Hunter Safety, Abroad

Here’s what I can tell you about hunter safety in other countries. On the surface, it appears to be a lot more casual. If you look more closely, it’s a lot tougher. On just about any group hunt in the U.S., you’re bound to get anything from a few words to an impassioned lecture on the benefits of not shooting each other. However, over the years, I can recall at least three hunts I’ve walked away from because I was afraid of catching a bullet. Elsewhere, it’s different.

When I hunted in Germany in 2011, we were given a 20-minute pre-hunt indoctrination on what we could and could not shoot. This did not include humans, despite the fact that the hunters were all sitting in elevated stands and the drivers appeared suddenly and with no warning. The reason for this is, that getting a German hunting license is so difficult, time consuming, and expensive, it’s assumed that if you have one you know what you’re doing and are not likely to shoot yourself or a driver.

And sure enough, even though there were all sorts of dead beasts lying in neat ranks at the end of the hunt, there were no dead people. By the same token, getting my rifle in and out of the country was a snap. The officials involved assumed that if I had a hunting license I was a standup guy, so I breezed through. The b.s. and harassment came when I got back to the good ole U.S.A.

(I’m told, although I can’t confirm it, that if you’re arrested for DUI in Germany, the police will check to see if you have a gun license. If you do, they will come to your house and confiscate your guns on the theory that if you’re enough of an arschloch to drive drunk, you’re too much of one to own guns.)

Same thing in Sweden. I was dragged off the plane in a pouring rainstorm and required to shoot at a rolling moose target. If I hit it the required number of times, I got to hunt. If not, I had come 3,925 miles for nothing. In Sweden, all the hunting is on private property, and just about every hunter is the guest of a landowner. If there is a shooting accident, it is the landowner who is held liable.

“Why did you invite this a**hole”, the landowner will be asked, “if you knew he was unsafe?” So the landowners don’t invite a**holes, and if you turn out to be one, you will never be invited. But there are no lectures about safety. They tell you where your lanes of fire are and what you can shoot and that’s it.

In Africa, the first day of your safari, the PH will say something like, ”Well, bwana, let’s go get dinner,” and you’ll go off to sight in your rifle and shoot one of the better-tasting antelope. This is not only dinner shopping, but it is your safety/marksmanship evaluation. The PH is going to be watching you very, very carefully to see how competent you are with a rifle, and on his judgment rides the rest of the safari.

If he thinks your firearms deportment is lacking, you’ll get a gentle warning and/or some coaching. If you’re still a menace, you get a ride to the airport and your fee refunded. Getting shot by a client is not part of the deal.