Singaporean hunters who enjoy the primitive thrill of the chase

Singaporean hunters who enjoy the primitive thrill of the chase
The pack of hunting dogs return to the van after a successful hunt.

JOHOR - Most Singaporeans love hunting down a good meal while on holiday, but a few take it quite literally. They travel to hunt game, using guns and bows and arrows.

Hunting venues include Australia and New Zealand, while others go as far as South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe, says Mr Guy Hoh, 40, a Singaporean hunter who organises hunting trips abroad.

The owner of shooting consultancy Blaze Sporting Clays takes three to six groups a year on hunting trips, primarily to southern Africa. He has also been to the United Kingdom and Argentina to hunt.

Hunting, he says, is a "participatory experience" as opposed to other safaris where tourists are simply viewing animals from inside a vehicle.

It may not be for everyone, he adds. "But when you hunt, you're involved. Most of my clients are very hands-on, driven people and they might be slight adrenaline junkies."

Mr Hoh started hunting as a child when his father, a Malaysian, took him to Malaysia to hunt flying foxes, squirrels and pigeons. That sparked a love of hunting in him and he began leading his own trips in 2003.

Doctors, engineers, lawyers and entrepreneurs have joined his hunting parties, but families have also taken part, with one couple taking their 11-year-old and 14-year-old sons along.

He says that like him, most of his clients enjoy hunting because it challenges them and not because of the "blood sport aspect of it".

He adds: "It's more because they get to do something in nature that's very, very different from their normal life. It's a beautiful experience and until someone does it, they don't get what we are talking about.

"Most people who do it for the first time are quite surprised at how enjoyable, exciting and fulfilling they find it."

Still, all his clients were unwilling to be interviewed, citing negative perceptions of hunters in Singapore.

Another Singaporean hunter, Mr B. Tay, 63, says: "Hunting itself is a culture and one that a lot of people don't understand. They think it's just wanton killing but it's not."

Mr Tay, who has hunted deer, dingo and wild boar in Australia and New Zealand, as well as on private land in Asia, says he cannot quite explain the thrill of hunting, except that it is "something ancient built into our DNA".

He began hunting when he was a student in Australia in the 1970s and began bounty hunting for farm pests such as wild boar to earn extra money. He now goes on one to two hunting trips a year, mostly alone.

He admits that there is a "sudden sadness after I kill an animal because I took a life", but that he gives thanks for each animal he successfully hunts, as it is a tradition among many hunters.

Despite this, he says the hunt is enjoyable. "It's not the quarry but the chase," he says.

Hunters here also tell SundayLife! that there are strict rules that govern the ethics of hunting.

One is that an animal's suffering must be minimised and so, the first shot should kill it.

Mr Hoh, who is a professional shooting instructor, insists that all his clients have at least five to 10 shooting lessons with him before they leave on the hunting safari, to ensure a base level of competence in shooting with accuracy and safety. Lessons are conducted at the National Shooting Centre in Old Choa Chu Kang Road.

Mr Y.M Tan, 49, who has hunted wild boar in Australia, says that it is important to make the distinction that they are "hunters, not killers".

He adds: "Killers would shoot anything that comes by and not care how long it takes to die in the forest."

He says it is for this reason that bow hunters usually take "a heart or lung shot", so that the animal dies quickly.

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