In 2001 sport hunting was reintroduced in Uganda around Lake Mburo National Park, and in 2008 at Kabwoya and Kaiso-Tonya Game Management Area, to derive economic benefits for communities and thus reduce human–wildlife conflict and change communities’ attitudes towards wildlife. We used the policy arrangement approach to analyse and compare the development of the two sport hunting policy arrangements. Through interviews and document review we learned that the arrangement at Lake Mburo changed considerably over time, whereas that at Kabwoya remained relatively stable. The two policy arrangements started with small constellations of actors but turned out to be complex arenas, mainly involving disagreement regarding the benefits. Land ownership proved to be a crucial factor in explaining the differences between the arrangements. Our results also show that benefits do not change communities’ attitudes towards conservation, thus questioning incentive-based policies for conservation. We argue for a careful analysis of the complex social, cultural and political contexts in which conservation and development policies are implemented, to better understand their outcomes.