Famed Klineburger Brothers Receive Lifetime Achievement Award
by Dan Simmons, Sportsman’s Quest - Monday, April 1, 2019
Photo credit: At the 2017 Safari Club International Convention NRA Hunters' Leadershipship Forum Senior Editor Karen Mehall Phillips stole a few moments to talk with the revered Chris Klineburger, a hunting pioneer.
Chris Klineburger—noted international hunter, explorer, pioneer, conservationist, author and World War II veteran—was presented with the Lifetime Wildlife Conservation Achievement Award from the Las Vegas Chapter of the Woods and Water Club and Nevada Sportsmen Unlimited on behalf of legendary Klineburger brothers Bert, Gene and Chris at the chapter’s Sportsman of the Year Banquet on Feb. 16. As the sole surviving Klineburger brother, Chris, 92, was honored to accept the award recognizing the trio’s accomplishments and contributions to wildlife conservation over the past 60 years. Whether you know Chris as a pioneer of hunting in Asia and parts of Africa or the author of world-class hunting books, he and his family’s accomplishments are well-documented throughout the hunting industry—including by this NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum website.
Presented by Woods and Waters past president Mike Reese and the group’s founder Ken Johnson, Klineburger shared these words on behalf of himself and his brothers: "The essence of life is discovering what is on the other side of the mountain,” said Klineburger. “We start out with a dream and are propelled by the challenge of the unknown, to the lure and the mystery of faraway places. Upon reaching the destination, we realize that there is no end. Distant mountains lie before us; it is time to meditate and give thanks. Most of all, we must share with others the delight of God’s creation."
I’ve personally known Chris for 15 years, partly as I worked as an expediter for one of their companies, Klineburger Taxidermy. As for why this prestigious award recognizing the Klineburgers is so well-deserved, this is their story.
Making Their Mark on the International Hunting Scene
Brothers Chris, Bert and Gene were instrumental in the sport hunting arena as we know it today. Post World War II was a time when people had money and leisure time, as well as the availability of air travel, making distant travel a reality. It was also a time that the Klineburgers were involved on the ground floor of most all that happened in sport hunting.
Their careers started when they purchased Jonas Brothers, the renowned taxidermy studio in Seattle, Wash., in 1950 which, at the time, was one of the world’s largest. They became acquainted with most of the hunting outfitters, which were not very numerous in those days. Africa, India and North America were the main destinations for big game hunters. There were no booking agents then, so hunters wanting a tiger, polar bear, African safari or the like would often ask the Klineburgers who to contact. This led them to turn their company, in part, into a guide referral service. In those post-war years, the Seattle taxidermy operation became the most important link between sportsmen and hunting operations.
For the first time in hunting history, the Klineburgers foresight and ambitious drive brought the hunting and outfitting fraternity closer together while opening new hunting opportunities at affordable prices. Cases in point are when Uganda and Tanganyika got their independence in the early 1960s. The Klineburger brothers partnered with these nations in their wildlife development programs. The low-cost safari packages included airfare from the United States as well as sightseeing opportunities. Operations ultimately became the basis for Jonas Brothers Worldwide Travel and the first-ever booking agency for hunters instead of merely offering guide referral services. Chris spent five months in Uganda teaching field care of skins and horns, as well as establishing Jonas Brothers of Africa in Kampala, a taxidermy and trophy forwarding station.
The Klineburgers became involved in the formation of hunting clubs for the purpose of bringing together those with common interests and conserving the wildlife they so loved. You old-timers may remember back in the mid-1960s when the Klineburgers partnered with the Sportsmen Clubs of Texas to form Game Conservation International, GAMECOIN, to organize the first ever worldwide conservation convention in San Antonio, Texas for hunters, outfitters and wildlife managers. The Klineburgers also proceeded in becoming founding members of most of the current conservation organizations. Bert and Chris Klineburger also were early life members of the International Professional Hunters Association (IPHA) and authored historical books chronicling many events that only could be told once in world history. Bert’s main focus was on destinations such as Africa and South America, while Chris’ was on North America and especially Eurasia where he spent three decades helping to establish new hunting destinations where India Shikars were the only thing going in that section of the world.
Many of the world’s hunting and conservation efforts have the Klineburger signature on them. Chris and Bert have been honored in many ways in the hunting fraternity, including by both being inducted in the SCI Hunting Hall of Fame and presented the Weatherby Award of Special Recognition, while Chris was the first recipient of the Mountain Hunter Hall of Fame.
Both Chris and Bert have written extensively of their experiences, most recently in Chris’ “Gamemasters of the World” and “Conservation or Preservation.” Bert’s “International Hunter” and “Big Game Hunting around the World” are out of print, but both can be found through an Amazon or Safari Press book search.
The Klineburgers’ Lifetime Achievement Award comes on the heels of the IPHA presenting its inaugural annual Klineburger Award in honor of the brothers. Chris personally presented the award himself to John Jackson, III, international wildlife attorney, wildlife conservationist and founder of Texas-based Conservation Force during the annual SCI convention in January.
Editor’s Note: Chris Klineburger’s story is the story of wildlife conservation—the story of hunting—and I am proud to call him my friend. His epic life’s journey is even more impressive for someone who grew up in Arizona on the U.S./Mexico border during the Great Depression and at age 9, after losing his father, learned to hunt to help put food on his family’s table. At age 17 this American patriot couldn’t wait to join the U.S. Navy to fight for our country in World War II. After the war, he put himself through college, then he and his brother Bert bought the now world-renowned Jonas Brothers Taxidermy business. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I also cannot say enough about his books: “Gamemasters of the World”—770-pages chronicling decades of sport hunting and conservation—and “Conservation or Preservation,” an overview of the hunter’s critical role in wildlife management following the international outcry against hunting after the taking of a lion that wandered out of an African national park in 2015. For more on his adventures, check out his epic 1960s hunting film, “The Great Shikar,” chronicling the expedition he and brother Bert made in the footsteps of the great adventurer Marco Polo as they searched for the fabled Marco Polo sheep in Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor—an area dubbed “the roof of the world” for its sheer foreboding environment. Chris Klineburger and his brothers are the epitome of true pioneers.—Karen Mehall Phillips
About the Author: Dan Simmons is a former wildlife biologist, marine biologist, game warden in the far north of British Columbia, Canada, as well as a research biologist in Germany and university professor. He has hunted and fished throughout the world and led many expeditions himself. He now lives in Southern Nevada and is a syndicated outdoor columnist. In his words, “It’s continues to be an interesting life.” He can be followed at Sportsman's Quest.