PH Bobby Hansen – Promoting ethical, fair-chase hunting
African Hunting Gazette: When and where were you born?
Bobby Hansen: I was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia in 1963, growing up like most kids hunting and fishing. My wife of 28 years, Vanessa, and I have two beautiful daughters, Tayla 19 and Jordan 16. We are now based in South Africa outside Vaalwater in the Limpopo province.
1. AHG: How did you become a PH? How did it all begin
BH: I would have to say my grandfather was a big influence in teaching me to hunt, but my father was a big fisherman and this taught me patience. We also had a family friend and a relative, Bob Laangeveld, who would visit and pull out his double rifles. For me as a kid, this was always a highlight.
AHG: Which countries have you hunted, and where are you hunting these days?
BH: I have hunted Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique. Now I am primarily hunting large areas in South Africa, trying to stay closer to home and spend more time with the family, although I do hunt Namibia and Mozambique, mainly for leopard and big crocs.
AHG: If you could return to any time or place in Africa, where would it be?
BH: I would say anywhere where I could hunt more elephant and leopard, as we all know this is getting harder and harder to do.
AHG: Which guns and ammo are you using to back-up on dangerous or wounded game?
BH: Like most PHs, I started with a .375 which served me well for many years. I have to admit I am not a gun nut or a reloader, so would often use ammo left by the clients. Obviously I know better now. I now use only my .416 Rigby, with Hornady or Woodleigh ammo.
AHG: What are your recommendations on guns and ammo – for dangerous game and for plains game – to your hunting clients?
BH: Like most PHs I feel a client should hunt with a rifle that he is familiar with and which meets the legal minimum requirements. Be careful of a client with a brand-new rifle and scope, especially a heavy caliber. Barnes X, trophy bonded bear claws, good bullets are a must. He should learn to shoot off sticks, and practice, practice, practice.
AHG: What is your favorite animal to hunt and why?
BH: For big game, I would have to say leopard. It’s the only animal you have to get to come to you, and even then it’s not a sure thing. As far as plains game goes, I would say a great hunt for bushbuck, with walk and stalk along the river. Most PHs, especially in South Africa, will tell their clients the only way to get one is at night with a spotlight. (Murder).
AHG: Looking back, which was your greatest trophy and why?
BH: Once again I would have to say any one of the big leopard I have taken with clients, especially the ones we worked hardest for. And one season I recall taking two bushbuck over 19”.
AHG: What was your closest brush with death?
BH: I have had two which of course pop to mind. First, one where we had a great hunt, and on the second-last day the client shot me through both legs. Fortunately, with radio contact and some luck, I was in the Pongola hospital within 15 minutes. The second occasion was with close friend and PH Kirk Mason, where a wounded elephant had charged us and picked him up. I was fortunate enough to shoot and kill the elephant and all was well.
AHG: Looking back: Anything you should have done differently?
BH: Think things through, take your time and try and stay focused. When things go wrong, they go wrong quickly.
AHG: How has the hunting industry changed over the years?
BH: Unfortunately in South Africa we all know how the hunting has changed: Put and take hunting; small camps; color variants and donations have all but destroyed South African hunting, not to mention our PH licensing system.
AHG: And the hunting clients themselves?
BH: Expectations of the client has increased, while the general length of safari has decreased. The advent of cell phones and Internet means most clients cannot fully relax and totally enjoy the experience, and most insist on this luxury in camp, which is real sad. I even remember stalking an animal and on final approach turned around to find the client on his phone!
AHG: Which qualities go into making a successful PH and /or a successful hunting company?
BH: Definitely honesty is foremost. Integrity and experience – all these count for a lot. Great, well-maintained vehicles and equipment speaks for itself, and all of the above for a successful hunting company, but all of the above and more count for nothing if you don’t have good areas and real trackers that can track. The old saying is true – “A PH is only as good as his trackers.”
AHG: Which qualities go into making a good safari client?
BH: Generally the best safari client is one who has saved all his life to come on his African hunt, and appreciates not only the hunt/trophy but his whole surroundings and experience. It’s these guys that normally take the biggest trophies.
AHG: If you should suggest one thing to your hunting clients to improve their experience of their safari, what would it be?
BH: To improve their experience, the most important thing is to practice. Practice off sticks, practice prone, and practice sitting. Often you only get one chance at those exceptional animals, and being able to make the most of those chances can turn a good safari into a great one. Second most important – meet your PH and know who you are hunting with. All too often you are sold a hunt and never see that guy again.
Remember you have to spend a lot of time with the PH, and he may save your life.
AHG: What can the hunting industry do to contribute to the long-term conservation of Africa’s wildlife?
BH: We are already doing what we can against all odds. Promoting ethical fair-chase hunting, educating kids, and promoting hunting, fishing and the outdoors in general. All hunting is under serious threat from anti-hunters, and more so now than ever before. If harvesting of any animal is sustainable, then it should remain open. Elephant, leopard and more are already under threat from closing exports.
AHG: Ask your wife, if she could do it all over again, would she? And what is her advice to future wives of PHs?
BH: She says Hell No! Seriously though, she would, although the early days were tough. It has all been worth it and allowed us a good life and being our own boss. Her advice to other wives would be to make sure they know what they are getting into. It sounds exciting and glamorous, but it can be challenging.
AHG: Are any of your children following in your footsteps? BH: Both my girls enjoy the outdoors and my oldest loves the big game hunting, my youngest loves the fishing and bird shooting, so am blessed maybe one day they will become involved.
AHG: Anyone you want to say thanks to? Or to GTH (Go to Hell)?
BH: I would like to say thank you to my incredible wife. Without her none of this would be possible. Most of my clients know this as well and often ask to speak to the Boss. To my girls as well, who I have not spent enough time with, and of course to my clients/friends who have always supported us – without them we would not be able to live in the wild. Last but not least, thanks to George, my main tracker of 21 years Thank you all
And to all the put and take outfitters who prostitute our industry, you know who you are – GTH.
AHG: Any Last Words of Wisdom?
BH: Think things through, take your time, and try and stay focused. When things go wrong they go wrong quickly. If a trophy is good enough to put on your own wall it’s good enough to take with a client.
AHG: Do you promise to write a story for our readers, soon?
BH: I have written a few short stories, but will try to do so again soon.