Bowhunting: Big Five/DG

Sep 8, 2011
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South Africa (Limpopo, Free-State, North West, Northern Cape) and Botswana (Tuli Area; Selebi-Pikwe, and Tsabong regions)
Hi hunters,

I would like to know a little more about Bowhunting as it pertains to Big Five and other Dangerous Game...

My stance on bowhunting used to be completely neutral as I have never taken a keen interest. As of the last few years I have started to note how bowhunters operate and what the general difference between bowhunting and rifle hunting is(besides the obvious). I'm not an expert on any level, but I do appreciate bowhunting for what its worth, both as a rifle hunter and as a non-bowhunter.

I love the way it spurrs the individual to get closer to the animal on foot, or to use ambush tac-tics(blinds etc)...these things are what the cavemen did and it is essentially this thrill of getting in touch with our 'inner caveman' that makes us book more and more hunts, again and again...I believe hunting is NOT only about the trophy, but that the trophy is only a cherry on the cake. Yes, getting the trophy is an ultimate goal and the initial objective in its technical sense, but as hunters we love what we get out of the entire experience from start to end with or without the trophy, it is something we cannot reduce to words if ever we wanted to fully explain it, so it is better left unsaid, because to try and explain what hunting actually means to a hunter, whether bow or rifle, on a subjective and an objective words can fully describe what you and I get out of hunting, period.

I do not understand how bows work. I get the science of it all, and have listened and noted, I comprehend the 'science' of our new age bow technology to a degree, it is not this that I do not understand.

I have watched many bowhunting clips, and to be honest I have not seen many clips where the Big Five or Dangerous game taken with bows went down on the first arrow like the Plains game do. I have seen a one-shot dispatch on a few dg/big 5 animals, but those who never went down on that first arrow tended to suffer a bit, and take a few arrows shot after shot, looking like a pin-cushion afterwards, expiring 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes after the intial arrow struck. I find it hard to believe this is the standard for bowhunting the big five and other dg.

Youtube and the like DOES NOT REPRESENT ALL HUNTING and at that it does not represent hunting accurately as it tends to show a lot of bulls**t that they try to pass off as hunting(not the issue here)... So, I am writing to find out more about bowhunting the big five and other dg. I know big five are tougher than Plains game etc and I am very well aware that a .600 Double rifle will also not necessarily take the animal down on the first round. My concern is how is bowhunting regulated to ensure, as far as is possible, a proper/good/decent/ethical dispatch. I have seen quite a few clips where these beasts do not go down, and then fight a bitter fight, taking arrows... Maybe that is just not my kind of hunt. I can see myself taking to hunting plains game with a bow.

Crucify me if you will but I am on your side. I saw a clip recently where the Outfitter said, "Spine him!", and this was the first shot, the intial shot, and the client did just that ...heaven help me that is not how I like to see an animal go... I am a hunter and I know what hunting is about and how things can turn quickly, and how things do not always go as planned, and that the situation sometimes calls for drastic measures that others will not understand unless they had been there.

I am not against anyone, I am just looking for guidance and information. I am not generalizing about Bowhunters or the Outfitters, or translating a few clips from youtube into what I perceive as bowhunting big five, I am asking you to show me what I may not see, 'you' the more experienced and established Outfitter, 'you' the Bowhunter. Neither rifle nor bowhunting, nor meat nor trophy hunting, is as far as the animal is concerned: 'fair' please understand it is not my intention to class different types of hunting as 'good' or 'bad'. I am a hunter, I hunt wild animals with a rifle where others do it with a bow. I am after knowledge on bowhunting the big five/dg.

Thanks in advance,

My concern is how is bowhunting regulated to ensure, as far as is possible, a proper/good/decent/ethical dispatch....

Arrows are not instantaneous unless you hit them in the head. (Which you already know.)
Different provinces/countries different rules though.
If I recall properly KZN banned Bow Hunting all Big 5, except Buffalo. (Anyone correct me if I am wrong)

(Compiled by RG Wilson )

The guide is based on the body mass of the animal, the arrow having a minimum mass of 7.5 grains/lb draw mass, and a minimum two bladed, steel cutting edged broadhead of minimum 28mm width:

Recommended minimum draw mass >95lb on all Big 5

KZN did studies on penetration and tried to follow the science and make regulations based on it.
Arrow Lethality Study, By Dr. Ed Ashby. Search the net and you will find the entire set.


The then Natal Parks Board was approached in 1982, by local game ranchers, to legalise bow hunting. As bow hunting is regarded as an illegal activity, primarily as a result of adverse comments on its unsuitability as a form of hunting. It was stated that it was unethical, as animals suffered, and it resulted in high wounding rates. ( Some years previous an overseas hunter had attempted to kill a white rhino with a bow, and after 8 arrows had been put into the animal it was eventually shot with a rifle).

1. Natal Nature Conservation Ordinance 15 of 1974, Section 48(1) 哲o person shall hunt or capture game (f) by means of a bow and arrow or crossbow and bolt; unless he is the holder of a permit issued to him by the Board and subject to such conditions as the Board may impose in such permit?

