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Is "Dangerous Game Hunting" Really That Dangerous?

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The Myth: Dangerous game hunting isn’t really that dangerous.

I talk to a lot of hunters here in the U.S. who just don’t "get" the concept of hunting dangerous game in Africa. I don’t "get" golf, so to each his own, but I do take exception when those same individuals claim that there’s nothing really dangerous about the pursuit of Africa’s Big Five (Lions, Leopards, Cape Buffalo, Elephants, and Rhinos).

The Facts
There’s no Federal Agency that tracks statistics of hunters and safari staff who are killed and wounded in Africa, so we have to use anecdotal evidence. Historical references provide scores of cases of hunters killed by big game throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries, but this year alone provides us with valuable and tragic evidence.

As I write this, we are at the peak of the 2012 safari season in much of Africa and the hunting community has already seen too many tragic deaths and injuries.

The Victims
- Early this season, Buzz Charlton of Charlton MacCallum Safaris saw one of his trackers injured by a wounded elephant bull in the thick cover. The tracker, Criton, suffered a broken pelvis but will hopefully be back in the field soon. The bull had been wounded by a client, tracked-down and hit with a brain shot that failed to put him down in time, a rifle jam took things from bad to worse. Fortunately, Buzz's quick shooting saved Criton from more serious injuries.

- Chifuti Safaris lost Owain Lewis in June, an experienced Zimbabwean PH who was killed by a charging cape buffalo.

- Just last week another Zimbabwean PH, Wayne Clark, was reportedly killed by a Cape Buffalo.

- It’s not always the game animal itself that gets you, PH Anthony Howland lost his arm in June after a client’s rifle apparently discharged as it hit the ground after the client tripped and fell.

My “Attitude Adjustment”
I’ve been in a couple of “sporty” situations on safari but no real close calls. On last year’s trip to Humani in the Save Conservancy, my buffalo bull died after a single Barnes TSX caused him some heart issues. When everything goes right, there’s rarely drama and even an experienced safari hunter could get the idea that we’ve all read just a bit too much Capstick when it comes to the real dangers of hunting. That bubble burst for me when one of the other clients at Humani wounded a bull that charged him and Professional Hunter Butch Coaton in a tunnel of boulders from which there was no escape. Butch and the client stood their ground and fought it out with the bull—finally stopping him at spitting distance after they both emptied their magazines into his head.

The Ruling
There is no question that dangerous game hunting in Africa is truly dangerous. The families of the PHs and trackers who saw their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers killed or maimed by wounded game animals stand as a solemn testament to that truth. It’s nearly impossible to calculate accurate rates of death or serious injury, but the anecdotal evidence is clear.

How can these deaths be prevented?
As a client, you not only have an ethical obligation to the game animal to do your best to ensure a quick and clean kill, you have a moral obligation to the safari staff to do so as well. Get comfortable with your rifle, practice safe gun handling on safari, and don’t take shots that you don’t have confidence in. At the end of the day, it will be the brave Professional Hunters and trackers who will risk their lives when something goes wrong. You owe them your best performance.

How to Help
The Boddington Fund was founded by Craig Boddington to help offset the financial burdens of wounded safari staff—these guys don’t have insurance like you and I. Your donation can help.

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