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Hunting – A Family Affair


Six years ago, I stumbled upon the book A Thousand Trails Through Africa written by Isabel de Quintanilla. It tells the remarkable story of Isabel, who left behind a life of privilege in Valencia in the 1960’s to follow the man of her dreams into Africa. Tony Sánchez Ariño, was a well-known professional hunter, conservationist, and adventurer. Despite enduring the most extreme conditions and suffering a dangerous bout of malaria and Dengue fever, she remained by her husband’s side and she herself became an elephant hunter. They formed a hugely successful safari business, which spanned over 35 years, where they hunted in some of the most remote parts of Africa. She became the mother of three sons who went on safari with them. She has been on one hundred and twenty-five safaris all over Africa. What fascinated me about the entire story was more than just the obvious accounts of what one can imagine happening on such hunting expeditions. Isabel was tough as nails, but she casted a very refreshing feminine light on everything. From her interaction with clients and staff, to truthfully describing the utter fear she experienced during many of their extreme encounters with animals in Africa, to her accounts of wildlife photography, conservation and the study of primitive tribes and African witchdoctors.

Since then, I have paid close attention to the rise of female interest in the modern hunting industry. More and more hunts are becoming family experiences, due to the ladies getting involved. When I was growing up, if the women joined the men on hunting trips, it was mostly to stay in camp and prepare food. Often it was only the men and older boys who went on their yearly hunting trips, while the moms, girls and younger kids stayed home. Nowadays, women have their own rifles and a list of animals they want to harvest. Couples hunt together, and children start joining in on hunts from a young age. Hunting has become a wonderful way for parents to teach their children respect for nature and our wildlife. Doting dads teach both their sons and daughters how to shoot a rifle and we see more photographs of proud girls taking their first antelope than ever before. Have yourself a conversation with some of the most successful hunting outfitters and you quickly realise that their wives and often their grown-up children play an intricate role in the success of it all. The number of female professional hunters working in the industry is increasing. Across PHASA and the PHASA Foundation there are three women serving on their Exco’s, which is still a small percentage, but they are recognised in a previously male dominated industry. 

Women are by nature more caring and nurturing than men, and the fact that their numbers are growing when it comes to hunting, brings with it a different dynamic to our industry. Female professional hunters are by nature well equipped to work with elderly clients, nervous first-time hunters, and children, as they are more patient. Yet, they don’t have to stand back for men when it comes to guiding clients on tough hunts with long hours of walking and stalking. Hosting clients in camp takes on a refreshing dynamic when the women are around as a great deal of attention is paid to the finer details of the safari to ensure a memorable experience for both hunters and non-hunters, thereby creating an ideal environment for a family.

I believe that families who hunt together will continue to positively contribute to this industry and raise children who will one day teach their children to become custodians for the conservation of our wildlife.