Hunters generally know that they must have a hunting license/permit/tag and that it is not transferrable, i.e. it only authorizes the named individual to hunt. Yet, it is not uncommon in some foreign destinations for hunting operators to let children and spouses shoot on the father or husband’s license. Operators act as if the license has been issued to the family when there is no “family” kind of licensing. It is illegal. When the trophy is imported, it is a violation of the Lacey Act.
Operators get so accustomed to this little cheat that trophies get marked with the shooter’s name rather than the licensee’s identity. Wildlife Department personnel in Africa generally tolerate a limited amount of family hunting. Consequently, trophies are exported in the unlicensed hunter’s name, even though there is no supporting license.
The trophy must be declared at the port of entry in the US, and US Fish & Wildlife Service inspectors can call for production of the license, which they do. This is happening more often. If the underlying license is not produced, the trophy is unremorsefully seized. This has occurred all too frequently in the past when some other clearance problem led to the need to prove the particular individual was licensed. Now some inspectors make it a point to question family kinds of shipments. If the trophies are for both spouses or any are taken by a son or daughter or other relative, then the inspector detains the shipment until the separate licenses are produced. If the individual’s license can’t be produced, seizure and forfeiture follows as a matter of course with no exceptions. Criminal charges are at the discretion of law enforcement.
The individual who hunted without the necessary personal license is the offender (e.g. your wife or grandson). The licensed hunter is also an offender for aiding and abetting. That is not the worst of it. The hunting operator can be in much more serious trouble because the law carries far more serious penalties for that operator and operating company. Also, if a CITES or ESA listed species is involved, it is that much worse.
None of this is new. I have been witnessing such seizures for decades, but only occasionally. Now I am witnessing more inquiries by law enforcement agents in the nature of criminal investigations with a particular focus on the hunting operator.
We have had operators swear that it is legal, particularly when the hunting is on private ranches and the operator is the “owner” of the game or when the client pays concession fees to hunt for a specified period. Some hunting clients have come to expect that a family member can shoot within a concession during a 21- or 28-day hunt. This puts the PH and operator on the spot. If a license is required by the government, a license is required for each individual and species.
If your operator does not satisfy you that the animal was taken lawfully, then don’t import the animal until you are satisfied. Don’t even “attempt” the import, which is a crime in itself. Some operators are so inured to the practice that they are in disbelief when the trophy is seized or when visited in their convention booth by law enforcement agents. Some rationalize that the animal has been paid for, so what is the loss? To the contrary, another license is another fee for management.
Individual licensing can also serve as part of the system to limit the offtake. It is a violation to license a member of your family or for anyone else to have an extra license so an extra animal is available to be taken by the party rather than the individual named on the license. Again, the license is not transferable. You can’t do it all on one hunt. If you can’t get a second license in your own name, then you can’t do it in another’s name. Don’t shoot under someone else’s license or take out an extra license under someone else’s name. What happens in Africa does not stay in Africa if you import the trophy. Violation of the Lacey Act is usually more serious than the foreign regulation that has been violated.