Bowhunting Africa Questions with McKenzie Sims

Bowhunting Africa Questions with McKenzie Sims

Bowhunting Africa by Mckenzie Simms

I want to start this story off by admitting I’m the farthest thing from a bow hunting expect in any country or even in general. I love bow hunting; I get extremely excited when I get in close on animals and due to my excitement, I have missed a lot. I have even lost a couple of animals in the process. Now I know that sounds bad and is not my proudest moment, but it’s called hunting for a reason and If anyone tells you they have never lost an animal, they probably haven’t hunted enough. I do practice and work hard at trying to better my shooting abilities but when It comes down to drawing back it’s like I black out and lose all control of my senses. If that ever stops, I think I should stop hunting.
archery hunting
Bow Hunting Africa 2021

I have only been on two bow specific safaris but have traveled to Africa with my bow on three occasions. The two bow only trips were to South Africa, the Limpopo province, and the Northern Cape. The third trip was to Zambia where I was packing my bow to try for a cape buffalo and a hippo on dry land. Both never happened but I did get lucky and got a few different species with my bow while over there, but this was not a Bow specific safari. Now on my two bow only Safaris the weather was never idea for bow hunting the timing was great for one while I was a bit late, or you can say very early for the other. With this I want to share my key take aways from each of these safaris with you to help you better prepare yourself for planning your bow hunting Safari.

 In July 2013 I traveled to the Limpopo province of South Africa to hunt a few plains game species with my bow now this was sort of a unique hunt as I wasn’t hunting with a outfitter per say because the property I was on wasn’t a hunting property they didn’t have a lot of different game species but the game they had was primary for feeding their predators that they had in for rehab and for breeding. This place had multiple lions, even white lions, they had cheetahs, Hyena, and even a Monster of a leopard that they had raised since he was a cub that was left on his own. So, everything I was to hunt would be food for these animals. July is meant to be good time for bow hunting as its mid-winter everything has dried up the water sources are getting lower, and the food has lost a lot of its nutrition value, so the wildlife comes to water and food sources frequently.

I have spent a lot of time in Africa throughout the winter months over the years, but this time was different. See our winters in Southwest Wyoming can be brutal we measure snow not in inches but in feet and during the winter it is very common to see days and even weeks where we are below zero Fahrenheit and it’s not uncommon to have several days that hit negative thirty five Fahrenheit with the windchill The wind is brutal here even during our summer days we get extremely windy times where its thirty, forty, and even fifty mile and hour winds so I’m use to the wind. But I have never experienced wind in Africa like I did during this week of July the wind was howling making it much colder for Africa standards. Now the wind didn’t help in many ways. 1, it was colder, so the game didn’t move as much, 2, the game didn’t want to move with the howling winds as it affects all their senses that keep them alive, 3 shooting a bow and arrow in the wind is

much more difficult to hold steady and your arrow drifts much more. So, from the beginning we knew we had our work cut out for us and over the seven days I was only able to get three shot opportunities. One was on the first day from a pop up blind over a water source where I got a baboon, the next was Day three when I took a Impala out of a elevated tree blind machan and then on day five out of the same blind I arrowed a blue wildebeest that we spent the next two days tracking without finding it, my shot was just a bit high and clipped one lung and if you know blue wildebeest you know they are a very tough animal. They did find it a few days after I left, they figured the wildebeest had died that same day but with little blood to follow and so may tracks around he was lost in the mix, the good thing is the meat was still salvageable from a feeding predators’ standpoint so not to be considered a waste. My key take away from this Safari was no matter how much planning you do and how perfect the timing is mother nature can always throw a wrench in your plans, so be prepared for that and take it as it comes, remember a bad day on safari is better than a good day at work unless that good day at work adds to your Safari fund.

bow hunting africa
2013 Archery Impala
Africa hunting
You can see my shot was too far back resulting in not finding this bull for a few days.

