South Africa is considered one of best bow hunting destinations in the world by many bow hunters. South Africa has an abundance of game which includes species not found anywhere else. Prices for a bow hunting safari are reasonable when compared to Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia etc. In many cases the visiting hunter will pay less for a fully guided hunt in South Africa than he would pay back home. Some Hunting Outfitters cater exclusively towards bow hunting and have converted their hunting concessions buy building permanent hunting blinds at strategic locations.
Bow hunting in South Africa offers the visiting hunter to take sought after species such as Cape Buffalo, Southern Greater Kudu, Blue Wildebeest, Impala, Sable Antelope, Blesbuck and Cape Eland to mention only a few. Because bow hunting is a widely practiced form of hunting in South Africa Professional Hunters tend to have a good understanding of what is needed to be successful.
Below are some suggestions for the methods and equipment that we recommend to ensure success on a bow hunt in South Africa.
Over the past several years we have seen some great improvements in bow hunting equipment, with bows becoming faster, quieter and more efficient. On a bow hunt in South Africa the hunter will likely be targeting several species of planes game. A compound bow, Traditional long bow or recurve bow would all be good choices for the average bow hunter. Some hunters including women and children that are not able to draw a heavy poundage bow would be better off with a suitable crossbow.
A bow that produces around 70 ft/lbs of energy will be perfect. This would require an arrow weighing 450 gr traveling at a velocity of around 270 ft/second. A quality hunting bow from manufacturers like Hoyt, Matthews and Bowtech will do all that is asked. Try to choose a bow with a forgiving brace height of around 7 inches that has a draw weight of about 55 – 70 lbs..
A suitable bow for hunting Big Five species including Cape Buffalo, Elephant, Rhino and Hippo will need to produce a minimum kinetic energy of 80 ft/lbs. Make sure that you use a final arrow combined weight of at least 750 gr to achieve good penetration. When hunting Big Five animals a fixed blade broad head with two cutting surfaces is essential. Mechanical broad heads are too fragile, and will break up when they encounter the large bones that these animals have. Do not use mechanical broad heads they will let you down and result in wounded game. Grizzlystik manufacture excellent quality arrow shafts and broad heads specifically for hunting large dangerous game.
A bow hunt in South Africa can be really tough on your arrows. Use an arrow shaft that is consistent and has a good spine to match the draw weight of your bow and your draw length. Arrow shafts from Easton, Gold Tip, and Carbon Express will give you great consistency and are tough enough to stand the rigors of a hunting safari in South Africa. Most of the larger planes game species will break your arrows when they take off after the shot. You will need to have around two dozen arrows for a 7 day hunt if you will be shooting a bunch of animals.
I strongly recommend that you fit lighted nocks to your arrows when you bow hunt in South Africa. A lighted nock will allow you and your Professional Hunter to track the arrows flight path and see whether it is properly placed in the vital zone of the animal. If the shot is not perfectly placed a decision can be made to give the trophy animal more time before following up. This will result in a higher recovery rate of your trophies.
The arrow rest is a critical component of your bow hunting setup. I have found that a top quality drop away rest is probably the best choice. The arrow rest needs to hold the arrow securely before the shot and have a minimal impact on the launch when you release the shot. Top choices for a drop away hunting rest are made by Limb Driver, Matthews Archery, and Quality Archery Designs. These arrow rest will survive your bow hunt in South Africa.
A good quality hunting sight will be strong enough to withstand the air travel over to Africa without moving out of place. The best hunting sight choices will be able to be sighted in at distances from 20 – 60 meters. This type of sight will have either 5 fixed pins or will be able to rotate to a scale marking the distance. During a bow hunt in South Africa you will often be shooting out of a dimly lit blind or hide. Your sight pins should gather as much light as possible so that they stand out and are easily visible when aimed at both light and dark skinned animals. Many of your shot opportunities will come during early morning and late evening under low light conditions. The opposite is also true and you may be looking out of a dark blind into bright sunlight. Your bow hunting sight could either make or break your hunt, choose a good one.
