By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
"We don't hunt in order to kill," he says. "We kill to say that we have hunted. It's a philosophy, a belief. My philosophy, and that of other professionals, is that of high moral value in what we do."
Safari hunting, he insists, is more than meets the eye. It's a journey of self-discovery and, above all, a test to determine who has the right stuff. If you've got the scratch--$1,350-per-day worth--and can meet Sullivan's exacting standards, it is possible to find out if that stuff is within you.
Whether Sullivan's proselytizing amounts to a cogent personal and ecological philosophy or is simply high-toned rhetoric designed to justify a profitable and exotic lifestyle, it is undeniable that his message strikes a chord in men who might long for a return to a simpler, bygone time--a time before the male psyche became hopelessly confused by societal demands that he learn to nurture, weep and actually like quiche.
Looking and speaking like a cross between Tom Selleck and "Crocodile" Dundee, Sullivan is an immensely likable prototype of the post-Alan Alda Age man. Possessing a self-assurance found only in those who have never suffered a tremor of doubt about their chosen path, he paints a compelling portrait of a world that is based not on meaningless slaughter, but on honor. A world where a man stands toe to claw with some of the most dangerous creatures ever to walk the Earth and, if he has enough skill and luck, lives to tell about it.
A world that sets the testosterone to frothing in all the Y-chromosome-endowed creatures who, in this gender-sensitive modern age, are sick of being told that "manly" is a dirty word.
@body:Sullivan's three videos, Simba, Mobogo (which are Swahili for lion and buffalo, respectively) and the melodramatically named Africa's Black Death are lush, color expositions of the hunter's art. No matter which direction your moral compass points, watching Sullivan and his clients as they run through the bush and plot the best strategy for tracking and claiming their prey is fascinating. There is beauty in this dance, as both man and beast maneuver in a game of life and death.
The film footage isn't for the squeamish, but it isn't sadistic, either. Typically, an animal is dead in less than a minute after the first shot is fired. During the videos, Sullivan can be repeatedly heard urging his client to "hit him again, hit him again," in an effort to quickly render the animal harmless and also put him out of his misery. The overall effect of the shooting scenes is like that of a Wild Kingdom rerun, except that instead of tagging and releasing the animal, Marlon and Jim shoot it, pat each other on the back and then replay the kill in slow motion.
The fact that both the lion and Cape buffalo (the two creatures Sullivan specializes in hunting) are lightning quick, massively muscled and notoriously unpredictable when wounded inserts an element of true danger. This is clearly not equivalent, as the saying goes, to shooting fish in a barrel.
Both adversaries are equipped with dangerous weapons, teeth or horns versus gun. Although even Sullivan acknowledges that it would be disingenuous to claim that this puts the rifle-toting hunter and the animal on a level playing field, it is true that when the hunters are alone in the head-high grass, hours by airplane from the nearest rudimentary hospital, it can sometimes seem like the lion is the one who really holds the advantage.
"We hunt lesser, smaller game," Sullivan says, "but the truth is I really don't like to see them shot. There is nothing manly in hunting a zebra, for instance, no risk of life.
"But when you hunt lion or Cape buffalo, if you hunt them fairly and honestly, you are risking something."
To emphasize the point, Sullivan notes that well-documented reports in national newspapers show several hunters are mauled or gored by African big game every year. While Sullivan says that most of his professional hunter friends have been flipped, tossed, laid upon, bitten or lacerated at least once by a wild beast, he is mum about his own close calls.
Perhaps that is because others, prompted by the video record of Sullivan's hunting exploits, are usually willing to do the talking for him. One story in particular has become part of hunting lore, told and retold, according to Sullivan's friends, by members of the hunting fraternity.
While on safari in Tanzania in 1990, a Sullivan client shot and wounded a massive Cape buffalo (known to natives as the "black death" of Africa, it is a an animal that can weigh 1,000 pounds and is notoriously cranky). The animal promptly fell to the ground. But as the hunters approached, the bloodied bull struggled to its feet. Spying Sullivan, the huge beast mustered the strength for an attack. Snorting, issuing a deep, guttural growl and leveling its sharp horns, it charged.
Sullivan fired once with his double-barreled rifle, striking the buffalo squarely in the forehead at a range of 12 feet. But still the animal, legs pumping and nostrils flaring, plunged forward. Sullivan quickly backpedaled two or three steps and fired again. This time, the bullet went through the buffalo's brain, sending the huge creature crashing to the ground--right at Sullivan's feet. Hollywood couldn't have done it better. Thanks to a video camera that was on hand to immortalize the scene, it doesn't have to.
I have no quams with people eating what they kill and hunting for that purpose. I have a hard time swallowing the rheteric behind trophy killings. Blood thirsty killers, probably not, but claiming trophies under the guise of "wildlife conservation" is simply perverse.