Choosing the hunting organization for a safari in South Africa from a taxidermy prospective

If you are a first time hunter in South Africa, you will find that choosing the right Safari Company might be harder than you thought. There are many destinations, deferent prices and so on. I for one will not be able to help you make the right decision but by simply looking at important field preparation points and documentation preparation requirements. One can narrow the large amounts of hunting organisations.

South Africa has very good hunting organizations and most of these companies are well aware of all the taxidermy requirements to ensure that your trophies are in top conditions. I personally believe that South Africa’s hunting outfitters are the best in Africa when it comes to trophy care. But unfortunately like any other country one gets “fly by nights” and these “fly by nights” is what I would like to point out.

Is the outfitter licensed?

One need to make sure that the hunting outfitter is licensed and that the Professional hunter that will be hunting with you is also licensed. You can ask to see the license, please note that the licence is only valid for 3 years so one will need to check if it is still valid.

The hunting outfitter needs to provide the taxidermist with the following documentation:

  • South African professional hunting register and trophy export application
  • P3 – Exemption permit and/or any ordinary hunting permits
  • Permission to Hunt
  • Hunting Licence (only applicable for some provinces)
  • TOPS permits (Threatened or Protected Species Regulations) only applicable if a related species has been hunted
  • CITES import permit (only applicable if a related species has been hunted)

The hunting outfitter needs to know exactly what documentation one will need to hunt. I would suggest that you make a list of the species that you would like to hunt and send it to the hunting outfitters that you would like to use and ask them what documentations will be necessary to hunt those species and then you can compare the answers. One cannot export trophies legally if the documentation is not in place.

The skinning facilities

Hunters all over the world get brochures at conventions to look at the accommodation, staff and photos of previous hunts ex.  I think that it is also very important to see the skinning facilities. Normally these facilities are not something that looks very impressive, sometimes it is not very big and it looks like the building is not taken care off. All though there are some of these facilities that are very impressive the overall looks of these facilities are not as important as the following points.

  • It must be clean, pests free and closed so that no flies and insects can enter
  • There must be a tap with running water
  • There must be a place where one can hang the hunted carcasses (it is very bad if the carcasses lay on the floor in the blood)
  • There should be a separate room where the skins can get salted and after get hanged to dry.
  • The skins that are dried and folded should get stored in a separate room because you don’t want blood on these skins again.
  • There should also be a refrigerated room to keep the meat.

If you are planning to hunt as a big group of hunters then one needs to have a very good look at these facilities. Normally with a big group if every hunter hunts 2 animals for the day it means that 10 to 20 carcasses will be dropped off at the skinning shed and then one will need space and good facilities to manage these carcasses.

Tagging of trophies

Your trophies need to be well tagged with a proper water and chemical resistant tag. I feel that tagging trophies should be done by the professional hunter not the skinner and in the presents of the hunter. A simple mistake and you can end up receiving the wrong trophy. The Hunting Outfitter should also have a register book to keep record of how you would like your trophies to be skinned.

The hunting outfitter must be familiar with basic field preparations as follows:

From the time when the animal was hunted until the skin is salted it is VERY important if you don’t want hair slip. The taxidermy cannot be held responsible for any hair losses due to the fact that the bacteria that cause hair slip will penetrate the skin during the time it takes to get the animal from the field to skinning area and the skin salted.

Please see below some key aspects that need to be taken into account to prevent damages to your trophies.

Trophy care in the field

  1. Try to keep the trophy animal cool, always put the carcass in the shade of a tree or cool area
  2. Remember that blood and heat are very bad for the skin
  3. Don’t drag the animal around, it will cause the hair to fall out
  4. Always load the animal head first.
  5. Don’t leave the animal lying in its blood
  6. You can take out the stomach just remember to wash the blood off
  7. NB! Skin the trophy ASAP and salt the skin!

Who will be skinning the trophies and where did he get his training?

Skinning should be done by a trained professional. A hunting or safari company must have a well trained skinner. The Hunting outfitter must be able to proof that his Skinners are as good as his Professional hunters and trackers. From my perspective are these skinners very important staff and a simple mistake can spoil your trophies for life.  Only a serious hunting outfitter will have good professional skinning staff because bad skinning work is the first thing that gets pointed out by the taxidermist because we don’t want these mistakes to have a reflection on our work.

The Hunting Outfitter must be familiar with salting requirements.

The Hunting Outfitter must know how to put skins in the salt. If he doesn’t, how will he ever be able to tell if his skinning staff is doing a good job or not. I believe one don’t care if you don’t know. Here are some basic steps when salting skins.

  1. Get you trophy skinned as soon as possible especially when it is a hot day
  2. Use a strong salt and water mixture (20kg salt and 100L of water) to wash the skin in.
  3. Make sure that all the blood is washed off and soak the skin in the salt mixture for 1-2 hours
  4. Cover the floor with grade 1 salt, place the skin on top of the salt and lay it out with the flesh side up
  5. Cover the flesh side of the skin with grade 1 salt. NB! Make sure that you cover the whole skin and that there is salt in all the small places (nose, eyes, mouth and ears). Note that if there is a part of the skin that is not salted you can lose the hair on that spot
  6. The skin must remain in the salt until the salt has fully penetrated the skin. We recommend at least 2 days.
  7. Now the skin can be hanged to dry.
  8. When the skin is dry it can be folded up and placed in a well-vented and moist free room.

Over the years we have witness unfortunate situations due to incorrect trophy care by Hunting Outfitters.  I believe that these unfortunate situations could have been avoided simply by asking and looking into these aspects. South Africa will provide you with the best hunting experience ever. One just needs to make sure that you hunt with the correct Hunting Outfitter. We are more than willing to assist you in this and if you would like we have a list of Hunting Outfitters in South Africa that we can recommend with no doubt.

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