2. (a) The KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Management Amendment Act of 2002, Section 67 甜B]No person may hunt[/B] from a vehicle or aircraft, or by means of using an animal, bow, electrical device, explosive net noose, poison, snare, trap or other artificial light, unless he or she is the holder of a permit issued by the Conservation Service which authorises the use of the relevant means of hunting?

2. (b) Regulation 42 of above mentioned Act Prohibited methods or times for hunting or capture of indigenous animals No person shall hunt or capture indigenous animals (a) by means of any dog, trap, snare, set line, net, (excluding a hand net for the landing of fish, capture of insects (including baited traps for insects)), bow and arrow or crossbow and bolt, poison, immobilising substance, electrical device, explosive, bird lime or catapult; unless he or she is the holder of a permit issued to him or her by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and subject to such conditions which may be stipulated on such permit.

This actually means that whenever a bow hunter wanted to hunt game, he/she had to
physically apply for a permit to hunt over a specific period, on a specific property and
specify what animals were to be hunted.

This continued until 2001 when the Service was approached by the KwaZulu-Natal Hunting and Conservation Association to formulate a proposal to the Board making recommendations on amendments to traditional views and legislation.

A sub-committee was convened and the following were achieved:

a) the introduction of an annual permit system and linked data base which would allow for better controls;
b) a revised bow hunting return, with the proviso that permits would not be renewed if annual returns were not handed in;
c) new recommended minimum bow draw weights were set which would take into account the IBO(6) and AMO(9) standards as well as the availability of arrow shafts in standard weights;
d) the introduction of a comprehensive proficiency grading system that consisted of a practical training session and an examination to test the local amateur bow hunter's knowledge.
e) Certificates are issued to successful candidates who then apply for the annual bow hunting permit from EKZN Wildlife.[/I]
Hi Rohan

I think it is first and foremost important to realize and acknowledge as Brickburn said a bow does not kill instantaneously very much like a well placed shot with a rifle for the vitals it takes a few yards for the animal to expire. The main difference between rifle and bow hunting is that with bow hunting you are totally reliant on going for vital organs as I am sure you know and understand an arrow does not do well when there is bone involved.

With regards to rules and regulation there are certain standards set out by Nature Convection in South Africa they might differ from province to province but the basic guidelines remain the same across the board.

Please read up on this on PHASA's web site:
Bird and Bow hunting

I think something that everyone forgets from time to time is that guidelines or laws are our responsibility to enforce they can be set out by authorities but due to the nature of hunting it is impractical
to have police officers or nature conservation officers out in the field with us on every hunt.

Allmost in every instance it is up to us as Outfitter, Professional Hunters and clients to ensure that we abide by these laws as well as follow these guidelines to the best of our capabilities.

Now to get back to DG with bow personally I believe that youtube videos are not a fair assessment of what actually happens it is an edited version of what happened and not the whole story.

If your questions is as simple as can one kill DG with bow then the answer would be as simple as yes but like anything in life it is not quite as simple. The manner in which the hunt is conducted will directly effect the end result. Fairly often when hunting DG with rifle one would hope for a very well placed first shot and then take it from there if the animal does not go down at first one would expect the client to reload and quickly fire a follow up shot in an effort to end the animals pain as quickly as possible.

When bow hunting I am sure most will agree you do not have have the luxury of a quick follow up shot it would be the fist shot that counts so this is when a lot of pre shot preparation is important. I realize being a bow hunter myself that when an animal that you have been after for a number of day's presents itself it is easy to get impatient and let lose a risky shot at times this might sound harsh but it is unethical!

When hunting DG it is imperative that the animal is within a reasonable shooting distance (20-40 yards) and also most probably the most important point it presents a reasonable shot not facing you head on but instead as close to perfectly broad side as possible.

Should this be that case you have done everything possible to ensure that you have the best possible chance at hitting vital's and now it is a matter of both skill and luck.

Once the arrow is let fly it is imperative to assess the shot this is where a camera man comes in very handy. Regardless of how well you think the shot was place I would give it time a quick follow up will just result in the animal getting more stressed and adrenalin to pump resulting in a chase 9 out of 10 time's.

Should it be a poor shot and it happens from time to time even though we as hunters never intend on doing so I think it is important to give things time to settle down at least 20min some say an hour this is a tough call since know one wants the animal to suffer any longer than you can help it but chasing the wounded animal around and making a pin cushion out of him will only result in a messy situation and at times even a charge where the animal feels that it has no choice but to defend it self. Even though a dangerous situation is to be expected when hunting DG I think it best to avoid something like a charge.

Bottom line is getting in to a good position for the animal to present a shot is every important then depending on the situation after the shot it is vital to give the whole situation time to calm down assess the shot and determine a follow up plan that will best suite the particular situation..........

This is pretty much my take on hunting DG with bow if done properly there is no more exciting hunt but having an healthy respect for the animal as well as each particular situation is just good common sense!

