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Friday, June 29, 2007

South Africa: Vet Slams Advice On Canned Hunting

Cape Argus (Cape Town)
28 June 2007
John YeldCape Town

A senior state official with substantial wildlife experience, particularly in lion management, has slammed the advice given to the government which formed the basis of new regulations to prevent "canned" lion hunting.

Dr Dewald Keet, the chief state veterinarian in the Kruger National Park, said in an affidavit that the panel of experts appointed to advise Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk on the hunting of big predators had no specialist knowledge themselves and had "completely ignored" the advice of lion experts in compiling their report.

The panel's report was used in the formulation of new endangered species regulations, issued under the Biodiversity Act, which include tough measures to outlaw "canned hunting" and closely regulate captive lion breeding.

Keet's affidavit is particularly embarrassing for the government because it is one of several affidavits filed in support of the High Court action being brought by the SA Predator Breeders' Association against the government over the regulations as they relate to lions.
The association and two individual lion breeders - Matthys Mostert of Bothaville and Deon Cilliers of Excelsior, both in the Free State - are bringing an urgent application in the Bloemfontein High Court against Van Schalkwyk's Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism over some of the endangered species regulations.

The department has political oversight over SA National Parks, which manages the Kruger National Park where Keet works. The new regulations were to have come into force at the beginning of this month but have now been delayed to February - but not as a result of this court case, according to Van Schalkwyk.

The applicants are asking for an order suspending the commencement, alternatively the implementation, of the regulations, insofar as they relate to lions; for all applications to breed, keep or hunt lions to continue to be administered in terms of provincial nature conservation ordinances; and for all permits relating to lions immediately before the new regulations were to come into force, to remain valid.

In his affidavit, Keet said he had 19 years "intimate experience" of lion management in Kruger and the surrounding parks and buffer zones.
He had also been "ntensely and directly"involved in the entire process leading up to the promulgation of the endangered species regulations on February 23.
Keet said it was clear from the documentation that none of the department's advisers was a carnivore specialist, nor, more specifically, a lion specialist. It was also clear that these advisers had not consulted such a specialist.

"The relevant advisers as well as the respondent (the department) very clearly do not possess the specialist knowledge or information relating in particular to the social behavioural patterns of lions. The documents overwhelmingly suggest an over-simplification of lions' behavioural patterns and habits.

"What is disturbing in the documents is the fact that inputs from specialists in the field were completely ignored. Besides this, the minister's advisers made no effort to determine the population status of the African lion in Africa and in South Africa." Keet said the "disinformation and total absence of scientific evidence, research and statistical analysis" in a report with such a high profile as that of the panel was "disturbing."

Keet said Safari Club International was the world's leader and most respected organisation in relation to the hunting of trophy animals, among other things. "It is of the greatest importance that this organisation acknowledges as an acceptable practice the hunting of wild animals that have been bred in captivity."

The department is defending the court action, which may be heard later this year.

It is obvious the canned lion hunting controversy is still boiling in South Africa. No matter what your opinion of this practice, there is no doubt that it may affect the future of safari hunting in South Africa for a long time to come. I think it bears watching. - TJR

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

David Miller Co. Rifles & A Book Review

Mastery Of Wood and Metal

So what makes ANY hunting rifle worth $50,000?

That's a really good question. I hear it often when high dollar custom rifles are the topic of conversation around the fire or at hunting shows. I asked it myself a long time ago when I was first learning about international hunting and saw some rifles in this price range for sale at a Safari Club Convention. Many of the rifles I saw were Holland and Holland and similar names, today those rifles are worth even more. While I was admiring them I couldn't figure out what made them worth so much darn money, so I asked one of the guys in the H&H booth and he told me that the number of hours it takes to build one of these rifles is huge. So if you figure you have to pay a craftsman only $50 per hour for 1000 hours you can see how easily this can add up.

At that show I spent a little time in the booth of David Miller and Curt Crum of the David Miller Co. of Tucson Arizona. I had met David and Curt a few times at local Safari Club events and just wanted to say hello. While we were standing there I was admiring a few of the rifles in David's booth and inquired as to what it might cost to have David and Curt build me a rifle. When I heard the price I knew it would be a few years before I could afford one. As I walked away I was thinking that his rifles were some of the nicest I had ever seen. Over the years I have come to know David and Curt and spent a lot of hours shooting with them at our local rifle range. They have always gone out of their way to help if I was struggling with a rifle or a particular load.

