Jason Roussos was raised in the footsteps of his father, Nassos, one of Africa’s legendary PHs, and exposed to hunting from a very young age. “I was blessed to accompany my father on many safaris,” says Roussos. “Some of my best hunting memories were trudging along behind dad and his clients through the rainforests of western Ethiopia hunting the huge elephants of Africa. With that kind of upbringing, becoming a PH was pretty much inevitable.”
Roussos graduated with a degree in wildlife biology from Colorado State University in 1999 and is a full time PH for Ethiopian Rift Valley Safaris that was founded by his father in 1981. In 2009, Roussos was appointed Vice President/Secretary General of the African Professional Hunters Association, an organization whose members represent the top African PHs.
“To claim to be a PH in a country one should meet the following criteria: 1) have a PH license issued by the country where you are hunting, 2) be able to speak the local languages fluently, 3) know the hunting areas like the back of your hand, and 4) be extremely familiar with and knowledgeable about all the intricate behaviors and habits of the species you are hunting,” explains Roussos. “In my 14-year career, I have only, and will only, be a PH in Ethiopia, and now hunt 12 different concessions there. I have accompanied clients to numerous other African countries on hunts, but claiming to be a PH in those countries doesn’t fit my criteria.”
Roussos says hunting with him provides a unique African hunting experience. “After hunting in all of our concessions, you feel you have hunted several African countries all rolled into one. The ecological and species diversity of Ethiopia is unparalleled. We hunt over 40 species, 16 of which can only be hunted in Ethiopia. Currently, our company holds 13 SCI World Records.”
When hunting most dangerous game, his favorite rifle is a controlled feed, bolt action .458 Lott. “I believe this caliber and set up delivers sufficient stopping power partnered with exceptional reliability, accuracy and maneuverability,” he explains. “For going after wounded leopards in the extremely thick highland forests, where I’m usually on my backside inching forward while having to cut my way through with pruning shears, my choice is a 12 gauge Benelli Super Black Eagle II semi auto. In this low visibility, extremely precarious and up close conditions, aiming and shooting a single well placed round is just not possible. For these situations, the more lead in the air the better!”
During his 14 years afield, Roussos said some of his most memorable experiences with clients occurred after taking an animal the whole team has worked exceptionally hard to acquire. “A challenging hunt is a rollercoaster ride, both physically and mentally, comprised of an array of emotions and feelings that, if successful, culminates in an indescribable feeling of satisfaction, humility, friendship and pride,” he says. “Sharing these feelings and times with people who share my passion for hunting is undoubtedly one of the best parts of being a PH.”
Roussos recounts one such spine tingling experience. “There were several lions that had killed sugar cane plantation workers. We had to try to shoot them before they disappeared into the cane. After clean missing his first shot, the client then dropped the first lion. Now, the second lion was running to get back into the cane. The client made a ‘Hail Mary’ shot that luckily hit a major artery. I had to follow a wounded maneater lion into the sugar cane. With a several hundred foot cord tied to my belt loop so I could eventually be found, and with only about two feet of visibility in all directions, I scooted along on my butt for what felt like an eternity. After about 45 minutes of inching along, I found the lion dead. I turned out I had only gone about 50 yards into the sugarcane. Not a situation I’d like to repeat.”
Roussos is a SCI life member, was awarded the SCI Young Hunter of the Year Award in 1990 and the SCI President’s Award in 2009. He achieved a pinnacle of his hunting career in 2011 when he was awarded the SCI International Professional Hunter of the Year Award, following in the footsteps of his father who won the same award in 1987. At the 2014 SCI convention, Ethiopian Rift Valley Safaris is proud to donate a “dream safari” to the SCI Sables Education Fund.
In 1999, Roussos co-founded and now serves on the board of The Murulle Foundation, a United States based 501(c)3 non-profit organization that conducts research and conservation efforts in Ethiopia. Research conducted by The Murulle Foundation prevented the mountain nyala from being upgraded to “Critically Endangered Status” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2007. This research is the primary reason that sport hunting for this world-class species is still possible today.