“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” This timeless wisdom resonated with me even more during my recent international hunting trip to Namibia. Living in a world that embraces diversity, it is pivotal to appreciate the unique aspects of each culture and location we encounter as hunters. If I was writing this article to tell you how to select and book a hunt that meets your expectations, I would have more tips on questions to ask and what to look for in an outfitter. I only intend to highlight how we must respect differences and local cultures and avoid imposing our perspectives on those who see things differently.
I often find myself in Alaska, huddled in a damp, cold two-person tent with rain puddles all around, hoping that my Dall sheep client is warm, content, and not regretting his expensive decision to book a guided hunt. Although I relish the challenges and the harsh conditions that hunting presents, it’s quite common to find hunters who insist on implementing their methods and style, wishing they could modify the current situation to their liking. These hunts won’t last forever, it will be over soon, you will be home, and it will be a sweet memory to you. Instead of trying to replicate your wall tent elk camp back home, strive to appreciate this distinct experience for what it is. Shift your perspective. We’re all familiar with the phrase, “Don’t guide the guide.” I, however, am not addressing this. I enjoy strategizing a stalk and making decisions with my client’s perspective and opinions in mind. Two minds are better than one, and I appreciate being kept in “check” by my clients. My real concern here lies in the difficulties many hunters face in adapting to unfamiliar conditions, food, cultures, and different hunting styles on adventures they voluntarily undertake. These difficulties can lead to wilderness depression and regrets.
For instance, if you don’t wish to hunt from a ground hide (blind), then you may have serious friction with your African PH when he wants to sit all day over his favorite waterhole. If you desire to hunt 450" red deer but don’t want to see the inside of a high-fenced enclosure, New Zealand may be a letdown as this is how most large stags are hunted in this country. That’s just how it is. Similarly, it would be unwise for me to arrive in Namibia and demand that we venture out into the Kalahari Desert with large backpacks, freeze-dried food, and sleeping bags, much as I would for a high-country mule deer hunt in the States. This isn’t what your guide is accustomed to, and I shouldn’t assume my hunting style is superior. This seems straightforward, but how often do we find ourselves guilty of the belief that “my hunting way is the right way and therefore the only way that I can be happy?” Yes, it’s unusual as a western hunter to drive a Land Cruiser off-road to winch up a whole animal into the bed and let the local staff handle all the knives and processing while back at the lodge, but that’s the way it’s done in Africa. Embrace the cultural differences and hunting styles. Take notes, try the food, understand the reasons behind their methods, and immerse yourself in the experience.
There’s nothing wrong with imposing personal restrictions to make the chase, stalk, or hunt more challenging. Many archery hunters embrace the struggle of archery hunting because they relish the experience of overcoming obstacles to successfully take an animal. However, just because you enjoy the challenge of hunting a particular species with a bow and arrow doesn’t mean that the rest of the hunting world should share your appreciation. To each his own, right?
I hope we bear this in mind when planning our next hunts. Learn about the local customs, learn the history, and embrace the differences. And if you ever find yourself hunting in Rome, I’d recommend hunting as the Romans do.