Dry firing on used shells (to protect the firing pin) is one of my favorites. Wild animals can get very tame on those "game viewing only" ranches, offering several inexpensive "kills" in a day, at merely the cost of accommodation! Skeptical landowners frown upon this practice, so you might have to do a selling job beforehand and then behave well to build trust. Tracking, stalking and shooting in this manner can be very rewarding as long as the hunter is serious about the hunt. You have to pretend as if it's the real thing. This is also good for unlearning the flinching habit. Try it!
Teach yourself basic computer literacy, and get acquainted with web site applications. Approach up-market hunting ranches with an offer to design them a website in exchange for a hunt. The Internet is in its infancy as marketing instrument in SA, and by far most ranches do not even have a web site. IT companies who specialize in web site design charge much more than what it will cost a rancher to host you out of season (self catering) and let you shoot some game (maybe even for his own use!). Computer kids do not think like hunting clients and their web designs are boring, cluttered and user-unfriendly. (Judge for yourself!)
Culling operations are incorrectly associated with night shooting from vehicles. This is not necessarily the case. Depending on the terrain and quarry, it frequently involves day time operations, ambush or walk & stalk. But you have to frequent the hunting community to come across these opportunities.
Commercial livestock and crop farms frequently have an abundance of small game, of which some species are hunted in limited numbers by the land owner and his friends and relatives. These landowners are quite used to being approached by acquaintances asking if they may "hunt". This implies the shooting of game to be taken home for venison or biltong. Since the farm is not a commercial hunting ranch, the owner normally feels that charging a fee is inappropriate, thus the obvious answer is "no". The econo hunter is, however, not after the meat, but after the hunt. So he offers to convert the quarry into biltong & droë wors (jerky & dried sausages), delivered to the farmer's door step; or simply skin the quarry and leave the farm without the carcass. Land owners find this rather unusual, and tend to invite you back next year. Typical species are the natural occurring ones like kudu, impala, mountain reedbuck, gray rhebok, duiker, steenbok, warthog and bush pig. Warthog roam an area with total disregard for game fencing. Warthog are thus as plentiful on cattle ranches as they are on game ranches. Competing with cattle (as grazer) it used to be considered vermin, but not so any more. It makes economical sense to utilize warthog as rations for farm workers. But this still means that somebody has to harvest them, something for which the farmer does not always have the time.
Hunting on under-stocked ranches where the game is scarce and skittish. The accommodation and animal fees are usually fair and negotiable. You can hunt for days on short notice and low cost. These ranches do not advertise, so you get to them by word-of-mouth and build up your own data base which you keep to yourself and friends. If, however, your measure of success of a hunting trip is quantified by the number of dead animals, then this tip is not for you, since success is never guaranteed.
Shooting with a camera does have "hunting" potential, but the rules have to be specified to make it anywhere near a challenge. Sitting in an air conditioned car in the Kruger Park with a 400mm lens aimed at the baboon on the hood will classify as "still life photography" in my books, not "hunting". Fill all of one photo with the head of an elephant bull, using a 35mm wide angle. (Yes, I did that once while on foot, but know better now.) After I started bow hunting, I found that I frequently come close to animals that I cannot afford to shoot, such as njala, bushbuck, giraffe, buffalo, Sharpes grysbok, etc. So as of quite recently I have been taking my camera along when positioned in a place of ambush. Here are some examples of pictures taken.
|Watch wild-life videos and dry fire at the TV screen from a distance far enough for a sharp focus of the telescope. This might not classify as hunting with me, but it provides excellent shooting practice and flinch control. Computer games are not for me either, but I have seen hunters getting quite excited while hunting with mouse and keyboard.|
|Hunt female and young male animals on "trophy ranches" during "management hunts". Ranchers usually have separate prices, which differ substantially, since they either sell it to a local in Rands, or to a foreigner in Dollars. Ironically, the females of some species can produce great wall mounts, since horn sizes are only relative (in the case of for instance gemsbok, longer!). Immature males of species like kudu and impala also go for much less, offering reasonable meat value for money.|
Hunting animals with paintball is fine for people who aren’t into shooting equipment. The bush craft and stalking might be the same, but that feeling of my all-weather 338 Winmag simply cannot be faked by a paint pop job! I have never tried painting animals. Darting of expensive quarry like rhino (sensitive debate!) is becoming more common nowadays, but the "econo hunter" cannot afford to dart "econo game".
Metallic silhouette shooting is held by some as a way of “hunting” indestructible game, while avoiding the act of killing! I found the handgun category good practice, but silhouette rifle (free hand) has only taught me how to flinch. (On arrogance vs. modesty: if you happen to know a hunter who likes to think of himself as a crack shot, enter him for a silhouette competition just once. It is good therapy for humbleness.)
The equivalent of 3D for bows had been introduced by rifle hunters on 2D live size targets in field conditions. It is said to be great fun and a reliable test for distance shooting. Contact the SA Hunting Rifle Shooting Society in Bloemfontein on 082/557-5169 for springbok hunting without blood and biltong.
|Avoid the taxidermist and don't make trophies! The cost of trophies frequently exceeds the cost of the game taken. For some reason not quite clear to me, American hunters are obsessed with stuffed animals that take up space in their homes, annoy their wives, gather dust, loose hair, and eventually have to make room for similar ones that are slightly bigger! I take a picture instead and spend the mounting budget on more hunting! If you have the burning desire to hang on to some part of the animal, then tan a jackal hide or baboon tail or keep the horns, but for goodness sake, don't have it mounted.|