The Professional Hunter in Africa

Most people that go to hunt in Africa do so with a professional hunter. We might call him a guide, but the best way to describe him is as a PH. He started in this business not to make a lot of money, but to find a way to get paid for doing what he loves. He is probably a member of a professional hunting society. He owns at least four guns and is proficient with each: a big game rifle, a small game rifle and a shotgun for upland birds or ducks.

Before he gets his license, the PH must complete a course of training in firearms, safety, conservation, animal identification, trophy care and vehicle maintenance. He becomes a master of many things. He learns to get along with people from all walks of life and, over the course of time, learns business skills that would serve him well in any career.

But he is most at home in the bush, on the veldt, on the savannah. On our safari this year, Wighardt van der Gryp, our PH, said, “There are three sounds I must hear: the roar of the lion, the trumpet of the elephant and the laugh of the hyena.” This after two hyenas walked into camp and stood looking at the fire.

They were young ones, Wighardt said, and wouldn’t pose too much danger to us. “It is the old ones you have to worry about.”

A PH can identify the animal and its sex by looking at the track. He probably has in his employ, a native tracker who is even better at it than he is. And, in the bush, he is on alert for danger. He has probably stopped an angry hippo or an elephant with a rifle and he will do it for you, too, but he probably won’t have to.

In the bush, Wighardt carries his shooting sticks. They are used to dislodge snakes from the trail, to steady the binoculars and to steady the rifle for a shot. He wraps them with black Camo Form to keep the shine of the metal from spooking animals.

While the professional hunter walks ahead he watches and looks for game, but he is seldom so absorbed that he can’t stop to admire a lilac-breasted roller or stoop to watch a dung beetle at his labor. Call him a hunter, call him a businessman, call him a recluse or a people person, but above all he is a naturalist and a rugged individualist. And once you hunt with him you will probably hunt with him again. 

Gary Lewis is an outdoor writer, speaker and television host from Bend, Oregon. Contact Lewis at, on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

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Originally Published: Aug 12, 2014

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