As the number of hunters in the United States declines, some are looking to the other side of the world to reinvigorate an international hunting market hit by urbanization and culture shift.
The first-ever hunting show was held in China last month, and its founders and promoters are hoping to expand interest in the sport and encourage wealthy Chinese citizens to book hunts from Africa to Canada.
“This is the opening of the largest potential [hunting] market in the history of the universe,” Steve Scott, an American hunter and television producer, told Quartz. “This is the D-Day for hunting on the biggest beach there will ever be.”
The show was organized by Chinese entrepreneur Jerry Li, who emigrated to Canada in 2002 and soon harvested his first black bear in British Columbia. Li believes that as Chinese people grow wealthier, they’ll be looking for new and exciting ways to spend their money.
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Welcome To The First-Ever China Hunting Show: After months of planning, preparation, & prayer, our hunting portion of the show opened with a number of curious attendees that were completely unfamiliar with the concept of sport hunting. By the end of the day, however, cash was changing hands as first-time hunters began planning their first overseas hunting trips. It’s going to be a great weekend! #chinahuntingshow #newhunters #china #hunting #tradeshow #hunter #safari #outfitter #internationalhunter #huntingtrip #booking #outfitters #fieldsports #adventuresports #bookinghunts #fieldsportsexpo
“People, especially young people, they want to try different lifestyles,” Li told Quartz.
Li operates a company called WILDER that distributes hunting-related content on Chinese social networks. He plans to expand what he offers to his 40,000 subscribers by allowing them to book hunts and buy hunting-related products through his platform.
The first company catering to Chinese citizens who wanted to hunt abroad opened in 2003. Since then, Li told Quartz that there are about 20.
International hunting and safari companies are beginning to take notice. Alexander Oelofse, who was born and raised in Namibia and runs a hunting safari company his father founded in 1975, attended the China Hunting Show to tap into the market that might replace the dwindling number of American hunters.
“When this chance came up with the China Hunting Show, we felt this might be… something that re-energizes the hunting market,” he told Quartz. “I think the future for China and Africa is really big, and the faster we from this side adopt the Chinese market, it’ll be better for us and for our kids in the future.”
For now, however, outfitters like Oelofse can only hope. Quartz reports that very few of the 85 outfitters at the show booked hunts.
“It is difficult to say [the show] was a success,” said Remi Donnelly, another show exhibitor. “We made a lot of contacts, but we haven’t made any bookings yet.”
For those outfitters who did make bookings, they’ll likely have to contend with clients who have never hunted or fired a gun. Oelofse said that Chinese hunters don’t usually bring their own firearms and request that the guide carry the rifle and only give it to the client when a clear shot presents itself.
Despite the lack of bookings and seeming ambivalence of the Chinese towards hunting, show promoter Steve Scott remains optimistic about the future.
“What I was selling was first access,” Scott said. “It’s the potential that’s there. That’s what brought people. That’s what’s going to bring people by the droves next year.”