Have you ever considered a hunt in South Africa with your rifle? It’s an adventure like no other, offering the chance to experience one of the world’s most beautiful countries and its abundant wildlife. With its vast open spaces and diverse game species, South Africa is a hunter’s paradise. This article will guide you through the basics of Africa hunting.

South Africa is a country full of opportunity for hunters from all corners of the globe. Whether you’re an experienced safari hunter or just starting out, there’s something for everyone. The country boasts some of the best game reserves in the world, with abundant populations of plains game up to and including dangerous game such as Cape Buffalo and Elephant.

No matter what kind of experience you’re looking for, South African rifle hunting can offer the perfect safari. It’s an unforgettable way to experience the vast landscapes of this amazing country while taking part in a timeless tradition that has been passed down through generations. So if you’re ready to take on this thrilling challenge, read on.

Rifle Hunting in South Africa - Hunter and Gemsbuck trophy
Hunting with a rifle in South Africa - female hunter with a trophy impala.

Rifles and Calibers for Hunting in South Africa

Hunting with a rifle is easily the most popular method used when on safaris in southern Africa. Experienced hunters and professional hunters alike certainly have their favorites when it comes to caliber choices. However the optimal choice almost always depends on the type of game and trophies you plan on hunting. (The age old debate over the pros and cons of the .375 H&H versus the 9.3 X 62 still perpetuates and is likely to continue until the last Kudu has been carried down off the mountain.

Furthermore, if you intend to pursue dangerous game, the .375 caliber is the minimum prescribed by law in most African countries. For most hunters intent on African plains game, a general rule of thumb is to bring something that you are comfortable and familiar with. Your average deer bolt action caliber with premium grade ammunition will often be adequate for most plains game species as long as the rifle shoots accurately. Dangerous game however will require a rifle that hits harder and proper premium grade bullets.

The conditions under which you will be operating can also impact your choice of rifles. African hunting can take place in a variety of different environments, from vast open grasslands to dense bushveld. In open areas, a rifle with a longer barrel and a scope with a magnification of 15 X may be more suitable. While in dense bushy areas, a shorter barrel and 4 x magnification scope may be preferable.

Choosing a Rifle for Hunting Africa

When choosing a firearm for hunting in Africa, it’s also important to consider your own level of experience and comfort with different types of rifles. A double rifle offer a quick follow up shot but a bolt action has up to 5 rounds in reserve. It’s important to choose a rifle that you feel comfortable and confident shooting, as this will ultimately impact your success as a hunter. A double rifle is better suited for dangerous game and will most likely have iron sights installed.

In addition to the firearm itself, it’s also important to consider the ammunition you will be using. It’s recommended to use premium grade ammunition that is specifically designed for the game you plan to taking. Using the wrong type of ammunition can result in an ineffective shot that does not penetrate adequately or even wounding the animal.

A bolt action rifle is the most common choice for visiting hunters that will primarily be targeting plains game.

Calibers for Plains Game Species

While lesser caliber rifles such as 6mm, 243 and 6 Creedmoor and the likes can be acceptable for the smaller antelope, the 6.5 calibers should be seen as the minimum caliber required for medium-sized plains game. This caliber along with good shot placement and correct choice of premium grade ammunition is fully capable of taking down the larger game, such as Kudu and Wildebeest, found on the plains with well aimed shots.

In addition to the .270, the calibers most often brought along on Safari by clients include the various 7mm’s. These include the 7mm Remington Magnum, 7mm Ultra Mag, and even the 7 X 64 Brenneke. The old faithful 30-06 Springfield is a popular choice of hunters worldwide and has taken more game than most caliber choices combined. The 300 Win Mag and other similar calibers (300 H&H, 300 SAUM and 300 Weatherby) prove to get the job done admirably especially if you will be shooting in open grassland areas where longer shots may be required. These suggestions are only recommendations that have proven satisfactory for Safari hunters over many years.

