Season opens in lucrative industry

THE kudu hunting season starts this week, and it is time for the Eastern Cape to take a bite out of South Africa’s R7-billion industry. While some game can be hunted all year round, hunters from across the country are champing at the bit as Thursday marks the opening of the two-month period set aside for hunting one of the country’s most sought-after antelopes.

East Cape Game Management Association (ECGMA) chief executive Stappie Staphorst said some regions would have a better season than others, but predicted it should be a fairly good year for kudu hunters in the province.

“Each region determines its own hunting season, and an area like Steytlerville decided not to hunt kudu this year because the numbers and conditions are not good enough. But the rest of the province should do well,” Staphorst said.

In the build-up to the kudu season, the annual HuntEx Eastern Cape Hunter’s Fair took place in Jeffreys Bay this past weekend.

Organiser Deon Erasmus said visitor numbers pointed towards a good season.

“This is a good time of year to have the expo because people are preparing for the hunting season,” he said.

“Their minds are in the right space for an event like this, and this is a good place to do some last-minute shopping before you go into the veld.”

Despite the ongoing drought and concerns over hunting and animal conditions, HuntEx still attracted about 4 000 visitors.

“According to our research, the Eastern Cape has more hunters per capita than any other province in the country,” Erasmus said.

“It [the fair] also provides massive attraction and opportunities for international hunters. It is slightly cheaper than the provinces further north and there are a vast number of farms offering packages that suit a wide range of hunters.

“Overall the Eastern Cape is a very attractive prospect for hunters globally, and the industry here is still showing great development and growth,” Erasmus said.

HuntEx hosts two other shows every year – in Cape Town and Gauteng – but feels the Eastern Cape show is a crucial part of their calendar.

“If you take into account all hunting and hunting-related expenses, the industry is worth between R6-billion and R7-billion every year. The Eastern Cape has the opportunity to turn the hunting industry into one of its biggest industries.”

Erasmus said their research showed that an estimated R7-billion was pumped into a range of different industries, including hospitality and accommodation, transport and fuel, retail, as well as meat.

Looking at the coming weekend, two days after the official opening of the season, the Jansenville district will host its annual season launch with a kudu hunting event that has attracted hunters from across the country for the better part of the last decade.

Staphorst said nearly 10 years ago, a group of farmers and businessmen came up with the idea to have a season launch event, and since then Jansenville had grown into one of the go-to hunting destinations for the start of the season.

“Farmers from across the district form part of the event that sees hunters come onto their farms, looking to bag the biggest kudu in the district.

“We as ECGMA are also involved, and handle measurements for record and prize-giving purposes,” he said.

The event brings a huge economic injection into the region, as dozens of hunters seek accommodation and a range of other services for the weekend.

Looking further ahead, Staphorst said the kudu season may only last until the end of July, but recent rain and improving conditions throughout the province promised good hunting for other species.

“The veld is looking very good in places. The recent rain might not affect the vegetation too much just yet, but in a few months we could see some ideal conditions for hunting for species open year-round,” Staphorst said.

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