(Editor’s note: Safari Club International has one person, who works fulltime with guides, outfitters and professional hunters and their associations throughout the world. That person is John Boretsky, and following is a list of some of the places he goes in a given year, who he meets when he gets there and what happens next. Literally, SCI works around the world, all year long on behalf of hunters and hunting.)
Hunters and anglers who travel rely on a small group of professionals for access to game, access to rivers, fields, streams and mountains, and access to the experiences that make up their lifestyles and help form their memories. Sometimes they choose to use guides, outfitters, professional hunters and safari operators; and sometimes they are required to by laws, regulations and common sense.
No one appreciates or supports the professional hunting industry more than Safari Club International. SCI provides monetary grants, fundraising assistance, exposure at our Conventions and facilitates important industry meetings throughout the year.
By far the most important thing we do is to support, face-to-face, our affiliated associations at their Annual General Meetings and with their governments. To accomplish this, my work as SCI’s Guides and Outfitters Liaison takes me all over the world.
Between Convention 2015 and Convention 2016 I attended meetings with five U.S. associations, four Canadian associations, eight African associations and two meetings with directors of two other African associations, facilitated six meetings of national and international “umbrella” associations, represented SCI at meetings with the Mozambique Government, presented at a national conference in South Africa, and represented the U.S. outfitters at the American Wildlife Conservation Partners.
The first meetings this past year were held after Convention: Wyoming, Nevada, Alberta and New Mexico; three to four-day trips that were separated enough that they were pretty easy.
The North American Guides and Outfitters Associations’ Workshop took some planning and coordination, but the staff at the American Wilderness Leadership School, along with the representatives from sixteen associations across Canada and the Western U.S., made 2015’s Workshop the best ever. That was in July.
In August, SCI supported the Professional Outfitters and Guides of America in their bid to join the American Wildlife Consultative Partners, gaining the industry a national voice in the US. I was in South Carolina representing them. And, of course, I was at the Summer Board Meeting in Tucson (Summer? In Tucson? Really?) for the G&O Committee.
Early autumn was full of planning, preparation, coordination and more planning. The third week in October, I left the U.S., traveling through Johannesburg to Christchurch, yes through South Africa to New Zealand, because it turned out to be cost saving for SCI. In New Zealand I attended the New Zealand Professional Hunting Guides Association’s, assisted in Official Measurers’ and Master Measurers’ training, and met with members of the New Zealand SCI Chapter to discuss their issues.
Then it was back to South Africa to attend SCIF’s African Wildlife Consultative Forum. I facilitated the meeting of the Operators and Professional Hunters Associations of Africa annual meeting there and took part in the Forum. From AWCF it was across Limpopo Province to the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA) for their convention and AGM. PHASA was, once again, kind enough to recognize me as their sole Honorary Member.
The next morning I flew to Lusaka, Zambia, for the Professional Hunters Association of Zambia and also to meet with safari operators there. Zambia is back to hunting at full capacity, with leopard and lions for 2016, that is even if we Americans won’t be allowed to bring lion trophies home.
After two-and-a-half days in Lusaka, I was off to Namibia for the annual general meeting of the Namibia Professional Hunters Association (NAPHA). SCI CEO Phil DeLone spoke and gave fair warning on the risks of social media. And a researcher from the University at Windhoek kept us on the edges of our seats with his presentation on snake bites, all while playing with a live Black Mamba. No one slept through either Phil’s or his presentations!
From Namibia I went to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe for the meeting of the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association. Being the epicenter of the Cecil the Lion controversy, it was no surprise that a good deal of time was spent discussing the advantages and disadvantages of social media. That night was the Annual Hunters’ Ball, where, once again, I was introduced not as a guest, but as “one of the family.”
I went from Bulawayo to Maputo, Mozambique at the request of the safari operators’ association, AMOS. After meeting with their directors, I was whisked off to two days of meetings with the Mozambique Government to discuss, among other things, visa requirements and firearms importation.
I first met with the Director General for the Conservation Areas, Dr. Bartolomeu Soto, whose portfolio includes hunting concessions. While neither visas nor firearms actually fall into his area, he carries a great deal of influence and is very supportive of visiting hunters. I also met with his team, preparing for CITES COP 17 this coming fall.
The next day I met with General Jose Weng San, the National Commissioner of Police. Along with the visa challenges, the general and I discussed the problems, and expense, for hunters who wish to import their own firearms for hunting. I offered to provide him with examples from other hunting destinations in both Africa and abroad. General San invited me to come back in the summer of 2016 to continue our discussions.
After a harrowing taxi ride through the streets of Maputo (if Six Flags is looking for a ride to terrify their visitors, I’ve got one for them!), I caught a flight back to South Africa. I had been asked to speak at a National Conference on Color Variants hosted by the SA Department of Environmental Affairs in Pretoria. I explained the importance of SCI’s Record Book and stated our position on color variant manipulation. I also offered OPHAA’s draft position on the subject. Then I quickly drove back to Jo-berg to catch a flight that same afternoon to Harare, Zimbabwe.
In Harare I met with the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe at their AGM. SOAZ is made up of both hunting and photo safari operators and the tension between the two was thick. It wasn’t Cecil, although that played a part, but a guided hunter had shot a trophy bull elephant (120 lbs., both sides) and the photo folks were furious, regarding the animal as “a national treasure.” After long discussion, and no lack of posturing from the photo guys, the issue was settled to everyone’s satisfaction, at least temporarily. I left Harare on 4 December to return to the U.S., knowing that while I had missed almost all of the NFL season, I had been able to catch a good deal of rugby, including seeing the New Zealand All Blacks win the World Cup. Although through my travels I’m beginning to understand rugby, cricket is still well beyond me!
I overnighted in the U.S., mostly to get warm clothes, then flew to Winnipeg for the Manitoba Outfitter and Lodge Association. From there it was off to Saskatoon for the AGM of the Saskatchewan Outfitters Association. I addressed both associations on behalf of SCI. I returned to the States on 11 December after seven weeks on the road
After the first of the year, it was off to Grand Junction, Colorado, which was every bit as cold as Winnipeg. Colorado is facing a ballot initiative to ban bear and lion hunting and to require the introduction of wolves to the state. In addition to meeting with the Colorado Outfitters Association, I also met with the steering committee for the group opposing the ballot initiative.
I came back from Colorado to travel the next day to Corner Brook, Newfoundland for the Newfoundland Labrador Outfitters Association. The discussion there was a power line the Government is building through wilderness hunting areas and the status of both caribou and moose. Newfoundland also has the highest legal hunting age of anywhere, 18 years old, and SCI has been working with NLOA for a number of years to have that lowered, maybe this year, maybe.
At Convention 2016 I facilitated the International Professional Hunting Roundtable, the only event of its kind in the hunting world, where the industry worldwide addresses common issues. A panel discussion addressed the public perception of trophy hunting, preparing the way to craft a unified message and medium worldwide. And at Convention, I facilitated meetings of the Canadian Federation of Outfitter Associations, the Professional Outfitters and Guides of America and the Operators and Professional Hunters Associations of Africa. I also attended the annual meetings of the Tanzania Professional Hunters Associations and the African Professional Hunters Association.
After Convention it was time for follow-ups, reports and planning for the whole cycle to begin again. After all, British Columbia, Wyoming, Nevada, and AWCP all were to meet in March!–John Boretsky, SCI Guides and Outfitters Liaison