What makes a "good" Professional Hunter?

Hogpatrol

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What makes a good PH? One that makes you forget the money you're spending to have fun. (y)
 

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....... the worst for me is: shooting took over hunting

I have not thought of it in those words Christophe, but you are SO correct.
Some of the most disturbing video clips are when the hunting has been replaced with shooting.
As you said, both sides of the equation have to be involved to have it occur.

I can't get in this debate.... …..
All the truth are not good to say !!! but sometimes....

I would like to figure out how to allow anonymous posting for a thread to allow PH's and Outfitters the opportunity to provide some honest feedback to the Hunters.
 

Royal27

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This is all really good stuff...

For me, it is all about communication, understanding what the client wants, and then trust. It also HAS to be a two way street. I want to clearly set my expectations with the PH and then have the PH listen to them. Now here is the tricky part for the PH. He has to figure out if I really mean what I say!!!! I wonder how many PH's have heard "I just want a nice representative...." and then the client gets annoyed because he doesn't get something in the books?

I'm all about the experience. If I tell a PH I want X and we never find X I'm ok with that as long as we've hunted hard. I'd rather have that than to just shoot the first animal that comes along. I want to be involved. By this I mean the PH explain to me why we are doing what we are doing. I want to LEARN from the knowledge of the PH. He should be my teacher as well as my guide. And to do this he's going to have to be willing to tell me when I screw up. I don't mind this being direct (back to clear communication for me) but I'm sure many do (back to the tricky part for the PH).
 

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I think an important quality is adaptability to the client. Hunters come from different countries, with different hunting abilities so being able to adjust to each one is important. One week you may be with a German aristocrat, then for the next week an American who spent his career in the military, and after that a newly rich Arab who is on his first hunt. Each of those clients will have different expectations as to what is a good PH. From what I have seen, the South African PHs host people from all over the world so they are good at this.

A big problem comes from the client expectations. Christophe Morio mentioned in a recent post that during his PH career, it has changed from hunting to shooting. I did not get an animal on the first two days of my plains game safari and the PH apologized to me. I told him "it is hunting, not shooting" and if we could get a bunch of trophy animals on the first day I would question the challenge and authenticity of the hunt. My PH told me I was extremely relaxed compared to most of his clients. There is only so much a PH can do when the client has an expectation to get a record book trophy for each animal on their list for a one week hunt.
 

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^^^^ This goes in perfectly with the point I was trying to make.
 

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Thank you so much foe all the feedback... We as PH's can learn a great deal by reading this thread. I made notes for myself :)
 

enysse

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I think part of the problem is some people are use to getting what they want. If they purchase a leopard hunt for 20 grand the leopard better be there. The flip side to it is the PH can be doing everything right and the leopard just doesn't show. As a client you better be prepared to handle that situation. If the money bothers you stay home or find a cheaper animal to hunt.
I think some people don't handle stress. My brother is one of those people. He talks big, can shoot super accurate on the range but in the field he could not hit the broad side of a barn and blames everything and every one but himself.
 

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...... the worst for me is: shooting took over hunting...

Wow, that is absolute brilliance. Well said.

A lot of the comments made here are very valuable: speaking the language, understanding client needs, putting values first and then balancing all of that with the need for money.

What I want from a PH is one who can actually listen and can also communicate. Don't be shy - especially when it comes to managing expectations. If something is unrealistic the PH needs to say "That's unrealistic".

I'm in sales - I sell large scale software to healthcare - multi-million dollar deals. What makes or breaks the sale above all else is managing expectations. If something cannot be achieved, then it cannot be achieved. Being able to communicate that as early on as possible is how expectations are managed. And it very well may be that the client is not "appropriate" for the PH (or vendor). These things happen. PH's and Outfitters SHOULD in fact turn away business or make recommendations to other PH's who may be able to better service a specific clients needs.

Trying to be everything to everyone is a recipe for disaster.

Having said all that here's my list:

1. The PH better damn well NEVER quit. He needs to be in better shape, know the area better than me, know how to spot game better and darn well better know

2. The PH better have a properly equipped Bakkie or transport. That means it's in decent condition (no exposed springs in the seats trying to give me tetnus, etc.) and is properly stocked (i.e.: water, toilet paper, etc.) A Perfect PH probably has a stack of 12-volt universal cell phone and/or usb type rechargers in the vehicle to make sure his clients can charge things on the fly.

