African Hunt Etiquette

African hunt etiquette or how to conduct oneself is actually of some concern especially for first time hunters and probably ought to be for some veteran African hunters.

"A happy camp is a successful camp. You can help maintain the magic." Craig Boddington.

Increasingly, hunters arrive in Africa expecting the same standards of efficiency as they have at home and so are well prepared to find fault with everything, ready to blame and figure out ways to get their money back. Many also approach African hunting like they are ticking off a shopping list in a home or office furnishing store. Fewer hunters, it seems, come to Africa armed with the right attitude of actually having fun and enjoying themselves and their surroundings while working hard for their trophies.

Most outfitters and PH will move heaven and earth to get things right for you but a little understanding from the hunter will not come amiss if he can't have an ice bucket in his leopard blind, gets sunburnt knees or if there is an ant on the butter. (These example are true).

Of course there may be days for some, when things go wrong - delays, logistical problems and other screw-ups. However, usually nobody has deliberately gone out of their way to sabotage your hunt, so these hitches should be viewed philosophically and as veteran hunter, Peter Lang says, 'TAB' - That's Africa, Bwana.

There will probably be days when you make mistakes like missing a shot or wounding and losing an animal. Sickening as it is, try to get over it quickly and keep smiling.

As with most other sporting activities, there are a few points to keep in mind in conducting yourself on an African hunt. Of course it is your hunt and you paid for it but a degree of gentlemanly behaviour makes for a pleasant and safe hunt.

African Hunt Etiquette

  • Be safe with your firearms at all times.
  • Arrive with a modicum of shooting skill, that is, having done some practice before the hunt with the rifle you intend to bring to Africa. It has been known for some hunters to buy a new, possibly bigger calibre, rifle for Africa and arrive having never shot it before.
  • Arrive with the best level of fitness you can manage - if not, do not be surprised if your hunt perhaps is not as successful as it could be.
  • Treat all the hunting and camp staff with respect and courtesy. You'd be surprised at how many hunters forget basic manners or maybe they were never taught them, who knows?
  • Do not treat your PH as a servant. He is there to keep you safe in the bush, amongst other duties but not to clean your rifle or run round you like a nursemaid.
  • Offer to lend a hand and join in - it's always welcome.
  • Be honest about your hunting abilities from the outset. A good PH will adapt the hunting as far as possible, to cater for hunters of varying abilities. It is not a problem if you are an inexperienced hunter or so-so marksman, just don't pretend to be otherwise.
  • Enjoy yourself and your surroundings. What? Yes, this an anathema for some hunters.
  • If you do want to hunt for the tape measure, have the respect not to start measuring while the animal is busy dying.
  • Don't try to be an instant expert on African hunting.
  • In the field, always listen to your PH. There are times when he may need you to act quickly for your own safety, the reason for which you may not realise at the time.
  • By all means listen to your tracker too but refer and defer to your PH before taking any action. Some trackers may get quite excited on the final stalk and urge the hunter to 'shoot, shoot' but not realise the hunter may not be seeing the right animal, for example.
  • When out stalking, talk minimally and quietly and avoid waving your arms around.
  • Stay close and behind your PH when following up a wounded animal. Don't go wandering off or get too close to the tracker, thereby obliterating spoor.
  • Keep quiet and composed until your animal is found and declared definitely dead by the PH. Only then should the 'celebrations' start!
  • Always approach a 'dead' animal from the rear. If it does come back to life, it will usually run in the direction in which it is facing and hopefully not into you if you are behind it.
  • Try to be aware of your immediate surroundings. Watch where you put your feet and hands.
  • Smokers only - don't throw your butts into the bush. Extinguish cigarettes and put the butts in your pocket. Take care when lighting up in a moving hunting vehicle as it hurts if you get hot ash in your eye or anyone else's eye.
  • Use discretion when 'using the bathroom' in the bush. Going in full view of your hunt team, a few feet from the vehicle and not using a spade is not ideal, to say the least. Check for insects, snakes and thorns when picking your spot and don't forget the loo paper.
  • Put the lid back on the cool box after getting something out.
  • Switch your cell/satellite phone off while out in the bush hunting.
  • Don't keep borrowing the PH's binoculars and if you do, don't drop them.
  • Don't wander alone outside your tent in the dark and use your torch to check out the bathroom for unwelcome visitors before you use it at night.

Most hunters will think these African hunt etiquette points are completely obvious and nobody would do any different...don't you believe it - every one of these examples is true!

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Page Updated: Feb 2024

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