Bow hunting in south africa









During the sixteenth century, firearms slowly replaced the faithful old bow and arrow as the most effective long range weapon in the military and hunting scene. Although some archery clubs prevailed during the centuries, most of them have faded by the end of the nineteenth century. But early in the twentieth century, if revived as a true sport that gained Olympic status, with clubs all over the world. But the hunting possibilities of archery wasn't utilized until much later in the same century.

Since 1983, bow hunting is legalized in South Africa in terms of prescribed circumstances under the Nature Conservation Ordinance 12.

To many hunters, this is a very sporting way to equalize the hunter's challenge with the animal's defenses, for one has to work much harder (with your camouflage, hiding and stalking) at distances less than 30 meters to obtain your goal. Small wonder then, that this sport has keep on growing in popularity ever since.

But even after this legislation, a lot of restrictions still applied:the risk of closing in on an elephant, a rhino, a buffalo or a hippo, and even a giraffe, with only an bow and arrow in hand, was considered too much because of their thick hides. Also, the risks involved in trying to take down predators like a lion, a crocodile, a leopard and a spotted or brown hyena, as well as those animals mentioned earlier, was considered to be too much for any person's safety. And lastly, it was considered cruel from the outset to plan to take down any animal with too little penetrating power. And naturally, many wounded animals will in the end result in many wounded (or killed) hunters. Therefore, all the above mentioned animals were excluded from the 1983 law.

As was later realized, the bow and arrow industry have produced much improved shooting power since the re-vitalizing of the ancient sport in the early twentieth century. Today, the penetrating power of the bow and arrow are simply awesome! With new information by local and international role players, attained on invitation of the Chief Directorate of Nature and Environmental Conservation, a new set of standards was formulated and selected after comments for the change of policy was received from

  • The international office of Safari Club International
  • The local office of Safari Club International
  • Professional Hunter's Association of South Africa
  • The Confederation of Hunting Associations of South Africa
  • Dallas Safari Club

This new set of standards then, was applied by an Executive Committee ruling in 1992. Now, the law opened up the way, with the result that all animals in South Africa may now, under certain conditions, be hunted with bow and arrow.

The possibilities and use of the modern bow and arrow in South African hunting circumstances

Once the experts have it their way, the modern bow and arrow is a most effective hunting weapon! In the USA bow hunting is flourishing to the extent that 2,6 million people are taking up the bow annually.

If the bow and arrow is used under the professional hunter's supervision, and if the stipulated conditions of use is adhered to, bow hunting can without doubt be used to hunt literally ALL the South African animals even the most dangerous of them! The Executive Committee's ruling in 1992 thus was received much enthusiasm. At last, the art of archery could once again be utilized in its true original conditions!

Bow hunting is much more difficult that hunting with a rifle. Everyone in the bow hunting field also have to reckon with the history of previously restrictive legislation, which means that no bow hunter outfitter will risk the entire bow hunting sport in South Africa by letting a hunting safari turn into a ugly party of killed and wounded tourists, because of unprofessional conduct. Experience with bow hunting thus is important to the extreme when dangerous animals are to be hunted.

Any bow hunter setting out to hunt dangerous game therefore, have to obtain a certificate of competence, issued by someone to whom the Department of Nature Conservation have given the right to be the judge of competence. Some outfitters have the right to issue the documentary proof that is needed. This may be a good talking point between a prospective hunter and an outfitter who advertise bow hunting services. Not only will the document of competence be needed to obtain bow hunting rights from the authorities ; the competency itself will be most important when drawing near that majestic buffalo or lion‚ which leads us also the question of what kind or category of animal may be encountered with what type of shooting power.

Amount of bow hunting energy needed for different categories of animals

Category I ‚ III requires 25 mm cutting width
Category IV ‚ V requires 28 mm cutting width

  Animals   Min. Kinetic Max. kinetic
Category I All smaller species up to the female   25 350
  nyala (the ewe) and blesbok, excluding      
  the warthog and bushpig and predators      
  larger than the black backed jackal      
Category II Most medium species, including the   40 400
  kudu, nyala bull, warthog, bushpig,      
  and about all predators, but excluding      
  the lion, leopard, gemsbuck and sable      
  antelope, and the crocodile      
Category III Still larger species, including the crocodile, 65 450
  lion, leopard, gemsbuck and sable antelope,    
  excluding the giraffe and buffalo      
Category IV Large animals, namely the giraffe and   80 700
Category V Enormously large animals, namely the   105 850
  Black rhino, the white rhino, the hippo-      
  potamus and, of course, the elephant      


Hunting a dangerous animal with bow and arrow

Dangerous animals can only be hunted if a very good chance exist that the animal will not be wounded, but killed first time round. Danger looms the moment an animal, let alone a most dangerous one, is hurt but still powerful enough to use its natural power.