3. The PH should be thinking "How do I take care of the things the client typically forgets". Boy Scout Motto: Be Prepared.

4. The PH should have a network of resources. If the Hunter forgets something or his luggage is lost, the PH should be able to say "Well, that's a bummer. On the other hand I know where we can find replacements or create an option for you."

"Adventure" is what happens with the best laid plans go awry. The PH right at that moment has a chance to turn a negative situation into a positive by having a solution.

5. Be HONEST. I remember Craig Done at Leopard's Valley studying the 4 Gemsbok intently from 200 yards...and three more came in from the left. We had 7 to choose from. Craig was looking at them and finally turned and said "Well, they are all ok, and all are representative...but none are truly spectacular. Do you want one?" - that was a very fair comment to make. We passed on the Gemsbok...and a 4.25" Steenie stood up right at that moment. I shot the Steenie.

I remember stalking Hartebeest with Craig. One of them just was a BEAST - a real monster. We had been chasing three Reds for 20 minutes when we finally caught up to them. You didn't need bins to know which one we wanted. He was 50% bigger in all regards than the next Beest. All thoughts of getting another game animal dropped from our minds. Craig knew that's what I wanted - that one guy who was head and shoulders above all else.

We ended up getting busted by the 4th Red we never saw. There was no disappointment - we both looked out and said "THAT was a worthy stalk". They won - but oh the sight of that Red...

6. Know how to take care of Observers! Observers aren't unwanted baggage - they can in fact play a part and be brought into the game. Encourage them to be extra spotters, give them a game book or nature book and have them identifying things. Get the observer involved somehow. In many cases the Spouse of a Hunter is more important than the hunter themselves. My wife loves to travel - she's far more hardy than most and I know that if I'm hunting I need to expect her to join in the party. Is the PH ready for that?

7. Communication: the PH should validate everything that the Hunter is trying to accomplish. Normally speaking, it's the Outfitter doing the communication and the PH picks up for the hunt. Was there proper communication between the Outfitter and the PH about client expectations? Validate both...

8. I expect the PH to be clean, not be smelly, avoid foul language, do not EVER drink to excess (well, maybe the last night of the hunt). He needs to be a gentleman first for me.

Just some thoughts while I look for my second cup of coffee!
 

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I think part of the problem is some people are use to getting what they want. If they purchase a leopard hunt for 20 grand the leopard better be there.

This is an EXCELLENT point. And goes right in with the "shooting not hunting" point. Some just want to say "I shot a <insert animal name here>. They don't care about the hunt. I'd rather work my butt off for the experience. But again, the PH has to deal with all types.... "The client is always right." Problem is, the client isn't always right and for the PH it is clearly stating up front what will and won't be allowed.

I'm going with Chifuti in August and on their website it clearly states that shooting from a vehicle is illegal in Zimbabwe. When I first read that it made me sad that they even had to mention it, knowing that they'd had clients be frustrated that they couldn't do it. Again though, clear communication!
 

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I think for sure, some people are just hunting to collect something. It's not about the process, it's about the results.
 

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Ill tell you what made me so pissed off in the posts 5 years ago. I did not get the hunt I wanted. I did state my expectations, I was very clear about it, hence when the other party (PH) did a switch I was not happy. He just wanted his money, did not care about the process and got me my animals. Til this day, I have hard feelings about it. It's a lot of money to spend and not get the whole hunt you wanted. I know plenty of my friends that would have stopped hunting, just did sight seeing...but I'm not made of money and went with it. AGAIN A LOT OF THIS WAS BEFORE AH WAS REALLY MAINSTREAM. Hell years ago practically no one knew what to expect when you went to Africa. Now if you are regular, you are constantly educated.
 

BRICKBURN

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…………..But again, the PH has to deal with all types.... "The client is always right." Problem is, the client isn't always right and for the PH it is clearly stating up front what will and won't be allowed.
..

The Client is always right.
They may be stupid, ignorant, lazy, arrogant, demanding, etc.

They also may not be right for that Outfitter or PH.

