A-Typical Safaris – Adventure Quests


Poss pull quotes:

Combining archery and rifle adventures gives a hunter a broader perspective on the safari and builds in more exciting experiences.  Each type of pursuit has its own benefits, yet combining two methods on one safari adds extra challenge. 

By thinking differently, you can maximize the enjoyment of the safari and make it a true hunt of a lifetime. 

A-Typical Safaris   – Adventure Quests.

Africa is such a multidimensional continent, think creatively for greater challenge, fun and friendship.  (A.K.A. think outside the box)

By Joe Byers

“I haven’t shot a bow in a while, yet the prospect sounds exciting,” said Walt Lane – and we planned a hunt with Agagia Safaris in Namibia.

“You’ll love the bow blinds and being so close to game animals – it’s incredibly exciting,” I prompted.  “I’ll loan you some of my gear and we can hunt one day together.”

Lane had planned on a rifle safari, yet was sufficiently interested in bowhunting that he dedicated three months to practice and gear-tuning. The result was a great impala trophy and total expansion of his hunting horizons.  He then bought the bow and now enjoys two seasons of hunting.

Jere Neff had the opposite experience on a mid-May safari.  He had planned to hunt by waterholes with archery gear, but Namibia had an extended rainy season and a heavy downpour the day before arrival.  As a result, few animals visited the waterholes, so Neff borrowed a camp rifle and opted for the “long bow.”  While stalking a black wildebeest, a parade of zebra moved by and he downed a young stallion with a single shot.  The blacks, not the sharpest tool in the shed, barely moved off, and he took a good bull half an hour later.

Combining archery and rifle adventures gives a hunter a broader perspective on the safari and builds in more exciting experiences.  Each type of pursuit has its own benefits, yet combining two methods on one safari adds extra challenge.  Most safari companies have a rifle in camp, while crossbows offer the center-fire fan an arrow experience with equipment he will be familiar with.  Plan on the multi-tasking approach, or use it as Plan B.

Off-season safaris are worth considering.                                                                                                                      Most plains-game safaris in southern Africa are in the winter months of June, July and August when rain rarely falls and temperatures are cold enough to eliminate insects and crawly things.   However, hunts in April/May, and September/October can offer benefits that make them worth considering.  First, these times are shoulder season for most safari companies, such that you can book safaris under the one-year cycle and fill vacancies in their hunting schedules.  Secondly, airfares can be as much as half the cost of prime time, and frequent-flier miles are easier to use.

Yet one of my more interesting safaris was in October with my wife and a non-hunting couple on the Eden Conservancy in north-eastern Namibia.  Flowers and trees were blooming, bright-plumaged birds were nesting, and some of the first animal young of the year were born.  We found ostrich eggs, and several orphan chicks that we saved from jackals.

Bowhunting by waterholes can be an amazing experience at this time of year.   (On this safari, rain had not fallen for six months and the ground was extremely arid.) Most animals drink every day – a near “Disney” experience, as every beast and bird within miles visits your hunting site.  I had seen so many animals on my first day that I planned to keep a diary on the second.  Arriving at dawn, I took my flight itinerary, flipped it over to the white side and made a grid in 15-minute intervals with the plan to note what species drank in each section.

By the end of the day, I had just two blank intervals – one when I shot a 54-inch kudu bull and the other when I had an uncontainable coughing spell.  I felt the cough building for long minutes as three giraffe were drinking, spread-eagled, at the pond.  When my cough exploded, I could hear hooves pounding in flight and there was enough dust to equal a blast.  Incredibly, within 15 minutes, another animal was drinking.

Safaris for non-hunters:  I often take non-hunters on safari, even though they have no interest in pulling a trigger.  My dentist, for example, would check my teeth twice a year and always ask about my Africa trips, adding, “Someday, I’m going with you.”

Bob Nitzel retired and made the trip with me – he even tried to stalk animals with us.  On the first stalk, the PH and I were sneaking toward a big blue wildebeest bull when it suddenly stood, whirled and ran.  We looked at each other, wondering how our stalk had failed so miserably, when we noticed Bob standing nonchalantly in the open 50 yards behind us.  On the next stalk, he stayed in the cruiser!

Bob and I bowhunted together from a sunken hide at a waterhole. We borrowed a bird book and passed the time between animal visits “birding.”  I loaned Bob a pair of Zeiss binoculars and we enjoyed watching and doing the detective work to determine species.  Africa has an amazing array of fowl, and time passes quickly.

One safari, Rick and Stephanie Dias accompanied me to Agagia and then took a land trip through the Caprivi Strip (now the Zambezi Region) ending up with an elephant ride at Victoria Falls.  We had arrived in camp around 11.00, had lunch, checked equipment, and headed out in early afternoon.  Normally, we would see four or five species, and perhaps a giraffe would come to drink, but due to the rainy season only two warthogs and two kudu cows came.

Over the next four days Rick and Stephanie visited Windhoek, a local carving market, took game drives and otherwise enjoyed the African experience, including visiting the homes of the workers whose children posed for pictures with the American visitors.  Rick and Stephanie come from large families and everyone chipped in with dozens of children’s clothing items which were a great hit with the moms.

Road trip safaris are excellent for family adventures, especially if your spouse is not an ardent hunter.  My wife falls into this latter camp and accompanied me on this adventure.  She can’t wait to go back (OK, Darling…If you insist.)  Although she did not actually hunt, she helped retrieve animals and shared the great tales of adventure by a campfire each evening.  The camps in which we stayed had wonderful amenities and service.  Meals were excellent and included the staples from home, plus kudu, gemsbok, and (Yum!) eland.  Travel between camps (usually not more than a couple of hours) gave us a bigger picture of Africa and the chance to meet more people.

