What's Going On With Cheap Hunts?

Hank2211

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There have been lots of ‘inexpensive’ hunts posted over the last little while on AH. By inexpensive, I mean downright cheap. Hunts which charge no day rates; hunts for lion at rates that are way below even the currently depressed market; hunts for buffalo and sable and roan at prices I haven’t seen in 10+ years of watching trophy fees, and which are lower than those shown on most trophy fee lists.

The hunts I’m referring to are generally in South Africa.

This is an open question, but it may be more appropriately directed to outfitters/agents.

What’s with that?

This has come up because I’m organizing a hunt with some friends, who will be going to Africa for the first time. I think I’ve organized an interesting hunt, with a top notch outfitter, but his prices are significantly higher that many I’ve seen lately on AH, but no higher (and in fact a bit lower) than I’m used to paying myself. If you check the websites of many of the sponsors on this site, you will see trophy fees that are materially higher than many of the hunts that have been posted recently. I’ve been wondering how to respond if my friends ask me why we’re paying more than some hunts can be had for.

How do these outfitters feel about the ‘cheap’ hunts?

Do those who post higher trophy fees just discount them when asked?

Should I find the lowest fees for the animals that I want and then haggle with my outfitter over every one?

Those who outfit in countries other than South Africa (and maybe Namibia), what do you say when someone asks why the day rates in Zambia, or Tanzania, or Zimbabwe, for example, are multiples of what they are in South Africa?

Do people understand?

Do these inexpensive hunts generate more complaints than higher priced hunts? Or do people who take up those offers go in with lower expectations? Is there any reason that they should have lower expectations?

Please don’t misunderstand me. I like a bargain as much as the next guy. And I worked hard for my money, and don’t want to waste it. Having said that, if I’m travelling half-way around the world for a hunt, I want to have the best experience I can, and if that costs a bit more, then so be it. Note that by ‘best experience’, I’m not talking about a luxury camp and spa. Those who’ve read my hunt reports know I can be just as happy in a freezing cold tent on top of a mountain or an Afrikaner farmer's home eating his wife's home cooking (well, maybe not just as happy, but happy enough).

So by ‘best experience’, I mean the best hunting, on unfenced or very large properties, chasing the best animals, all of which are as wild as any. When I go out in the morning, I want to know that there’s no assurance I’m going to see any animal worth hunting, let alone get any such animal. I want the ‘old Africa’ experience, rather than shooting buffalo in a pen (the hunting version of fish in a barrel).

Am I wrong in thinking that it’s not color variants that will kill hunting in South Africa but rather cheap, cheap hunts that can’t or don’t provide much in the way of a true African hunting experience? Or ‘hunters’ who show up with lists and don’t care how they get the animals or what they look like as long as they get them?

Or am I just a ‘hunting snob’?
 

gillettehunter

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Hi there Hank. Interesting question. No pat answere, just a few observations. I think that RSA is undergoing changes in the hunting industry. Some have not been able to keep busy and have decided to break even instead of making a profit. There has also been a 3 yr. drought. Some places need to take off some extra animals to keep from feeding them. Money in is better than paying for feed.
In some cases outfitters just have too many animals. Sable seems to be an example of that. I think that perhaps 8yrs ago prices were so high that companies started breeding all the sable that they could. Now demand seems to be less in most areas. So prices have to drop in order to sell. Supply and demand.
I see 3 factors that have significant influence on prices overall.
1) strong US dollar against the rand.
2) Drougth as mentioned above. Better to hunt than to feed.
3) low oil prices have reduced the number of overseas hunters that have jobs in that industry. Fuel should also be a little less.....
If an outfitter owns his property, is self sustaining (no need to buy auction animals), and is the PH (no need to hire a PH) then they can sell hunts cheaper. Occasionally you will get a new company that is desperate for feedback. They know it's hard to get hunters in without references, so they have a special to get some hunters in. Then they have references and with some luck they will get a write up on AH or another web site with safari hunters.
Take advantage of it while you can. Some of those factors may be changing. Just my opinion. I'm wrong a lot and others may disagree.
Bruce
 

Neale

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Certainly a lot of it has to do with the strong USD.
If you look at prices in my currency (Aussie $ ) or (Rand) converted from USD then prices are not cheap.
There appears however, to be a greater range between min- max advertised lately.
 

wesheltonj

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I suspect the drought. When I was at DSC the place I hunted with said after I left he had a cull hunt where in he culled 150 animals as the natural food sources was not enough and he does not supplemental feed.
 

Shootist43

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I've always thought it is more profitable to make a smaller profit on a large number of clients, rather than try to make a lot of profit off a few.

Is there some way of determining how many foreign hunters go to each of the respective countries in Africa? How many outfitters are there in each of those countries? Do the math. Another very probable reason is a sales gimmick called the "loss leader." The outfitter makes very little on the "package" hunts but makes up for it in the additional animals taken. The daily costs are covered, lodging, airport pick-up and drop off, PHs, food etc. The profit margin on the extra animals is where the outfitter makes his money. This scenario is probably more true of "high-fence" operations than free range.
 

