A professional hunter, less frequently referred to as market or commercial hunter and regionally, especially in Britain and Ireland, as professional stalker or gamekeeper, is a person who hunts and/or manages game by profession. Some professional hunters work in the private sector or for government agencies and manage species that are considered overabundant, others are self-employed and make a living by selling hides and meat, while still others are guiding clients on big-game hunts.
German professional hunters (″Berufsjäger″) mostly work for large private forest estates and for state-owned forest administrations, where they control browsing by reducing the numbers of ungulates like roe deer or chamois, manage populations of sought after trophy species like red deer and act as hunting guides for paying clients.
Southern and Eastern Africa
The countries of Southern und Eastern Africa, especially Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, are major destinations for big-game hunting tourism in Africa. Local professional hunters, often simply referred to as PH, act as hunting guides for paying guest hunters and manage safari hunting businesses.
British professional stalkers and gamekeepers primarily work on large estates, especially in Scotland, where they manage red deer, common pheasant, red grouse and French partridge. In their heyday at the outset of the 20th century an estimated 25,000 professional stalkers and gamekeepers were employed in the UK, while today there are some three thousand.
In a North American context the terms market hunter and commercial hunter are predominantly used to refer the hunters of the 19th and early 20th century, who sold or traded the flesh, bones, skins and feathers of slain animals as a source of income. These hunters focused on species which gathered in large numbers for breeding, feeding, or migration and was organized into factory-like groups that would systematically depopulate an area of any valuable wildlife over a short period of time. The animals which were hunted included bison, deer, ducks and other waterfowl, geese, pigeons and many other birds, seals and walruses, fish, river mussels, and clams.
Populations of large birds were severely depleted through the 19th and early 20th century. The extermination of several species and the threatened loss of others caused popular legislation effectively prohibiting this form of commercial hunting in the United States. Hunting seasons were eventually established to conserve surviving wildlife and allow a certain amount of recovery and re-population to occur. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act signed in 1918 regulated hunting and prohibited all hunting of wood ducks until 1941 and swans until 1962.
Agencies like the federal Wildlife Services (not to be confused with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service), part of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and its equivalents on the state level employ professional hunters for lethal as well as non-lethal control of wildlife, for example, dealing with wildlife preying on livestock (or humans) and engaging in bird control to prevent bird strikes. The federal Wildlife Services alone has a staff of around 750 professional hunters. It works on around 565 airports around the United States to identify and reduce threats by posed by bird strikes.