PH Alex Thomson (South Africa) –
From farm boy to professional hunter…
African Hunting Gazette: Great to talk to you, Alex. Our readers are always keen to meet the PHs. Tell us about yourself and your family.
Alex Thomson: I was born in Pietersburg (now Polokwane) on 8 March 1980. I grew up in Polokwane, and the holidays were when my brother and I spent our time on the family farm with my parents and grandparents. I got married in October 2008 to my beautiful wife, Tamryn. Luckily, she loves the outdoors and farm life as much as I do! We have two very busy children, Alex Jnr who is turning five this year and Lexi who is two (going on five!).
AHG: How did you become a PH? Did anybody in your family hunt?
AT: Our love for hunting started on the family farm where my mother grew up, spending time with our grandparents during the school holidays and weekends. My father hunted, although he wasn’t a big-game hunter, and both my brother and I went out at every hunting opportunity we could. So we were always outdoors, or helping with farm chores, and always exposed to the wildlife. Now we are both qualified PHs and owners of Eland Safaris. I did my PH course with Kobus Schoeman Hunting Academy, becoming a PH in 2002.
AHG: Which countries have you hunted, and where are you hunting these days?
AT: Apart from hunting in South Africa in Limpopo Province, I have previously hunted in Zimbabwe. But for now, all our hunts are mostly done in the Limpopo Province at Eland Safaris.
AHG: If you could return to any time or place in Africa, where would it be?
AT: It would definitely be Kenya in the early 1960s. I think it was great hunting in those days – I have heard so many interesting stories about the hunting there. I also had the privilege to have had a client who hunted there with his father in 1968, and the stories he has to tell are amazing… so interesting.
AHG: Which guns and ammo are you using to back-up on dangerous or wounded game?
AT: We use a .458 Winchester and a .470 Nitro Express, though I personally prefer my Merkel .470 NE.
AHG: What are your recommendations to your hunting clients on guns and ammo for dangerous game and for plains game?
AT: In our area, the bigger the better, so we recommend a .30-06 with 180 grains, or a .338 with 225-grain rounds for the plains game. For dangerous game we prefer at least a .375 and bigger.
AHG: What was your closest brush with death?
AT: Touch wood, but so far have been very lucky – no close encounters. I do not take any chances.
AHG: Looking back: Anything you should have done differently?
AT: Looking back, there is nothing I would have done differently!
I am happy for what we have and how far we have come!
AHG: Do you think the hunting industry has changed over the years, or even the hunting clients themselves?
AT: Yes, there have been some of changes over the last couple of years. The prices, more competition from PHs and outfitters, and the permits process! Regarding the hunting clients – well with the clients we have had – I will say no change. For them it’s a dream come true to come and hunt in Africa. You only live once!
AHG: Which qualities go into making a successful PH, and a successful hunting company?
AT: Number one: Honesty, and treat your client with respect! Then you have a successful and trustworthy PH and outfitter, and that goes a long way with clients. Give a client a hunt of a life time – it is his safari.
AHG: Which qualities go into making a good safari client?
AT: Trust… between the PH and client. And then it’s not always about how big the trophy is, but on how great the hunt was – the whole experience!
AHG: Based on your recent experience in the field, do you think that any species should be upgraded to Appendix I or downgraded to Appendix II or closed all together?
AT: Brown Hyena can be downgraded. There are so many of them, and there is no need to get a permit for baboon and vervet monkeys.
AHG: What can the hunting industry do to contribute to the long-term conservation of Africa’s wildlife?
AT: Hunting has been around for a long time and will still be here for a long time, as long as we do it in an ethical and sustainable way.
AHG: Ask your wife, if she could do it all over again, would she still…?
Tamryn: Any day!
AHG: And Tamryn’s advice to future wives of PHs?
Tamryn: To be a PH’s wife, you have to be supportive and understanding to your hubby. It is his job and how he brings income in (although they enjoy it thoroughly!) You are not alone!
AHG: Are any of your children following in your footsteps?
AT: Yes. Alex is still young, but he is already into hunting, wants to shoot everything. Lexi is not sure yet…but I am sure she will be interested in some hunting aspect.
AHG: Anyone you want to say thanks to?
AT: Yes, a huge thanks to my wife and children for their support over the last nine years. Many thanks as well to my brother and his wife who are with me in the business, and also to my father and mother, for believing in us. If it weren’t for their help we would not have had this great life!
AHG: Any Last Words of Wisdom?
AT: Always respect the animal and the bush, and enjoy life
AHG: Do you promise to write a good hunting story for our readers soon?
AT: Not any time soon!