Best Regards
Louis van Bergen
When hunting teh Big 5 in Africa witha bow, I think the most improtant aspects of bowhunting them comes in not the srqaw weight of the bow, but the combination of the draw weight of the bow, the arrow weight and the configuration and construction of the broadhead. You could very easily use a peak draw weight of 70#'s on todays compounds and with the right weight arrow, somewhere between 800 to 900 grains, and with a single bevel 2 blade COC BH and kill anything in Africa including the Big 5. Today's compounds carry more energy than bows of the past when everyone said you had to shoot 80, 90 even 100#'s to shoot any of the Big 5. I think where a lot of bowhunters and possibly PH's miss on the hunts is the wrong combination of equipment. I personally am looking at a Cape Buffalo hunt in 2014 and I will be shooting my bow at 70#'s, with the arrow pushing 900 grains and a high FOC with a COC single bevel broadhead. I am hunting lion or lioness in Sept and I will be using a set up like I use here in the states. After all, a lion or lioness is not a thick skinned, heavy boned animal. When you read what Dr. Ed Ashby has to say about everything, you will understand a little better about the arrow weight and single bevel BH connection.
Hi Rohan,

Wayne and Louis comments summed it up very well.

The general rule of thumb is to take a wounded animal out of its misery as quick as possible whether it is with a bow, rifle, handgun or a black powder rifle.

Most of these cases are caused by POOR SHOT PLACEMENT, hunters who are using the wrong equipment and does not know there limitations. It is important for a bow hunter to know his/her limitations and as soon as they can be honest to themselves about their limitations things like you mentioned shouldn't happen.

Here are some pictures of a pass threw on a Buffalo Bull with a 80 pound PSE X-Force using a German Kinetic broad head with a total arrow weight of 850gr.
View attachment 11051View attachment 11052View attachment 11053View attachment 11054View attachment 11055
Brickburn, Louis, Mudslinger, and Niel:

Thank you gentlemen for the objective and informative replies. Niel, if you can, please try and load those pics again because they are not opening...maybe ask Jerome for assistance, I am very interested to view your pics. Thanks for going through the effort of loading relevant pics, posting links, and giving your own views guys.

I believe bowhunting the Big Five can be quite exciting and just as ethical as any other bowhunt(but more exciting as dg hunts tend to be), which is why I enquired on this forum and never left it to 'youtube' or google...I never take anything on youtube as an accurate sample/representation of a particular domain.

I think Outfitters and PHs have a tremendous responsibility on their shoulders to ensure a legal and ethical hunt, particularly with bowhunting big five. To make the right call under a lot of pressure in the bush comes from a lot of experience and skill. It is unfortunate for me that the best knowledge and learning curves are borne from practical experience, as I probably will never get to bowhunt any dg in my life time, so I think the next best thing is to hear from experienced individuals.

Louis, I agree, a healthy dose of respect for the animals as well common sense goes a very long way.

As some of you know my business model has failed (or would fail) because it is just not viable as an SA citizen. But my research into the greater hunting scene continues, as I will be attempting to start a career in professional hunting(which is not an easy task, or necessarily the best life-choice to make).

I welcome the rest of the forum members to share their opinions and experiences on bowhunting the Big Five.
i was told that a bow hunter cant put an animal into the record books if it is finally dispatched with a rifle. maybe some one can let me know if this is correct.

That is the case with Pope & Young for sure. It is specific to Bow Hunting trophies.

As Niel said "poor shot placement" is the cause of many of the issues. I have personally watched videos of "prominent" bow hunters waiting extended periods of time (unacceptable to me) without dispatching the animal all in the name of the bow hunting record book. It disgusted me.

Sadly, I have also seen pictures of a "poacher" waiting beside a trophy sheep that he wounded, waiting for it to die. The pictures were taken by an enforcement officer who also did not act for some reason. Both individuals confounded me.

The nice thing about DG hunting in Africa is your PH will be there with a rifle if you screw up a shot. YOU can then ensure that the animal is dispatched quickly or they will. Myself, I'll skip the "official" bow kill for the animals sake if I screw up a shot.
the reason i asked was a PH friend of mine had quite a well known bow hunter as a client, and he made a mess of a shot on a very good trophy. they then followed the animal and i dont think the client could finish it off, and when my friend wanted to use his rifle to put it down the client refused, as he wouldnt have been able to put it in the record book and there was how shall we say a big disagreement. my friend was so disgusted he now wont do any bow hunts.
the reason i asked was a PH friend of mine had quite a well known bow hunter as a client, and he made a mess of a shot on a very good trophy. they then followed the animal and i dont think the client could finish it off, and when my friend wanted to use his rifle to put it down the client refused, as he wouldnt have been able to put it in the record book and there was how shall we say a big disagreement. my friend was so disgusted he now wont do any bow hunts.

I like your friends ethics!
Thats why Pope and Young records are of no interest for me and do not impress me at all. Its nonsens!
Niel, if you can, please try and load those pics again because they are not opening...maybe ask Jerome for assistance, I am very interested to view your pics.





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Very good pics Niel. A perfect example of a successful DG bowhunt... Thanks:thumbsup:

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