Whenever someone mentions the title of Professional Hunter, most people automatically assume that all PHs are white. In fact, the phrase “White Hunter” has been used since the earliest Europeans began hunting on the African continent.
However, in the Republic of South Africa, a project to assist black South Africans to become licensed professional hunters has been in place for the past five years. Wessel Jacobs, Deputy Director – Professional Hunting and Resource Use Management of the Department of Tourism, Environment and Conservation for South Africa’s Northern Cape Province, has pioneered the program.
Under this initiative, the Northern Cape Province has trained 134 previously disadvantaged individuals in PH-related skills. Thirty-six of these were selected and trained as professional hunters. Two succeeded in qualifying as hunting contractors.
The provinces of the Orange Free State and Kwazulu-Natal also have trained several previously disadvantaged individuals, and the Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces have followed suit and have implemented training programs similar to that in the Northern Cape Province.
The provincial training programs have been successful, given the limited financial resources available. However, the funding to serve all of the interested applicants is not adequate. Currently, the only other funding option available is to obtain financial assistance from a benefactor. In both cases, an iron will is required to pass both the practical and theoretical examinations required for licensing as a professional hunter in South Africa.
Boyce Mafungwashe Frans is one of these amazing men. He works as a PH at Huntershill Safaris, located in the Stormberg Mountain Range of the Eastern Cape Province. His wife Lucy works as a chef at the lodge.
Boyce received his Professional Hunter’s license three years ago, and has been working as a full-time PH at Huntershill ever since. He attributes his success to the experience he gained during his formative years.
He grew up in Adelaide as one of six children and became a farm worker at an early age where he developed a deep love for the outdoors. This also enabled him to spend a lot of time in the bush where he had his first encounters with Africa’s diverse wildlife, mostly notably kudu, bushbuck and warthog.
His passion for the outdoors and for hunting in particular quickly grew and eventually led him to becoming a tracker. It did not take long for other people to spot Boyce’s natural abilities and suggest that he become a professional hunter. Boyce’s bushcraft impressed Greg Harvey, one of the owners of Huntershill, so much that he agreed to pay for his professional hunter’s training and assisted him to obtain a hunting vehicle.
After he became licensed, Boyce put his years of experience to use, hunting with foreign clients. His favorite part of being a PH, aside from the hunting itself, is getting to meet different people from all over the world. He especially enjoys seeing the smiles on his clients’ faces after a good day’s hunting and treasures the feeling of appreciation for a job well done.
Boyce has discovered that his skin color is an asset in the hunting world. Many of his clients prefer to hunt with a black PH who has grown up in the wild and gained an intimate knowledge of Africa’s fauna and flora.
Boyce believes that the years he spent working as a tracker provided him with a practical knowledge that many professional hunters do not possess. Consequently, his bushcraft far surpasses that of most PHs, making him highly sought after by international hunting clients.
Boyce’s knowledge of the bush is so well honed that he can easily stalk a client within bow range of any species of animal without being spotted. On one occasion his unique talents came in handy when another PH asked him to track a wounded Cape buffalo over 15 miles of rocky terrain. After many hours of stalking, Boyce guided the hunting party to within shooting distance, allowing the client to take his buffalo.
Language and its many dialects can be a problem for a PH. Boyce’s home language is Xhosa, but he also speaks English. However, he says that his most embarrassing moment came when he took his first American client hunting and was unable to understand what the man was saying.
As with all professional hunters, Boyce has his own opinions about guns and calibers and which are best for use in Africa. He echoes PHs continent-wide in saying a client should bring a rifle he is comfortable with and that he can shoot well.
For his personal use, Boyce prefers a .338 Magnum as an all-around cartridge because it allows him to take long shots when necessary while maintaining sufficient knockdown power to handle any of the country’s species of plains game. Boyce, however, is not a one-gun man. He possesses a strong opinion about which calibers should or should not be used on Africa’s different animals, based upon the species and its size.
When an animal is wounded and disappears into the bushveld, it is the trackers who are called upon to clean up the mess. Boyce gained first-hand experience following-up animals wounded by clients who used weapons and calibers that were inappropriate under the circumstances. These experiences taught him the importance of shot placement, being comfortable with your rifle, and using a caliber suitable for the species being hunted.
Boyce Mafungwashe Frans is an exceptional person and professional hunter. He possesses an insight into hunting Africa’s game that many other professional hunters are not able to achieve in a lifetime of hunting.
Through lots of hard work, an innate natural hunting ability and a little bit of help, Boyce has climbed the ladder of success to enjoy his status as one of only a limited number of black professional hunters, at least for now. With the necessary funding, the efforts of progressive-minded people such as Wessel Jacobs will continue.– Clint C. Thomas