I chose for one of my books the title, ‘This Is the Greatest Hunting Era,” because there is no question that the period from the time when the guns of World War II fell silent to today is, in fact, the greatest hunting era. More people have hunted during that time in more areas, for more types of game, under more diverse conditions than all the rest of history put together.
The First Great Hunting Era
As I think back on the history of hunting, I realize that there has been more than one hunting era. There was a time when every human on earth lived by hunting, obtaining food, clothing, tools and shelter from the animals they hunted and killed. Homo sapiens survived and dominated his world primarily by hunting and advancing the technology he used to hunt.
The Second Great Hunting Era
The period from the mid-1800s to the beginning of World War II was the time of some of the most famous African hunters such as William Cornwallis Harris, William Cotton Oswell, Arthur Neumann, Frederick Courtney Selous and the legendary Walter “Karamoja” Bell. Jim Southerland and others spent years on safari in remote parts of Africa, with no laws or regulations to interfere with their adventures. Those would come later -long before WWII, some countries started regulating hunting and the period of unlimited ivory hunting came to an end – but were never so complicated or restrictive as those we, the hunters of today, will have to live with in the fourth Great Hunting Era.
The Third Great Hunting Era
The period from the ending of WWII until the early 1970’s, when there started drastic changes in wildlife management and the great increase in regulations we had to live with ever since. Africa, with its incredible wildlife (and possibly the cradle of man) was then and still is today a top place for hunters. After the great hunters of yesteryear there would be organized hunting before WWII and as the war ended there were professional hunters ready to take those waiting eagerly for a chance to go on safari.
All of Africa was open to hunting at some time during this era, but some countries would close and open again. Chad, with its exotic and interesting species, would close, open and close again. Giant Sudan, a destination for early ivory hunters and those who followed, is still closed.
Kenya, the most popular safari destination both before and after WWII, closed hunting in 1975 and since then has lost 70% of its animals through some of the worst game management in Africa.
Uganda, with huge numbers of elephant, was hunted by several of those early ivory hunters, including Karamoja Bell, and a few safaris went there after WWII.
The most exciting period started in 1962, when it was granted independence from Britain. The British knew that if proper game management was not in place, the natives would kill the wild game indiscriminately for food. A fine hunting program was created, and I was asked to be part of it. All was wonderful until that idiot Idi Amin seized power and destroyed commerce, business, tourism and Uganda’s bountiful wildlife. Everything stopped, and we lost the fine taxidermy business we had built up. Uganda is now open again, but is nothing like it was in the 1960s.
Tanzania, a top destination for early safaris starting in Kenya, also had a fine program created for the new independent government. I was asked to be a part of this and in 1963 was on safari with the great game ranger Brian Nicholson, to plan the opening of the gigantic Selous Reserve. Nicholson knew that the best use for the Selous was hunting, and also knew he had to find a way to keep settlers out. We established a hunting program for the Selous Reserve and many other reserves created under the new government program. Our first clients came in 1964, but Tanzania, like many another African country after independence, went from good to bad. The government closed hunting for several years and the poachers had a field day! Hunting reopened, and remains open today. Tanzania is today’s top African safari destination and hunters are supporting the program.
Ethiopia is the home of what most hunters consider one of the Top 10 trophies of the world, the mountain nyala. It is also the home of two other major trophies, the beisa oryx and the Soemmering’s gazelle.
The mountain nyala was discovered in 1908, making it the most recent new species of game recorded. Since then, most of the hunting in Ethiopia has been in the period since World War II. In 1974 the 45-year reign of Emperor Haile Selassie came to an end when a Communist-backed coup put Mengistu Haile Mariah into power.
In the last two hunting eras, Ethiopia has been opened, closed and reopened several times. Hunting is open today, and the mountain nyala are doing well.
Mozambique also went from a wonderful hunting country in the years following WWII to a total mess after independence. That great game man Adelino Pires, with our help, built up Africa’s largest safari company. There were many years of fantastic hunting until, after almost 500 years of occupation, the Portuguese granted independence to Mozambique and its western colony, Angola. All tourism and hunting stopped and the war between the Marxist government group, FRELlMO, and the resistance forces, RINAMO, was on. Hostilities finally ended with a peace accord in 1992. Hunting started back up slowly and has been improving steadily, until Mozambique is once again a popular destination for foreign hunters. Angola followed the same path as Mozambique, but hunting has not reopened there.
The Central African Republic was a popular hunting destination for the French after WWII, but in the 1950s more and more Americans discovered this fine hunting country. Until the 1980s the CAR was one of Africa’s premiere hunting destinations, and I myself have spent more time there than in any other African Country. While I was there from 1975 to 1979, the CAR produced hundreds of elephants with tusks that exceeded 100 pounds in weight, along with lots of Lord Derby eland, bongo and many more species. In 1981 the government closed elephant hunting and the poachers swarmed in from Sudan and Chad to kill almost every elephant in the CAR, including mothers and babies, destroying one of Africa’s greatest elephant populations. The CAR was never closed to hunting, but today there is much trouble and very little hunting going on. Cameroon has the same game species as the CAR, and in my opinion is a far better hunting destination.
Overall, Africa continues to offer hunters wonderful possibilities.
India, with its huge numbers of species, has been hunted by its maharajas, the occupying British and some foreigners for several hundred years. After WWII it was about the only country in Asia with a hunting program. The famous Jim Corbett, killer of man-eating tigers and leopards and whose books are still popular today, did his
hunting there before the war, but not long after the end of the war, foreign hunters arrived to go on shikar, the Klineburgers among them. Although tigers seldom came easy, there were lots of them over much of India, especially the central state of Madhya Pradesh, and we took many, along with leopard, gaur, sambar, muntjac, four-horned and axis deer, wild dogs and other game. The great hunting days of India came to a close in about 1972. My brothers Chris, Gene and I are among the few living hunters to have taken a tigers. All our efforts over the years to get hunting reopened have failed.–Bert Klineburger