South African Bowhunting: What to Shoot?

Posted by Jay McAninch on July 16, 2014 in Bowhunting
Kudu with koos and jay (800x534) "Quite simply, the kudu’s characteristics exemplify the best that South Africa offers." -- Jay McAninch, ATA president and CEO

A few weeks ago, my three grandsons and I studied a list of animals roaming the Wintershoek properties I would bowhunt in South Africa. We checked out the usual suspects: impala, hartebeest, Kudu, springbok, wildebeest and zebra, most of which my grandsons recognized. We also studied the shot-placement diagrams in Kevin Robertson’s “The Perfect Shot.” We then reviewed the many other species listed on the Wintershoek website, and found an amazing number in all shapes and sizes. Combined with that list of Wintershoek game animals Johnny Vivier sent, the boys were overwhelmed with the variety of critters I might encounter.

Although I’m excited about bowhunting South Africa, I know little about these animals’ habits and natural history, and I don’t know anyone with much bowhunting experience there. In addition, I don’t have a trophy room, and I’ve never collected much evidence of my previous hunts except memories. Those mementos include one mounted trophy white-tailed buck and two other whitetail racks with skull plates I shot during high school nearly 50 years ago. Along with those sentimental pieces, I’ve picked up sheds, and accumulated countless photos of animals I captured, necropsied or studied during a 25-year career as a wildlife-research biologist.

My thought process has been to hunt a species that would symbolize my trip, especially because I love the history, culture and people of the areas I hunt. Without much difficulty, I settled on the springbok. It’s a common species and is iconic to South Africans as their national animal. In fact, their rugby team is named the springboks. In talking to Wintershoek’s professional hunters (everyone calls these guys PHs), springboks are to South Africa what deer (and elk in the West) are to Americans. And in talking to nearly anyone I’ve met from South Africa, springboks are the most well-known hunted species. I also decided on the common springbok instead of a color variation, such as the copper, white or black springbok.

The second species that intrigues me is the kudu. The PHs – and South Africans, in general – greatly respect the kudu. This critter is regal, much like our elk. Its hide is light brown with a few light streaks running across its back and down its sides, while its spiraling horns are tall and twisted. Quite simply, the kudu’s characteristics exemplify the best that South Africa offers.

After the springbok and kudu, I struggled with my third choice. I wanted to consider species I could take using different hunting methods such as spot-and-stalk, still-hunting and blind hunting, but wasn’t sure what species I could pursue in Wintershoek’s habitats. I knew kudu and springbok were huntable from blinds, so I’m considering species that might provide a fun spot-and-stalk bowhunt.

The PHs provide valuable insights because they know the biology, ecology and history of each animal, and often share views about how South Africa’s hunting community views each animal. These savvy pros often provide interesting twists about specific species, including their experiences hunting each critter.

Of course, cost is a vital consideration in shooting South African animals on any safari property. The Wintershoek prices start at $400 to $500 for warthogs, common blesbuck, grey duiker, common impala, ostrich, common springbok, and steenbuck. The price hits nearly $10,000 for sable or roan, $15,000 for cape buffalo, and about $20,000 for a lion or Nubian Ibex. Axis and hog deer cost over $5,000, mouflon and Barbary sheep cost just under $5,000, and giraffe and red lechwe cost just under $4,000. For $500 to $1,500 hunters can take white blesbuck; bushbuck; bushpig; fallow deer; red hartebeest; mountain reedbuck; black, copper and white springbok; and black and blue wildebeest. Almost everything else costs between $1,500 and $3,500, which includes caracal, duiker, eland, klipspringer, kudu, nyala, reedbuck, waterbuck and zebra.

In addition to the cost to shoot an animal, you also must consider what you will do with each animal you take. Taxidermy options range from shoulder, pedestal and full mounts to skull mounts. The hides from some species can be tanned and/or made into rugs. In fact, I was surprised how many of the plains game species made elegant and interesting rugs. Shoulder mounts range from $500 to $600 for species the size of springbok, duiker, and impala; to $800 to $900 for kudu, gemsbok, zebra and warthog. Prices for eland and Cape buffalo hit $1,300, while giraffes command $2,500. If those prices are too high, the rates are reasonable for skull mounts and tanned hides. In addition, there are charges for crating and shipping, but venues like Wintershoek handle everything, including the difficult tasks of obtaining export permits and documentation for getting your mounts home.

So, I’m now off to hunt, and I have some ideas of what I want. I hope to fill my “bucket” with some animals I’ve never before seen, much less hunted and shot.