Bowhunting – that first time

SA Jagter Hunter - - INHOUD - By DA­NIE GEEL

Da­nie Geel

The es­sen­ti­als no­vi­ce bo­w­hun­ters should keep in mind...

I­ha­ve been hun­ting with bows for 11 y­e­ars now and want to share so­me of my ex­pe­rien­ces with pro­specti­ve bow hun­ters and gi­ve them so­me tips.

Af­ter buying a bow, get the help of pro­fes­si­o­nals to set it up and tu­ne it pro­per­ly – the help­ful pe­op­le at the ar­chery pro shop will as­sist you. Ne­ver, e­ver try hun­ting with a bow that is not pro­per­ly tu­ned.

Your next step will be to le­arn to shoot your bow. A­gain, get pro­fes­si­o­nals to help you. The rig­ht stan­ce and form are very im­por­tant. From the start you need to get this rig­ht, be­cau­se bad ha­bits creep in soo­n­er than you can say ‘hunt’.

On­ce your form is cor­rect, practi­ce re­gu­lar­ly (e­very day). So­me pe­op­le say that you should on­ly shoot at ga­me from dis­tan­ces at which you can hit a ten­nis ball-si­ze tar­get. This is a good gui­de­li­ne that I still use to­day.

W­hen practi­cing, use full-co­lour, li­fe-si­ze tar­gets of the a­ni­mals you in­tend to hunt. Such tar­gets are free­ly a­vai­la­ble and they ha­ve the vi­tals dra­wn on them (u­su­al­ly faint red li­nes that are not vi­si­ble from nor­mal shoot­ing dis­tan­ces). T­he­se tar­gets are very good trai­ning aids, they will te­ach you w­he­re the vi­tals are and help you to i­den­ti­fy the cor­rect spot to aim for.


Re­mem­ber that you will use ar­rows fit­ted with the so-cal­led field points for practi­ce and bro­ad­he­ads (arrowheads with cut­ting ed­ges) to hunt with. It is im­por­tant to en­s­u­re that the

field points and bro­ad­he­ads shoot to the sa­me point of aim, ot­her­wi­se you will need to con­stant­ly tu­ne/ze­ro your bow be­fo­re a hunt. Me­cha­ni­cal bro­ad­he­ads (on­es w­he­re the cut­ting ed­ges fold o­pen as the ar­row stri­kes the tar­get) nor­mal­ly shoot to the sa­me point of aim as field points. I still re­gu­lar­ly ma­ke su­re be­fo­re a hunt that my field points and bro­ad­he­ads shoot to the sa­me point of aim. Fixed bla­de bro­ad­he­ads are a dif­fe­rent sto­ry – not all of them will shoot to the sa­me point of aim as the field points. Ask your ar­chery pro shop for as­sis­tan­ce.

In the past I ne­ver u­sed fixed bla­de bro­ad­he­ads be­cau­se they are dif­fi­cult to tu­ne but I ha­ve chan­ged my mind and ha­ve hun­ted the ma­jo­ri­ty of the last 20 a­ni­mals with fixed bla­des. The OZ-CUT bro­ad­he­ad from Aus­tra­lia pro­ved it­self on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­si­ons and is now a part of my se­tup. It is very e­a­sy to tu­ne them and they are tough as nails. I ha­ve u­sed the sa­me bro­ad­he­ad on fi­ve dif­fe­rent a­ni­mals, shar­pe­ning the bla­des af­ter e­very use.


W­hen you are re­a­dy to hunt choo­se your first a­ni­mal wi­se­ly. Wo­men and young­sters are not ca­pa­ble of shoot­ing po­wer­ful bows with high poun­dage draw weig­hts. Alt­hough you can success­ful­ly shoot a­ni­mals in the blue wil­de­beest class with a 50lbs bow (I ha­ve do­ne it) rat­her sett­le for so­mething smal­ler and less tough w­hen you shoot your first a­ni­mal.

Im­pa­las and wart­hogs are fa­vou­ri­tes be­cau­se they are af­for­da­ble but ma­ny are woun­ded by first ti­mers be­cau­se t­he­se a­ni­mals are very quick to re­act to any sus­pi­ci­ous sound and of­ten ma­na­ge to “string jump” an ar­row. (W­hen they he­ar the sound of the bow string as the ar­row is being re­le­a­sed, they jump a­way, re­sulting in a bad­ly pla­ced ar­row.) I ha­ve seen on nu­me­rous oc­ca­si­ons how t­he­se a­ni­mals can mo­ve fi­ve to eig­ht in­ches be­fo­re the ar­row hits, e­ven with a su­per­fast se­tup at dis­tan­ces un­der 20 y­ards. T­he­re­fo­re my re­com­men­da­ti­on is that your first quar­ry should be a bles­buck or a ku­du cow.

