Professional Hunters are qualified and licenced to guide paying overseas clients on their hunting safari. In most African countries it is a legal requirement for a foreign hunter to be accompanied by a PH. A few countries like Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Benin permit 'chasse libre' which is a solo-safari where all the preparation and outfitting is done by the hunter himself.
An article on Professional Hunters would not be complete without the famous job description written by Peter Hathaway Capstick....
"WANTED: Young active man interested in low and infrequent pay to play bwana in remote bushveldt. Must be proven raconteur and socialite without liver trouble, expert card player, bartender, caterer, barbecuer, philosopher, African historian. Experience in sanitary engineering, local architecture, labour relations, navigation, medicine and pharmacology, botany, zoology, ichthyology, mineralogy, entomology, butcher, taxidermist, dietetics, optics, photography and radio navigation essential. Applicant should speak at least two black African languages fluently as well as one other modern European tongue. A knowledge of mechanics, driving, gunsmithing, toxicology, ballistics, tracking, marksmanship, handloading, and experience as a bodyguard are required. Benefits are a twenty four hour day, unlimited fresh air, including rain, sun and dust, no medical dental or life insurance and no retirement benefits. Applicant should supply his own rifles. Vehicles on a per diem basis. The duties of a Professional Hunter on safari are essentially the same as those of a ship's captain and with the same responsibilities. He's everything from the social director to the ship's surgeon, if needed. He's the author of the strategy of the hunting plan, but also the tactician as to make each stalk. He keeps the peace among the staff, oversees the food and drink, translates and interprets, sees that the trophies are properly handled and is shooting coach, gunsmith, stand up comedian and diplomat any time he is called on to be so. A Professional Hunter is perhaps best summed up in the observation that he is the social equal of anybody while on safari, up to and including a duke."
It is very important that you discuss your expectations and hunting priorities with your PH from the start.
Also discuss the subject of back-up shots. The definition of a 'back-up' shot is a shot fired by the PH with a client or on report of the client's shot, or very soon thereafter, to assist the client to achieve a kill. This may occur under the circumstances of the client requesting help possibly because he feels a little nervous on a dangerous game shot or because the animal is close to an 'out-of-bounds' area. This can be seen as sound judgment by a client hunter who is honest about his abilities.
However, there may be some occasions where your PH might put in a shot whether you like it or not. This will happen only on occasions such as if the PH feels that by not shooting, he may be endangering human life or safety - it is his legal duty. If you are in the minority school of hunters who object to that, probably the best thing you can do is learn to shoot straight in the first place. There is a lot of talk from this certain kind of hunter where they say things such as, if the PH shoots, I won't pay the trophy fee. A comprehensive hunt indemnity should spell this out - a client will be required to pay the game fee on an animal, if the PH puts in a shot, that he deems necessary in defence of life and limb.
Sometimes you may request a particular Professional Hunter due to his reputed skill with a particular animal or because you got on well with him on a previous hunt. If an outfitter promises you a PH, the commitment should be honoured. Many hunters have every reason to be very disgruntled when they hear the PH they were going to have has gone off to hunt with seemingly more important or lucrative clients. You may well feel you have got a second rate replacement which may be true in some cases but generally if you've booked with a good company, all the Professional Hunters will be of a similarly excellent calibre. Where you will possibly lose out is with a cheap company that hires any PH off the street to fill a gap.
Horror stories abound about lazy 'Professional' Hunters opting to watch rubgy than go hunting with their client, getting themselves and clients lost because they are unfamiliar with the hunt area and complete incompetence and inexperience. Fortunately these characters are in the minority and with good research and using a reputable hunting company, you will get a good Professional Hunter.