Choosing the wrong broad head for your bow hunt in South Africa can have far reaching consequences. You pay for all wounded animals on a Hunting Safari, not only that but valuable time is lost tracking wounded game. Time that could be spent hunting other trophy animal species. Mechanical broad heads have become the popular choice and offer some real benefits. Choose a mechanical broad head that opens reliably, has a strong construction and shoots to the same point of impact as your field points. Mechanical broad heads should have a cutting diameter of around 1.25 to 1.5 inches. Mechanical broad heads that we have had success with include Rage and Grim Reaper
Fixed blade broad heads will cause a change of impact if your hunting bow is not perfectly tuned and require more care and time spent on bow tuning. The benefit of fixed blade broad heads is that they cut on impact and often penetrate deeper than mechanical broad heads. Top choices include Muzzy and G5 Outdoors,
Most compound bow shooters use a mechanical release aid for bow hunt in South Africa. With shorter hunting bows a release aid prevents finger pinch and also helps to have a cleaner release on the shot and better accuracy. The one drawback with using a release aid is that if you misplace your release you are in trouble, make sure that you have a spare. I do not recommend a back tension release. While these are great for practice and they improve your shooting form, it is preferable to be able to voluntarily break the shot when the timing is right. Choose either a thumb release or a trigger release and spend hours practicing with it.
Take the time to make your bow hunting setup as silent as possible. On a bow hunt in South Africa you will find that animals are prone to string jumping (the animal either ducks low or jumps at the sound of the shot) resulting in either a missed shot or a wounded trophy animal. String whiskers can help quieten the bow string. A string stopper will also help reduce the noise from the bow string as well as reduce bow vibrations when you release an arrow.
Make sure that your arrow rest and the bow shelf are covered in felt. Nothing makes a big trophy Kudu take off faster than the sound of the arrow falling off the arrow rest and knocking against the bow shelf. A felt covered arrow rest also reduces the scratching noise when your bow is drawn. It is often a good idea to nock an arrow onto the bow string as soon as you enter the bow blind, when the nock clips onto the string it makes a clicking sound that trophy animals can hear from a long way.
If you will be doing all your hunting from a blind you will not need a bow quiver. A bow quiver is a convenient way to transport your arrows when driving to and from the bow blind. I recommend that you remove your bow quiver from the bow and set it down in the corner when you get into the blind. One less thing to vibrate and make a noise. Should you decide to try stalking your trophy a quiver will come in handy to carry your spare arrows.
Bow hunters can hunt in South Africa with traditional archery equipment. Normally shooting distances will be slightly shorter, and shots taken from 15 – 30 meters. Many bow hunters that use traditional archery equipment shoot instinctively and without any kind of bow sight. This type of bow hunting requires much more practice to make accurate shots and clean kills.
Both Long bows and Recurve bows can be effective for bow hunting in South Africa. The recurve bow has some advantages over the long bow. The recurve bow offers faster arrow speed, is often slightly more accurate and has less hand shock and vibration when releasing the shot. The recurve bow normally has a deeper cut out for the arrow shelf that also allows the mounting of a bow sight if desired. Recurve hunting bows often have a bigger brace height and are more forgiving to shoot. Choose a traditional bow that is on the shorter side if you intend to do most of your hunting out of a bow blind. Many bow blinds in South Africa are built to accommodate modern compound bows and do not have the ceiling height for long bows. If you will be using the walk and stalk method on your hunt the length of the bow is less important, however a shorter bow is easier to maneuver through thick brush.
Arrows for a bow hunt in South Africa with traditional archery equipment can be manufactured from carbon fiber or the more traditional Cedar and Hard wood. Carbon fiber arrows are often the more durable and will last a bit longer. Carbon fiber arrows are also generally straighter due to higher manufacturing tolerances. Arrows for use with traditional archery equipment need to have traditional feather fletching that will pass around the bow window with less interference, plastic vanes do not work well.
Broad heads for use with Long bow and recurve bows should be of the cut on contact fixed blade type. This type of broad head will allow you to get the greatest possible penetration and kill cleanly. Mechanical type open on contact broad heads do not work well with traditional archery gear and should not he used to bow hunt in South Africa.
Using a crossbow to bow hunt in South Africa is a great idea, especially for women and children or those not able to draw back a strong hunting bow. A crossbow has some real advantages over a compound or traditional bow.
Benefits of hunting with a crossbow:
Modern high performance crossbows are capable of shooting a bolt at up to 450 ft/sec and can reliably kill trophy game animals at distances up to 100 meters. These crossbows are easily loaded and have incredible accuracy rivaling some rifles. Crossbows are easy to transport, easy to maneuver in a blind and easy to shoot. I have seen great results with crossbows from these manufacturers Ravin, TenPoint and Barnett.
Most crossbows are fitted with optical telescopic sights similar to those found on hunting rifles. These telescopic sights are sighted in at a given distance, (usually around 30 m) and have sight markings for other distances up to 100 meters. The bow hunter can pick the correct sight marking and easily make an accurate shot at any distance within the maximum sighted distance. These crossbow sights often have illuminated reticles making them easy to use under low light conditions at dusk and dawn.
