NOBODY IS AN EXPERT EVERYWHERE
So, let’s take the reverse. Relatively few African hunters hunt widely in North America, but a few have. Imagine an experienced kudu or buffalo hunter translocated to a treestand in western Pennsylvania or, perhaps worse, western Canada where it’s minus 20 degrees (by either Fahrenheit or Celsius). Most of the raw skills would be there. Just like Donna, they’ve “practiced on impala,” but the whitetail deer would be totally unfamiliar, as would the chill. Most frustrating of all, I suspect, would be the waiting for hours and perhaps days for that one chance which, realistically, may never come.
African hunters would perhaps do better in the West, where glassing and stalking skills come into play. However, they would still be faced with the reality that American hunters face every season: North American hunting is some of the most difficult in the world! Thanks to our wonderfully successful North American Model of wildlife management, we have the largest hunting culture in the world…which means that we deal with shorter seasons and greater competition for the resource than most hunters elsewhere in the world.
What about European hunters? Well, it depends on exactly where they call home, and their hunting preferences. Many Europeans do a lot of driven hunts. With experience, that makes them extremely good at hitting running game. Practice helps, and most European ranges have “running boar, deer or moose” targets, which are rarities elsewhere. Europeans who do driven hunts are probably the best in the world at hitting moving targets with a rifle.
Perhaps a majority of European big-game hunters hunt from stands, whether for roebuck, wild boar or whatever. Both groups, driven hunters and stand hunters, would be perfectly at home in a whitetail stand. However, much European hunting is done in relatively tight areas, where shooting at longer ranges is totally unheard of. The glassing, stalking and longer shooting required in the American West, the Asian mountains and the more open areas in Africa would be totally unfamiliar.
Of course, mountain hunting is mountain hunting, so European hunters experienced with chamois, ibex and mountain stags would be perfectly at home in rugged country anywhere in the world, as would hunters from the American West or the mountains of Asia or New Zealand. But if glassing and stalking is their primary experience, they might have the same trouble with close-cover hunting that I had as a youngster!
CLOSING THE KNOWLEDGE GAP
The hard part is understanding what you don’t know. Fortunately most of us who go to totally unfamiliar areas to hunt totally unfamiliar game find ourselves under the care of a local guide, who is familiar with the game, the country and hunting techniques that work for his game in his country. There is no shame in this. Frederick Courtenay Selous (1851-1917) is widely celebrated as the greatest of all African hunters. He hunted ivory, scouted for Cecil Rhodes and explored for the British crown. Not as widely known is that, in his later years, he hunted widely in southwest Asia and North America (including New Brunswick, Colorado, Wyoming, Alaska and Yukon). In unfamiliar country, Selous always hired the best local guides he could find. This part is lost to history, but my suspicion is that he also listened to them! This is something that many experienced hunters from anywhere have trouble doing. We know what we know, but what we know isn’t always useful outside of our own boxes. If you hire a guide, make sure you hire a good one…and then pay attention.
Practicing outside the box is equally important. This probably doesn’t matter if you never intend to leave your box. For instance, if you’re a treestand whitetail hunter from the East, Southeast or Upper Midwest, you may have no reason to learn to shoot at 300 yards, or how to get steady from a wide variety of shooting positions. Statistically, most hunters worldwide never stray far from their homes, so what they know remains perfectly valid. However, members of this organization and hunters reading this magazine probably hold hunting dreams and are interested in expanding their horizons.
So practice accordingly, so you’re ready when it’s time to realize those dreams. If you’re interested in Africa, get a set of shooting sticks and learn how to use them. If you’re interested in mountain hunting someday, practice shooting at longer ranges, including resting over a pack and using trees, stumps and boulders for support. And get in shape and stay in shape as best you can. None of these skills are exams you can cram for. For the open-country hunter suddenly thrust into close cover…or the close-cover hunter who suddenly needs to glass for small animals in big country, preparation comes hard. Expect frustration…but accept that you’re on unfamiliar turf, and you’d better pay attention!–Craig Boddington