In my opinion, there is no more fun bowhunt than a good plainsgame hunt in southern Africa. The variety of animals you can see and harvest is unparalleled, and the whole African experience is unparalleled. When you break down the costs, these hunts are also quite affordable, and the number one most successful way to conduct these hunts is over a waterhole.
A lot of hunters I have talked with over the years have related that Africa is a dream, but they never thought they could afford it. Today, you can go on a 7 to 10 day plainsgame hunt, including airfare, for the same price or less than a high quality elk hunt in the U.S. There are lots of deals out there right now, and I have seen many package hunts in South Africa and Namibia that are all inclusive and allow five to seven animals to be taken for $3,500 to 5,000. You tack on about $2,000 for airfare, and you are looking at the cost of a big time whitetail hunt or a good elk hunt.
Generally on these hunts you will stay in a nice lodge, with good food and the service will be beyond your wildest dreams. Great meals, daily laundry service, all trophy preparation are just standard in African packages.
It is also a façade that you have to buy all new equipment to go hunt Africa. I recommend a 70-pound bow if you plan to shoot some of the really big animals like 2,000-pound eland, but most plainsgame species up to greater kudu, wildebeest, etc., a 60-pound bow will do the job nicely. I do like fairly heavy arrows and fixed-blade broadheads for best penetration on these tough animals.
A typical day would be to get up for a light breakfast, and then get into a blind just after daylight. You may hunt the morning, come out for lunch, and then go back to a blind for an afternoon hunt. Or you might choose to stay in the blind all day and pack a lunch since often the warmer mid-day hours can be excellent hunting at a water source. You will be picked up around dark and come back for a good evening meal and time around the campfire.
Blinds are generally spacious and will comfortably house two or three people, and many times a professional hunter will hunt with you to judge trophy quality and age of animals. Most blinds I have hunted were dug into the ground 2 to 3 feet and then built up another 3 to 4 feet above ground level. You can stand to shoot through the windows in front, and since they are partially underground, the temperatures in the blinds are comfortable being cooler during the heat of the day. Some outfitters are now using elevated blinds, but they are still usually completely enclosed to offer maximum concealment.
Shots are quite close with most shots to the water averaging 25 yards or less. When I hunted in Namibia last year with Vieranas Safaris, my average shot was 19 yards, and the longest was 30 on a mountain zebra that just wouldn’t come in and drink. Having animals in that close on ground level is a real thrill, and hunters just need to remember to take their time, wait for the best shot and concentrate on shooting form.
Shot placement on Africa game is of paramount importance, and it is quite different than what we are accustomed to on North American game. Most African animals’ vitals are farther forward than our deer and elk, so you need to adjust accordingly. There are many species and all have somewhat different vital zones, but a good rule of thumb is to line up with the foreleg and one-third the way up the body. We are used to shooting behind the shoulder on North American animals, and it feels like you are shooting straight for shoulder and bone, but shots in Africa must be forward on broadside animals. The best tool I have found is Kevin Robertson’s The Perfect Shot books that show you the vital zones on most African animals. I take the soft cover version to the blind with me and study the different species.
The highlight of my trip to Namibia last year was hunting Cape Eland. I wanted only a very old “blue” bull, and I decided I wouldn’t shoot at anything else until I got an eland down. There was a herd using a waterhole about every second or third day on our property, and then they would disappear onto adjoining properties not to be seen again. Roger Coomber the outfitter had up a trail camera at this waterhole, so we had good recon.
I sat in the blind for three full days without seeing an eland. Plenty of warthogs, giraffe, kudus, and gemsbok came in to drink, but no eland. Seeing all the other animals was very enjoyable and made the time pass quickly, but I was starting to really worry as I had devoted nearly a third of the trip to eland with no success.
An hour before dark on the third day, a shadow passed by the window of the blind, and I peered out to spot a young eland bull approaching the water. He wasn’t a shooter in my book, so I began scanning for the herd. I couldn’t see any other animals, but soon I heard the tell-tale clicking of hooves, and saw a massive old blue eland approaching,
Both bulls dipped their massive heads to quench their thirsts, and when the old bull presented me with a shot, I sent a Carbon Express Maxima Hunter straight through his hear. The one ton goliath kicked like a rodeo bull and dashed about 75 yards. He paused momentarily and then crashed right there within sight. I never dreamed that an arrow could dispatch such a huge beast so quickly. After 33 hours in the blind after the same animal, my efforts paid off and I had a super trophy and a lasting memory.
That hunt was prolonged due to me being focused on one animal. A typical day in an Africa bow blind will offer numerous shots at quality animals. That is part of the fun; simply a target rich environment in which to hunt. The total experience and the quantity and variety of game make southern Africa a bowhunt of bowhunts in my humble opinion.