A growing number of game farm owners charge a fee when a hunter misses a shot while hunting on their farms. This fee varies considerably – with some farm owners fee at R200 for every missed shot, but others ranges from half the price to the full price of the animal that the hunter shot at. Following a recent query I received in this regard, it would seem that certain hunters disagree with this trend. I would like to provide some perspective on this matter:
1. It is the prerogative of the game farmer to make the rules for hunting on his property. Accordingly, hunters have the choice to accept these conditions when booking a hunt. If a hunter do not want to accept a specific game farmers rules, move on and search for another hunting opportunity.
2. To avoid any misunderstanding, it is important for hunters to insist on written confirmation of the price of game and the rules and conditions from the game farm owner before finalising the booking. If one of the hunting conditions is, that you pay for a missed shot at game, take this into consideration when you decide to finalise your booking for the hunt.
Let's put ourselves in the shoes of the game farm owner to obtain a better understanding for charging a fee for missed shots.
Game farmers do have a problem with hunters that are not well prepared for the hunt and wound game or miss. There are numerous reasons for this, eg.:
- inadequate shooting skills and insufficient practice at the shooting range;
- inadequate equipment, e.g. rifle, scope or ammunition;
- hunters that attempt shots outside their ability at game that is too far away;
- unfavourable shooting position;
- strong wind that shifts the bullet horizontally; and
- hunters shooting at a moving animal.
In most instances when a hunters shot missed an animal, he should not have taken it in the first place because he could easily have wounded the animal and would have had to pay for it in any event. It is often difficult to distinguish at a glance whether the shot was wide or whether the animal was wounded. Even experienced hunters and guides can make a judgement error and declare a missed shot when it actually wounded the animal – this is the heart of the matter! This can result in wounded animals only being discovered after the hunter had already left the farm, leaving the game farmer to bear the damages and loss of income.
During the last five years, I experienced three incidents where either the guide or a fellow hunter assured me that my first shot missed the animal. But every time, I was confident about my shot and insisted on following up. I found each animal within 50 to 300m. In one instance, the kudu cow was dead and in two other cases I needed to fire a second shot to kill the animals. In two cases the bullets went through the animals and hit the ground on the other side. The person that called the shot a miss, based his assumption on the dust cloud he spotted on the other side of the animal. I am convinced that there are many such examples where animals have been wounded. Many were found, but many others were not. These so-called missed shots were indeed all on target.
This is a sensitive issue, but hunters should take into consideration that missed shots and wounding an animal are equally unacceptable for the game farm owner, hence the fee for missed shots. This should serve as motivation for the hunter to take extra care before taking the shot.
Wounding an animal is not always caused by a negligent or incompetent hunter and might be caused by circumstances outside the control of the hunter, e.g. an animal that moved at the same moment that the trigger was squeezed. There is a popular saying among hunters: “If you have not yet wounded an animal, you have not been hunting long enough or you are not honest enough." When you hunt, the unexpected happens, you have to react quickly and sometimes mistakes occur. This is all part of the joys and sorrows of hunting.
The hunter's responsibility towards the animal should always be to kill with the first shot. This should determine his approach and preparation for every shot at an animal. The hunter remains responsible for his actions, whether he misses or wounds the animal. It is part and parcel of hunting.
If you are confident that your shot should have killed the animal and the animal does not respond as you expected it to (it runs away, seemingly unharmed), you should assume that it has been wounded and do everything possible to find it.
A wounded animal deserves every possible attempt by the hunter to find it and kill it. The animal gives up his life for a successful hunt. If you missed, accept the responsibility and pay the price for the missed shot as agreed with the game farm owner.
The following excerpt from the SA Hunters Code of Honour summarises the responsibility and attitude that all hunters should strive for:
- Hunt with compassion and utilise from nature with utmost discretion;
- Actively conserve and promote with love and respect, fauna and flora, soil and water and the life it represents;
- Employ my firearms with skill and consideration, and with understanding for the value of life.
It is a huge privilege to hunt and it remains a special responsibility to stop the beating heart of a living being. Never take it for granted!
Do we always respect this privilege and accept our responsibility with the proper attitude?