My second Archery Safari took place in the Northern Cape in November of 2021 now this is where I say I was a bit late or extremely early for prime archery conditions. I mentioned that the winter months are very good for bow hunting because the animals tend to frequent water and food sources for as their resources have dwindled over the winter (dry) months. Now November can be extremely great for bow hunting as its getting warmer and the rains have yet to really start to bring back the new growth and much needed water. However, my timing was a little off I arrived November 5th but the week prior to me arrival they had a few really good early rain storms so the bush was beginning to come to life making the food source be more abundant, making them not rely on feed, they still would need water but it did fill up natural spots of water so It was harder to pin point where the game would be.
My second mistake was making this Safari only 5 days this is short in all standards but even shorter for the bow hunting conditions we were about to face. The first morning of Safari we sat in a hide that placed us ground level. This is a cool system that’s very popular in Southern African bow hunting camps. It is where the ground is dug out and a solid structure blind placed in the hole, these blinds looked like massive rocks. While we sat in the blind and watched Africa come to life that morning with the sun painting a picture across the Africa landscape Danie and I talked about how difficult it was going to be with all this fresh green grass sprouting up.
Nothing came to water or feed that morning so after a while we got picked up from the blind and went about trying the spot and stalk technique. This proved to be the way forward for this safari. We first stalked a monster of white springbok but as I mentioned at the beginning of the story I melt when I draw back my bow and that’s what happened, I drew back and sent a 650-grain grizzly stik arrow into a Buffalo thorn Acacias. I did redeem myself on this same big white Springbok just two days later.

This trip was fast and actioned packed with zero luck out of the blinds not for a lack of trying so we had to do everything spot and stalk we managed to end the safari with a few very fine antelope species in the salt but not all we were after. That is common of any given safari you will go on, you will have a key species list and you most likely won’t get them all but you probably will add a few animals of opportunity along the way that you didn’t have on your initial list.

Takeaway, sometimes timing of trips isn’t during the most opportune timing, but you just have to make the most of it and use what conditions you are given. You’re in Africa on Safari smile life is good.

south africa hunts
The end of my 2021 bowhunting Safari
bow hunting africa
Archery White Springbok
africa hunts
Sable Bull I photoed on this Safari
In May 2018 I packed a bow with me on a Safari to Zambia where the primary focus was a leopard and after that it would be to hunt cape buffalo and a dry land hippo with my bow. Where this was not a primary archery safari, and I was using a rifle for the cat It took a lot of our time and quota away with a rifle. We did get the cat early and that gave us time with the bow however May in Zambia is the very start of the season the bush is pretty thick and green so getting shots on the smaller plains game was tough in thick vegetation, for the primary focus of buffalo we either could find the right bull but not close the distance with the number of eyes or we could get close, almost to close in the very thick bush but never be able to pick out a mature bull so my quest for a bow buff still continues but on that trip.
I did manage to take a monster Puku that ranks high in the SCI record book with a bow and I took a an old warrior of Olive baboon. The takeaway from this trip is its very hard to be successful with a bow when you go on a safari with the bow just a second option, you almost need to have it be a bow only trip.
In the case of this Safari, you need to be ok leaving without a lot of the desired animals you had on your list. Second would be timing now with the Leopard being the main reason for the safari May was a great time and I could have done this cat with a bow and maybe I should have but that gives me good reason for another safari. If you wanted to do an archery focused Safari in this part of Zambia and a leopard wasn’t your number one animal I would have planned it for later in the year July- October where it much dryer the bush isn’t as thick and the game seems to congregate more giving you options for sitting water and stalking.
In conclusion when planning a bow hunting Safari its key to make a plan with the outfitter for the dates they best think work now that doesn’t always line up with our busy schedules and you’ve read a few of my hunts that didn’t happen during ideal archery time. That’s ok different times of the year are better for different species and for different methods, earlier is better for spot and stalk the ground is fresh and quitter on your feet but it’s also very think and can make getting a shot difficult. Later is good for sitting feed and water but the cavoite is the ground is very crunchy with all the leaf litter that has blanketed the ground.

Pick your top key species and make a plan with your desired outfitter. Focus on the main species you want and if others offer opportunities and you can afford to take them do so.  Hunting is hunting and nothing always works out 100% perfect that’s part of the fun in it, the challenges had, and the experiences earned.

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