Bowhunting Africa: Myth Buster 2

Sponsored by: Whitetail University, Bear Archery, Dries Visser Safaris, ATSKO, Mountaineer Sports
By: Bowhunting Biologist Wade Nolan

Few hunts raise more questions than a bowhunting safari in Africa. My intention is to shed light on an African Bowhunt and make you feel comfortable by unveiling the mysteries. Last time we Q & A talked about the land and the people plus a few universal fears that I debunked. This time we will discuss costs, flights accommodations and details on hunting.

Q- What are the flights like and what do they cost?
A- Overseas flights are conducted in the really big jets like 747 and 757’s. There will be 200 or more people on the flight. It is a long one with the longest leg lasting about 12 hours but the entire trip is more like 21-23 hours of flying. The jet will stop to refuel in Dakar West Africa or in France/Germany or even in Denmark (You do not want to route through Amsterdam however with hunting equipment) on some routes. The preferred route is out of Atlanta or DC Dulles with South African Air which stops once in Dakar to refuel. You will be overfed on these flights and I’ve never had a rough flight.

Cost varies but is about $18-$1900 to Johannesburg South Africa and about $2200 to fly into Windhoek Namibia. You can bring 2 bags, 50# each plus a carry-on. I usually pack some camo clothes in my bow case. You don’t need a lot of clothes as anything you wear that you want washed will be washed, folded and placed on your bed daily. Always carry all of your optics/laptops and expensive stuff with you in the carry-on to be safe. You will be met at the airport and shuttled to the hunting lodge. There is usually a transfer cost unless you purchase a package hunt.

Troy flew into Windhoek from Houston Tx. Then transferred to Atlanta for the trip across the Atlantic.

Q – What about a travel visa or passport?
A – You do not need a visa to visit any of the South African countries if you are staying less than 3 months. What you’ll need is a valid passport with at least 3 empty (unstamped pages). You can get one at any major post office. They are good for 10 years. They take about two months to get one from beginning to end so plan ahead.

Plan on getting your passport well in advance of your safari. This will be your primary piece of ID. I carry mine with me at all times, even when hunting.

Q- What does a bowhunting safari cost and do they take Visa?
A – Bowhunting and rifle safaris in Africa are surprisingly reasonable and you’ll typically be way more successful than a hunt in North America… for virtually anything. It is common to pay $5000+ for a caribou hunt, and then there are license fees, plane tickets and lodging before and after the trip. Then if you add an additional caribou there may be another $1000 fee. It is easy to part with 6-7K for a caribou hunt and I have been on caribou hunts when we missed the migration and shot ptarmigan…no caribou.

The same is true for elk in the west. A guide that has a 50% success rate is rare for a rifle hunt and for a bow hunting you’re dreaming if you think your chances are above 25%. Elk hunts cost $4-$6000+ and more if you add in licenses. If you go to Alaska you’re looking at $8000-12,000 for a quality moose hunt and $12-$16,000 for a brown bear hunt on the Alaska Peninsula before flights and licenses/tags. Success rate usually 50% or lower.

Now let’s look at Africa. The success rate is usually above 80%+ per animal. There is no license or tags to buy. Unlike North America these hunts are driven by packages and by a menu approach. For instance If you want to hunt a kudu, gemsbok and a wildebeest plus an impala there is a 4 animal package you can select that includes guiding/food lodging and these animals. The package would be cheaper than paying a trophy fee for each animal individually. In my experience over 90% of the guys buying a package will fill all of their tags. You don’t pay for animals you don’t get.

Dave took all of the animals in his package and like Dave you may want to keep an eye pealed for a real trophy that just walks in to your waterhole. Adding to your package is OK.

Q – What do I save by choosing a safari package? Is it the best way to go?
A – Using our new Kalahari concession in Namibia as an example you can buy an economy starter package that includes: Package 5 – 7 Day Special (Namibia): 2 x 1 (2-hunters share a guide)= $3080 Included: 7 Day Plains Game Safaris for 1 hunter with; Pick one: Warthog, Steenbok, Duiker /Pick one: Impala, Blesbok, Springbuck /Pick one: Gemsbok, Red Hartebeest plus an Airfare credit: $500.

Let’s dissect this package… 7 full days of hunting, Arrival and departure days are separate and are $95/day. 2 x 1 guiding, this means that you will have a Professional Hunter with you 50% of the time when in a blind.

The rest of the time you will be hunting alone just like you would be on a treestand hunt for black bear or whitetails. You get to choose what animals you want to take. You will be shown what a trophy warthog, steenbok or impala looks like so you can judge for yourself if a 14 inch trophy warthog or 28 inch R&W impala walks into the waterhole. During the week of hunting you will see dozens of animals a day come to the waterhole from your blind. I have had 50 and 75 animal days at waterholes.