A­not­her im­por­tant as­pect is to ma­ke su­re that you don’t f­or­get any of the es­sen­ti­als at ho­me. I nor­mal­ly ma­ke a list be­fo­re I start packing to en­s­u­re that I do not le­a­ve so­mething be­hind.

Dou­ble check all the i­tems that you in­tend to ta­ke with. Your bow trig­ger is so­mething you will pro­ba­bly f­or­get so­mew­he­re in the fu­tu­re w­het­her at the lod­ge or e­ven wor­se, at ho­me. And wit­hout it, your »

» hunt is ba­si­cal­ly o­ver. Ma­ke su­re that your bro­ad­he­ads are pro­per­ly se­cu­red in your bow ca­se and that the bla­des are no­w­he­re ne­ar the bow string.


He­re is a sum­ma­ry of the i­tems I be­lie­ve you can­not go wit­hout: • A bro­ad­he­ad butt (so­me

farms do not ha­ve any butts) • Bi­no­cu­lars and a ran­ge­fin­der • S­kin­ning kni­fe (ma­ke su­re it

is sharp) • Wind in­di­ca­tor • Fa­ce­mask and glo­ves • Be­a­nie • A backup trig­ger • Me­a­su­ring kit • Le­a­fy suit • Flash­lig­ht

Ma­ke su­re that your ca­me­ras’ bat­te­ries are char­ged be­fo­re you le­a­ve, this way you will not ha­ve to re­mem­ber to do it w­hen you get to your des­ti­na­ti­on. Al­ways ta­ke a spa­re bat­te­ry and the char­gers a­ny­way.

Af­ter ar­ri­ving at the ga­me farm, ma­ke su­re w­hat a­ni­mals are on the hun­ting list. Ne­ver as­su­me that you may shoot so-cal­led pest a­ni­mals such as ba­boons, jackals, sna­kes or ga­me bi­rds. I know pe­op­le who ha­ve do­ne that, on­ly to be se­ver­e­ly pe­na­li­sed by the far­mer for shoot­ing so­mething which they we­re not al­lo­wed to.

Most far­mers will ask you to shoot a few ar­rows to check your bow’s sig­hts (ze­ro). If they don’t, do it a­ny­way. Just li­ke with rifles, it is ne­ces­sa­ry to check your bow and shoot a few ar­rows. It boos­ts con­fi­den­ce and will warn you if a­ny­thing has go­ne wrong sin­ce your last practi­ce ses­si­on at ho­me.


To ma­ny pe­op­le walk and stalk is the on­ly way to hunt. Ho­we­ver, I would not re­com­mend that for the no­vi­ce bow hunter, un­less he or she is an ex­pe­rien­ced and ac­com­plis­hed stal­ker – re­mem­ber that you need to get within 25m or so of an a­ni­mal. Rat­her use the hi­de or tree stand that the far­mer of­fers. I know am­bus­hing ga­me in a hi­de or tree stand is a con­tro­ver­si­al hun­ting met­hod but I be­lie­ve it is the most e­thi­cal way for a no­vi­ce to start his bow hun­ting ca­reer. It is ex­tre­me­ly dif­fi­cult to stalk within 25m of an a­ni­mal. You will be ner­vous and pro­ba­bly ti­red. The a­ni­mal mig­ht spot you and you mig­ht rush the shot, re­sulting in woun­ding the a­ni­mal.

I stri­ve to be success­ful on foot and o­ver the y­e­ars ha­ve hun­ted 22 spe­cies on foot with my bow and ar­row. But, and this is a big but, I al­so ap­pro­ve the use of blinds and tree stands as an e­thi­cal way to hunt ga­me. My dad for ex­am­ple will pro­ba­bly ne­ver shoot an a­ni­mal on foot with his bow. He is an ex­pe­rien­ced hunter and ha­ve hun­ted for mo­re than 25 y­e­ars with a rifle but he doe­sn’t get the time to practi­ce e­nough with his bow to be a let­hal hunter and to ma­ke an e­thi­cal shot on a walk and stalk hunt. And se­cond­ly he en­joys the calm­ness and qui­et­ness of sit­ting in a blind af­ter a hectic week in the ci­ty.


To get back to my o­ri­gi­nal sto­ry, the far­mer drop­ped you off at a hi­de or tree stand and now the long wait be­gins. I al­ways draw my bow in the hi­de to ma­ke su­re that I am com­for­ta­ble with e­ach of the shoot­ing win­dows. Ma­ke su­re that the bow’s cams are not too c­lo­se to the hi­de’s roof w­hen you are at full draw. If you shoot and the cam hits the roof your bow will ex­plo­de in your hands. In e­le­va­ted blinds, ma­ke su­re that you ha­ve e­nough ar­row cle­a­ran­ce, ma­ny hun­ters ha­ve hit the bottom (sill) of the shoot­ing win­dow. You will pro­ba­bly miss the a­ni­mal and you are gua­ran­teed to ha­ve a big frig­ht.

