When it comes to bow hunting African game, one of the critical factors to consider is draw weight. Draw weight determines the effectiveness and ethicality of your hunt. In this comprehensive guide, we explore the world of draw weight for bow hunting African game, providing detailed insights into the minimum requirements and considerations for different types of animals. Whether you’re a seasoned bow hunter or just starting, understanding draw weight is essential for a successful and responsible hunting experience.

The Significance of Draw Weight in African Bow Hunting

Draw weight is the amount of force, measured in pounds, required to draw back a bowstring to a specific length before releasing an arrow. In African bow hunting, it plays a pivotal role in ensuring a clean and humane kill. The right draw weight allows the arrow to penetrate the target effectively, reaching vital organs and minimizing suffering.

Draw Weight vs. Kinetic Energy (KE)


Kinetic Energy is the energy stored by an object in motion.

Kinetic Energy Formula

KE = (mxv2)/450,800

M = Arrow weight in gr.

V = arrow velocity in ft/s.

A common question among bow hunters is whether draw weight or kinetic energy (KE) is more critical. The fact is, both factors are vital, and they work in tandem to deliver a humane and efficient kill. Draw weight determines how much force is behind the arrow, while KE measures the energy it carries into impact due to energy in motion.

To ensure ethical hunting, it’s essential to strike the right balance between draw weight and KE. A high draw weight with insufficient KE may not guarantee a clean kill, while good KE cannot be achieved without adequate draw weight and can lead to wounding rather than a swift, ethical kill.

Draw Weight Requirements for African Game

Bow hunting regulations in South Africa establish minimum draw weight requirements based on the body mass of the animal, arrow mass, and broad head specifications. Below, we provide a comprehensive list of recommended draw weights for bow hunting African game, categorized by the size of the animals:

Small Game

Small Game

Duiker, Steenbok & Jackal

– Draw Weight Required: 40 lbs.

– Arrow weight in grains (gr.) 300 grains

– Kinetic Energy Required (KE): 40 ft/lbs.

– Average Shot Distance: 20 – 30 yards

Draw weight for bow hunting African game - Duiker
Bow draw weight for African game - Steenbok

Medium Game

Medium Game

Reedbuck Blesbok, Bushbuck, Impala, Warthog & Nyala

– Draw Weight Required: 55 lbs.

– Arrow weight in grains (gr.) 400 grains

– Kinetic Energy Required (KE): 50 ft/lbs.

– Average Shot Distance: 20 – 35 yards

Recommended bow draw weights for hunting African Game - Bushbuck
Bow draw weight for hunting Plains game - Reedbuck
Common Reedbuck
Draw weights for bowhuting in South Africa - Impala
Draw weights for South Africa - Blesbuck
Bow Draw weight for hunting Warthog
Draw weight for bow to hunt in Africa - Nyala

Big Game

Big Game

Eland, Gemsbok, Kudu, Ostrich, Red Hartebeest, Roan Antelope, Sable, Waterbuck, Zebra & Wildebeest

– Draw Weight Required: 65 lbs.

– Arrow weight in grains (gr.) 450 – 500 grains

– Kinetic Energy Required (KE): 60 ft/lbs.

– Average Shot Distance: 20 – 35 yards

Draw weight to bow hunt Eland
Draw weight to bow hunt Kudu
Draw weight to bow hunt Sable
Draw weight to bow hunt Gemsbok
Draw weight to bow hunt Waterbuck
Draw weight to bow hunt Red Hartebeest
Red Hartebeest

Extra Big Game


– Draw Weight Required: 90 lbs.

– Arrow weight in grains (gr.) 750 grains

– Kinetic Energy Required (KE): 80 ft/lbs.

– Average Shot Distance: 25 – 45 yards

Draw weight to bow hunt Giraffe

Dangerous Game

Dangerous Game Cape Buffalo & African Lion

– Draw Weight Required: 80 lbs.

– Arrow weight in grains (gr.) 750 grains

– Kinetic Energy Required (KE): 80 ft/lbs.

– Average Shot Distance for Cape Buffalo: 19 – 40 yards

– Average Shot Distance for Lion: 35 – 45 yards

Draw weight to bow hunt Cape Buffalo
Draw weight to bow hunt African Lion

It’s important to note that using mechanical broad heads for Cape buffalo hunting is a really bad idea due to their massive body mass, huge bone structure and overlapping rib bones, which will limit penetration to vital areas.

The Role of Technology in Draw Weight

Advancements in bow manufacturing and technology have revolutionized bow hunting. With modern compound bows capable of delivering more kinetic energy, bow hunters can achieve the desired KE with lower draw weights. However, it’s crucial not to disregard draw weight entirely, as it remains a critical factor in arrow penetration and ethical hunting.

Bow Hunting Ethics and Conservation

Bow hunting African game is not just a sport; it has a connected responsibility. Responsible hunting practices, including adhering to draw weight requirements, are essential for wildlife conservation and ethical hunting. By following these guidelines, we can contribute to the preservation of Africa’s magnificent wildlife while enjoying the thrill of the hunt.

In conclusion, draw weight is a fundamental aspect of bow hunting in South Africa. Understanding the draw weight requirements for different types of African game is vital for ethical and successful hunting. By respecting these guidelines and prioritizing humane kills, we can ensure that the tradition of bow hunting continues to thrive while safeguarding the precious biodiversity of the African bushveld. Happy hunting!

Adrian Anderson has been a Licensed Professional Hunter and Hunting Outfitter for 32 years

Adrian Anderson first obtained his Professional Hunters license in 1991. He is a Big Five and Dangerous Game licensed Professional Hunter and Hunting Outfitter. He has a tremendous love for wildlife and the African bush and enjoys sharing his knowledge with the hunting clients that he guides. Guiding hunters in Africa’s wild places is a passion and seeing them succeed with their goals brings satisfaction. With knowledge of the Safari industry built up over 32 years he is well qualified to give guidance to his hunting clients.