Branch Matters

Introduction
The South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SAHGCA) is a voluntary association, managed by members for members. Branches and their activities are the heart-beat of the organisation. The enthusiasm and success of this branch-driven model is unique if one considers that the people involved are doing it because they really care, without expecting any remuneration for their work.

SAHGCA branches play an essential role in providing services to members at local level. Therefore, the development and establishment of branches countrywide are of strategic importance to the Association. But how effective and functional are these branches in delivering services?

One of the important annual events at branches of SA Hunters is the Annual General Meeting (AGM). An important item on the agenda is the election of new members to the management team and the succes of this process is determined to a large extend by the number of branch members participating in this event.

Some branches are very innovative when finding solutions to deliver services to their members. Vrystaat Sandveld branch at Soutpan is in the heart of an agricultural community and provides services primarily to members who are farmers. Shooting days at this branch involve the entire family and they invariably end in meetings on branch matters and a sociable braai afterwards. For branches based in cities it does not make sense to combine a shooting day with a meeting and a braai in the same manner. These branches prefer to hold their meetings in the evening during the week. It makes practical sense for farmers not to drive at night or to be away from their families for safety reasons. Vrystaat Sandveld Branch and other rural branches are doing what work best for them.

Senior, experienced hunters have played a prominent role in earlier hunting communities such as the Eskimos, San, American Indians and South African pioneers who revered and respected these members of their communities. These older hunters might only hunt occasionally but they are an invaluable source of knowledge and experience. Through their campfire stories from past hunting excursions they transfer valuable information to a younger generation of hunters, ensuring that the hunting culture lives on.

The old reference, “boer en sy roer” has an association with the modern hunter and his/her rifle. Our forbears' way of life required them to have their rifles by their side at all times. The Boers gained the international reputation of excellent shottists that carried them through inter alia two wars against the English. Modern hunters live in a different era and they have to practise their skills continuously before they go out hunting.

During a branch visit by the writer in January 2007 to the Mopani branch at Phalaborwa the branch chairman, Pierre Terblanche was despondent about the future of the branch. Participation in branch activities was very poor in spite of the best efforts of the management team and the management members were starting to lose hope.

Most SAHGCA branches have enough trained and qualified Range Officers, but in spite of that, at one stage or another, branches develop a shortage of Range Officers willing to do shooting range duty. The following important principles should be taken into account to address this problem when it does occur in a branch.