This well known hunting tip applies all the more when the hunt is done by bow and arrow.A strict set of hunting conduct, standard routine for the accompanying professional hunter, will be applied for bow hunting:

The hunt will not be done if the hunter can't move in to no more than 25 metres from the dangerous animal

Hunting of the hippopotamus and the crocodile can only take place if the target that a hunter should aim to, is above the water.

When a buffalo is standing sideways, with its tail somewhat to the side of the hunter, no shot can be fired to the side of the buffalo if the angle with which the arrow will penetrate the animal exceeds 25 degrees (compared to an imaginative line from the head to the tail). If it is standing sideways with its head towards the hunter, don't fire at all at angles! And when the Category V animals are taken on, don't fire unless you're using a flat 90degree angle with the above mentioned line.

If a hide is taken as camouflage, remember that it also restricts movement. Two-way radio communication and good enforcement of the hide(s) may not be such a bad idea. We are talking about brute animals here!

The use of aids is allowed with the idea of both safeguarding the hunter and helping to cut down on the unnecessary wounding (or prolonged wounding) of animals. This may also helps with the determining of arrow placing.

These, amongst others, may include:

-a radio transmitter in the shaft of the arrow to trace down your hippopotamus or crocodile (floating buoy's and tow-lines may also be used)

infra red sensors to trace animals that have been shot right before sunset, at night or that have been shot in a very dense bush

night seeing equipment to increase the bow hunters effectiveness at night ; also, the use of luminous material at the impact side of the arrow, or the use of an arrow with a knock that features its own light.


Listing of different types of bows


The crossbow isn't used much in South Africa, mostly due to its short arrow, which makes it somewhat ineffective for hunting. Modifications have resulted in other types of bows that will be discussed below. A highly sophisticated compound crossbow is available which can be as accurate as a rifle. To some hunters, its sophistication level is simply too high and one tend to forget that it is bow hunting we're talking about.


Combining elements of the American flatbow and the old English longbow, resulted a very deadly bow with a composite of wood and glass fibre, utilizing a heavy arrow - the modern longbow. It's disadvantages for bushveld hunting is that its handling runs you into trouble once the density of the bush increases, while its propulsion, due to the heavy arrow, isn't as quick as that of the recurve or compound bow. But: it was the longbow (one made of bamboo used by Howard Hill) that - in modern recording - first took down the Big Five. The longbow will always be the favourite to those that feels that the modern bows‚ sophistication level is becoming an overkill.

Recurve Bows

If shooting with a short bow and a light arrow with a flat trajectory is what you have been seeking, you may opt for the recurve bow. In contrast to the longbow, it yields brilliant power over long distances. It is also made of glas fibre and wood, or out of solid glas fibre.But it is a most unforgiving bow as well: errors from the archer will be boldly underlined on the target (if it hits the target at all!). Another disadvantage is that a split second is given to the animal to dodge away, for a slap of the string against the bow's recurve side may disclose that the race between arrow and soundis still won by sound. Silencers fittings at the recurve side of the bow may help.

Compound bows

This very sophisticated bow may be called the favourite of the hunting bows in use today. Designed like other bows, but given enhanced leverage, it features cables, pulleys and cams to thrust out the arrow with immense power. To most people, its hunting record is much better than what they achieve with the other bows. It is shorter than the longbow, and much faster and steady than the others. The secret of this one's popularity may especially be due to the fact that it's back pull reaches a peak, after which more pull actually isn't such an effort any more, by still enhances performance. It also results in a much easier aim. So, if a steady aim with very good striking power is what you're after, this is the one!

Arrows and Arrowheads

Restrictions have been assimilated into legislation that concerns arrows and the devices fitted in front of the arrows. This means:

  • Category I and II animals may be hunted with any fixed or removable arrowheads. The minimum width should be 2,8 cm.
  • Category III animals may only be hunted with a single forged arrowhead with two cutting edges, which starts at the tip, or with fitted double bladed arrowheads with a carbon/steel rod at it's centre, also withminimum width of 2,8 cm
  • All arrowheads must have at least two cutting edges.
  • Arrowheads are not allowed to have moving parts or barbs.
  • Wood, glass fibre, carbon fibre or aluminium may be used for the production of arrows.