Peru is about to bust wide open for international hunters, offering a host of interesting species and fascinating hunting areas. Slightly smaller than the State of Alaska, Peru lies on the western coast of South America between Chile and Ecuador. Its terrain ranges from coastal plains bordering the Pacific Ocean in the west, to the rugged, high elevations of the Andes Mountains in the center of the country, to the lowland jungles of the Amazon Basin in the east. With such a range in ecosystems, Peru is a hunter’s paradise, offering more than 100 different species, including six different kinds of deer, a number of wild cats, numerous birds and interesting jungle species, such as capybara. The problem is that Peru has been essentially closed to hunting for several decades. That’s all about to change, opening the way for some new and exciting hunt opportunities.
Officially, hunting was never actually “closed” in Peru, but stringent regulations have made it virtually impossible for even resident Peruvians to obtain hunting licenses. Unfortunately, that stopped neither locals nor foreigners from hunting illegally, and a number of fly-by-night “outfitters” have hosted hunters from all over the world, killing everything from jaguars to rare birds. This activity only reinforced the anti-hunting bias among wildlife officials in Lima. Enter Thomas Saldias, a young, US-educated Peruvian who five years ago created the Peruvian Hunters Association to promote legal hunting in Peru. The only pro-hunting NGO in the country at the time, the Peruvian Hunters Association began lobbying government officials, trying to educate them on the many benefits of hunting. Saldias also brought the International Hunters Education Association to Lima to implement a hunter education program as a tool to open doors. And he managed to have South Carolina Representative Mike Pitts, former Co-Chair of the South Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, meet with Peru’s director of tourism, ministers of agriculture and commerce and other officials.
With the help of such hunting ambassadors, Saldias finally broke through the resistance to legalized hunting by showing Peruvian officials the success stories of two Latin American countries – Mexico and Argentina, where wildlife is thriving and hunting generates millions of dollars in conservation funding and economic benefits. The same benefits could easily translate to Peru.
In the meantime, Saldias was elected as Safari Club Interna- tional’s South American Representative and now had the backing of that organization through its world headquarters and newly created SCI Peru chapter. Last year, Saldias worked with SCI to host Peru’s minister of commerce and director of forestry and wildlife at the annual SCI convention in Reno. Upon seeing the impact of organized legal hunting and what the hunting community is truly about, Peruvian officials agreed to revise hunting regulations in Peru and appointed Saldias as advisor for development of the sport hunting industry to both the minister of agriculture and the director of the department of natural resources.
Five years of work has culminated in new hunting regulations that will allow both local and foreign hunters to obtain licenses and legally export trophies from Peru. At this writing in late November, the new regulations had been approved by the Peruvian government and were undergoing review to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. One of the few changes that had already resulted from that review was a modification in the law that increased the penalties for illegal hunting. Due to a loophole in Peruvian law, poachers previously went free with little or no consequences. Now, poachers face a penalty of five years in jail. The penalty increases and includes all parties if the hunt is organized by an outfitter and if the game taken is an endangered species, such as taruca (North Andean deer) or jaguar, two of the species most sought after by illegal hunters.
The new regulations are expected to go into effect in early 2009 and some of the species on tap should include whitetail deer, puma, wild goat, collared peccary, capybara, gray brocket deer, feral bull and feral donkey. When the regulations are implemented, the proposed hunting seasons (generally March to December, depending on the species) will become official and a number of outfitters will receive licenses to provide legal hunting services to international hunters. A list of those outfitters will be published by the Peruvian Hunters Association and the SCI Peru Chapter. Saldias, whose next project is to start a Peruvian guides-outfitters association, can also provide the list of legal outfitters.
Among the outfitters who hope to operate in Peru is well-known Canadian outfitter Jim Shockey. Shockey met with Peru’s minister of commerce and director of forestry and wildlife at the SCI convention last year and was invited as the government’s guest to hunt in Peru and evaluate the country’s potential as an international hunting destination. Shockey was afforded one of the few hunting licenses to be issued to a foreign national, receiving license No. 95 (meaning only 95 hunters in total had received a national hunting license in the last 30 years). Saldias made arrangements for Shockey to hunt the highlands for whitetail deer and feral bull, and the Amazon jungle for capybara and collared peccary. We told you briefly about Shockey’s hunt this past July.
Shockey describes Peru as a wondrous hunting destination with the potential to offer hunters many species they have never hunted before and that are not even included in the record books. Although he did not hunt them, he reports seeing numbers of giant anteaters, tapir, taruca, caiman and other species, in addition to the ones he took on his trip. “Hunters who are willing to open their horizons on game animals would have a wide range of animals to hunt in Peru,” he says.
