Your first bowhunting safari to Africa should be for plains game to either South Africa or Namibia. Both countries are relatively safe and have an abundance of affordable game. Have your outfitter pick you up at the airport and do not venture out at night by yourself in the cities. If you need to stay overnight in Johannesburg, I recommend the Afton Guest House. You will be well rested before continuing on to your final destination. By hunting for plains game on your first discounted safari, you will gain the experience in Africa that is critical for taking on Africa’s dangerous game. Being in Africa for the first time is a wondrous experience that should be savored and enjoyed. Dangerous game hunting requires your undivided attention and having the newness of Africa wear off a little helps you focus for the chore at hand.
The majority of South Africa is high fenced. By enclosing properties in high fencing, the game is privately owned and managed and the outfitters are able to set their hunting seasons as they wish. High fencing should not convey the same concerns that are typical of what is considered “canned hunting” in the US. Many of these fenced properties range from 10,000 acres to over 200,000 acres. You may only see the fence when going into and exiting the hunting concessions.
The double 8’ fence separating a great kudu concession from Addo Elephant Park in the Eastern Cape of SA.
The high fences are designed to hold in your average plains game. Kudu and Eland can jump the average perimeter fence in Africa. Warthogs, leopards and other small game come and go as they please, as warthogs are constantly digging pass-thrus under the fences. Try to ensure that you are hunting on a concession that is at least 10,000 acres. The outfitter may take you to concessions that are owned by others for species that he does not have on his property. Be sure to ask so you will not be surprised by having to drive several hours each day to get to the concession you will be hunting.
Namibia has fewer fences and the concessions that are fenced are typically larger.
Seasons are the exact opposite of the US. Our summer is their winter. Hunting seasons typically range from late February through Late October, with peak months being May – September. I recommend that you go from June – August. In my opinion, these months are the best for the following reasons:
If you are hunting waterholes from a blind, the dry season is when you should go!
If you are spot and stalk hunting, you may wish to go earlier in the year when the bush is greener, thicker and less noisy.
By far, the most effective way to bowhunt in Africa is from a blind near or at a waterhole. The game will typically come during the heat of the day, so waking up before dawn is usually not a necessity. The busiest times are mid-day to midafternoon.
Spot and stalking African game is one of the most exciting ways to hunt, but you should plan to go home with fewer trophies than you would have harvested if you had set on a waterhole. The best way is to do some of both. You will see and experience more of Africa riding in the truck and looking for game. Your view out of a blind is somewhat limiting, but if shooting a lot of trophies is your goal, then you should spend the majority of your hunt in a blind or tree stand.
Most package hunts are 7 days. Since it is such a long way to Africa, try to go on a 10 day hunt. With travel days, a 10 day hunt means you will be gone from home for 14 days. Airfare in peak season is running from $1700 - $2400, so staying an extra couple of days makes sense. On a 10 day bowhunt, you can expect to harvest from 5 – 10 animals on average. If you only go once, those extra days are precious!
If you are hunting elephant, you need 90# +. For cape buffalo and Rhino, 80# should be the minimum. For lion and eland, 70# is best. For kudu, gemsbok, wildebeest, 60#+ should suffice. For warthogs and impala and other smaller animals, 50# should be your minimum.
Leave the expandable broadheads home! African animals are tough and expandable broadheads are illegal in many African countries. In Africa, if you draw blood, you pay! Why take a chance on bad penetration if you hit bone? My personal experience backs this up. I use expendables for some types of hunting in the US, but more and more I am going back to traditional fixed blade broadheads.
Bring a quiver that holds at least 6 arrows. I have run short twice with a 4 arrow quiver and have sworn that it will not happen again!
The winter weather is chilly at night and in the early morning when you are riding in the truck to the blind. It may be cool for the first couple of hours in the blind. If you are hunting from a blind, wear dark clothing to minimize your movement inside the blind. If you are stalking, you may wear camo, but check with your outfitter, as camo clothing is illegal in some countries and frowned on by others.
Yes, but make sure that the blinds will accommodate a third person or that adequate activities or side-trips are available to keep your companion happy. Africa is an incredible experience and taking your companion to experience the Dark Continent will give both of you something to share and talk about for years!
Africa is a fabulous place to take your first discounted African safari bowhunt. Keep in mind that you will see a lot more of Africa riding in the truck and looking for game than sitting in a blind. The view out of the blind window will keep you entertained, but you will miss some of the wonders of Africa if you spend each day confined in a blind.
You may want to do a little rifle hunting for species that don’t frequent the waterholes. You can rent a rifle from your outfitter by the day, unless he is a “bowhunting only” outfitter.
Be sure to question your outfitter to see if he has bowhunting only concessions. The animals will typically be less spooked in those concessions, and trophy quality may be better.
Take a quiver that holds at least 6 arrows. Running out of arrows is embarrassing. African animals are tough!
My advice to you is leave the mechanical broadheads at home. Your outfitter will appreciate it and it may save you time from having to waste part of a day tracking a wounded animal. Keep your shots under 35 yards. Aim forward from where you would aim when hunting North American game. When the pressure is on, we all revert to our ingrained habits. Many trophies have been lost from a shot that was just a little bit back!
If you make a bad shot, get over it! Yes, it is expensive paying for bad shots, but don’t let one shot ruin an otherwise fabulous safari. Shoot a warthog or impala to regain your confidence. I can still remember when I took my $2000 shots at my eland and nyala trophies! I was nervous as all get out!
Most importantly of all, don’t sweat pushing for the biggest trophy for every species. Many frequent hunters to Africa regret not taking a deep breath and absorbing it all in. Drop your tape measure and pick up your camera. Relax and enjoy Africa. It just doesn't get any better than this!