrity
Both items are part of an outfitter’s reputation, but I list them separately because they are so important.

Variety of animals
Even if I am not hunting all of the types of animals on the property, just is seeing them can be special and therefore can be a factor in choosing one outfitter over another. On my first safari, on two successive days in different parts of the ranch, I saw aardvarks. That was exciting for me (and my PH). On my second safari, I saw a pair of cheetahs. Even my driver was excited about that.

Personality
This is hard or impossible to judge prior to a safari, but it makes a huge difference in determining how much I get to enjoy the experience. Talking at a convention or even by phone can help, but you can’t really judge until the end of your safari.
 

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Only been once to RSA so obviously no expert but next time, here is what I will look for;

Price is a factor. Being a blue collar guy I just cannot afford a hunt in Tanzania. When I got some quotes from my first hunt most were relatively comparable, but one outfitter was almost twice what most of the others quoted. Frankly I could not afford his price.

Size of the concession. I would like to hunt in areas 10,000+ acres.

Trophies. Great if I get something really nice but just looking for mature representative animals. Do not like paying more for a certain horn size.

Accommodations. Not real picky. Clean well kept camp with showers, laundry, and decent food is good enough for me. I want to eat the game food.

When I was in camp there were 2 other guys hunting. That was OK with but I would definitely not want to be part of a large group.

References are a must. One outfitter I contacted gave me a number that was disconnected and the other was someone in Canada (I live in the US)

PH needs to have good communication skills. PH that I had was a nice guy but extremely quiet. I thought after a couple of days that he was mad at me because he was so introverted. He eventually loosened up a little but I was almost ready to ask for another PH because he was so reclusive.

Hunting time. I hunted for 10 days(10 1/2 counting hunting the afternoon of arrival). If the hunt is advertised at X amount of days, then I expect to be able to hunt that many. I do not like travel days being included in the length of the hunt.
 

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I want someone who will hunt hard until the target animals are in the salt. I did a hunt with @Martin Pieters Safaris and did not see camp in the light until day five after my elephant and buffalo where down. It was awesome. With limited time I want to hunt, hunt, hunt. Some see it as a vacation with some hunting and want superior accommodations and whatnot, and that is great for them, but for me it is about the hunt and the other stuff is a bonus. I'd sleep in a cardboard box and eat Top Ramen for each meal and be plenty happy as long as we hunted hard and game was around. I may be a minority though and this may change as I age.

It does not need to be "cheap," but I do like competitive prices. Most guys who have been a time or two can glance at a trophy list and determine if it is too high or reasonable.

Trophy quality is not a big deal to me. Mature males are fine. Big animals are a bonus.

I have always hunted with guys I enjoyed being with (both PHs and trackers/drivers), but you dont know that until you are there.
 
 

 

 

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