Last year I stopped in the shop to have them check out a rifle that a friend bought which was supposed to be an early David Miller Co. rifle. Sure enough David actually remembered the rifle which they built in 1979. He also had all of the original paperwork associated with that rifle. It was incredible to be able to review every detail of the rifle's "birth" with David and Curt. Then David asked if I thought my friend would be interested in allowing them to put a photo of the rifle in a book that was being written about them by author Tom Turpin. My buddy agreed and the rifle appears on page 97 of Mastery of Wood & Metal - David Miller Co. Published by Safari Club International Publications.

There is a story about the great jazz musician Miles Davis who was invited to dinner at the White House and when one of the guests asked Davis why he had been invited his response was reported to be "I changed music 4 or 5 times"

To say that the David Miller Co. "changed rifles" is not an overstatement. Miller and Crum take classic American rifle building to it's apex. When Winchester reintroduced the controlled round feed Model 70 in what they called the "Classic," it was Miller and Crum they turned to for redesign of the stock and parts of the action. The result was a much improved Model 70.

Mastery of Wood & Metal is an in depth exploration of the methods and tools used by Miller and Crum to create some of the finest hunting rifles on earth. It chronicles practically every step in the process. When you see the detailed meticulous work they put into a rifle you can begin to understand it's value. The photos in the book are excellent and the text and descriptions are detailed.

In Mastery of Wood & Metal, Turpin clearly points out that David Miller Co. rifles are working rifles, made to hunt. Miller calls them "functional art" which I think is a perfect description.

If you have even a passing interest in classic American rifles, rifle building, gunsmithing or hunting rifles in general you will surely enjoy Mastery of Wood & Metal.

Mastery of Wood & Metal is available from Safari Club International Publications:

Email: Lorie-Anne Peltz lpeltz@safariclub.org or call 520-620-1220 extension 244

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Africa's Most Dangerous - A book review

From Safari Press:

Africa's Most Dangerous
By Kevin Robertson

This latest book by Kevin Robertson is an excellent treatment of one of Africa's most sought after game species the Cape Buffalo, or what he more accurately calls the "Southern Buffalo". The book clearly covers some very important topics such as proper shot placement, rifle selection, caliber selection, field judging etc. All of this is from the perspective of an experienced buffalo hunter and PH. It is practical common sense information that a veteran Cape Buffalo hunter or anyone who wants to hunt Cape Buffalo in the future would benefit from reading. Robertson's analysis of shot placement is excellent. The photo/diagrams are wonderful tools for the buffalo hunter.

Robertson a qualified PH and veterinarian looks at buffalo hunting from a few different perspectives. Some of his opinions and theories will be a bit controversial which is exactly why I like this book. It does a lot more than repeat the standard treatise on buffalo hunting. One such topic is the SCI scoring system for buffalo. He argues that the system weighs heavily in favor of horn length and width with very little consideration given to the size of the the boss. If the vast number of hunters continue to take to the field placing emphasis on these factors as opposed to boss size and hardness Robertson convincingly argues that we will do long term damage to buffalo because hunters are killing younger bulls who have not yet had the opportunity to breed and spread their genes to the herd.

Another topic I find fascinating is the toughness of African animals. There are some that say they are no tougher than North American game of similar size. Robertson theorizes that the toughness of African game animals is real and that it may be the result of the Rhinderpest pandemic of the 1890's which decimated buffalo and antelope herds across Africa. His opinion is that their progeny which are the animals that occupy the continent now are tougher because their ancestors had to survive the epidemic and extreme pressure from predators. While his thesis is not scientific and he acknowledges that from the start it is quite an interesting theory, and makes for interesting reading.

I think this book is fascinating in that it explores topics not addressed by other books about buffalo. It is a comprehensive volume on hunting the Cape buffalo from a man who knows what he is talking about. I recommend it for anyone interested in buffalo hunting. - TJR

Africa's Most Dangerous is available from Safari Press PO BOX 3095 Long Beach CA 90803

Friday, June 15, 2007

From Safari Club International In the Crosshairs Newsletter

From SCI Newsleter In the Crosshairs:

"There have been numerous questions about darting rhinos in South Africa since a new series of regulations were announced this year. Information has been confirmed at the on-going CITES meeting in The Hague.

