A strategy for putting bowhunting
back on the map

Bowhunting as a recreational sport in South Africa is in a recession. The relaxation of statutory procedures for obtaining rifle hunting licences has caused an exit of bowhunters from the sport. Another reason for this exodus is the sharp increase in the price of imported bowhunting equipment due to the unfavourable rand-US$ exchange rate, particularly in the period 2014–2016

A significant number of bowhunting equipment shops have closed down or have shifted their focus to archery equipment and supplies. Archery equipment sales have increased in the order of 30% while bowhunting equipment sales have decreased by approximately 50%. In addition, an increasing number of hardly used second-hand bowhunting equipment is being advertised on social media such as Facebook.

Simultaneously, rifle hunting in South Africa has also declined significantly. Sharp increases in the prices of huntable animal species and limited hunting budgets due to political instability and consequent poor economic conditions are given the blame for the situation. In addition, an increasing number of game ranches and farms
have shifted their core business from hunting supplier to game breeding and live game selling.

The decline of bowhunting venues probably explains the decline of advertising by game ranch owners in Africa’s Bowhunter. It probably also explains the sharp decline of
bowhunting equipment and accessory suppliers in this magazine.

The key question that comesto mind is: Are these arguments really the reason why bowhunting as a recreational sport in South Africa is in a recession? If this is true, why is archery as a recreational sport booming – keeping in mind that archery equipment and accessories are significantly more expensive than bowhunting equipment and accessories?

The answer is a categorical NO if one looks at the findings of a recent survey. The results show that bowhunting is still the hunting method of choice among most of
the bowhunters who also hunt with rifles. The number one frustration of bowhunters is the declining availability and quality of bowhunting venues. The number two frustration is that little is done by both bowhunting organisations and bowhunting publications to promote bowhunting as a sport, and the third frustration is that there is no bridging mechanism in place that would enable a natural osmosis between archery and bowhunting as subsections of the same sport.

Among the needs of the bowhunting fraternity the following five were identified as “most important”:Reliable and valid information about bowhunting venues of
1. Valuable information about bowhunting knowledge, skills and techniques
2. Technical information of available bowhunting equipment
3. Interesting articles about bowhunting successes and achievements
4. An attractive picture/photo gallery of bowhunting achievements

Need Number OneThe required information about bowhunting venues of choice, includes the following:
• Availability of huntable animal species at reasonable prices
• Quantity and quality of hides
• Availability and quality of accommodation facilities at reasonable prices
• Availability and quality of animal slaughtering and carcass cooling facilities
• Availability and competence of skinning and caping staff
• Availability and competence of housekeeping staff
• Level of hunting and hospitality service management

Need Number Two
Valuable information about bowhunting knowledge, skills and techniques includes, includes but is not limited to the following:
• Bowhunting ethics
• Tissue Penetration Index (TPI)
• Bow tuning
• Arrow tuning and sharpening
• Hunting equipment (i.e. clothing, rangefinders, first aid, etc.)
• Bush mechanics
• Form flaws
• Compensation for the parallax error
• Hunter behaviour in blinds
• Walk-and-stalk technique
• How to overcome “bokkoors”

Need Number Three
Technical information of available bowhunting equipment includes, but is not limited to the following:
• Different kinds of bows and arrows
• Different designs of bows and arrows
• Performance of different brands of bows
• Performance of different arrow brands

Need Number Four
To be rated “interesting” by a bowhunter who reads an article,
the article must comply with at least the following five criteria:
• In must be written in simple-to-follow, layman’s (nontechnical) language.
• It must provide information about the hunter and the hunter’s bowhunting competence (i.e. first attempt, novice, experienced, etc.).
• It must provide details of the animal hunted, the hunting equipment used and the hunting method (i.e. tree hide, walk-and stalk, etc.).
• It must motivate bowhunters to want to achieve similar or even better hunting results.
• It must provide helpful tips that can be used to achieve similar successes.

Need Number Five
The psychology behind the publication of a picture gallery in a bowhunting publication is very simple. It satisfies the hunter’s need for recognition and the need for status (ego) development. Readers who browse bowhunting picture galleries are particularly interested in the following supporting information:
• Name of the hunter
• Statistics of the animal hunted
• Bow hunting equipment used for hunting the animal
• Method used (i.e. surface hide, elevated hide, tree hide, walk-and-stalk, etc.).
• Ranch/farm where the animal was hunted.

SABA (the South African Bowhunters’ Organisation), which was established to protect and promote the interests of bowhunting, and Africa’s Bowhunter, which is a dedicated bowhunting magazine, have jointly decided to perform the following role in satisfying the five needs of the bowhunting fraternity.
• Satisfying need number one: To satisfy this need a voluntary grading system for the grading of dedicated bowhunting venues (game ranches and game farms) will be
introduced. The following six criteria were identified at a workshop that was held from 28 to 29 December 2016:
5. Bowhunting provider compliance with statutory and related requirements. This includes required permits, indemnity, farm and hunting rules, and hunting and accommodation price details.
6. Quantity and quality of bowhunting provider infrastructure for the provision of bowhunting. This includes types and number of blinds, hide furnishings, hides catering and other bowhunting methods (e.g. tree blinds, walk-and-stalk, hunting on horseback, etc.)
7. Quantity and quality of huntable animals. This includes variety of species, health and condition of animals, systems for animal stock management, parasite control and quota administration.
8. Quality of bagged animal recovery procedure, abattoir and butchery. This includes the availability and competence of trackers, animal recovery vehicle, skinning skill, cooling/storage facility and meat processing capability.
9. Quantity and quality of accommodation facilities. This includes type of accommodation, building structure, water and energy (e.g. electricity, solar power, etc.), and cooking and braai facilities.
10. Quality of support services. This includes housekeeping, communication, medical and safety services, electronic payment services, as well as the hospitality of cleaning, tracking, skinning and management staffs. It also includes special services such as bow practice and bow tuning services.

Owners of game ranches and game farms that provide bowhunting safaris as one of their products will be invited to have their venues graded. The grading will be done by an independent panel of certified assessors appointed by the Exco of SABA.

The grading of graded game ranches and game farms will be published in a special supplement of each future volume of Africa’s Bowhunter. This information will surely be a helpful source of information for bowhunters when they plan where they want to book their future hunting safaris.

• Satisfying the other four needs: Needs two to five directly relate to the contents of Africa’s Bowhunter. The magazine is currently in the process of a “face-lift”. The points discussed in this article will be used as criteria for the planning of future volumes.

Readers who have any additional suggestions for the improvement of the magazine are invited to write or phone the editor, Rean Steenkamp at ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) or 083 325 6700.

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