A Good PH/Outfitter's ability to communicate is going to determine this quickly enough and they have the option to send the "wrong" hunter down the road before they ever set foot in camp.

Sadly, many PH's likely have zero control on this and only get to deal with what and whom shows up in camp. (I feel for them)
 

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I have had the good fortune now to hunt twice with PH Hennie Du Toit over at African Sky. First and foremost he let me know that my safety was his first priority. Then as someone mentioned he got to know what I wanted out if the hunt and then never pressured me to shoot anything or to take a shot I was uncomfortable with. His bush knowledge was excellent and he went out of his way to explain things to me. He is now my friend after two hunts. On the first hunt my son hunted as well and he took get care to see that he got every opportunity that I had. My wife was there to boot and he was an excellent host to her. At the end of every day he would ask if we were happy and was there anything he should do differently! That's the mark of someone who cares!
 

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Ditto to all these comments... Especially rnovi comment about observers...

My wife and I went on Safari in Nov 2012... It was a wonderful experience. All accommodations, PH, trackers, lodge staff were Great.... There was one issue I hopped would have turned out different. It had to do with activities for my wife who is a non-hunter and a very active person.

Months before the Safari, I had inquired about activities for my wife. Our Outfitter said there were many side trips available that he could arrange for her. When we got to the lodge where we were to base our daily hunts out of , my wife was asked what she would like to do and some arrangements were made to have her accompanied by one of the Outfitters apprentice PH.. She was taken to various local places of interest. That only lasted a few days though. (We were there for 10 days of hunting.)

When I came back from each days hunt, my wife filled me in on her days activity. Buy mid week things to do were drying up and the apprentice, though a very nice person, started making comments to my wife to the affect that she was a PH and not a tour guide and was not used to this kind of assignment. Well, to my wife and my dismay, we felt this was not a very professional way to treat a client. Whether the outfitter made it clear to this apprentice what her roll was on this Safari is not clear. Luckily, my PH got wind of this and one morning asked me how things were going with my wife. I mentioned that she was very disappointed lately due to the lack of activities available and the attitude of the apprentice. ( At the time the outfitter was not at the Lodge.)

At this point I did not want to sound demanding and inquired of my PH what other non-hunting wives did when they came on Safari. ( Note: we were the only ones in camp for those 10 days as it was November and the last Safari of the season.) My PH replied that most just sat around the pool and enjoyed sipping drinks and perhaps a shopping trip for a day or two. I informed him of what the outfitter had said prior to my booking the Safari. My PH informed me he would surely do what he could to correct the situation and inquired of my wife what she like to do and see.

Later he came back to our room and advised that one of the trackers would be available each morning and afternoon to take her on nature tours both on foot and in a vehicle so she could get near game animals and take pictures, etc. He also said he would arrange a skydiving trip and booked it for a few days hence. My wife enjoyed the daily trips with the tracker and got some great photos and truly enjoyed his informative dialog. The apprentice took my wife to a couple of blinds we were not using and my wife was able to spend time photographing game and enjoying the experience.

On the day of my wife's Skydiving trip the agency called up and cancelled. ( They said they were all booked up. This was fishy to me as my PH had made reservation a few days b4. Perhaps they got a big group and bumped my wife out.).

This was the only down side of our experience. All other services, accommodations , game hunting opportunities, PH and Trackers, food, hospitality, etc were of the Highest quality...

I was very grateful to my PH and Tipped him accordingly at the end for his great service to me as a hunter and to stepping up to the task of attenting to my wife's needs/wants.


P.S.

WHAT I DID FIND OUT LATER , WAS THAT THE LODGE WE STAYED AT WAS OWNED BY OTHER THAN OUR OUTFITTER. WHEN WE GOT BACK FROM OUR TRIP PETER , THE LODGE OWNER , SENT ME A SURVEY TO FILL OUT PERTAINING TO OUR STAY AT THE LODGE. I FOUND OUT AT THAT TIME THAT I COULD HAVE MADE SPECIFIC ARRANGEMENTS THRU HIS LODGE IN ADVANCE TO HAVE ALL OF MY WIFES ACTIVITIES ARRANGED AND COORDINATED THRU THEM, WHICH WOULD HAVE ASSURED THAT MY WIFE WAS TAKEN CARE OF WHILE I WAS OUT HUNTING.