Hank2211

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Thanks for the replies. I have little doubt that the factors mentioned are part of the equation.

On the other hand, I notice we haven't heard from any outfitters . . .
 

rinehart0050

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I suspect many of these discount hunts fall into two categories: lions and everything else.

Lions: with the importation issues for the US, the whole industry is in trouble. I think they need to reduce the supply so that they can adjust to the reduced demand. I expect that prices will go back up soon, with an adjusted focus towards Asian and middle eastern clients. Now is the time to hunt RSA lions, especially if you're not from the USA.

Everything else: buff, sable, roan, golden color variants, etc have all been aggressively bred for a market that is getting smaller due to weak oil prices and global recession. Same as others have said, supply exceeding demand.


I'd also say this: trophy prices don't cover everything. Some of the top outfitters that are more expensive have access to better hunting areas, higher quality trophies, more luxurious accommodations, etc.

All depends on what sort of experience you're looking for.
 

HeinrichH

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To me its simple and all the same. If you want to pay peanuts, your going to hunt with monkeys.

Good areas and logistics dont come cheap. If you want to hunt a top area, for a top experience, trophy and service, paying cheap is not the answer.

The memories of a poor hunt stays long after the low price you paid is forgotten, and most of the time buying cheap is buying more expensive if you know what I mean, and when it comes to hunting it defenately applies.
 

ack

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When in Namibia 2 yrs ago our host told us some outfitters had no U S clients for the year..Drought and bad economy has reduced no of animals and hunters.US is also causing concerns about bringing trophies home because of stupid antis..Economy of S A is in shambles too with exchange rate of 13 to 1 and tons of illegal immigrants from other areas of Africa..Shame ! Also have a no of crooked outfitters coming in.
 

siml

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@HeinrichH , I agree with you.

@Hank2211 , I am having to compete with the low SA prices on sable. it's sad that such a majestic animal has truly become a laughing stock in SA.

We have much higher running costs in Mozambique, battling to keep our heads above water, not going to be able to hold on much longer.
 

Hank2211

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@HeinrichH , I agree with you.

@Hank2211 , I am having to compete with the low SA prices on sable. it's sad that such a majestic animal has truly become a laughing stock in SA.

We have much higher running costs in Mozambique, battling to keep our heads above water, not going to be able to hold on much longer.
This is what bothers me. A traditional hunt in Zambia is a hunter's dream. Yet either people have to justify to themselves paying multiples - many multiples - of what a similar length hunt in RSA would cost (and that's where the similarity begins and ends), or you have to put yourself out of business. Makes no sense to me.

I can say that I hope that the better operators can outlast those who are giving it away, because sanity will have to return to the market at some point.
 

Ryan

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My first two hunts were found at a sportsmans show and fit @Gillettehunters #3(.2?) Description to a tee.

" If an outfitter owns his property, is self sustaining (no need to buy auction animals), and is the PH (no need to hire a PH) then they can sell hunts cheaper."

And they were both great hunts.

I understand the outfitters costs, So I realize most outfitters overhead is more so their prices are too, thus my next hunt will cost differently. Each outfitter is different concerning services, species offered, location(s) hunted and accomodations plus other extras. You need to pass that along to your friends to show the value in the hunt you are offering.
 

375 Ruger Fan

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Instead of cheap or expensive, I like to use the term "value." Do I use one of the economy $400 rifles that every gun manufacturer in the US is cranking out these days, no. I don't shoot a $12k Rigby either. Something that works well and doesn't break the bank is what most hunters use.

As far as value hunts, I think the wide variation in costs depends a lot on the business model each outfitter has. Two of my hunts, one in Nam and the other in the eastern cape, the outfitter owned the land and worked as the PH, augmented by a few hired PHs. In essence, controlled more of the value chain. The biggest part of my cost was the trophy fees. As the landowner, they get the trophy fees, then also make money selling the meat on the commercial market or feeding their family and all their workers. The downside to this type of business model is you do have higher fixed costs. Feeding 20 farm and lodge workers, maintaining fences, etc.

My hunt in Zim, there was a concession owner, outfitter and my PH and they all were separate and getting a cut. The concession owner (the BVC) had to maintain a small army of anti-poaching troops, plus workers to maintain the roads, water well (borehole) pumps, fences, etc. The outfitter maintained and provide the workers at each lodge, as well as the food and drinks.

One thing I've never been clear on, and that's the split on trophy fees. Does a PH that is working for an outfitter get a part of the trophy fees? I would hope so, as that provides an incentive for him.

One last comment: I have been looking at a hunt in Tanz. The government charges something approaching $5k for a 10 hunting permit and $7k for a 21 day. In order to hunt certain animals, you are forced to buy the 21 day permit, even if you only do a 10-14 day hunt. So this runs the price up of a hunt and none of it goes to the outfitter or PH. This is a prime example of why some places are just flat out more expensive to hunt than others.
 

