Legendary Professional Hunters I Have Known

Brooke with Legendary PH and husband, Rudy Lubin

by Brooke Chilvers

To raise money to support the African hunting safari industry, the African Professional Hunters Association (APHA) is conducting an online wine collection auction, A Tribute to the Legendary APHA PHs of Africa, January 10–14, 2024. 

Go to: www.africanpha.com/aphawine

I already had a boyfriend—maybe three—when I met Rudy Lubin at a caviar dinner at a colleague’s Paris apartment in 1984.  Rudy was a handsome, single Frenchman with a profession I’d never heard of:  professional hunter.  Ditto for the country where he worked eight months a year:  the Central African Republic (CAR)

Of course, within four months I quit my job in a swank Swiss advertising agency off the Champs-Élysées.  The 10-day drive to cover the 600 miles to Rudy’s remote seasonal safari camp in the uninhabited northeast of the country was rough.  So was rebuilding the camp, clearing the landing strip without machinery, opening hundreds of kilometres of trails, and flash burning the eight-foot-high savanna grass that would return an inviting spring green in several days.  There was no (kerosene) fridge until the hunting client arrived in six weeks, leaving the beer only as cold as the Chinko River where we also bathed.  By the end of six months, I’d earned my bona fides as Rudy’s bushbébé.

Online auction at: www.swiftvee.com

It felt like the natural outcome to my secondary university studies, Naturwissenschaft in Deutschland, which included the field identification of plants, birds, insects and algae, mushrooms, rocks, and night skies. I was made for this life in Africa alongside a competent and brave mate.  Meanwhile, I wrote about game management and conservation, why Cape buffalo hunting in South Africa is so expensive, and if wild dogs were doomed to disappear.  I accompanied hunters for European brown bear in Romania, and tahr in New Zealand, and bagged some game along the way: wild turkey in the Ozarks, red stag in Poland, and then two trips with my Bestie Janis to the then-Northwest Territories for muskox and winter wolf. 

In addition to following Rudy to CAR, Tanzania, and Cameroon, I accompanied fine-gun expert R.L. Wilson to Botswana for his Kalahari hunt with PH Terry Palmer (RIP) of Hunter’s Africa, as well as on Larry’s grueling hunt for a big tusker in the Gurda Farda Mountains in southwest Ethiopia with PH Nassos Roussos.

R.L. Wilson, Brooke Chilvers, Legendary PH Nassos Roussos

During one of my first Safari Club International (SCI) conventions, I decided to become a bit of an expert on how $40,000 white rhino hunts in South Africa were helping bring the species back from the brink of extinction, and was equally interested in the status of black rhino and measures to preserve them.  PHASA (Professional Hunters Association of South Africa) representative, the lovely Di Pieterse, directed me to the already venerable PH Coenraad Vermaak—one of those outsized South Africans with a warm voice full of good advice. He told me whom to contact at SATOUR, which resulted in an interview with  conservationist Ian Player; attending an IUCN African Rhino Special Group at Kruger Park led by Anthony Hall-Martin; and observing a white rhino capture and transfer in Pilanesberg National Park & Game Reserve in then Bophuthatswana. (Ngiyabonga kakhulu, Coenraad, for setting me on my way.)

Coenraad also introduced me to PH Garry Kelly, who invited me to follow a father-and-son white rhino safari on my way to Botswana and write about it.  Between sneaking up on three different potential rhino, Garry taught me about all the game species in South Africa, where you hunt them, and how you measure them.  (Thank you, Garry.)

It seems I’ve known PH Robin Hurt and his family forever because, well, everyone knows Robin Hurt—or his cocktail-table sized book, A Dangerous Game, written in collaboration with the industry’s finest hunters.  Ditto for PH Danny McCallum, who once even landed at our faraway safari camp to everyone’s great surprise. 

Robin Hurt’s book, A Dangerous Game

PH John Sharp has been every female’s favorite African hunter since forever, not only for his muscles and bandanas, but for his celebrating his motorcycle-lovin’ Jack Russells.  When I self-published a pamphlet on malaria, 30 years ago, he bought a dozen copies to give to his pals. (Love you forever, John.)

Tanzanian PH George Angelides guided Steve Christenson, who wrote the book From the Okavango to the Plains of East Africa, which I reviewed for African Hunting Gazette.  After following Steve and George on their quest for elephant, buffalo, leopard and lion, I feel I got to know him well. 

Well-known photo of Legendary PH John Sharp

I met PH Soren Lindstrom either in Maun, Botswana, or in Durty Nelly’s Irish Pub in San Antonio during a Game Coin convention, oh, so long ago.  PH Tony Sanchez-Ariño’s head was always held so high over mine, we never really connected. And with PH Luke Samaras, we have really only ever waved, but he has been a steady and honorable presence for as long as I can remember.

But the softest place in my heart is reserved for a friend of many seasons, PH Volker Grellmann—strong voice and founding spirit of the Namibian safari industry. One of the greatest honors of my life was when Anke, Volker’s wife of 57 years, asked me to write his “Good-bye to a Hunter” for AHG. The subtitle, “Giant of a Gentleman, Giant of a Hunter,” says it all. A few months after our last meeting in 2019, he was gone.  (Miss you so much, Volker.)

Brooke Chilvers with Legendary PH Volker Grellmann

Little did I know then that these dozen strong-backed and strictly ethical African PHs, would one day be honored as legends of their honorable profession.  I raise a glass of small-batch South African “Bordeaux Blend” from the APHA Legendary PH Wine Collection to each of them. 

I’m so glad I got rid of the other two boyfriends in 1984, and married myself a legend.

Brooke Chilvers Lubin is an Honorary Member of APHA.

To see a very impressive short film on the wine auction, visit Tribute to Legendary PHs Wine Collection Auction.