From the U.S. based bowhunter’s viewpoint, finding the best bowhunting Game Ranches in Southern Africa at the very best is a daunting task. At worst, it is almost as impossible as finding the proverbial “needle in the haystack”. For me, who also wears the hat of a Hunting Consultant, to cover it here without it sounding like one of my Ads is doubly difficult. But I’m going to give it a shot anyway…So here goes!
There are literally hundreds of game reserves and ranches located in several countries across southern Africa. The good news is that the vast majority are owned and/or operated by competent, hard working, ethical folks. In addition, even the most mediocre of African bowhunting destinations will provide the first time bowhunter a safari filled with more game in both number and species, shot opportunities, and excitement than he will encounter over the course of multiple seasons back home. So even if he doesn’t make the BEST choice, chances are he is going to leave Africa happy.
But that, in my opinion, is not good enough. Africa is a long way to travel. And even as great a “value” as it is…significant money is still involved. Finding the best possible destinations is an absolute must considering that valuable leisure time and limited resources will be spent there. Most serious international hunters, bow or gun, utilize the services of a reputable and trusted Hunting Consultant. Africa is so huge…It takes a great deal of time, travel, and money to sift through the countless available options and find the real “gems”. Through exhaustive efforts spanning two decades, I have had occasion to evaluate scores of destinations in six countries and have come up with just eight concessions I represent. In doing so, I have developed the following areas of consideration to identify the best of the best in bowhunting concessions.
GAME NUMBERS & TROPHY QUALITY:
Without doubt THE most important consideration. Because many close encounters with game do not result in a shot opportunity, bowhunters need multiple chances, not just with animals…but with “shooter” quality animals, in order to succeed consistently. For this to happen, concessions must support great game populations and ample numbers of trophy class males for most available species to be listed with the best of the best.
GAME MANAGEMENT PLAN & PRACTICES:
If sound game management is in place, it will be reflected in the populations, trophy quality and overall health of the herds. Wise, conservation-minded landowners know that controlled harvest by a limited number of hunters coupled with a periodic influx of new blood to the breeding herds is a proven formula for long term success. Herds under such sound management practices that are not pressured by over hunting will appear plentiful, healthy, and generally relaxed in proximity to waterholes, vehicles, etc.
BLINDS & WATERHOLES AND OTHER STAND LOCATIONS:
Waterhole size is important. A proper size will place the target animal within bow range no matter where it decides to drink. Blinds should be “bowhunter ready”…clean and pest free with ample room for a 28” compound or a 54” long bow. Blind placement so that all shots are no more than 25 yards is critical…My experience is that at ranges beyond that, poor hits and wounding rates increase dramatically and disproportionately. Treestands in the bushveld thickets on travel corridors, mineral licks or hidden seeps offer variety and excitement to the hunt, and elevate concessions that employ them.
LODGE COMPLEX, or CHALET CAMP…GUEST LODGING & CAMP ATMOSPHERE:
This is almost never the deciding factor in selecting a bowhunting destination…But it is often one of the main reasons clients return. Lodges and accommodations range from traditional to modern across southern Africa, and the vast majority far exceed new client expectations in safety, luxury and comfort. It is the mood, of sundowners around an open campfire, the friendliness and hospitality in a gathering of hunters and new friends at a traditional brai that “calls” clients to return…often more than trophies taken.
Location, topography and size of concession are likewise important. For example, a beautiful, secluded concession with a variety of terrain and varied habitat will win out over a concession with a huge power line running through it or a highway running along its border. Size is another consideration. Much could be written on this…possibly a discussion for a future article on “Concession Size Versus Fair Chase”…But in general 5000 acres, or (7.8 square miles) is acceptable as a minimum. Concessions of this size can easily accommodate groups of up to three bowhunters at once without clients feeling crowded or pressuring game. Experienced PH’s, skilled trackers, and a highly professional camp staff also are an integral part of any successful Safari Co. Add to all this a landowner committed to bowhunting who offers his land as a bowhunting-only concession, and you have found a definite “keeper”.
If you live in southern Africa, at least to some degree within your general location and with some effort, you can locate a top notch bowhunting concession yourself. For those who have traveled to Africa for a bowhunting safari, you can now at the very least evaluate the concession you hunted and decide whether to return or search out another location for your return trip.
But as you can readily see, at least for the U.S. based client, accurately assessing and choosing an African bowhunting Safari Company and concession from abroad is virtually impossible. For them, the obvious solution is to employ the services of a qualified booking agent with current, first-hand knowledge and experience in the African bowhunting scene. You know…I think I know a guy like that. Remember, I warned you at the beginning where this was all headed!