In 2018 I hunted Africa. It was the single greatest hunting experience of my life.
Why? It wasn’t the animals. It wasn’t the exotic terrain. It was the people I met. To this day, the professional hunters I met and worked with in South Africa are not only my professional mentors as an outdoor writer, but the absolute first and best references I reach out to for the most ethical answers to hunting questions.
Actually, they’re much more than that to me. I owe my life’s greatest decision – to choose to love again – to a week-long conversation I had with professional hunter Leon Duplessis. Why? Because after a week of hunting with Leon my trust in his moral conviction and passion for life was unparalleled.
You see, the best hunters – the professional hunters – aren’t thoughtless killers. They’re people who know the value of life, and of death. They know when to take a life, and when not to. They possess and routinely practice a kind of humility few human beings can ever truly appreciate because each and every day they make choices about life. If you're with the right PH, the taking of a life will be a discussion based on much more than if the animal is a “trophy.” In fact, if you’re with the right PH’s, you won’t talk about a trophy at all. What you will talk about is whether or not the animal you want is mature. If taking its life helps or hurts the herd? If you can you make an ethical shot? And if you can you find and recover the animal in a timely manner so to fully salvage the it’s meat and other resources, so it all gets recycled back into Africa’s ecology. If the answer is no, the right PH will pause just long enough for you to say as much. But, they’ll also say it for you if need be. How fast you answer, and if you answer at all will reveal more about your character to any PH and you than how well you shoot, how fancy your rifle is, or how colorful your stories are. If you fall short, as many of us do, a good PH can help you grow, not only as a hunter, but as a human being.
Quite a few hunters rejoice from the experiences they have had in Africa. They proudly display hides, mounts, photos, and keepsakes of their time on the Dark Continent. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But, if you ask me, the most valuable trophy anyone who hunts Africa can ever bring back with them is an education about the value of life, and the ability to execute decisions with a higher sense of integrity, compassion, and respect for it. These lessons alone are worth the price of any safari because on our deathbed we won’t reflect on the trophy quality of lives we took as hunters, but on the trophy quality of the lives, we led as human beings.
Hunt Africa. It can change your life if you let it.
As the Garth Brooks song says, “Ask Me How I know.”