While some of the species found in Peru are CITES animals, once officials raise the funds to conduct the necessary population surveys, they expect to secure a quota of CITES permits for a number of animals. With only three weeks to see the country, Shockey says he saw abundant, thriving populations of game, including taruca. That’s despite the uncontrolled hunting that currently occurs there. He says he saw trophy antlers, mounts and photographs of animals in many Peruvian homes he visited. “Right now CITES restrictions are only protecting these species from legal international hunters, while locals take all they want,” says Shockey. “Traveling hunters are precisely the ones that would generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for conservation while taking only negligible numbers of game.”
As for the game he did hunt, Shockey says he was surprised at how challenging these hunts were. “Peru’s mountains make the ones in British Columbia look like pancakes,” he says. The mountains are dangerously steep, as evidenced by his cameraman’s nearly fatal fall from a 60-foot height when he simply stepped off the road.
Shockey describes his hunt for whitetail deer in the highlands as one of the most physically difficult hunts he has ever done and says hunting whitetail in the Andes is worth the trip alone. The feral bull hunt was also a high-elevation hunt at 14,000 to 15,000 feet, and Shockey says this animal was more difficult to hunt than Marco Polo in Tajikistan. He describes them as very wild and dangerous enough that Saldias and his guide were nervous about Shockey using a muzzleloader for the hunt. Other game he saw in the Andes included feral goats and sheep that live high up in the rocks and are especially difficult to approach. Much of the hunting there involved driving a vehicle as far up the mountains as possible and then proceeding on foot.
In the Amazon, Shockey hunted along a river for capybara and collared peccary. He says the jungle is an amazing place to hunt, and that he thinks the Amazon will become as important a hunting destination as Africa due to the sheer variety of game and the different hunting experiences the region affords. Although Shockey managed to take a capybara on his jungle hunt, he says he pulled out of the hunt for collared peccary because he did not see eye-to-eye with the local hunter facilitating the hunt. In fact, he says he encountered numerous difficulties that stem from the illicit hunting practices there. Guides are not accustomed to the transparency and level of hunting ethics expected by experienced, legal hunters. Neither do they understand many of traveling hunters’ needs and expectations. Saldias hopes that hunter education programs and the input of outfitting experts like Shockey will help Peru develop a higher quality stable of outfitters and guides. Also, SCI Peru sent two young Peruvians to South Africa for training as outfitter- guides. They return next year to help implement the new program. With the new regulations going into place, all outfitters will have to be approved and licensed in order to operate, and all foreign hunters will be required to hire a licensed operator in order to hunt in Peru.
Shockey is bullish on this destination’s future and was impressed with the hospitality of the Peruvian hunters he met and the dedication of hunting association members. He is convinced that everyone, hunters and government officials alike, want to make the new hunting program work. The level of transparency in the government’s efforts to make everything legal is encouraging and unlike other places Shockey has worked. Although progress has been slow, Shockey believes Peru has promise as the next hot hunting destination. As for when he would start outfitting there, that’s still up in the air and dependent on when Peru’s new regulations finally go into effective.
Besides Shockey, two Hunting Report subscribers were also fortunate enough to hunt Peru this past July. They hunted at El Angolo, a private hunting club that was able to secure a limited number of hunting licenses on a VIP basis at the same time that Saldias secured a license for Shockey. Saldias says that El Angolo is operated by a well-known family that has been managing the game on the property for about 25 years. The ranch is home to a very healthy population of South American whitetail deer and is an excellent example of successful game management. The two hunters who hunted there are long-time subscribers Rex Baker and Bruce Keller, each of whom took a buck. Keller says they hunted from mules on trails cut through the head-high cover. When spotting a good buck, the hunters would dismount for the shot, which could be difficult due to the thick brush. Another method involved walking along wide river bottoms that are mostly dry with scattered water holes, where the deer drink in the mornings and evenings.
Both hunters report seeing up to 20 deer per hunting session, and each killed a six-point buck that scored around 46 SCI. These are small-bodied deer ranging from 75 to 105 pounds. Most of the bucks Keller says they spotted were young spikes and forkhorns, but he and Baker each had several opportunities to take a mature buck with at least three points per side. You can see a photograph of Baker’s deer in the Trophy Gallery section of our web site and read Keller’s letter-length report on the hunt under “Website Uploads” on our home page. Hunters interested in Peru should contact Saldias.