Royal27

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There are definitely different business models that contribute to this as well. You have the "traditional" outfitter who owns a consession, lodge, and all the expense that goes with that. If he has a large area and hunts it correctly to keep quality that can be expensive.

Then you have the "contract" outfitter. He is an outfitter, but he owns nothing. The lodge is rented by the day, he owns no land and goes from area to area depending on what species is being looked for. "We hunt the best area" many times translates into "we go where my profit margin for that animal is best for me." And maybe the area hunted is a little smaller and the average horn length a little less.... Especially in times of high supply these guys can get some great deals from desperate landowners. And even in good times there is always a landowner who is desperate for whatever reason.

Look at most of the low cost outfitters closely and you'll see they are "contract." Nothing wrong with it. It's just a different business model and a different hunt.
 

HeinrichH

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There are definitely different business models that contribute to this as well. You have the "traditional" outfitter who owns a consession, lodge, and all the expense that goes with that. If he has a large area and hunts it correctly to keep quality that can be expensive.

Then you have the "contract" outfitter. He is an outfitter, but he owns nothing. The lodge is rented by the day, he owns no land and goes from area to area depending on what species is being looked for. "We hunt the best area" many times translates into "we go where my profit margin for that animal is best for me." And maybe the area hunted is a little smaller and the average horn length a little less.... Especially in times of high supply these guys can get some great deals from desperate landowners. And even in good times there is always a landowner who is desperate for whatever reason.

Look at most of the low cost outfitters closely and you'll see they are "contract." Nothing wrong with it. It's just a different business model and a different hunt.

@Royal27 to be honest the majority of outfitters don't own the land, but certain concession, and acquiring the top concessions and keeping them is not cheap.
I don't own the land, but concessions, and somehow feel uncomfortable by your post that i "have nothing"..

I do however understand the point you are making and agree with what you mean about low cost outfitters selling cheap deals and 'taking you to the best place'...

On the other side I've seen land owners selling cheap deals on hunts thats NOT on their land, and also scamming clients, so it goes both ways.

Any deals below market rate should be properly researched, theres a reason theres a market rate.

Selling something for way less than its worth degrades those species, for example buffalo bull hunts for half the price.... well at half the price that is the buffalo and experience you must expect. I see this numerous times every year, and help out a lot of guys that get stuck on hunts like this every year around our area.

I also feel that people shouldn't want to write bad reports after going on such a hunt, because they where warned and knew to probably expect it, then they cant complain.

My two cents
 

Royal27

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@Royal27 to be honest the majority of outfitters don't own the land, but certain concession, and acquiring the top concessions and keeping them is not cheap.
I don't own the land, but concessions, and somehow feel uncomfortable by your post that i "have nothing"..

No offense intended @HeinrichH. And I understand that many if not most outfitters don't own land. I stand by my point though. It's a different business model and like I said, there's nothing wrong with it. I would include anyone who has truly acquired a top large concession and works it as if they own it in the "traditional " model. There is certainly a difference between that and not doing a thing other than paying for the animal after its been shot inside a 1000 hectare high fenced parcel.


I also feel that people shouldn't want to write bad reports after going on such a hunt, because they where warned and knew to probably expect it, then they cant complain.

I think that these reports should by all means be made. They serve as a warning to the next client. If that next client doesn't listen then oh well. And the client who posts the report should understand they have earned and will get some criticism. Now if they act like they are totally innocent in the deal then yes, they have really earned being raked over the coals.

Oh and by the way. I work for a large corporation. I do not own my own business at all. I have "nothing" and I'm quite OK with that. :)
 
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HeinrichH

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No offense intended @HeinrichH. And I understand that many if not most outfitters don't own land. I stand by my point though. It's a different business model and like I said, there's nothing wrong with it. I would include anyone who has truly acquired a top large concession and works it as if they own it in the "traditional " model. There is certainly a difference between that and not doing a thing other than paying for the animal after its been shot inside a 1000 hectare high fenced parcel.

I do agree with you regarding that no doubt @Royal27
 

Bos en Dal SAFARIS

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I speak only for myself here. We run a family outfit on a family ranch. Myself, my brother in law and a cousin of mine are the ph's conducting the hunts. Our property is managed well and all herds are self sustaining. The ranch is diversified with cattle and sheep farming divisions on it. All of the operations helps cover running cost and smaller profits on each of the divisions are required. This is why we can advertised 2 or 3 "cheaper hunts" per year.
I believe everyone will have some sort of bussiness model on what their pricing are based or else it won't make any sence doing bussiness if you are going down hill.
@HeinrichH i differ from your oppinion about peanuts and monkeys!!!!! There are still some "cheap hunts" that give you the same experiance as any other hunt you will find.
 

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