The darting of rhinos is allowed only for legitimate veterinary purpose and it must be done by a veterinarian. However, the South African government has no problem with a veterinarian using a hunter to do the actual darting. The government is aware that there are hunters who want to be able to dart rhinos and they don't care, as long as the hunt and the darting meet the requirements of their new regulations (which go into effect on February 1, 2008).

What the South African regulations say specifically about darting is that darting means "to shoot the specimen with a projectile loaded with a tranquilizing, narcotic, immobilizing, or similar agent" and that this can be done "by a veterinarian or a person authorized in writing by a veterinarian and in possession of a valid permit, whether on foot or from a motorized vehicle or aircraft, to immobilize or tranquilize the animal for the purpose of (a) carrying out a disease control procedure or a scientific experiment or for management purposes; (b) veterinary treatment of the animal; or (c) translocating or transporting the animal."

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rifle Feeding and High Dollar Scope Failure

In an earlier post I discussed the problems I had with the Kimber 84M Classic I took to Gunsite. Kimber fixed that rifle completely. I had no problems with it at all when I took it to the range this weekend. I put a few boxes of ammo through it and not one problem at all. The guys at Kimber really impressed me. There is a way of thinking that says that "you learn about the quality of a company's customer service when their product fails". Well Kimber's treatment of my problem made me a big fan.

Not only does Gunsite expose any rifle problems you may have, the program can also reveal problems you may be having with sights or scopes. This is exactly what happened to me.

Let me start by saying that I hate low quality optics. I can't stand to see the guy sitting next to me at the range with a thousand dollar rifle and an $89 scope on it. What sense does that make? In general cheap scopes stink.

I had a Zeiss 1.5 x 6 Diavari scope on my Kimber and it failed on day two of the Gunsite class. The right "arm" of the reticle simply snapped. It just hung there wiggling around when the rifle moved. I was unhappy as this is a pricey piece of optics.

Luckily at the last minute I had thrown my dangerous game gun (A custom pre-64 M70 in 375 H&H) in the truck just in case I had an opportunity to shoot it while at Gunsite. It had a Leupold VX III 1.5 x 5 scope on it with an illuminated reticle. I yanked it off and popped it on the Kimber. After a quick sight in session with coach Mario I was "back in the fight". The Leupold scope performed flawlessly and was exceptional during the low light/night shooting exercise. The illuminated reticle was an advantage at night. Other shooters present could not see their reticle and mine had a nice red dot in the middle of it.

So what does all this mean in the practical sense? Is the Zeiss scope inferior, or more fragile than the Leupold? I can't draw that conclusion because this was not a scientific test. But I can tell you that I shot the rest of the course with the Leupold, and don't want to take it off my Kimber.

Would I suggest that you scrap a Zeiss scope if you have one? No.

Would I tell you that if you have a Leupold on your rifle that you don't need a backup scope? No.

I will tell you the slight advantage you may gain in the light gathering ability of a European scope may not be worth the price which is usually double or triple that of a Leupold. Furthermore I do not like the adjustment knobs on the Zeiss.

As far as customer service goes, I am very pleased with Leupold in that area as well. In preparation for a hunt in Tanzania last year, I mounted a Leupold scope on my DG gun and overtightened the Talley rings beyond reason. The next day we had a rare rain storm here in Tucson and when I dry fired the rifle that night I noticed that the lenses were fogged up badly. I called Leupold the next day and the customer service guy asked me what rings I was using and I told him. He asked me if the tops of the rings were touching each other and I said "yes". He said "that's your problem". Huh? "Well those rings are not supposed to touch at the top". "uh, oh". He said "don't worry what's your address? I'll send you a new one, just send me the broken one". That's service. I busted the scope and they sent me a new one without even getting the old one yet.

My conclusion? If you are planning a hunting trip to any place that you are considering buying a premium scope for...buy two identical scopes and set up the second one for a quick change in case you have a problem. - TJR

Friday, June 8, 2007

Strike two for Kenya

From SCI newsletter In the Crosshairs:

June 5, 2007
"Kenya's effort to repeal the hunting quotas for black rhinos went down to resounding defeat today. By a vote of 82%, the 170 nations at the CITES meeting in The Hague rejected Kenya's proposal to revoke quotas granted at the last CITES meeting for the black rhino.

In 2004 in Thailand, the CITES nations agreed that the conservation of the black rhino would be enhanced by allowing sport hunters to take a limited number of rhinos in Namibia and South Africa and to export the trophies back to their home countries.

