The Road to the World Goes Through Monroe
Ralph Brockman talks to BayouLife Magazine about traveling the globe in pursuit of the hunt
Article by Kenny Covington | Photography by Martin G Meyers
Before you can hunt for it, you have to know where to find it.
“I remember pitching pennies with the other kids when I would go to the movies each Saturday. Seems I would always come home with a pocket full of them. But I always went back the next weekend, to give them a chance to win their pennies back,” the gentlemen said with a thought filled look on his face. “I would ride my bike,” he continued “That bike would take me everywhere.”
That bike and an eagerness to go someplace new, lay the foundation for Ralph Brockman, long before he became an Ole Miss graduate and future business owner, and his travels would lead him to places to hunt all over the world. Many people know Mr. Brockman as the owner of Brockman Enterprises in Monroe, but I wonder how many people know that he could probably serve as a travel guide on how to get to the end of the world in an airplane and what species of animal you could hunt once you arrived?
As I sat in his outer office waiting for the time for our meeting to start, I marveled at the various head mounts of exotic animals from around the world. I had watched bits and pieces of numerous hunting shows over the years, with a specific species being the target for that week’s episode, but I had never spoken to anyone who had actually “been there and done that” as a self-directed passionate quest, not just a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
As I looked around his office at the evidence of his hunting expertise, I asked, “What are you searching for? Why do you do it?” That one question was the beginning of mesmerizing conversations filled with an eye opening series of stories, quips and candid observations. He began, “I love to travel. I love to hunt. It started when I was a kid. Squirrels, deer, the typical local things we hunt when we are younger. But hunting is more than that. I love the art involved. To get the animal you want, you have to go to it. You are not just hunting the animal you want. You have to find where it is located, either the section of the woods, state or country in which it can be found. You find the best outfitter, make the best travel arrangements and decide the best time period that fits your schedule. Hunting is not just about pulling the trigger; it’s about the entire process.”
“People would be surprised with how much we have in common with the rest of the world, “ he continued, “Each society has their good and bad, those who want it (success) and those that don’t. A good society will help care for those who can’t provide for themselves; however, but in doing so, you have to make sure you don’t take away the desire for them to want to improve. I have been to many places where even in poverty there is dignity.”
I asked him about his love of big game hunting and how the traveling process got started. I mentioned that his son Alan, had told me when he was a kid, a lot of his friends thought his father was an undercover spy working for the government, because he was always gone or leaving for some place they hadn’t heard of or didn’t know existed. In actuality, Mr. Brockman’s lifetime pursuit began quite innocently.
“I think it was in the late 1960s, when I took my first big game hunting trip. I went to Colorado. I took one hunt a year, maybe two. That’s when I decided I wanted to complete the North American Big Game Slam. But back then it was different than it is today. When I started, a person could take a five species hunt for a couple thousand dollars. It definitely isn’t that way anymore.”
His decision has now led him on adventures around the world. He has been on at least eleven African safaris and to Europe and Russia. Just a few weeks ago, a planned trip to Iran was cancelled at the last minute. But he hasn’t given up on that trip just yet.
“Have you ever been afraid on one of these trips like as in ‘what have I gotten myself into’ type of deal?” (On that particular note, I have looked at the list of what are considered to be the most dangerous animals to hunt and Mr. Brockman has taken all of the ones on the list. So I eagerly awaited his answer. But surprisingly his response had nothing to do with the animals he was hunting, it was more humanistic).
“Oh yes, of course,’ he replied “When you are sitting in a car and they tell you, ‘If someone asks you if you can speak English, don’t say anything. Or if they ask if you are from the United States tell them you are from Canada.’ There is nothing quite like traveling up a mountain on a road that is no wider than the car you are riding in, and all you can see outside the window is a long drop. But it’s not just things like that anymore. There are always places where people are looking for trouble. There is always the criminal element. Drugs are the constant concern.” With that he added, “But there is magic in the misery.”
He nodded, smiled slightly and he began to reflect on several topics like conservation and how hunting contributes to it.
“If you regulate and put a monetary value on the animal, through enforcement and sensible harvesting, the animal will thrive. Smaller countries, of course, are easier to police. Many times, I will be allowed to hunt national parks or game reserves in an effort to try and help manage the animal herds. If there is a certain amount of land that is only capable of withstanding a certain number of animals, some restrictions must be met. It is a delicate balance, but we are getting better in our appreciation of wildlife.”
“Is this true in all countries?” I asked.
“We have learned over the years to try and harvest the more mature animals. This will allow the younger animals to reach maturity. It also allows us to sustain the maximum population. Animal conservation is of major concern and worldwide we are doing a great job. They now have hunting conventions where people not only show up to promote their outfitters and their newest hunting establishments, but to learn the newest ideas in conservation and game management. People realize the importance of it, and that is why we now have more animals to show for it.”
“But what about poaching? What kind of damage has that caused?”
“The best example I can give you is in Africa. The poaching of elephants for their tusks is rampant. The tusks are high priced, and these animals are harvested for the tusks only. They are left to rot and the meat goes to waste. That is just as serious of a crime.”
I offered that I felt that people who set yo-yos, trot lines or fishnets out without checking them and leave fish to die are just as bad as the guy who kills a deer out of season.
Mr. Brockman agreed, “People have to be more aware and learn how to take care of the resource.”
I asked about Bighorn Sheep, and if it were true that he was considered one of the best at hunting that particular species. With a slight laugh he smiled and said, “I don’t know if that is true or not, but I do enjoy that type of hunting.”
“What makes it so enjoyable to you?” I asked.
“The difficulty of it. Bighorn Sheep have excellent eyesight and a keen sense of smell. It’s a lot of work to get one of them. You have to go over and around mountains to even attempt to get into gun range. Even with today’s technology, my hat is off to anyone who can kill a Bighorn Sheep with a bow. And remember every animal has what they consider to be “a safety distance” where they feel comfortable. Bighorn Sheep always look down the mountain, which is why you have to maneuver your way around so that you can get above him to get a possible shot. And even when you have moved from one side of the mountain to a section above him, there is still no guarantee that he will be where you last saw him. So there is a lot that goes into it.”
I asked him if that is why it takes so long to make a hunting show when they target Bighorn Sheep. He responded, “Sometimes it takes them a couple of years to film one hunt.”
As our conversation came to a close, I asked again my earlier question, “So why do you do it, the travel, the hunting? What drives you?”
After a slight pause, Mr. Brockman replied, “My father died when I was 21. He was 43. Somewhere in your mind you have given yourself a time frame to get all the things done that you have planned on doing, and I felt like I had a limited amount of time. I just knew I had to crowd a lot of living into a limited amount of time. I just got lucky enough that my time ran over.”
“I have accomplished my hunting goals; however, I still plan to keep traveling and hunting. If there comes a time when I will only be able to stalk a squirrel, shoot at a dove or take my grandkids hunting because I can no longer travel, that’s fine. You tend to realize when you are on the downslide that life comes around full circle.”
I had my answer.