An Honest Critique
Steve Hiraoka ~ Webmaster
When Alan and I went to Zim (September 2001), we hunted at Senuko, one of the River Lodges of Africa in the Savé Valley Conservancy. It was here that we first got to use the Shot Placement Pocket Field Guides (Mag-set had received their first printed copies days before we arrived).
Aside from the species data and anatomical sketches, we were very pleased to see some things we didn't expect. In the front is two pages for personal, emergency and firearms information - the kind of data your PH usually needs. Following the personal information section is an introduction by EIC Anthony Williams. The introduction explains the limitations of static diagrams as compared to environmental variations in the field.
The two pages after the introduction is Trophy Handling in the Field. Since Gordon Duncan, our PH at Senuko, the trackers and expert skinners took care of loading and skinning our trophies, I found the nine points on trophy handling helpful only as information on what happens with a trophy, and not immediately helpful as a how-to guide.
There are two pages of metric conversions (thank you very much!) which were endlessly useful, followed by a page that reminds us of one of the most important lessons of the field: It's the dead ones that will kill you. The 46 pages of species details are remarkably concise and to-the-point. For Mag-set to have distilled the wealth of information available on each species down to exactly what's needed in the field is an indication of their knowledge, experience and dedication to big game hunters. However, I was a bit disappointed that Rhino was not included.
I realize that inclusion of shot placement on the Rhino is and will continue to be a matter for debate. On one side you have the desire to round out a book which presents the most complete, concise shot placement and field information on African big game, against which Mag-set must weigh whether to include two pages of shot placement on an animal that is not hunted, or dedicate those two pages to additional shot placement on other game.
The species data pages are followed by a chart to track personal trophies taken by date, species, location, length, circumference, weight and tip-to-tip/length of horns across forehead. This section at least reminds us that it is important to measure a trophy as soon as possible because of shrinkage over time. Seven blank, lined notes pages complete the book, which I would have found exceptionally useful had I not brought a pocket-sized notebook with me.
Use in the Field
Gordon, Alan and I found the field guide especially useful when hunting. PH's often discuss shot placement and field variables in the bush, and having the diagrams available to look at while discussing strategy was the most practical thing I could imagine.
I was shooting video of Alan's buff hunt, and filming the use of the field guide would be premium promotional footage, but I caught Gordon and Alan hunched over the book several times discussing shot placement as a matter of course for the hunt, giving no mind to the promotional opportunity - they were focussed on the hunt. I actually had to interrupt them and tell them to start over so I could get them on video using the guide. To me, this is a testimony to the simple practicality of the guide as a field tool.
A final note: The pocket-sized guide is printed on heavier paper with a laminated cover to endure wear and tear, but the corners of the cover get bashed a good bit and begin to separate from the laminate. Mag-set has noticed this as well and has begun printing the books with rounded corners. However, the initial stock will have squared corners. If you receive a field guide with squared corners, you may wish to round the corners off yourself, or reinforce the corners of the cover with photo mounts or tape.
Personally, I'm looking forward to the boxed gift set which is expected to include the guide in a leather slip cover nested in Mopane wood shavings and delivered in a locally crafted gift box of handmade paper!