Road trip safaris also allow the chance to include rifle hunters among your group.  African adventures make life-long memories, and being able to share the experience with your friends greatly increases the enjoyment.  You will relive the hunt for years, probably decades.  If your father or best buddy is an avid rifle hunter, your PH can tailor the hunt and concessions that best suit both your needs.

On two occasions I hunted properties new to bowhunting.  (You want to work these details out with your PH beforehand.)  Archers in Africa usually hunt from hides – pit blinds, ground blinds, or elevated concealment, but I enjoyed the challenge of hunting a spot without established hides. In one situation, a large tree had fallen about 20 yards from the edge of a waterhole, the perfect location for an ambush site. “If I used my full set of camo and sat among the shadows of the branches,” I thought, “could I take an animal?”  The upshot was some incredibly exciting moments where I seemed invisible.  A giraffe walked past at 10 steps, ignoring the strange “bump” on the tree trunk.

Road trips allow you to experience a variety of facilities, hunt new species, make new friends, and stalk varied terrain.  Not all hunting concessions are created equal, and you can specialize in those species which do best on a particular property.

Single Animal Safaris: Taking friends to Africa has a special thrill because it brings back such memories of “your first time.”

Jim Durr and his graduating son, Tyler, accompanied me to South Africa with Charyl Watts Safaris where I’d booked a buffalo hunt, and I assumed the father and son would hunt plains game.  I invited them to my game room so that they could begin learning the animals and see what the outcome would be after taxidermy.

A few days later, Jim stopped by. “I think I want to shoot a lion,” he said abruptly.  “I’ve considered kudu and the plains game, but I’ll concentrate on one animal, a female lion!”  Expenses were limited.

My muzzleloading buffalo hunt proved to be a challenge and took longer than anticipated but Tyler took several animals hunting with his dad.  When Dagga Boy finally said, “Uncle” we headed cross-country toward the Kalahari for the lion hunt.                                                                                                                                                    Trackers were sent out to locate a lion, and that evening, Watts spoke about the seriousness of the hunt, reviewed the shot placement on lion and said that more than half the lions attack on sight.  Durr would be accompanied by two PHs and one would stay with Tyler and me.

This would be Jim’s first animal and maybe he didn’t sleep much that night.  We met for breakfast, reviewed the safety elements of the hunt again, and left the compound in a large cruiser and parked near where the lion was spotted.  We wished Jim good luck and he, a tracker, and two PHs disappeared into the bush.

Two hours later, we heard shots in the distance and the radio confirmed that Jim was successful.  Durr had his lion mounted full size, and is now the rave of anyone who visits.  His hunt had all the adrenalin-pumping action he’d hoped for and the trophy will last a lifetime.

Make it your own:   Safaris are adventure quests and should be tailored to meet your individual needs, personality, and interests, so don’t neglect to ask your safari company for an unorthodox approach.  Consider a different season, specific animals, involvement of non-hunting friends, wingshooting, and other a-typical approaches.  Ken Moody, of Ken Moody Safaris keeps a crossbow in camp and finds enthusiastic interest in hunters who have never used one before.

By thinking differently, you can maximize the enjoyment of the safari and make it a true hunt of a lifetime.                                                                                                                   

Captions for “A-Typical Safari” 

1a-c                September and October are very dry times in most of southern Africa, and animals drink daily.  Action for bowhunters at this time of year is incredible, and airfares are as much as half price.

  1. Seeing a bull elephant in the wild is a huge thrill for hunters and non-hunters alike.

3-4                  Jere Neff booked a bowhunting safari with Agagia Safaris but ran into a rainy spell when waterholes had little attraction.  He took this great giraffe-at-sunset picture, and later switched to a rifle for a double take on trophy animals.  He later termed his trip as the hunt of a lifetime.

  1. The author (left) convinced non-hunters Stephanie and Rick Diaz to join him for a few days in camp which greatly added to their African experience. A day in a bowhunting blind offers great chances for birding and animal observation.
  2. Rick Diaz hailed from a hunting family in Pennsylvania and wanted a shooting picture to satisfy his hunting buddies back home.

7-11.              Photography is a very enjoyable activity on safari, and hunters and non-hunters will thrill to capture close images of animals on nearby parks, game preserves, and hunting blinds.

12-15             Whereas most safaris are multi-animal adventures, the author took this Cape buffalo with a Knight muzzleloading rifle, and friend Jim Durr chose to hunt just one anima l- a lioness.  The stalk and hunt was incredibly exciting and Durr had the big cat mounted life-size.

16-19.           Road-trip safaris are fun and expand your horizons.  The author traveled into the mountains of South Africa for this klipspringer taken with a .17 HMR round – a tiny bullet to match the small animal.  By visiting more than one camp you can specialize in local species, meet more people, and see varied terrain.

20-26             Rebecca Thyssen joined the author and his wife on a spring safari (October) in South Africa where flowers and trees were blooming and the first young of the year were born or hatched.

  1. Thyssen had the opportunity to visit different cultures, experience many new things, and eventually became a hunter and bagged an eland bull.

Joe Byers is a veteran of more than 20 safaris in five African countries and always enjoys sharing his adventures in words and pictures.  An award-winning photographer and journalist, he writes regularly for www.Facebook/TheHuntingPage.com