SCI past president John Monson, who heads SCI's delegation to the CITES meeting said, "we believe that this move by Kenya was inspired by the animal rights groups that have dominated Kenya's wildlife policies for years now."

Joe Hosmer, Chairman of the Conservation Committee of the SCI Foundation, who is also on the delegation, added that "this defeat shows that the rest of the world understands how sport hunting achieves conservation with an important species like the black rhino."

Black rhino populations declined sharply in the latter part of the 20th century. Careful husbandry of the species in Namibia and South Africa and private programs have brought black rhino numbers back. The rhinos that are taken are post-reproductive males that have become problematic in the breeding populations and are scattered throughout Namibia and South Africa. In addition to removing these problem animals from the populations, the money paid by the hunters is turned back into the rhino conservation programs - a true success story for pragmatic, sustainable use conservation.

In addition to the good news on rhinos, a request from Mozambique to double its leopard trophy export quota was approved, and an export quota for leopards from Uganda was approved. This is the first time that leopards will be available from Uganda. As with the black rhino, the approval of quotas reflects the world conservation community recognition that sport hunting plays an important role in wildlife conservation." (Source: SCI www.safariclub.org)

Elephant Ivory Ban

According to the official CITES Website:

"The Hague, 2 June 2007 - The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has approved exports of elephant ivory from Botswana (20 tons of ivory), Namibia (10 tons) and South Africa (30 tons).

The exports were agreed in principle in 2002 but were made conditional on the establishment of up-to-date and comprehensive baseline data on elephant poaching and population levels.
Today's meeting [June 2nd,2007] of the CITES Standing Committee (which oversees the implementation of CITES decisions between the major conferences) determined that this condition has been satisfied and that the exports may proceed.

"The CITES Secretariat will closely supervise these new exports and monitor future trends in elephant poaching and population levels throughout Africa. By basing future decisions on reliable field data, CITES can develop an approach to elephant ivory that benefits States relying on elephants for tourism as well as those seeking income from elephant products in order to finance wildlife conservation," said the Secretary-General of the Convention, Mr Willem Wijnstekers.
CITES banned the international commercial ivory trade in 1989. Then, in 1997, recognizing that some southern African elephant populations were healthy and well managed, it permitted Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to make a one-time sale of ivory to Japan totalling 50 tons. This sale took place in 1999 and amounted to some USD 5 million.

In 2004, requests by several southern African States for annual ivory quotas were not accepted by the Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the Convention. Legal sales of ivory derive from existing stocks gathered from elephants that have died as a result of natural causes or problem-animal control. Today the elephant populations of southern Africa are listed in Appendix II of the Convention (which allows trade through a permit system), while all other elephant populations are listed in Appendix I (which prohibits all imports for commercial purposes).

The long-running global debate over elephants has focused on the benefits that income from ivory sales may bring to conservation and to local communities living side-by-side with large and sometimes dangerous animals, weighed against concerns that such sales may increase poaching. The baseline data will make it possible to determine objectively what impact future ivory sales may have on elephant populations and poaching.In a related but separate decision, the Standing Committee has also decided that Japan has established sufficiently strong domestic trade control systems to be granted the status of trading partner allowed to import the approved ivory." (Source: www.cites.org)

Monday, June 4, 2007

A Kimber Rifle Story

While I was at Gunsite last week I was shooting a Kimber 84M Classic in .308 Winchester caliber. It's a handy little gun and shoots Federal match grade ammo in to 3/4" groups at 100 yards. I bought the rifle used specifically for training. I wanted a "Model 70" style action because most of my hunting guns including my dangerous game gun are M70 actions. While at Gunsite I experienced a feeding problem with the gun which frustrated me a bit. The last round in the magazine box would consistently jam when I tried to feed it. Then it started to cause feeding problems for the 2nd to last round. So when I got back to Tucson I shipped the rifle off to Kimber. It normally takes 2 weeks for a repair which is fast as far as I am concerned, but I called a friend at Kimber and he expedited matters to say the least. I got the rifle back in 2 days and it is feeding dummy cartridges perfectly.

They replaced the extractor and did some work on the bolt. They also replaced a few other parts to get the rifle in order.

My buddy just bought 3 brand new Kimbers in the new 8400 series and they all function just fine so I think the problem I had is either with the older models or was a fluke to my rifle. I think the guys at Kimber did a great job in terms of customer service. Hopefully the problem is solved for good. I will report back after a trip to the range.


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