Bowhunting African plains game is a tremendous adventure within the financial reach of most Americans, yet the highfence reputation of many hunting concessions in South Africa raises fair chase concerns among prospective visitors.
On my last safari to Namibia, I had the chance to hunt both free-roaming and high-fence sections on a 50,000-acre tract. During the seven-day adventure, I hunted in three different sections, including one that was dedicated solely to bowhunting. The second day of the safari, my professional hunter Peter and I climbed into a “tree hide” that overlooked a well-used waterhole in a remote section of the Agagia property, where animals were not restricted by a high fence. The morning began with a visit from several warthogs and gemsbok, yet a kudu was my intention.
My patience was rewarded in mid-morning, when a 50-inch bull approached cautiously to drink. My heart pumped as the bull finally turned broadside and months of practice focused a pin in the center of its shoulder. Taking that trophy was just like a big buck back home or a bull elk in the West. The big kudu is a special trophy that I’ll always cherish, yet was it different than those on fenced properties of 20,000 acres? Here’s what I learned:
- Game reacted the same in both situations. Animals on the large fenced tracts approached blinds as cautiously as those in free roaming areas.
- High fences only restrain certain species, like wildebeest. Kudu and eland can jump a 10-foot fence and frequently do, especially during the rut. Ironically, a big 60-inch kudu (equivalent to a 180-class whitetail) lived in the free-roaming area near my stand, yet jumped onto a high-fence hunting preserve and was shot.
- High-fence areas had greater animal diversity; I saw more species of animals where travel was restrained.
- High-fence sections protect some species like wildebeest, who graze and compete with cattle. If these animals wander onto a neighboring cattle ranch, they are likely to be shot. Restricting their movements to the Agagia farm actually benefits their populations.
Physically, there was very little difference hunting high-fence or free-roaming game. The fenced tracts were so large that you never saw wire once you entered the gate and you typically drove for miles to reach the first water-hole blind.
I’d equate the difference to hunting elk on public land vs. private ranches. The former gives you bragging rights while the later offers better amenities and often larger, more mature animals. Either way, a safari in Namibia is one you’ll never forget. You can do a five-animal hunt for around $6,000. For information, contact agagia.com.