By Rihana Cary, Bowtech Ambassador
“All I wanted to do was get back to Africa. We had not left it, yet, but when I would wake in the night I would lie, listening, homesick for it already.”
Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa
They say that Africa runs through your veins after the first trip, and to enjoy every moment because once you are home a part of you will still be there. As Hemingway said, I am homesick for a place that is not my true home. The everlasting nostalgia of this vast savanna begins with golden streaked sunrises, fiery sunsets, and the billions of stars against the dark night that are ingrained in my memory. When you are in the thick of the acacias and the red, vertic clay, the primal feeling you have is indescribable. There really is nothing quite like the African bush, where it seems everything from the animals to the thorn-filled trees are out to get you.
Our unforgettable bow hunting trip began upon arrival at Johannesburg where my husband and I, and our hunting friends were greeted at the airport by our professional hunting guide (PH) with African Barefoot Safaris, Reon Von Tonder, and his wife and chef for the trip, Elmay. In the first few minutes of meeting the Von Tonders their warm, and positive personalities insured we were in for one of the best trips of our lives.
Our first stop was at the Hunt Ex show to visit our friends and BowTech dealers, Redge and Luzanne Grant with Archers Edge. These two also helped facilitate our hunt in Africa and we were blessed with their friendship. If you ever have a chance to visit and hunt Africa you absolutely have to visit their pro shop, Archers Edge. Redge has taken some of the most sought after African animals with his bow. His knowledge of African animals and what equipment you need is very valuable for any hunter arriving from the states. After gear talk, hunting stories, and tuning our bows for African game, we made our descent to the vast savanna, the South African Bushveld.
Accounting for ten percent of the human population, and a quarter of the land, Africa is one of the most arid and humid places on earth. In this geographical epicenter of human kind lives the most exotic, and dangerous animals known to man. With over 1,100 different mammals and 2,600 species of birds, Africa is home to more ungulate and bovid species then any other continent, making it a hunters’ Valhalla. Barefoot African Safaris is located in the Limpopo region, and the ecosystem is home to more than 200 species of mammals, several hundred bird species, and tree species, making it a perfect destination for our hunting adventure.
Once we got to our home for the next 16 days, I was astounded by the surrounding views of the subtropical woodland, and distant mountains of the Waterberg biosphere. The accommodations were excellent, with a beautiful teak wood bedroom, bathroom, shower and sink. I quickly realized we had found a true African gem.
The first morning hunt was pretty incredible; a pure sense of adventure, spot and stalk, where the leopards roam. I have never seen so many thorns; knob thorns, sharp thorns, strings of thorns, cactus thorns, even some of the animals have what looks like thorns on their head (klipspringer, reedbuck, duiker); the evolutionary defense mechanisms of nature are brutal, yet incredible. Even with all these thorns, we hunted with our silent stalkers (basically paper thin, but tough as nails, slippers) all while Reon hunted barefoot, hence the name African Barefoot Safaris. This made us super sneaky and allowed us to get up close encounters with the notoriously smart African game.
Mixing our days with spot and stalk and water hole hunting we encountered tons of African animals. From guinea fowl to giraffe, wildebeest to franklins, I just wanted to watch them all day, every day. We saw herds of zebra, and listened to their whistle, a way of communicating with each other. I stalked to 60 yards on a beautiful stallion, but as I came to full draw he turned and spotted me. I stalked a croaking impala, only to be busted by a herd of wildebeest nearby. For an archery only conservation reserve and hunt, getting within bow range of these keen animals is much harder than you would think, even barefoot! I don’t blame them, though. Knowing that every day they must wake up and be ready to outrun the leopard or lion, would keep me on my toes too.
Hunting tirelessly, my first African animal came on day three, sitting midday on a water hole. I was thrilled that my first animal was the wary, and inquisitive mountain reedbuck, a medium sized antelope, with a long grey/reddish coat. After that we got back in the blind to have it surrounded by dozens of screeching baboons that were having a dominant male fight club behind our blind. After the ruckus died down a herd of a dozen or so impala came in; only does, and fawns, but still incredibly fun to watch. Every day at Barefoot was filled with incredible animal encounters and I have way too many to count. That same afternoon my husband, and hunting partner Ty Cary, harvested a mature waterbuck, a large spiral horned antelope with a grey coat. The couple we hunted with also had success that same day with an impala, and blesbok.
The days kept coming, and so did the animals, the wildlife menagerie included a number of duiker, kudu, blesbok, waterbuck, gemsbok, warthogs, baboons. At other properties we saw cape buffalo, eland, sable, and even hunted a giraffe.
We continued to have an incredible experience hunting with Reon, even Redge joined us for a few days in the field. I was lucky to harvest a gemsbok, duiker, and nyala with my Eva Shockey Signature Series. My husband made a heart shot on a giraffe at 50 yards, with his BowTech BTX. He had to setup a special arrow and broadhead with help from Redge who made sure Ty’s setup would successfully penetrate the three-inch thick hide of the giraffe. Ty’s aim and the BTX also got him a duiker, springhare, and an impala.
Each hunt, and each day, we gained tremendous appreciation and gratitude for the hunting that South Africa provides. It is the conservation reserves like African Barefoot Safaris that ensure the survival and safety of the game population in Africa. Hunters’ dollars add value to the animals, in turn protecting them from the ever growing epidemic of poaching.
If you want to learn more about how hunting dollars are spent in Africa, check out the article, “What if We Banned Trophy Hunting in Africa”, written by Jason Goldman in the University of Washington’s Conservation Magazine. http://conservationmagazine.org/2015/10/what-if-we-banned-trophy-hunting-in-africa/ A great read for anyone questioning where the hunting dollars go.
Unfortunately, our trip to South Africa had to end; but we definitely did not leave empty handed. We had the trip of a life time with great friends, new and old. Exploring the bushveld with Reon, his family, and Redge was an unforgettable experience that words can hardly describe. Reon and Redge’s bow hunting knowledge and responsible hunting will make you feel safe and confident with your equipment. If you are looking for the trip of a lifetime, I highly recommend African Barefoot Safaris, and Archers Edge.
Until I return, I will be daydreaming of the golden streaked skies, abundant wildlife, and friends my husband and I left behind. We will meet again Africa, sooner rather than later…..
Rihana Cary is a avid sportswoman, and part time nurse that lives in Eugene, Oregon with her husband and fur child Rio. From Africa, to Oregon she enjoys hunting a variety of animals including elk, both rocky mountain and roosevelt, blacktail and mule deer. Being a BowTech Women’s Ambassador, and Under Armour Hunt Athlete, she loves to share the hunting heritage with new hunters.