Safari Club International is all about hunting internationally. One truly powerful aspect of hunting internationally is that members get to meet fellow hunters from around the world and celebrate the activities and ethics that have made our fraternity so incredibly durable over time – literally since the beginning of human time.
The SCI Convention has become The Ultimate Hunters’ Market each year because it is THE quintessential rendezvous of hunters from around the world – a one-stop shop for anything related to hunting on earth. But beyond the commercial element is the social setting that provides an ability for friends, old and new, to get together and talk about past and future hunts, both local and in far-off lands.
In a rather circuitous manner, it was the SCI Convention that triggered events leading to the author going to Poland for what was a supremely enjoyable experience that proved to be far, far beyond just another hunt. But back to the beginning.
I was minding my own business at SCI HQ a little more than a year ago when I received a call from Ron Petty, who spent decades in the shooting sports industry before going into semi-retirement some time ago. I had only known him for 30 years or so personally.
Ron is anything but bashful, so quickly he explained that he was working with Norma Ammunition, and that the company was interested in increasing its presence, both in the United States in general, as well as at the SCI Convention and among SCI members specifically. The thought was that the SCI Convention is a significant place for them to be for many reasons, not the least of which is that SCI members hunt a lot, all over the place. Although he didn’t say it in so many words, SCI members also serve as thought leaders among the greater hunting community in that others mimic their choices in their respective spheres of activity.
During discussions about marketing strategies, Ron mentioned that it would be nice if one of the writers for SAFARI Magazine could join Norma on a hunt in Poland for wild boar and other species. Details could be discussed at the then-upcoming National Rifle Association annual meetings in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
At an impromptu meeting there, I first met Jorgen Sandstrom, Norma’s marketing manager. When the dust settled, it was decided, among other things, that we’d see if one of the frequent contributing writers for this magazine could attend the hunt that was scheduled for the following October.
One thing led to another, and it came to be that I found myself on a jet plane en route from Tucson, Arizona, to Berlin, Germany, and then in a minivan from Berlin to a hunting lodge near Drawno, Poland. I had not been in Berlin since 1967 or ‘68 when I was in the Army, and wow, what a change!
With what is effectively an open border, we blew from Germany into Poland at highway speed and were in the 19th Century lodge in rural Poland shortly after dark.
It was to be a driven game hunt, with target species being wild boar and females of various species, including red deer and roe deer. Small game animals like fox also were open if spotted.
The drives were typical for that form of hunt: Hunters were positioned a hundred yards or so apart around a rather square “drive” area, looking into the drive. Once all were in position, the hunting horn of the gamekeeper signaled a dozen or so “drivers” to begin sweeping through the area of the drive, making a lot of noise in the process.
The concept is to flush the animals from the forest and to, or past, the hunters. Definitely these kinds of hunts are extremely well organized and operated under strict rules as safety measures. Typically, there were 10 to 12 separate drives per day.
On many drives, the forest was so thick, looking into the drive, that there would be no shots that direction under any circumstances – too thick to see anything. So, this meant that when an animal or animals came busting out of the bush, the hunter had to identify the animal and, if it was open for shooting, get onto it, swing the rifle and then make the shot – often within a distance of but a few yards until the animal again disappeared into the thickness of the forest beyond the hunt.
I never had hunted this way often (one of the more enjoyable such hunts years ago was in Finland for moose), but I must admit that it is really fun. In fact, it can be addicting. From a game management perspective, this form of hunting also serves an important purpose in that it enables effective herd balance.
Shooting animals that have their afterburners at full blast and are only exposed for a brief moment calls for specific rifle rigs and shooting tactics.
Yann Richard, with Le Chasseur Francais magazine of France, used a Blaser R93 rifle in .270 WSM expertly, and explained the trick – use a quick sight and as soon as the rifle is on-target, loose the shot.
It is kind of like using a shotgunning technique on larger game with a rifle. For this, low-powered scopes or simple red dot sights work best. Yann had both a red dot sight and a telescopic sight for his Blaser, and used the red dot for most drives, but opted for the scope on the few occasions when longer shots were possible.
This particular hunt primarily involved hunters from France, who represented various elements of the shooting sports industry in that country. Of the nine on the hunt, five were from France. Others were the author and Josh Dahlke, with North American Hunter magazine, and hosts Jorgen Sandstrom and Don Heath from Norma Ammo.
Dahlke and Heath variously used a Krieghoff double rifle in .375 H&H Flanged and a Dumoulin Mauser in 9.3x62mm, while Sandstrom used a Tikka rifle in 9.3×62. The author used a Tikka rifle in .308 Winchester.
Thierry Daguenet of RUAG Ammotec France and son, Simon, used an RWS rifle in .270 WSM. Daguenet had made arrangements for the hunt via Chassorbis, a hunting agency that has been organizing hunts in Poland for more than 30 years, and which has access to more than 750,000 acres and permits for 5,000 animals per year.
Francois-Xavier Allonneau, editor-in-chief of Connaissance de la Chasse magazine, used a Mauser 66 in 7x64mm; Jean-Paul Houtmann, president of UNIFRANCE Armuriers, used a Beretta over/under rifle in 9.3x74R; and Philippe Viboud, with La Revue Nationale de la Chasse magazine, used a Blaser R93 in 9.3×62.
By the time that the dust settled on the three-day hunt, the tally was 43 animals for the nine-member hunt party. As one would expect, the Norma ammo used by all worked superbly.
Each evening following the hunt, there were the formal ceremonies honoring the animals taken during the hunt. This involves careful placement in rows by species of the animals on a bed of pine boughs, with a small fire on each corner of the layout square.
Hunting horns then blare taps for each species, honoring both the animals and the hunt. Part of the ceremony each evening was designation of the King of the Hunt for that day.
Following the first day, Sandstrom was dubbed King, and the second day it was Richard. The author received the honors following the third and final day of the hunt.
But the expedition was so very much more than simply shooting and ceremony. It was a gathering of hunters who also enjoy the attendant activities to the hunt itself – camaraderie being paramount.
What a great group of guys! The French contingent really knew how to hunt hard and effectively, and then revel in the post-hunt feasting and socializing back at the lodge in the evening. As international hunters have known all along, the common elements of our passions and commitments as hunters quickly overpower any impediments that language or other differences might otherwise create.
This phenomenon is most noticeable among hunters from Europe, and is a trait that should be embraced by all hunters around the world. What we do has been done since
the beginning of humanity, and celebrating the ethic of the hunt with congenial gatherings is as much a part of the larger picture as is the actual act of hunting itself.
And it all happened in a clean, comfortable hunting lodge in northwestern Poland – a basically pastoral area with vast spans of forest comprised predominantly of pine, poplar and birch. It is remindful of parts of Michigan and Minnesota in the United States, or Ontario and Quebec in Canada.--Steve Comus