Terry Cacek could be described as a typical American. He has a very normal job as a biologist with the Federal Department of National Parks. He lives in the state of Colorado on the edge of the Rockies. He is a keen hunter. Nothing unusual there since hunting is a passion shared by many, many millions of Americans. He has a passion for Africa which he also shares with most American hunters. He wants to hunt in Africa. However the cost of an African Safari being what it is, few normal American hunters can afford it. Terry can’t afford it either but this is where he breaks out of being normal. Through sheer determination, he has hunted not once but many times in the continent which holds so much fascination for the hunters of the World. It is these experiences which he shares with us in this book.
From the outset, it becomes clear that there is an ingrained perception amongst American hunters that hunting in Africa requires first, that you have a lot of disposable income, secondly that it has to be done with a professional hunter at your side, and third that that hunter will almost always be white. If like Terry, you want a less sanitized closer contact with Africa, its game and its people, then this is where determination and perseverance come in handy. Wealthy American hunters can and do hunt with guided outfits in the States and in the rest of the hunting world, but the average hunter in America hunts on his own or with friends, without a guide since he has been brought up to expect to hunt alone. Compared to Africa his success rate is very low. Only one in ten will fill the Elk tag they have bought in Terry’s home state of Colorado. The ethical hunter in America will outfit himself, buy the necessary tags himself, get himself to where he wants to hunt and conduct the hunt on his own and having made his kill, he will pack the carcass out himself, skin and quarter it, butcher and cook and eat it with his friends and family. He does not get to do much of that in Africa. The normal American hunter sees hunting in Africa as easy but too expensive.
The first section of the book is devoted to how to mount your own self-guide hunt. The first hunt described is in Zimbabwe and is made possible because of the system of hunting auctions that the Zimbabwean Department of National Parks has conducted for many years. Arriving several days before the hunt, he manages to put together enough equipment and staff to conduct the hunt. From the photos it can be seen that the camp is very basic, but Terry gets his buff.
Few of the subsequent safaris are as basic as the first, since Terry’s experience rapidly increases. One, on which I was a guest, was outfitted by Andy Cockott, who provides an excellent camp. However, it is not just the feeling of the satisfaction of a self-guide-hunt that Terry is after. He wants to be in the African bush with Africans, and it is to the people of Africa, who hunt and track and cook for Terry, to whom this book is dedicated. On the many hunts described in the book, it is clear that he derives as much enjoyment from his African friends as he does from his hunting.
The next section of the book is a selection of hunting reports written by a number of hunters who have also done solo safaris. These hunts take place all over Africa and are for various trophies. All indicate that there are many hunters who would love to hunt in Africa with Africans at a lower cost than the standard African Safari. They can be described as genuine close encounters with the real Africa.
The final section of the book contains considerable technical data on weapons and ammunition, cameras and binoculars and some useful information on how to plan and mount a self guided safari. This information is gleaned from the hunt by now considerable practical experience possessed by the author, and he passes it on to the reader to be accepted or rejected.
The other feature of the book is that the author is clearly a bit of an adrenaline junkie. However, his advice is consistently sensible and practical, and at no point does he advocate anything stupid. He is strong on ethics and clearly keen to ensure that hunting in Africa survives for as long as possible.
This is a book full of fun and much practical advice written primarily for American hunters, but those of us in the business locally could benefit greatly from reading it, since the hunting industry in Southern Africa has become fairly rigid. It operates very successfully in its present formula but there are a number of gaps in the market at present. Terry believes that there are many hunters who would be happy with non trophy animals and who would like to bring their families with them if daily rates were affordable.
Terry was in Zimbabwe in May of 1999, hunting in thick bush for a tuskless elephant cow, which he got, just to keep the adrenaline levels up to scratch. He is working on the next book.