A dream hunt is about more than the harvest. When you’re planning, think past the kill shot. There’s an array of legwork and budgeting needed to ensure you have extraordinary memories when you get home.
Find a PH, Guide or Outfitter
I’ve found many guides via word of mouth. I also suggest looking to conservation organizations like Safari Club International (SCI) and Dallas Safari Club. These organizations deal with thousands of outfits and can make recommendations. (See also “Questions to Ask When Booking a Guided Hunt”)
Get in Shape
Getting in shape is important, no matter where in the world you intend to hunt. You want to be healthy and in tip-top condition, so you don’t end up visiting a healthcare facility in a third-world country.
While it may sound like a gimme, ask about power converters on hunts and which type. A guide or PH may say, “Oh no need to worry about those. I have converters at the lodge so you won’t need them here.” That answer doesn’t take into consideration any other locations you’ll be during your travels, or the need for more than one outlet to charge your electronics.
Telephone, Internet and WiFi service
For some, a hunting adventure means getting away from it all. “No phone, no lights, no motor cars - not a single luxury.” Others may have to work, check in with family or maybe even attend school while they’re away from their homeland. Take caution. For some, “service” means “I can get one bar, half way up the mountain.” For others, “service” means there is an Internet café in town, two hours away. If your livelihood, or diploma depends on technology, learn about it before you go. International phone and Internet fees can cost the price of your next hunt.
Driving on the “Wrong” Side of the Road
On my last international hunt, the guide picked our group up at the airport. If you’ll be renting a car, check the local laws regarding licensing and insurance. Also, be prepared for the awkwardness of driving on the opposite side of the vehicle, especially when it comes to roundabouts.
Getting your firearms into and out of some countries is tricky. Check ahead and see if you need a police officer to meet you at the airport to clear customs and retrieve your firearm. Also, verify whether the country you’re flying to allows you to travel with the ammunition in the same case, separate case or otherwise.
Determine how much ammunition you’re allowed to bring into various countries as well as if you have to provide a count when you leave. Some countries will require you to bring the empty casing out with you, to account for each individual cartridge. Know before you go.
Sending a firearm across the globe can be rough on firearms and optics. Ask your guide about locations to sight in when you arrive, and don’t forget about it when you get there. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and roll into the first morning’s hunt without double-checking. There’s no excuse to wound an animal because your sights were off.
Decide what you’re hunting before you head out on your quest. Some venues allow opportunities for harvesting multiple species. Find out before you go, what the cost will be for each. Make sure you set a budget before you’re out it the field.
On a side note, it can help to bring a hunting partner who can be your alter ego when you see a 500 class stag. Don’t get caught up in the moment, with your cross hairs on the kill zone, only to find out said stag is going to cost you $25,000, USD. Unless, of course, you’ve got that kind of spare cash lying around.
It’s best to discuss trophy class with your outfitter, guide or PH prior to the hunt. Determine your budget and what size animal fits into it. Ask the outfitter to show you pictures of representative animals so you’re on the same page. Determine your budget and make it clear if you are NOT flexible in your budget.
Transportation: Helicopter, Boat, Float Plane
If you’re hunting in areas where the above-mentioned are used, discuss in full the need for alternative transport. If usage pricing is vague, ask for a price per hour, a price per kilometer or price per trip. These items can add up to being very expensive.
You Need Money
Make arrangements with your financial institution for transfer needs. In the event an unforeseen cost arises while you’re away, have a plan to access funds. Know the fees, restrictions and process.
Once you’ve tagged out, you’ll need to get your meat and trophy(s) home. Ask for shipping methods, fees, and other requirements. If the guide isn’t going to handle the shipping for you, ask him the rules for shipping. Determine whether or not paperwork needs to be enclosed in the shipping container. Make a copy of all paperwork, in the event it’s need at a later time.
When your trophy arrives in the U.S., it’ll need to go through customs and quarantine. An import broker can walk your container through this process. They’ll handle all the paperwork for you. You can find one by asking your taxidermist.
I’ve had a few friends forget about taxidermy. After the hunt, they were shocked at the price. You can get an idea before you travel and add this to your hunt budget.
Once you’ve got your animal on the ground, determine what type of mount you’d like. If you can’t decide between full body and shoulder mount, ask the guide or PH to cape it for a full body. Once the hide’s been cut, you can’t add it back. Taxidermy is key and should be added to the budget for your dream hunt.