In­spect the blind ca­re­ful­ly be­fo­re get­ting in­si­de – ma­ke su­re the­re a­ren’t any sna­kes to wel­co­me you. I ha­ve spent a w­ho­le mor­ning with a Mo­zam­bi­que spit­ting co­bra in a hi­de wit­hout kno­wing it. W­hen I fi­nal­ly no­ti­ced the sna­ke, it was too la­te to es­ca­pe and he spat at me twi­ce. I got a­way OK, but it was a ter­ri­fying ex­pe­rien­ce.

Ta­ke ex­tra ca­re to be as qui­et as pos­si­ble. Be very ca­re­ful be­cau­se grey loe­ries, gui­nea-fo­wl (AKA – po­li­ce chic­kens) and ba­boons, are ex­tre­me­ly a­lert and will de­fi­ni­te­ly warn ot­her ga­me of your pre­sen­ce.

W­hen your in­ten­ded quar­ry is within ran­ge, wait until it is stan­ding com­ple­te­ly bro­ad­s­i­de or e­ven bet­ter, quar­te­ring a­way s­lig­ht­ly. Ta­ke a few deep bre­at­hs and don’t draw your bow be­fo­re you are 100% re­a­dy. Dou­ble check for a­ni­mals stan­ding be­hind your tar­get. Draw the bow, aim, squee­ze the trig­ger and fol­low through pro­per­ly. I ha­ve seen too ma­ny pe­op­le mess up the shot be­cau­se they lif­ted their he­ads on re­le­a­sing the string to see w­het­her the ar­row has hit the a­ni­mal. My re­com­men­da­ti­on is to ta­ke a friend with a vi­deo ca­me­ra al­ong. He must re­cord w­hen you shoot. You can then wa­tch the foota­ge quick­ly to see w­het­her the ar­row has struck in the rig­ht pla­ce and you will ha­ve a re­cord of the mo­ment that you can en­joy for ma­ny y­e­ars to co­me.


En­joy e­very mo­ment of that first hunt be­cau­se it will pro­ba­bly be the fu­el for your bowhunting passion for the rest of your li­fe.

Con­g­ra­tu­la­ti­ons, you are now a bo­w­hun­ter! You can be proud of this a­chie­vement e­ven if you u­sed a hi­de or tree stand on your first few a­ni­mals. My first a­ni­mal was a beau­ti­ful grey dui­ker, ta­ken from the back of a bak­kie w­hen I was in my e­ar­ly teens. S­ha­ring that mo­ment with my be­st friend (my dad) is so­mething I will not f­or­get as long as I li­ve. E­ven though it will be 11 y­e­ars ago this Ju­ly (the 2nd of Ju­ly to be pre­ci­se) I can still re­mem­ber how proud I felt that day.

Yes, the ul­ti­ma­te hunt in my o­pi­ni­on is a success­ful hunt on foot with my bow, but for a no­vi­ce it will most li­ke­ly be a frus­tra­ti­on. Ta­ke your time and mas­ter the art of shoot­ing an a­ni­mal from a hi­de or tree stand. Then, as you pro­gress and your con­fi­den­ce grows, ta­ke up walk and stalk hun­ting.

Bowhunting will chan­ge the way you look at hun­ting with a rifle. I still hunt with a rifle but gi­ve me my bow any day of the week and I’m hap­py.

I am plan­ning fu­tu­re ar­ti­cles a­bout my ex­pe­rien­ces and the les­sons I ha­ve le­arnt whi­le bowhunting on foot.

My first a­ni­mal with a bow and ar­row 11 y­e­ars ago – a day I will al­ways re­mem­ber.

A he­a­vy se­tup is not ne­ces­sa­ri­ly nee­ded w­hen hun­ting big ga­me. I shot this blue wil­de­beest bull with a bow set at 50 pounds. In the end shot pla­ce­ment is w­hat counts.

A very ni­ce bles­buck ram I hun­ted with my good friend Rei­no van As­we­gen at N­ga­la Ku­la­la Sa­fa­ris. In my o­pi­ni­on a bles­buck is the be­st a­ni­mal for a first-time bo­w­hun­ter.

I de­ci­ded re­cent­ly to try out fixed bla­de bro­ad­he­ads. I u­sed an OZCUT bro­ad­he­ad on this gems­buck bull, which re­sul­ted in a full pas­sthrough. I will be a­ble to use this bro­ad­he­ad a­gain af­ter shar­pe­ning it.

I lo­ve u­sing a tree stand w­hen I hunt with my bows.

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