News

Local big game hunters say trust is major factor

Written by Jim Hook, Public Opinion Online | Aug 4, 2015 1:30 PM
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Photo by Submitted to Evening Sun

Jack Kramer of Fayetteville, second from left, and his Zimbabwe hunting crew pose with a cheetah Kramer shot in a 2013 hunt.

Local big game hunters are puzzling over the circumstances leading to accusations that two U.S. hunters illegally shot lions in Zimbabwe.

Both Jack Kramer of Fayetteville and Buddy Chapel, principal of Chambersburg Area Senior High School, have hunted in Africa. They say big game hunting is strictly regulated. But there's plenty of wide open space -- private hunting lands neighbor national parks where animals are protected.

"In general you have no idea where you're hunting, especially as a hunter coming from the U.S.," Kramer said.

"In Africa you can't see a house or roads in 25 miles," Chapel said. "You're trusting the people you're with. There's always an idiot hunter in the world that doesn't follow the rules."

A professional hunter or guide takes a paying customer on safari on private land. The government has set a quota of dangerous game that can be taken from the property. Dangerous game includes lions, leopards, Cape buffalo, rhinos and hippos.

"You have trackers and a government game scout with the hunting party," Kramer said. "The government game scout is similar to a deputy game warden. He's there to make sure everything is on the up and up. What's disturbing to me is that there has never been any reference in news accounts to the government game scout that should have been there" in both cases.

Zimbabwe is seeking the extradition of two American hunters for illegally shooting lions:

• Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer is accused of shooting Cecil, a celebrity lion of Hwange National Park.

• Jan Casimir Seski, a gynecological oncologist from the Pittsburgh area, killed a lion in April, according to the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

Kramer has successfully hunted a leopard and Cape buffalo in Zimbabwe. He's been there twice.

hould he have the opportunity to shoot an "MGM lion" such as Cecil, Kramer said: "If my outfitter told me to take him, I'd shoot him in a heartbeat." He could "only hope" that his outfitter and the landowner would have the proper permits.

He's closely followed the news about the shooting of Cecil, and he has questions. Dragging and hanging bait for a lion is a typical tactic, whereas your chances of seeing a lion are just 5 percent without it. Did Palmer's outfitter lure the lion from the park unethically or illegally? Did the property owner know what was going on?

Chapel relied on the local knowledge of his professional guide in his two visits to South Africa.

"I don't know how to distinguish between one lion and another," Chapel said. "You have to shoot the animal they allow you to shoot."

He brought back a lioness, one that had lived beyond her reproductive years.

"I got lucky enough to get one," Chapel said. "I waited a year and a half to get a permit."

A big game hunt costs tens of thousands of dollars. Chapel said he knew a hunter who spent $250,000 on a hunting trip. Kramer, a life member of Safari Club International, the trophy fee paid to Zimbabwe for a lion, such as Cecil, would run to $75,000. A lesser lion would cost $40,000.

Palmer is reported to have paid a $50,000 fee.

"We would love $55,000 to redo our lion habitat," said Melissa Bishop, a 16-year volunteer with the East Coast Exotic Animal Rescue in Fairfield. "We could do a lot with that. The problem is people spend money so they can have a head on their wall. We are absolutely horrified this goes on. That is where they should be protected and where they have the best chance. If they're on a wildlife preserve, how much better than being kept in a stupid cage like a pet." 

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Photo by Markell DeLoatch, Public Opinion Online

Buddy Chapel, an avid sportsman and principal of Chambersburg Area Senior High School, is pictured in his office in this file photo.

The animal rescue is rebuilding after a devastating fire and should open in the spring 2016, she said.

"There are more tigers in Texas than are left in wild," Bishop said. "Tons are being bred. They're the ones we see. Idiots breed them. They'll sell them to anybody. And there's no place for (the grown tigers) to go."

Hunting on safari is a big part of tourism in sub-Saharan Africa. Chapel says it accounts for 40 percent.

Trophy fees for big game are just part of the price of a safari. A hunter pays about $1,500 to $2,000 a day during an elephant hunt that lasts at least 21 days, according to Kramer.

A village's main income may come from supporting hunters. A host country likely uses the hunting fees for conservation.

The $5,000 spent by the typical tourist taking photographs in a national park doesn't go too far, Kramer said.

"An animal has to be worth something to be alive over there," Kramer said. "A man is lucky to make $10,000 a year. It's a vicious cycle over there."

Pennsylvanians get upset when a deer eats their roses, he said. In Zimbabwe, an impala eats the vegetables intended for a farmer's family or a lion takes the farmer's only cow or donkey.

Poaching also promises big rewards on the black market.

Americans and Europeans find hunting big game in a far-away place thrilling. The mount on the wall is just a reminder.

"You look at it, and it's the adventure," Kramer said. "It's all the memories that go with it. The sound of the birds. The absolute silence when the animal came in."

In Africa a hunter can see thousands of large animals in a day, or 20 different species of antelope. Kramer said he spends more time with his camera than his guns.

Kramer said he plans to go next to Greenland, but would like to return to Zimbabwe. His only concern is that because of the sensationalism arising from the shooting of Cecil, the U.S. government might further restrict permits for bringing trophies of endangered species into the country.

"As a hunter you want to keep progressing," Kramer said. "If I could afford to hunt a lion or an elephant, I'd do that in an heartbeat."

Jim Hook can be reached at 717-262-4759.

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Photo by Markell DeLoatch, Public Opinion Online

Buddy Chapel, an avid sportsman and principal of Chambersburg Area Senior High School, is pictured in his office in this file photo.


This article comes to us through a partnership between The Evening Sun and WITF. 

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Comments: 1

  • horse2hound4 img 2015-08-05 09:55

    I'm not sure that "hunter" is the appropriate term for grown men who pay large sums of money so that they can wait while paid assistants lure wild animals out in front of them to be shot. The idea that someone gets a thrill out of shooting what in many cases are members of endangered species so that they can (as pictured here) fill their walls with the heads of dead creatures is really fairly sickening (does the man pictured above really subject his office visitors to this display?) This is not hunting, and I would hope that real hunters would not want to be associated with these people.

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