How to Prepare for an African Bowhunt

You Can Make Africa Happen on a Budget

By
Making the Leap

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1 | Making the Leap

The difference between dreaming about hunting in Africa and actually doing so is simple — you have to book a hunt. This can seem like an overwhelming endeavor in itself as the outfitter you choose to hunt with will play the most significant role in the outcome and overall enjoyment of your hunt. Online research can help provide a better understanding of what specific outfitters offer and the types of hunts they specialize in. That said, the best information you can get is from someone who has been there and hunted with the outfitter. Contact several outfitters and ask for references, preferably hunters who have been on safaris with them most recently. Also, if you know anyone who has bowhunted in Africa, ask them for recommendations. A great way to save money when booking an African bowhunt is by bidding on donated hunts at charity auctions or fundraiser dinners for various conservation groups. In my experience, African hunts at these types of auctions sell for well below their valued price. This is in fact the route my wife and I used to book our honeymoon. If you think bidding your way to an African bowhunt might be for you, just remember to do your homework and research each outfitter who has donated before the auction begins.

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Safety and Vaccinations

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2 | Safety and Vaccinations

Here in the States, there are a lot of assumption made about the safety of traveling to Africa. There are several countries where travel advisories are high; but generally, these are found in the northern half of the continent where hunting operations aren’t as common. If you’re unsure, check current travel warnings issued by the U.S. State Department before inquiring with an outfitter.

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Make a Wish List

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3 | Make a Wish List

Compile a list of the animals you’re interested in hunting and share it with potential outfitters before booking. This will help get a good scope on the overall cost of an African bowhunt as well as provide the outfitter with insight into what animals and type of hunt you’re looking for. 

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Logistics

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4 | Logistics

Traveling to any part of Africa from the States means you’ll likely be on a plane for at least 16 hours. That’s a long time, even if the fasten seatbelt sign is off. When booking flights, you’ll likely find that some saving can be had if you’re willing to layover somewhere in Europe or Eastern Africa. To me, it was worth a couple hundred bucks round trip to fly directly from Atlanta to Johannesburg, South Africa. On a flight of this length, you can expect to be well-fed and passing the time isn’t all that bad thanks to a ton of in-flight entertainment and free Wi-Fi. If you do choose to layover somewhere or have a domestic connection once you arrive in Africa, allow several hours between flights as tracking down bags, bows and rifles can sometimes be a lengthy process. Not to mention you’ll need to pass through customs. For my trip to South Africa, no special permits were required to enter the country with archery equipment. However, traveling with a rifle will likely require documentation as well as ammo limitations and other regulations. Be sure to do your homework on what is allowed long before you start packing your bags.

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Heavy Hitting Archery Tackle

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5 | Heavy Hitting Archery Tackle

The African continent is home to some of the largest and most dangerous animals on the planet. Bringing one of these animals down with bow and arrow is an amazing feat that requires gear specifically suited for the task at hand. Even if your African dream hunt only includes plains game, don’t expect an easy go of it. I killed three animals while in South Africa, all of which here hit well and not one went down easily. When preparing for an African bowhunt, forget about arrow speed and focus on kinetic energy. Some countries in Africa do have bowhunting requirements for arrow weight and kinetic energy. Look into these well ahead of time. Be sure your arrow will pack a punch even if you’re not required to make changes to your setup.

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Broadhead Selection

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6 | Broadhead Selection

Another aspect of archery gear to be considered is the type of broadhead you’ll shoot. Most outfitters in Africa require that bowhunters shoot fixed-blade broadheads. No matter what the requirements may be where you decide to hunt, be sure the broadhead you choose can hold up to the thick hides and heavy bone structure of African game.

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Bow Stand

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7 | Bow Stand

A lot of African bowhunting is done from blinds. Any bowhunter who has spent a good amount of time hunting from a blind will understand how convenient a set of bow legs or a bow stand can be. Packing one for an African bowhunt will likely come in handy.

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Stock Your Quiver

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8 | Stock Your Quiver

It’s not uncommon for a bowhunter to kill three to 10 animals during a trip to the Dark Continent. The sheer number of shot opportunities paired with the hardiness of African game is a recipe for lost or broken arrows. Be sure to pack plenty of arrows for your safari. Archery shops are extremely rare throughout Africa.

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Prepare for the Worst

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9 | Prepare for the Worst

You’ll need to be prepared to make any necessary repairs yourself should you experience a gear failure during an African safari. As previously mentioned, archery shops aren’t as common on the African continent as they are here in North America. Make sure you have the tools and supplies required to tackle any issue that might come your way. If you’re unsure of how to complete basic repairs, visit your local archery pro shop and ask for a crash course in basic bow tuning.

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Packing a Bow for Long-Distance Travel

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10 | Packing a Bow for Long-Distance Travel

Flying halfway around the globe with a bow can be punishing on your equipment, especially if it’s not properly protected. If you don’t own a well-padded TSA-approved bow case, you’ll want to invest in one or at least borrow one from a friend. A great way to add more cushion for your bow during travel is by packing soft items like socks, t-shirts, and base layers around your bow once it’s placed in your case. This is something I do almost every time I fly with a bow and it helps free up room in regular luggage. Packing a bow in this way typically isn’t an issue but there are a few airlines who don’t allow it so check all rules and regulations before packing your gear.

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A Good Camera Is a Must

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11 | A Good Camera Is a Must

Africa is beautiful. You’ll see landscapes, animals and places like you have never seen before. Don’t rely solely on the camera built into your cell phone to capture these moments. Today’s basic point-and-shoot cameras have some really amazing features and remarkably good image quality. If you don’t want to spend a lot on a camera just for your trip, consider renting one. Camera and lens rental is a great option and can be very cost-effective. Also, be sure to pack extra batteries. Power sources aren’t always readily available. Bring along plenty of memory cards, too.

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Patience Required

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12 | Patience Required

Getting any trophy back to the States when hunting internationally requires patience. At the conclusion of your African hunt your animals will go to a taxidermy facility, usually recommended by your outfitter, where you can choose to have the mounts completed in Africa or in the U.S. If you decide to have the work done here at home, your animals will need to be cleaned and dried to the point where they are free of any bacteria or other living organisms. This process typically called dip and pack can take several months. Regardless, what option you choose, once your animals are ready to be shipped, they will go to a shipping company in Africa. This company is usually selected by the African taxidermy facility that handles your trophies. The two will work together with you to complete any required documentation and arrange shipping details. Once your animals arrive in the U.S., they will need to clear U.S. customs. Hiring a customs broker to aid in this process can help streamline the process. After passing through customs, your animals can be shipped to your home.

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Enjoy Your Visit

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13 | Enjoy Your Visit

Hunting may be the main reason you’re interested in visiting Africa but make time to see some of the sights as well. During our trip, my wife and I hunted for six days and spent another four days touring the Kruger National Park. During our trip through Kruger, we saw the Big 5 three days in a row along with many other amazing sights. While the hunting portion of our visit was outstanding, our time spent doing non-hunting activities was equally amazing.

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A bowhunting adventure on the Dark Continent is a bucket-list hunt for many. However, making that dream a reality comes with its own set of challenges and tasks that need to be navigated tactfully. I was fortunate to recently have the opportunity to spend two weeks in Africa where I bowhunted plains game on a six-day safari. The safari was part of a honeymoon trip my wife and I had been planning for nearly a year and a half. Through the photos below, I’ll share some highlights from our travels, logistics of our trip, what to expect as a new bowhunter in Africa.