Crossbow bolts are normally much shorter than bow hunting arrows. Carbon fiber crossbow bolts are the way to go and offer great consistency, transfer of energy and accuracy. Carbon fiber bolts for bow hunting in South Africa should weigh between 350 and 500 grains. This weight will penetrate deep enough to ensure good clean kills and no suffering for your trophy if placed correctly. Make sure that the nock system is compatible with your crossbow. For a 7 day bow hunt in South Africa you will need around two dozen carbon fiber crossbow bolts.
Choosing the best crossbow broad head for your bow hunt in South Africa is of critical importance. The crossbow broad head is the only part of your equipment that will actually make contact with the trophy animal you are hunting. The choice to be made is between mechanical or fixed blade broad heads. Again mechanical broad heads offer some advantages over fixed blade broad heads. Mechanical broad heads fly with their cutting blades tucked in and only deploy on contact with the target animal. Because of this mechanical broad heads will fly to a similar point of impact to practice or field points.
The blade surfaces on fixed blade broad heads can steer the bolt to a different point of impact. You will need to sight your crossbow in to allow for this deviation in point of impact. Mechanical broad heads can have a larger cutting surface to fixed blade broad heads and will leave more of a blood trail, making it easier to track your trophy animal. Broad heads for hunting in South Africa should weigh 125 – 150 grains. Some good choices in mechanical broad heads are manufactured by Rage, No Limit Archery and Grim Reaper.
When you bow hunt in South Africa you will have the choice of either stalking your trophy animal or sitting in a blind and waiting for the game animals to come within shooting distance.
The walk and stalk method of bow hunting involves walking quietly through the bush until the trophy species is spotted. Once you spot the trophy animals you will stay out of sight and stalk the animals to within shooting range. Because bow hunting ranges are shorter than rifle hunting ranges a stalk could take a fair amount of time. I have spent as much as four hours stalking before a shot could be taken.
The spot and stalk method is similar to the first method. The main difference is that you will either spend time on a hunting vehicle or an elevated point spotting the trophy species before stalking to within range.
Bow hunting from a tree stand is quite familiar to many bow hunters from the U.S. and is probably the most commonly used hunting method over there. Some of the advantages to hunting from a tree stand are that your sent is often carried away on the wind above the game. Sitting in a tree stand allows you to view the game from a long way off and be prepared for the shot opportunity when the trophy species comes within shooting range. One disadvantage of tree stand hunting is that you are often quite exposed and need to limit your movements or the game will see you and move off.
Hunting from an elevated blind is similar to hunting from a tree stand but provides the hunter with covered sides to help conceal any movement. A well constructed elevated blind will also contain most of the hunters sent.
When bow hunting in South Africa one of the favored blind setups is the pit blind. A pit blind is constructed by digging down about a meter under ground level and then constructing a blind with sealed sides and roof. A pit blind has many advantages over other types of blinds that are normally used for bow hunting. When you shoot from a pit blind, you launch your arrow from just above ground level making shot placement much easier.
Pit blinds contain human scent better than any other blind, the risk of your quarry smelling you is almost non existent. A pit blind is also quite well damped against any sound that you may make inside. I have sat in a pit blind having a quite conversation and had Kudu walk right up without being alerted to our presence. In my opinion pit blinds offer the best shooting opportunities and shots will quite often be taken at very short distances from a well constructed pit blind.
When you go into the bow blind you may have to stay there for a couple of hours without getting out. Here are a few suggestions on what to take with you.
I have found these items to come in useful during many long sessions spent in a bow blind.
If you will be hunting out of a bow blind, dressing in darker colored clothing will be a great advantage and animals will not see you inside the blind. Should you plan on stalking African game you will need good camouflage hunting gear that will blend in with the surroundings. For stalking I would also recommend that you bring along a pair of gloves and a face mask. The most important consideration is that you break up the human silhouette as best possible.
When bow hunting from a blind in South Africa most of your shooting opportunities will be at relatively close range, an average of 15 – 30 meters. Occasionally you might have a good trophy animal offer a shot at 40 – 45 meters, but that is the exception not the rule. If you will be stalking your trophies in South Africa the average shot distance is more likely to be between 35 and 50 meters. Being able to confidently make accurate shots at longer distances will open up more shot opportunities to you.
