BOWHUNTING AFRICA? Here’s What You Need To Know

Planning a Bow Hunting to Africa: Here’s What You Need To Know.
By Engee Potgieter

Most bow hunting properties will have waterholes that are specifically designed so as to ensure animals come in broadside or quartering away.
Bow hunting over watering hole in africa

South Africa is host to thousands of foreign hunters each year, a great many being bow hunters. Our incredible vast array of different game species together with the fact that, weather permitting, hunting can be done year round makes the Southern tip of the Dark Continent a firm favourite with most hunters who have landed on our shores. Although it may seem like a daunting prospect, the sheer amount of planning that goes into an international safari can often take away from what should otherwise be a fun experience. I’ve put together a short list with a few tips and pointers that should help in planning your next trip across the Atlantic.

Decide on the where and the what.
South Africa is quite a large country, with remarkably diverse habitats ranging from arid, semi desert, to thick bushveld and lush, green coastal forest. Dizzying mountain ranges to endless open plains. Add to that the sheer number of different animals available to the hunter and one can quickly become confused. So it is important that you narrow down not only what region, but also which species you would want to hunt and that will fit your budget. Just as the case in the USA, some areas just deliver better chances at certain species as well as better odds at record book trophies. For example, the bushveld of the Limpopo Province might deliver better odds at encountering and taking trophy Kudu, Blue Wildebeest or Impala, whereas the Kalahari in the Northern Cape will have better numbers and quality Gemsbuck, Red Hartebeest and Springbuck. Therefore to keep unnecessary traveling between various areas to a minimum you should try keep your choices on species focused to what is generally endemic to the area. Fortunately many outfitters offer a wide choice of hunting packages, most of which are very attractively priced. It is nothing out of the ordinary to get four trophy big game animals together with 6 nights’ accommodation for less than a guided Mule Deer hunt out West.


Bow Hunting hut in Africa
Seeing as most hunting will be conducted over waterholes you can expect to spend a lot of time in blinds, sunken pit blinds are the most commonly used.

Finding a dependable outfitter
There are about as many different hunting outfitters in South Africa as there are stripes on all the Zebra’s. Finding the right one for you is a matter of doing your homework. The first step is finding an outfitter that specializes in bow hunts, bonus points if it is solely a bow hunting operation. It also doesn’t hurt if the outfitter and or professional hunter bow hunt themselves as it will give them the necessary knowledge of the difficulty and limitations of hunting with a bow.  Not only will these type of outfitters be better prepared to cater for stick and string hunters, but the odds of bagging your trophy greatly increase on well managed, bow only, hunting properties, but with such operations properly constructed hides, yearlong scouting and abundant game numbers come standard. Most hunting properties are privately owned in South Africa so chances are that you will be hunting on high fence ranches as government owned land is basically devoid of game. The odds of you seeing a fence apart from the day of your arrival and depart are very, very slim because high fence ranches are absolutely huge, often tens of thousands of acres. Most hunting operations these days employ some form of trail cameras, so remember to ask for the most recent photos. Lastly, be sure to ask for a list references, as first-hand accounts will be the way to gauge how reputable the particular outfitter is.


big game hunting by bow in Africa

Most outfitters use trail cameras extensively to pattern game and get an idea of what trophies are available on any particular property, be sure to ask for the most recent photos before your trip.

What about your equipment?
African animals are big, tough and hard to kill, yet they are certainly not bullet, or in this case, arrow proof. There are many conflicting accounts on what is preferred or even allowed by local outfitters, but the truth is that any modern setup, capable of taking down a mature deer, can and will successfully take down all African antelope, except for dangerous/thick skinned game. As with the hunting of any animal, shot placement is the key to putting an animal down quickly and efficiently. Fortunately there is a plethora of information available on the internet as well as a few fantastic books on the anatomy and perfect shot placement for African animals, so make sure to polish up on your general knowledge. Generally speaking, keep your shots on or just behind the front shoulder and below the centre line to put your trophy in the salt. Most all the hunting will be done from hides/blinds overlooking water and/or feed, at fairly close range, opportunities to stalk game will be few and far in between as most outfitters feel that it simply takes up too much time with very limited success. You can expect shots to be anything between 10 and 40 yards, with most of the shot opportunities going to fall in the 15 to 20 yard bracket thanks to the water and feed being at fixed distances. As mentioned before any modern setup capable of taking down a mature deer will sufficiently take down most all African antelope, I would however suggest that you stay away from ultra-lightweight arrows, especially so if you plan on using mechanicals. My personal opinion is to shoot a finished arrow weight of between 7 and 8 grains per pound of your draw weight together with a high quality fixed blade broadhead. The less energy your particular setup generates the heavier your arrow should be and preferably paired with a cut on contact broadhead. In general a dozen arrows are sufficient, more if you plan on an extended trip or more than 5 or 6 species, also be sure to take enough broadheads, a spare release, sight and rest is also a good idea.

Other things to keep in mind.
The tendency of most hunters is to pack far too many clothes and gear for the duration of the hunt, especially because many safari lodges and camps offer daily laundry services. Discuss what weather you will most likely encounter during your trip with your outfitter to give you a better idea of what to pack. As most hunting will be conducted from hides/blinds I would suggest darker colours to blend with the usually dark interior. There will in most cases be specifically designed ports in most hides for video cameras, so be sure to take one with you, you might even consider taking an action camera along to either mount on your bow or even at the waterhole itself. Binoculars are always a good idea, and although most distances will be known a rangefinder doesn’t hurt, I also recommend a good soft cover book by your favourite author, or even a book on birds of the area, which will help pass the long hours. Lastly, don’t be hesitant to use your camera, in most cases this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so try and document as much of the trip as you can, as memories will fade, but having a digital reminder will last forever.