What makes a great hunting destination? Well, it’s tricky. Dedicated hunters come from all walks of life, and not all have the same dreams – but there are a few things that seem pretty universal. Spectacular scenery is often a given, along with healthy populations of interesting
game. For many there is a real buzz in doing what they love with their friends or family, so access to good transport, food and medical facilities often rates high up the list. Sadly, you might also hear some things that maybe weren’t so common in the good old days – no terrorism, low crime rate, and a culture that not only accepts hunting, but embraces it.
OK, I’m biased but New Zealand ticks a lot of those boxes. The spectacular Southern Alps, tahr and red stag, chamois, fallow, sika and sambar…but with good hospitals, roads and restaurants. Virtually zero chance of any terrorism, and a country where big game hunting magazines stand proudly in just about every supermarket and hardware store. Newsreaders wish the country luck the night before duck opening…
But there’s one more thing that every great destination has. Seriously dedicated hunters expect seriously professional guides. That’s not always a given. My own experiences across Africa, Australia, the US and South America taught me that while professionalism literally makes or breaks a trip, standards vary wildly from camp to camp and country to country. It’s a gamble and I’ve lost sometimes. It hurts.
I put this proposition to Gerald Telford, president of the New Zealand Professional Hunters & Guides Association. A veteran guide himself, GT didn’t mince words. “Few things are worse than realising your time, money and hopes are being frittered away by a PH who is simply not up to it. It just isn’t good enough to hope everyone can cut the mustard, so we’ve spent four years building training and set of industry standards. We want to lead the world in guide professionalism, full stop.” Now, no names, no pack drill but experienced hunters know that in some countries registering as a PH does not necessarily mean much in real terms. A country pushing hard for more and better is a win-win for everyone…the industry, the clients and ultimately the game itself.
GT has the final word. “We’ve already put a signed partnership in place with DSC on conservation issues, so making sure that members get a world class guiding experience every single time is just a natural extension of that. Once enough countries operate that way, it puts pressure on the rest to keep up. That’s the long game.”
Go, Kiwi. Chalk one up for New Zealand – little country, big heart, big dreams.