Buddie Miller: hunter captured by the game

It’s open season, and Buddie Miller is heading into the forests of Trinidad with his shotgun. James Fuller finds out why Miller is wild about hunting

Buddie Miller. Photograph by James Fuller

“Being out along one of the forest streams of the Northern Range in the moonlight…there are very few things that compare with it,” says Buddie Miller, former president of the Hunters’ Association of Trinidad and Tobago (HATT), which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

“To be a hunter you must have an abiding love for the outdoors and being in the forest, because everything that can bite, sting, cut and harm you lives in the forest.”

In these days of ever-increasing pressures on wildlife, Miller says the role of hunters is not only widely misunderstood but is vital to the future of the prey species.

“Hunters are the conservationists. Virtually every Trinidadian wildlife-conservation regulation has come at the hunters’ initiative: bag limits, season limits, outlawing the possession of wild meat [game] outside the season.”

HATT has also been involved in projects such as planting 6,000 trees on a degraded hillside in Caura Valley. Miller personally has taken part in numerous environmental tussles, including battling illegal rice farmers in the Nariva Swamp.

The father of four, Miller, 64, also has four grandchildren. He’s a former chief engineer at Nestlé and international regional general manager at Chesebrough Ponds. He hails from one of Barbados’ leading political families: his sister Billie was deputy prime minister until 2007, one of four family members to have been MPs. Miller is also a keen sailor and an avid inventor. He says he created the general-knowledge game now known to millions as Trivial Pursuit.

“I invented and patented my game, Brainstorm, in 1977, only to discover that a Canadian company subsequently produced a game featuring the same subject headings and most of the same questions.” He has been embroiled in a legal battle with them since 2000.
Miller arrived in Trinidad in 1965 as a non-hunter, but now there are few parts of the country he has not hunted.

The association oversees the interests of 10,000 hunters and is committed to ethical hunting, the cultivation of quality hounds, and conservation. Popular game species are agouti, tatou (armadillo), lappe, quenk (wild pig) and red brocket deer. The season runs from October 1 to the end of February, and hunting is with shotguns, mostly 12-gauge. Dawn and dusk, the animals’ most active periods, are favoured hunting times. For agouti, small groups of men will work a pack of dogs to flush out the animals for the chance of a shot. With deer, as they are creatures of habit, guns are located along known walkways; dogs are then sent in, or hunters build a hide in a tree and simply sit and wait (this is known as sentry hunting). Lappe and tatou are hunted with headlamps.

Wild hog hunting is the most specialised and hazardous form, as the pigs live in the most precipitous and inaccessible habitat, and are extremely dangerous when cornered.

“My favourite hunt is the agouti,” says Miller. “He’s so smart, he out-thinks the hounds a lot, playing tricks, doubling back. It’s really something to see. It’s not necessary to kill an animal to enjoy a hunt.”

Hunters also have bigger targets.

“The biggest thing we need is to completely rewrite the Conservation of Wildlife Act 1958; it’s over 50 years old, and long out of date. We are working to TT$200 maximum fines, when wild meat is TT$100 per lb. It’s no deterrent.”

Other goals are a wildlife population census, a licensing system for wild-meat dealers, and a partnership approach to conservation. He sees the biggest threats to wildlife as habitat destruction (caused by quarrying and logging); agricultural and industrial pollution; the upsurge in commercial hunting; and the introduction of exotic species.

However, Miller doesn’t envisage game in Trinidad becoming endangered.

“Fortunately, there are areas that are so inaccessible and the terrain so precipitous, such as the Northern Range and Trinity Hills, that they act as natural game sanctuaries.”