If you’re a bow hunter, you may have seen stories on TV about hunting in exotic locations, but have you ever considered that you could take your own trip to places like Africa, Alaska, or even all the way to New Zealand, just to go hunting. It may seem just too far or too expensive, but those that have felt the thrill of hunting exotic big game often can’t wait to go back again, and again.
Traditionally used as a term to refer to hunting Africa’s big five (lion, elephant, cape buffalo, leopard and the white rhino), the term ‘big game’ is now used to include a wide range of large animals in Africa and across the world, including tigers, antelope, moose, bears, and bison.
Big game hunting has a long human history. Cave paintings portray early man hunting mammoths in groups with spears or rocks. Two of the most popular hunting methods, using a tree stand or spot and stalk, are both popular with big game hunting. Blinds may also be used at some times of year, usually in the dry season when animals visit the watering holes more often.
In Africa, there are up to ten big game species available at any one time, and you can expect to shoot around six animals during a ten day hunt. You may not realize just how much variety you’ll find in both the animals and experiences. As well as those you hunt, there are other exotic animals you can simply enjoy being so close to.
Africa also offers a wide range of climate and terrain to give you the best experience available. Some private ranges are set up specifically for bow hunting, and so give the best quality game and conditions available. The main bow hunting season runs from late May, through to September/October, with July and August being the most popular months to visit. This is because they are the driest months, and so animals visit the watering holes often. Many of the animals rut in late May to June, and so this can also be an exciting time to hunt.
Many visitors are surprised to find out how modern the infrastructure and accommodation is in some African countries, giving you all the comforts of home. There are also other hunts available for those who would like to experience the ‘old Africa’ and hunt in a more rugged environment, including hunting and tracking on foot. The climate and terrain of African ranges make them ideal for bow hunting with either method. Many groups and agencies now offer specialized guided tours for big game hunting. These tours often include guides who are highly experienced with big game hunting, and the type of animals in their particular area. They will also often have their own blinds or hides set up in the perfect places.
Before you’re getting ready to go, remember to check the minimum equipment requirements with your tour group. If you are not already, you should get comfortable with taking shots from hides and elevated positions. Shots can be made from around twenty yards, but follow up shots could also be made from more than thirty yards. When bow hunting in Africa, accuracy is definitely key.
Another amazing location for bow hunters, and an easier trip from mainland USA, is Alaska. If you’ve never visited before, the scenery on its own is worth the trip. From snow capped mountains and glaciers to blue water and amazing tundra in the summer, you’ll want to make sure to bring your camera. You may want to consider more than one trip to take advantage of all the different game available at different times and locations.
One of Alaska’s most sought after big game is the brown bear. Here, they grow larger than anywhere else due to the abundance of food available, in particular salmon from the annual spawning. The bears average around 8 and a half feet, but can be over ten feet, and weigh more than 1,800 pounds. The longer daylight hours in Alaska make for an amazing brown bear hunt.
Grizzly bears are also abundant in some parts of Alaska, and there is one area that is open for grizzly hunting year round. The best time to visit for grizzlies is June, August, and September. Alaska also offers hunting for moose and black bear. Just like the brown bear, Alaska’s moose are the biggest available and the occasional one has reached over seventy inches. Hunting moose can also give the added thrill of travelling to the hunting grounds via airboats and jet boats.
During July to September, the tundra gives unprecedented access for hunting black bears. It’s not uncommon to see over forty bears in a single week in early spring. Other species available for game hunts in Alaska include Sitka deer, mountain goat, dall ram, wolf and wolverine (some may require additional licenses).
New Zealand is a destination that many bow hunters may not have thought of, but it’s well worth a look. As well as spectacular scenery, it offers big game animals that you may not experience anywhere else in the world, including stag, deer, wild boar, goat, ram and water buffalo. The main trophy hunting season is from March to September, but bow hunting is available year round, and so there’s plenty of opportunity for any non-hunting members of your family or group to enjoy other activities too.
Hunting in New Zealand can involve traveling over some challenging terrain in all weather conditions, and so you’ll generally enjoy a hunting trip here more if you’re fit and in good physical condition. However, many safari groups have alternatives available for those who need it.
When going on any big game bow hunting safari, you will want to be very well equipped for any situation, perhaps more than you are going hunting locally. Each area will have minimum regulations on the draw weight, and crossbows are also illegal in many countries. There may also be restrictions on the materials and length of arrows, as well as the type of broadheads used. Some broadhead arrows can only be used on particular species.
Once at many of the safaris or guided trips, particularly in Africa, you’re unlikely to be able to purchase any equipment or emergency bow supplies. It’s therefore recommended that you bring along a good supply of arrows, bow strings, and any other spares you think you may need. Good camo colors for here are usually muted gray, brown and yellow.
As well as your bow and arrows, other recommended equipment include an arrow bonnet to protect arrows while travelling, more than one release, gloves, arm guards, a mask or face point, small set of tools to make bow repairs on the go, a sharpening tool, wax, lubricant, glue, a pocket knife, binoculars, a range finder, and a small day backpack.
You may also want to consider a portal bow press, extra strings and cables, peep sights, arrow rest, sight, stabilizer, limb dampeners, silencers, shafts, vanes, nocks, weight tubes, and targets. You will be unlikely to able to buy any spare parts once you’ve arrived, and having a broken bow on the trip would be a disaster.
So, next time you see a big game hunt on TV and wonder what it might be like to experience it, grab your computer and check out some of the safaris available. Many tour operators put together special bow hunting trips or group packages, making a trip to hunt exotic big game more affordable than ever.
A big game bow hunting destination you may not have considered is Australia. Like Africa, the country offers beautiful and diverse landscapes. Although big game hunting in Australia is generally restricted to the water buffalo, the hunt is a fantastic experience for bow hunters, and a different trophy than many will experience. The remote location in the north means that you can hunt in truly unspoiled wilderness. The animals are unpredictable and need to be treated with caution, making for a challenging hunt.