Outdoorsmen and women who yearn for international travel dream of many things — escaping their routines, hunting exotic wildlife, exploring new landscapes and discovering different cultures.
Whatever the reason, hunting outside of the United States is powerful juju. A recent HunterSurvey.com, conducted by Southwick Associates, found nearly 700,000 sportsmen and women will act on that longing to hunt an international destination in the next two years while a half million people already have in the last three years.
One woman who has collected her fair share of frequent flyer miles is Peggy Vallery, president of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Peggy, who lives in Tucson, Ariz., has traveled to Africa 16 times on big game safaris in addition to hunting Australia, New Zealand, Bulgaria, China, South Korea, Spain and throughout North America. During the last three decades, she has taken 109 different species around the world including a world slam of wild turkeys, the African Big 5 and the Spanish Big 5. Peggy was the first western woman to hunt Bulgaria and pheasants in South Korea. She also was the first woman to take an elephant in South West Africa, which is known as Namibia today, and has bagged world record trophies. Listing all of her international hunting accomplishments could eat up several megabytes.
Growing up hunting with her dad and grandpa in Maryland, Peggy said she always dreamed of going to Africa. When a group of friends from Safari Club International invited her on an African safari, she jumped at the chance. Though she has traveled back 20 times now, she never tires of the continent regarded by many as the birthplace of humanity. Peggy has hunted South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe (and Rhodesia), Namibia, Zambia, the Cameroons and even places such as Sudan, where you can’t hunt anymore. She’s not done yet, either. She is planning to revisit Africa possibly as early as 2011.
Peggy pointed out how important hunters are to the international destinations they visit, especially developing nations. The dollars hunters spend in these countries provide obvious economic benefits in the form of jobs and money for schools, hospitals and safe water supplies. In addition, hunting provides conservation benefits such as keeping wildlife populations in check, and it elevates the value of game animals. The locals begin seeing wildlife as something more than competition for their crops, and conserving wildlife becomes a better option than subsistence hunting to feed their families.
When people go outside of the U.S, especially to developing nations, the experience changes them and not just because of the hunting. Peggy said being exposed to the plight of others and forming an emotional bond with the local people is transformative. She witnessed firsthand the devastation that HIV/AIDs have caused in Botswana. The suffering of the many orphaned children compelled Peggy to contribute to the Matlou Fund, and her dollars were used to build a home for a young girl and her siblings. The Matlou Fund is a U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated to the long- term well-being of the local people, wildlife and habitat in remote areas of Botswana.
Hunting outside of the U.S. is not all lollipops and roses, though. There are a myriad of hassles to deal with ranging from uncooperative airline employees and customs agents to the reams of paperwork and regulations that dictate your ability to transport firearms and ammunition.
Peggy recommends that even if you have the savviest outfitter in the world, you should check with the U.S. Department of State to better understand exit/entry requirements, safety and security issues and other pertinent travel information. It’s also recommended you line up a taxidermist before your trip and be sure you understand what permits are required to export any trophies you take.
She also noted international destinations expose travelers to different foods and water that can make them sick as well as the possibility of disease. So before you hop that plane, see your doctor or a physician who has expertise in the country you’ll be visiting. Get the vaccinations you need, refill necessary prescriptions and make sure you have a clean bill of health.
Another barrier to international travel is cost. A big time safari can run thousands of dollars when you consider daily rates, trophy fees, gratuities, and charges ranging from government concessions to importing guns/ammunition and preparing trophies for export. According to HunterSurvey.com, on average hunters spend $6,718 outside of the U.S. on international hunting trips. While 19 percent of hunters who responded to the survey spent more than $10,000 outside of the U.S., the good news is 29 percent of hunters spent only $2,001 to $5,000. As Peggy observed, it would be hard to find a quality elk or sheep hunt in the U.S. for that price.
There are some hurdles to jump for those who decide to hunt outside of the U.S. However, anything worth doing takes time, money and work. And hearing Peggy tell her stories of hunting other countries leaves no doubt it would be the adventure of a lifetime.