Calibers for Dangerous Game Hunting

A dangerous game hunt will have you contemplating more on your choice of rifle caliber. The minimum caliber for hunting dangerous game is .375 ( .375 H&H Magnum and 378 Weatherby Magnum) but you may want to use more than enough gun.

We have found that rifles in the .416 caliber and upward often produce vastly improved penetration and stopping power on dangerous game and are perfectly adequate. Bare in mind that you will have the services of a Professional hunter at your side to help deal with a wounded animal in South Africa. Hunters are often more comfortable with bolt action rifles than double rifles but the choice is yours to make.

Some of the harder hitting medium dangerous game calibers include .458 Lott, .470 Nitro Express and .500 Nitro Express. All will do everything required on a Hippo, Cape Buffalo or Elephant in a tight situation if the shot placement is optimal.

It is not necessary to bring along any of the big bores for example .460 Weatherby Magnum or 600 Nitro express, but if that is your preference then go right ahead. Double rifles are the quintessential African Safari firearm but not strictly necessary. Reliable rifles by manufacturers such as Sako, Winchester and Remington work well. Double rifles by makers such as Rigby, Purdey and Heym are exceptional quality fire arms.

Rifle Sights and Optics

It is essential that you give thought to what sights options you will use when rifle hunting. A telescopic sight, or scope, of low to medium magnification (3 -9 X magnification) will be the best choice for thick bush. Bolt action rifles with this type of set up will allow you to make adjustments depending on the range and foliage, and shoot accurately at ranges out to 200 yards. For use in more open grassland a scope with a magnification of 6 – 15 X will be more suitable and result in less wounded game.

Most international hunters wanting to go after dangerous game would be happy with a low magnification scope of between 1 – 6 magnification. The proviso being that this scope have quick detachable scope mounts should they wish to switch to open sights as the situation requires.

Use a Rest when Hunting

Always try to use a rest to steady your aim when shooting South African game. You will always be able to find a rock, tree or anthill to firm up your sight picture and aim point. Most Professional Hunters will carry a set of shooting sticks for you to use in the field, but if not find a suitable replacement.

This will greatly assist with reducing the chance of a badly placed shot. This is an important consideration on all game species but could be critical on Cape Buffalo or other thick skinned animals.

Bullets and Ammunition for South Africa

Safari hunting - Hunter with a Zebra trophy.

An important consideration is the quality and consistency of the ammunition you plan to bring along on your safaris in South Africa. Most hunters agree that African game is tougher than the animals they are used to hunting in the USA and Europe.

Always use best quality ammunition in South Africa be it for plains game or in the dangerous game arena. The finest bullets from manufacturers such as Swift A frame, Barnes, Woodleigh and Nosler will produce the required accuracy and excellent penetration.

Shot Placement on African Game

Nothing is more important than shot placement. You can have the finest rifle and telescopic sights, shooting the best premium ammunition but if your shot is not perfectly placed to reach the vital organs you could still end up wounding your quarry. At best this will result in countless hours spent tracking through the bush. Hours that could be spent after other species on your list. At worst it will result in the hunter losing an exceptional trophy hunting animal. Bare in mind that you pay for wounded and lost game in South Africa. Make sure your rifle shoots to the point of aim.

Shooting Practice Before your Hunt

Before you come out to South Africa for your hunt package spend enough time on the shooting range making an effort to improve your shooting skill. Time invested on the range will make a huge difference in the field and allow you to quickly acquire your target and place a well aimed vital shot.

You may be able to secure a trophy animal that has just made up his mind that he has a safer place to be. Familiarity with your rifle could make all the difference to the success of your African hunt.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, South Africa is an amazing place to go on trip. It has a wide variety of game and scenery to enjoy while on Safari. Rifle hunting is one of the most enjoyable ways to experience the variety and abundance on offer as well as the topography and different ecological areas.

Choosing the right rifle for an African hunting Safari requires careful consideration of a number of factors. It’s important to choose a caliber rifle that is appropriate for the size of game you will be hunting and ease of use. The perfect rifle will greatly assist you in placing the perfect shot and securing the most sought after trophies in Southern Africa.

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.