FINDING HIS MARK
GUY HOH IS NOT TALKING ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY WHEN HE SAYS THAT HE LOVES SHOOTING. THE HUNTER WHO RUNS SINGAPORE'S FIRST PROFESSIONAL SHOOTING SPORTS COACHING AND CONSULTANCY BUSINESS TELLS US WHAT COMPELS HIM TO G O IN FOR A KILL. TEXT W O N G SHIER MAINE PHOTOGRAPHY TAN WEI TE ART DIRECTION N O R S H A M HUSAINI
niversity student life for Guy Hon was a very different proposition from the usual: Between hitting the books, he spent more than half his time hunting in the English countryside before personally preparing and cooking his kill. "I fed myself and most of my dormitory with venison, pheasant, partridge, grouse and pigeon," says the 37-year-old University of Leicester alumnus. It may be considered a singular achievement by those more used to picking up cold, clean meat in plastic packs from supermarket shelves, but hunting for his own food is something Hoh - who now makes a living from teaching shooting and organising safari hunts to Africa - has done since childhood.
MARKED FOR LIFE While most eight-year-olds were playing with catapults and water guns, Hoh was wielding air rifles. He would sneak into the air rifle classes conducted by his friend's mother, who taught shooting at a secondary school, and fire off rounds with the boys. His reason for the mischief: "Which kid doesn't like guns?" It was a newfound skill he put to good use when he started to follow his agriculturalist father on frequent vacations to rural plantations in Malaysia, where he would hunt for squirrels, trap jungle fowl or catch fish and crabs. Hoh continued hunting on holidays through his teenage years and by the time he was in university, the seasoned shooter was winning medals from competitions in diverse disciplines including the small ball rifle, full ball rifle, shot gun, handgun and sporting clays. Yet despite his passion for the sport, he returned to Singapore in 2000 and took on a job in IT. Hoh gave up all his guns in the UK and thought he would never 82 OCTOBER T H E P E A K
shoot again. "Within a year, I was twitching!" He made his way to the African continent for the first time to hunt and decided to turn his hobby into a business, Blaze Sporting Clays. Set up in July 2003 and touted as the first "Professional Shooting Sports Coaching and Consultancy Business" in Singapore, it also organises hunting trips to Africa on a per-request basis.
" A N ELITIST GENTLEMEN'S THING" Hoh's client roll includes local and international celebrities. And among these big-spending shooting enthusiasts who fork out more than US$30,000 (S$36,500) for a hunting expedition, eight out of 10 are men. Little wonder that Hoh freely concedes that hunting is an "elitist gentlemen's thing". Zack Kembar, 42, a Canadian private equity manager, is a regular when it comes to Hoh's trips. "I try to go annually during the season," he says. "What I specifically like about the trips is that they always have an interesting agenda. I also had excellent preparations done with Guy, from shooting lessons and tactics, to how to interact with the guides to maximise the experience."
It m i g h t not be the nature of the expedition, but rather its demands
cooks and servers at times to have his
that make it more appealing to guys
party well-watered and fed. "We have
w h o are used to roughing it out.
O C T O B E R THE
a whole portable bar - the drinks are
Indeed, H o h pampers his clients
very important and we get breakfasts
w i t h five-star resort l i v i n g complete
of steak, tomatoes and eggs," he says.
w i t h cable TV, Internet access and
H o h even engages an entourage of
Themed experiences can even
en suite spas. A team comprising
be arranged for those who like
professional hunters, trackers and
a little bit of theatrics. "Once, we
skinners accompany the group as
did a traditional 1920s safari. The
they traverse the A f r i c a n bush i n
hunters wore sola topi (pith helmets)
and we tailored English-style k h a k i
"MOST OF MY HUNTERS COME OUT A CHANGED PERSON. REALISING WHAT IT'S LIKE TO WORK FOR A PIECE OF MEAT."
ÂŤ < Hoh traverses the African bush with a full team of hunters, trackers and skinners on the safari trips he organises.
uniforms for them. We even got the serving staff to wear tunics, fez and black scarves." But it's all no-nonsense physical action when it comes to hunting. First-time hunters are requested to undergo about 10 hours of lessons with Hoh at the National Shooting Centre. On the trip itself, they typically wake up between 5.30am and 7.30am, and trek on foot hunting for the animal for between an hour
to nine hours, depending on the type of hunt. On their backs is about 10kg or less of equipment consisting of sporting arms, ammunition and a small water bottle. "None of this rubbish about shooting from the car. I promote ethical tracking and hunting. It is only fair that you give the game enough chance to get away or kill you, just as you are going to kill it."
To many who accuse him of indulging in a cruel sport, Hoh has a simple rebuttal: "If you eat meat, you're in the same boat as me. I'm not a hypocrite and I do honour to what I eat because I do it myself. Unless you're 100 per cent vegetarian, those who live in glass houses should not throw stones." Hunting only in conservation safaris where the numbers of animals allowed for the activity are carefully watched, Hoh adheres to the code of ethical hunting. This means never going after a certain species if their population that year is not stable. "Hunting is a way we can give the wild value in this world and preserve it for the future. It protects a lot more than people think." The money from expeditions goes into maintaining the safari and private reserves - with hunting fees as the main source of income. Says Hoh: "The average client THE PEAK
As a university student in the UK, Hoh spent more than half his time hunting in the countryside before preparing and cooking his kill - to feed himself and his dormitory mates.
"HUNTING IS A WAY W E C A N GIVE THE WILD VALUE IN
m a k i n g a shot, i n addition to the
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very close to where meat comes from
IT F O R THE FUTURE.
spends two to three times more
skill required to field dress a n a n i m a l , skin and remove the meat for eating later. H u n t i n g gets you and teaches you how to prepare and survive i n the bush w i t h very little i n the way o f creature comforts." H o h fondly recalls evenings, w i t h
what it's like to work for a piece
sundowners i n his hands, fresh game
on his trip than o n a photography
of meat. H u n t i n g is not about the
roasting on the g r i l l and the w a r m
safari. Consequently, more money
k i l l . We don't glorify that. It's a
sunset on his face. To the leukaemia
from them goes into managing
lifestyle: the whole anticipation,
survivor, n o t h i n g makes h i m feel
land, resources and ancillary local
the organisation, preparation
more alive than h u n t i n g i n Africa.
employment and education." H o h has also seen how h u n t i n g has moved his clients. "Most people go i n expecting something and come out a changed person, realising 86 OCTOBER THE PEAK
and camaraderie. It's also about
"The freedom and wildness o f
woodsmanship - becoming part of
Africa gets i n your blood. A l l the
the natural environment."
old local hands say Africa is like a
Kembar agrees. " H u n t i n g requires total focus and concentration w h e n
disease. Once you catch it, you never get r i d of it." O