String Jumping is a reality when bow hunting in South Africa, especially when it comes to animals such as Springbuck, Impala, Grey Duiker and Warthog. String jumping is the term used to describe the act of either ducking down or jumping to avoid being hit by your arrow or crossbow bolt. African animals are constantly aware of predators and have heightened senses to anything out of the ordinary. Some of the bigger bodied animals will also duck under or jump over your arrow if they are aware of your presence. To avoid string jumping try to only release your shot when the animal is either looking away from the blind or bending down to eat or drink. Keep movement in the blind to an absolute minimum when trophy animals are in the area.
In the months running up to your bow hunt in South Africa you need to practice your bow shooting skills as frequently as possible. My advice is to shoot at least three times per week. Practice shooting from standing, kneeling and sitting positions. Most of your shooting practice should be at a distance of around 30 – 40 meters, but spend time shooting at 60 meters as well. The ability to make accurate shots out to 60 m could have a dramatic effect on your bow hunting success in Africa. I have frequently seen how being able to shoot to 60 meters has resulted in a number of hunting clients being able to secure a trophy animal that they otherwise would not have got. Practice is important for your hunt in South Africa, make sure you get enough.
Shot placement on African animals is a little different to what U.S. and European hunters are used to. The vital kill zone lies slightly further forward than where you may normally place your shots. As a general rule if the animal is standing perfectly broad side you would come straight up the front leg about one third of the height of the body and place your shot where these imaginary lines meet. If the trophy animal is quartering away, aim for the same height, (ie. one third up the body) but shoot for the offside front leg.
These are good rule of thumb guidelines, but may require some variation depending on circumstances. Should you be hunting from a tree stand or elevated box blind you will need to take your height above the trophy animal into consideration. Generally you will need to place your shot high enough so that the arrow will pass through the vital kill zone and exit lower on the opposite side of the body. Good shot placement will result in you having a great bow hunt in South Africa, and fewer wounded trophies.
Almost every specie available for hunting in South Africa have been taken with bow and arrow at one time or another. Some of the most sought after species available for hunting are Impala, Wildebeest, Warthog, Kudu, Waterbuck, Blesbuck, Gemsbuck, Red Haartebeest and Cape Buffalo. These trophy species are all commonly available for bow hunting at reasonable prices.
Bow hunting prices in South Africa are generally quite reasonable and quite a bit cheaper than other African countries such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania. Day fees in these other African countries often run in excess of $ 1000.00 per bow hunter per day whereas in South Africa you are likely to pay around $ 350.00 per hunter/day for a 2 X 1 hunt or $ 450.00 per hunter/day for 1 X 1 hunting. The price difference is determined by whether you will be hunting with a friend accompanied by one Professional hunter (2 X 1) or whether you will be hunting on your own with a Professional Hunter (1 X 1). Plains Game hunting trophy prices are also generally cheaper in South Africa. Expect to pay roughly the same prices for Buffalo and other Big Five animals as you would elsewhere in Africa.
Buying bowhunting packages in South Africa can be a great way to save money. The bow hunting Outfitter selling the package will often discount the price of either the hunting day fee or the trophy animals, or both. The bowhunting package will often contain the more commonly hunted African Planes game such as Warthog, Impala, Wildebeest, Gemsbuck, and Red Haartebeest etc. If bow hunting a trophy Kudu is high on your list of priorities you can often negotiate with the hunting outfitter. While a trophy kudu will more than likely not be included in your bow hunting package it could be an added extra to hunt while you are on your bow hunting Safari. Hunting Outfitters are normally quite accommodating if you would like to hunt any other trophy species during your hunt.
My advice would always be to bow hunt 1 X 1, in other words you will have the services of the Professional Hunter to yourself. This will ensure that you do not have to share the trophy species you come across or hunting opportunities with anyone else. Every opportunity to harvest a trophy will be yours and you should be able to maximize your hunting success during the bow hunting Safari in South Africa. You will still be with your hunting buddies in camp at night and be able to share the yarns and excitement of the hunt with them.
If your children would like to experience the thrill of a bow hunt in South Africa with you, definitely do bring them along. While children under 12 years of age often can not draw back a hunting bow with sufficient energy to kill cleanly. A modern crossbow is a great option that will allow children and smaller framed women to have great success bow hunting in Africa. Even if your children do not wish to share the hunt they will really enjoy the Safari experience and culture in South Africa.
Adrian Anderson has held a Professional Hunters license since 1991 and is a licensed Hunting Outfitter. He is an avid bow hunter and has been bow hunting for the past 36 years. Adrian has hunted most of the trophy game species available in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Mozambique. With the knowledge gained over several decades Adrian Anderson is well qualified to offer insights and advise on bow hunting in South Africa.