Then you subtract the $500 airfare credit from your travel or you simply subtract that from your package cost and you are down to $2580 for a 7 day African bowhunt with 3 animals. If you were to buy a gemsbok alone from the “menu” the trophy fee would be nearly $1000 dollars. The package is the way to go. The “extras” are limited to a 15% VAT tax on animals you shoot in addition to your package and transfer costs to and from camp.

The best value and most memorable hunt of your life can occur for way less money than you may have thought. A five-thousand dollar safari will get you 3-4 animals and more bowhunting opportunity than almost any hunt in North America.

Q – What about bigger packages are they a better deal?
A – There is a package for a 10-day hunt that includes both more animals: Package 7 – 10 Day Special (Namibia): 1 x 1 = $6130 or 2 x 1 = $5390 10 Day Plains Game Safaris for 1 hunter with; Pick one: Warthog, Steenbok, Duiker /Pick one: Impala, Blesbok, Springbuck/ Pick one: Gemsbok, Red Hartebeest /Pick one: Zebra – Burchell or Hartman, Wildebeest – Blue or Black plus Airfare credit: $500

This is a ten day bowhunting safari that includes a professional guide half of the time and some bigger animals for only $4890 after the airfare credit is applied. Chance of filling all tags is 80%+. If you choose to add animals you can do so from a trophy fee menu. Basically you can enjoy a 7-day Bowhunting safari for the cost of a 6-day caribou hunt where you may get to shoot at a caribou. Africa may be the best bowhunting deal on the planet.

Warthogs are both challenging and numerous. Pigs with tusks like this one are real trophies. Some animals are easy to judge and this hog would make anyone tighten the string.

Q – What is the actual hunt like?
A – The day begins with a breakfast in the pre-sunrise dawn. The temp is in the 50’s but will be rising into the 70’s. The ride to the blind takes 20 minutes and you and your PH get comfortable and watch out of one way mirror glass windows at the waterhole whose nearest edge sits at 16 yards and far bank is at 20. First Francolin hens squawk at the rising sun then a flock of native guinea hens file in with their salt and pepper football shaped bodies and get a drink.

In the distance you see a herd of springbok wandering in the Camel thorn trees. Eventually they approach the waterhole. All animals approach water holes with caution in Africa because this is where they often meet with leopards and crocs. Within minutes the herd of springbok, led by a mature buck are drinking.

As the day warms Hartman’s Zebra approach the waterhole and a fight breaks out between two stallions. Their aggressive calls sound like mad donkeys. Finally they drink and leave. Then a small group of gemsbok approaches from behind and walks within 8 feet of the blind. At first you see only their legs passing by from your ground level view. The blind has sealed in your scent and they then dip their heads for a drink at 16 yards. You rise and bring your bow to full draw as your PH slides open the silent window and your finger feels for the release. The bull is quartering away…your finger tenses on the trigger.

Q – What are the hunting blinds like?
A – The blinds are custom built stone, brick or block construction and sunk into the ground so the shooting windows are at ground level. They are 8 x 8 and have a 7 foot ceiling. The floor is usually carpeted and the windows are vertical with views out 3 sides. They are air tight and capture your scent. Ventilation is via a roof vent. The glass is a one-way mirror with silent slide or silent swing opening options. They are typically cool due to their underground contact and usually placed under a shade tree and shadowed.

When you are seated you have a view to the waterhole without standing. There is plenty of room to draw your bow. Dries Visser is a bowhunter himself so he still takes into consideration the sun angle and the wind direction.

Waterholes vary in design. Some are custom made like this one which is fed by a nearby wind mill. Others may be a natural overflow from a windmill tank. Either way the desert animals respond to them by mid-day.

Q – Are there ever real deals on Safaris?
A – Yes, Sometimes a safari outfit will offer some discounted package to fill out their schedules. We actually have one right now that is priced lower than any safari I have ever seen in Namibia. This is a bowhunt only and it is for specific dates August 14-20 and August 24-Sept. 2, 2011. The package includes 7 full days of bowhunting and includes gemsbok, hartebeest, warthog and either a steenbok, baboon or duiker for $1995. Or if you’d like more time, a ten day bowhunt for the same animals for $2350. (We have only 4 openings on these hunts left so if you are interested, contact me asap.)

Extras include airport transfers, arrival and depart non-hunting days and VAT tax on wounded game not recovered.

For info email me at:

In Africa Myth Buster part 3 we will discuss the actual hunt and what gear you need to be successful; we will also discuss shot placement and trophy mounting options.