by Cameron Hopkins - Thursday, July 22, 2010
Adventure-seeking hunters recognize that of all the world’s hunting destinations, Alaska and Africa both offer incredible experiences. They each boast spectacular game, amazing natural beauty and supreme hunting challenges. You can take multiple species on a single hunt, and each will allow you to test your mettle against dangerous game. Like the kid who wants to have his cake and eat it too, Africa and Alaska should both be experienced.
But if you compare them head-to-head, Africa offers more of everything a hunter wants.
Variety Of Game
Compared to any of the Lower 48, Alaska is well-endowed with game, but contrasted to Africa…please. It’s no contest. Africa will take your caribou and raise you a greater kudu, gemsbok and eland plus toss in a sable. Dangerous game isn’t even close—bear and possibly wolf against Cape buffalo, lion, leopard, elephant, hippo, croc and rhino.
Ah yes, you say, but what about mountain game? Alaska has Dall sheep and mountain goat! Africa has mountain nyala, bushbuck, leopard, giant forest hog and several duikers, all at over 10,000 feet. Sorry, but there’s not even a question—Africa trumps Alaska for variety of game.
Some Alaskan camps can be downright cozy, such as Jim Harrower’s Stony Mountain Lodge. There are coastal boats that sport hot showers and delectable seafood, but for the utmost in traditional comfort, a tented safari in East Africa is hard to beat. Yes, there are embarrassingly luxurious lodges in Southern Africa complete with saunas, swimming pools and billiard tables, but if you go to the “real Africa” and book a traditional safari, you’ll experience exactly what Roosevelt, Ruark and Hemingway enjoyed.
On the other hand, you’re more than welcome to shiver inside a two-man tent with your guide’s dirty socks two feet from your face as you huddle on the side of a rain-soaked mountain and call that “recreation.” I’ll take the white-jacketed waiter in the red fez bringing me an icy sundowner as I bask in the sunshine outside my private canvas tent.
In Alaska, the primary method of hunting is glassing. Now let’s be candid here. Glassing can be romanticized to an eye-straining, attention-sapping, concentration-requiring exercise in mental focus. Or it can be called what it is—sitting on your butt and staring at a hillside. I’ve got one word for the primary method of Alaskan hunting—boor-ring.
Africa, on the other hand, presents an engaging and fascinating method of hunting, spot-and-stalk. You’re walking through the bush and glance at a fleeting glimpse of a dappled gray form, a kudu. Its corkscrew horns lie flat against its back as it disappears like a ghost into the fog. Now you take the spoor, tracking the big spiral-horn until you finally catch it unawares, shading itself under an acacia. Two hours of intensive tracking versus two hours of wearing a blister on your tush. Real hunting is thy name, Africa.
It’s true, Alaska’s mountainous terrain is physically demanding. Even worse, just getting to the mountainous terrain through the alders is enough to sap the strength of the toughest, fittest, young guide. I’ve clawed, shoved, cursed and clambered my way through the alders so I grant that our 49th state has “when the going gets tough” all to itself.
Do I want to talk about the clinging vines, thorn-covered creepers and poisonous snakes of Africa’s rain forest? No. I’ll grant that Alaska is more physically challenging than Africa.
But that begs a question. Just how much physical discomfort do you really want on a hunt? I think I’ll take the wait-a-bit thorns and withering heat of Africa over the alders and shale slides of a damp and cold Alaska.
What’s the most sensible rifle for Alaska? A stainless steel Remington 700 with a synthetic stock, right? The wet weather and harsh conditions almost demand a “modern marvel” of titanium and fiberglass.
In Africa, by contrast, you can bring a classic English double rifle with Circassian walnut stick and express sights. Or a well-treated Winchester Model 70 in a great old African caliber like .375 Holland & Holland Magnum.
You hunt Africa with beautifully figured walnut stocks and slow-rust blued barrels chambered in Nitro Express cartridges. In Alaska, you shoot some hybrid rust-beater in a Super Short Magnum. Your choice—marble-cake figured walnut in a fine old British double or matte black plastic on a white piece of stainless.
Alaska and Africa are both “must do” hunts on any serious sportsman’s list. But if I were to wave my magic Bill Gates wand and tell you that, right now, you can go on any hunt to Alaska or any safari to Africa you like—free—which would you choose?
I rest the case for Africa.
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