PETER EXPLAINED THAT HE SPECIALIZES IN NON-HUNTING SAFARIS AND ACTIVITIES THROUGHOUT THE YEAR.

So if my Outfitter would have informed me of that up front, this issue I feel confident, would not have occurred.

The lesson learned on my part is to make sure you ask the right questions and get assurance of what non-hunter activities are available in the area and be sure to make advanced specific arrangements in writing with the outfitter / owner.
 

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Well said Archerman......it's asking lots of questions and the right ones at that. Glad the wife was able to see the area with a tracker.
 

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A good PH.....Will have you arrive as a client but you will leave as friends!
 

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I should explain first I've only done one African hunt and it met or exceeded all my expectations. That said, I am a keen observer so here goes. The PH should...
- Engage the client early, before arrival, on expectations. Mine called me months out to ask and answer questions.
- Take an interest in my travel and arrival. Mine met me at the airport and hustled me through firearms import, then took my father and me out to dinner (gratis), and dropped us off at a wonderful B & B. He should also let us know ahead of time about changes. We didn't go to the lodging he'd discussed -- it was far better...but I'd have preferred to know ahead of time.
- Run the hunt at the client's pace. The day after we shot the buff, I asked for a down day. He was surprised, even asking if everything was OK, but accepted it and even arranged an impromptu game viewing trip at another property -- great day with wonderful pictures.
- Surprise the client with something. In our case it was the best food I've ever had in the field, and on par with some very fine dining experiences. The free shirt and cap was a nice trick, but the food...oh my goodness.
- Be flexible and adaptable. The first property we hunted for buffalo was not a good experience so he burned up his cell phone "making a plan" and we were delighted at the results.
- Take very good care of the observer. My father joined me and has regaled more audiences than I can count with his slide show of the trip. The PH even let him take a nice wildebeest for the trophy fee only...still hunting at observer fees which, as I recall, were free or nearly so as a part of my package deal.
- Be clear about all costs...and "make it right" when it's not clear. At the final payment was the first time VAT came up. I hadn't seen that before so he checked our correspondence and his web-site. It wasn't there so he "ate" the cost -- I hope I made up for it with my tip.
- Be a good campfire host. It took two days before we could make our own drinks and another before we could clear our own plates or make the evening campfire. They insisted we were guests and treated us as such.
- Marry well. Our PH's wife, along with a friend and his wife, joined us for a couple of nights. His delightful wife asked the smartest question ever -- in her lovely Afrikaans, out of earshot, she asked me "what has been your best experience so far? What was your worst?"
- Speaking the client's native language is very important, but I also believe the PH needs to be able to communicate with his staff, family, and friends freely. I'm not paranoid, so that helps.
 

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This is an outstanding thread. I have certainly learned a lot by reading it.

An old saying came to mind while reading this thread, "If you want to have a friend, be a friend".

I think this came to my mind because I realized that at least part of my satisfaction with a PH is going to depend on my preparation and willingness to be a good client/hunter.

So, while the P in PH stands for Professional, and we should expect the PH to be just that, how we conduct ourselves as clients is going to have a large bearing on the outcome/satisfaction of the hunt.

I must do everything I can to help my PH be his best. He must do everything he can, to help me be my best. That kind of teamwork will result in a successful and memorable hunt, I am fairly certain.

Thanks to all for their input into this thread, and thanks for letting me pontificate and ramble!


Tim
 

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After 7 hunts in africa I am still surprised that after the hunt, PHs and outfitters have never asked me what I thought or how it could be improved on or what could make it better in my opinion. I realize that PHs are self reliant by nature but anything can be improved on and they don't always know best about everything, human nature. That said, all my PHs tried to make my hunts good, but there were areas that could have been better and asking for input from clients might help.
 

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Wow - great comments from all here! I realize how fortunate I have been as both my trips have been to the p.h.'s own property, and I met him personally before booking, so no chance of foulups by miscommunication or booking agents, etc. I was able to visit before booking about my expectations, quality of animals, etc. Not to downgrade the service outfitters and booking agents give, but meeting in person was my method that worked.
 

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