PH Spotlight – Sani Doncheva, Safari Season

Sani, born in Bulgaria, was not raised in a family of hunters. She grew up being in the outdoors and her passion for photography and documentaries led her to the hunting business.

Beginning as a photographer, Sani moved to a career as a professional hunter. She was with hunters, shared their experiences and had her own pursuits. She says she learned the hard way from encounters with wildlife and outdoorsmen and gained knowledge of the various hunting areas.

Later, when hunters began asking her for recommendations of specific areas, Sani decided to start her own outfitting company.  With the support of her husband and business partner, Vladimir, she became a huntress. Based on her experience, she obtained a hunting permit in Bulgaria.

In Bulgaria and neighboring Greece, Sani hunts European red deer. Currently Bulgaria holds the record for this species and for more than 20 years, three World Record red deer are also Bulgarian.

Balkan chamois, a typical and native Bulgarian species, is also hunted in this area. Other available species include mouflon, fallow deer, roe deer, wild boar and capercaillie. Bulgaria is the only country where European bison can be taken with a bow and arrow.

A licensed outfitter in Greece, Sani hunts pure Kri Kri Ibex and mouflon on Sapienza island. Mouflon, with small bodies, horns and unique color, prompts hunters to speculate this is a distinct species living isolated on the island for more than 60 years.  Hybrid ibex are also hunted.

Safari Season is the only Bulgarian and Greek outfitter at SCI conventions.  Sani explains what is unique about her operation. “We provide the experience of a lifetime on free-range hunting areas.    Being involved in the filming business for more than 15 years, we are welcomed in any area. Our professionally made documentaries or hunting films are aired on each of the European outdoor TV channels. We can offer our clients the best hunting areas because we are a respected partner and outfitter.”

Sani comments on her firearms protocol when afield:  “Usually I do not have firearms with me on hunts. I always bring my camera.                     Hunting with our clients is a privilege and a responsibility. We are very careful with whom we work in the government hunting areas.  The guides, the most qualified PHs, are well educated and understand  their clients’ needs. I guide hunts in Greece and have trained all the PHs.

“In Greece, we use shotguns with slugs and no scope, which complies with Greek law. In Bulgaria, we use various firearms, depending on the species being hunted. The most common caliber for  Bulgarian hunters is .30-06.  We recommend hunters bring their own rifles because it is an easy process. It takes us 20 days to prepare the import/export permits.”

Safari Season hunts the best government hunting grounds, some of which have luxury lodges with excellent food and accommodations. In Bulgaria hunts are managed according to the size of the requested trophy. It is mandatory to have an official document listing the hunting areas and stating the hunter’s expectation of trophy sought. This document is required because most of the European trophy fees are paid according to the weight or length of the trophy. Sani offers hunts worldwide, working with respected outfitters in Canada, Uganda, Romania, South Africa, Namibia and Australia. She prefers to hunt only free-range areas.

Years afield produce many experiences. Sani recounts some of the most memorable. “I have had the unique opportunity to organize and film many hunts of the two most recognized and respected bowhunters and good friends – Archie Nesbitt and Gary Bogner, a Safari Club Past President.  My friendship with Gary and many successful hunts together were the reasons I started our outfitting business in Greece. Twice when we hunted Greece together, there were problems. After these unsuccessful attempts, I decided not to leave Gary without his Kri Kri ibex trophy.  I started out from zero and on the next season invited Gary to try my new operation. He got his ibex because we hunted with a completely different approach.  Gary’s Kri Kri ibex, the first one taken with bow and arrow, was captured on video.  This was one of the most memorable trips of my life. We are the only legal outfitter there and have taken many Kri Kri ibex trophies with our hunters.”

An avid photographer, Sani organizes photo tours and sightseeing in addition to hunts. Both Bulgaria and Greece have ancient history and many ancient places worth seeing.

Sani’s conservation effort is focused on protecting Kri Kri ibex as an indigenous species of Greece, its legal export and the hunting of these unique ibexes abroad.  She has a non-profit, private organization in Greece dedicated to preventing the illegal trade of species under the Bern convention. Their objective is to establish sustainable use of wildlife from the mutually beneficial cooperation of state institutions with locals in regions with opportunities to develop year-round alternative tourism.

Safari Season has been an exhibitor at SCI Conventions for the past ten years and donates to the organization.  SCI is advertised in their TV shows, which are aired in almost 60 countries worldwide. Sani comments on the Convention: “I love to see our hunters at the SCI conventions when they come to visit and promote us to their friends. We start each hunt with a client and finish it with a good friend. This is the most exciting and memorable side of this business.

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