Hunting in RSA isn't all behind fences.
By Barbara Crown, Editor-in-Chief
South Africa is often misperceived as a destination where hunting is a "canned" experience in which hunting properties are small parcels enclosed in game-proof fencing where animals bought at auction are released and hunted each season. Though such hunts do exist, there are many South African operations that cannot be described this way, offering true fair chase hunting experiences. Editor-in-Chief Barbara Crown spoke about this issue at the Professional Hunters' Association of South Africa's General Members Meeting this past November. There she met Dave Davenport, a member of PHASA's Executive Committee and owner of Leopard's Valley Safaris, an operation that defies the misperceptions about South African hunting.
Davenport operates in the Karoo area of the Eastern Cape. He is a sixth-generation livestock farmer on the property and says he was the first in his family to utilize wildlife to supplement livestock operations. Leopard's Valley Safaris' home base is his family ranch, fenced only for livestock, where the indigenous South African game roam freely. The property is remote, requiring a 10-mile drive off the nearest blacktop road to his lodge, and it encompasses 10,000 acres of Eastern Cape escarpment divided between mountainous terrain and flat plains.
The game in the Karoo had been practically eradicated by settlers who believed wild animals only competed with their livestock for forage. Kudu reappeared in the 1950s, while his grandfather was on the property and he then reintroduced springbok. His father introduced impala, blesbuck and the then-threatened black wildebeest, but this was just for subsistence hunting and the herds where not allowed to grow, as they competed with the livestock and didn't really create any income for the farm. Davenport says he saw it differently and began reintroducing other indigenous game, such as gemsbok, blue wildebeest, waterbuck and other species. Eventually, Davenport says they also introduced some species such as sable and roan. Educating neighboring livestock farmers on the value of conserving wild game and making its sustainable use part of their operations has been a mission of sorts for Davenport....