First Time African Hunter – Plan Your Hunting Trip

Are you a first-time African hunter looking for an affordable Africa hunting safari? Plan your African Hunting Safari with Nick Bowker.

Here is a list of important points for preparing yourself for your First African Hunting Safari

Table of Contents

  1. First Time African Hunting Safari
  2. Hunting Laws in South Africa
  3. Hunting with Shooting Sticks
  4. Advice from a Client
  5. Getting to South Africa
  6. Suggested Packing List
  7. Rifle Considerations
  8. Check List for Rifle Permits
Planning your plains game hunt.
Sable Antelope trophies hunted with Nick Bowker.
First time African hunting with Nick Bowker
Sable Antelope Trophy Hunt with Nick Bowker Hunting

First-time African Hunting Safari – Plan Your African Hunting safari

Are you a first-time African hunter looking for an affordable African hunting safari? Here is a list of important points for preparing yourself and planning your First African Hunting Safari.

  1. Hunting laws in South Africa.
  2. Hunting with three-legged shooting or quad sticks.
  3. How do shooting sticks work in practice?
  4. The importance of good optics.
  5. Getting to South Africa.
  6. Overnight accommodation in Johannesburg.
  7. Suggested packing list.
  8. Rifle considerations.
  9. Regulations for a temporary rifle import permit.
  10. Prohibited firearms.
  11. A checklist for rifle permits.
We Specialize in First Time African Hunter looking for an Affordable African Hunting Safari
Three legged shooting stick are vital for the first time African hunter..
Hunting with three-legged shooting sticks is universal in Africa.

Hunting Laws in South Africa

Laws in South Africa allow anyone who is not a South Africa citizen to hunt.

However, the client must be under the supervision of a licensed professional hunter. A licensed professional outfitter must host the hunt.

All professional hunters and outfitters are required to hold a valid permit. South African regulations hold the professional hunter responsible for compliance with local laws.

Nick Bowker is both a licensed Professional Hunter and Outfitter.

First-time African hunters may use licensed firearms belonging to the professional hunter. And are not required to have any home country licenses or a competency certificate.

South Africa has a friendly regulatory environment for foreign hunters. Also, it offers hunters a very affordable African hunting safari.

Planning your african hunting trip.
Black Wildebeest trophies hunted with Nick Bowker.

Hunting with Shooting Sticks

Hunting with shooting sticks is universal in Africa and an important point for planning your African hunting safari. This is because most hunting in Africa is from a standing position.

Shooting sticks are often new for the first-time African hunter.

A shooting stick is a tripod to rest your rifle over for support while taking a standing shot. Prone, sitting and kneeling shots are not that common. Because of:

  • The low vegetation obscures your target.
  • Lying in a prone position or kneeling can be very uncomfortable. Also, it may not be possible because of rocky terrain and thorns, and other impediments.
  • Furthermore, shots in Africa often need to be taken relatively quickly. Consequently, shooting sticks and a standing position facilitate this.

We are currently using Rudolph quad sticks for our African shooting sticks. We find the quad sticks give significantly more stability and facilitate far longer shots. The preferred style of Rudolph is the one that has a flat forearm. This allows a little extra opportunity to move the rifle without having to move the sticks completely.

planning your african hunting safari.
Eland hunted with Nick Bowker.

How do shooting sticks work in practice, how should I prepare?

  • The Professional hunter will carry the sticks or tripod for the first time African hunter. He will be walking in front, followed by the tracker and then the hunter.
  • The hunter will then place his rifle across the shooting sticks, and the professional hunter will move over to the side.
  • Historically the shooting sticks were homemade by the Professional hunter.
  • These days shooting tripods are readily available, durable, and light, often made of titanium.
  • A lot of material is available on the right methodology for using shooting sticks on YouTube. The right way is probably the one that works best for you.
  • Buy some shooting sticks. PRACTISE A LOT WITH SHOOTING STICKS to prepare for your African hunting safari.
Client using shooting sticks while hunting in South Africa
Client using shooting sticks while hunting in South Africa

Advice from a Client

“A good pair of optics is a must for any first time, African hunter.”

Nyala trophy taken on a first time african hunt.
Nyala trophy hunted with Nick Bowker.

Dan hunted with Nick Bowker in 2012 and 2019 and has some advice for the first-time African hunter.

“Finally, a few recommendations I would highly suggest to anyone:

  • Give yourself a MINIMUM of 3-4 hours for a layover between Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.
  • We were delayed out of Port Elizabeth and barely made the plane back to the States.
  • You will need all of that time for gun transfer, International check-in, etc.…
  • Follow the recommended packing list Nick provides. On both trips, I have over packed.
  • You only need two sets of hunting stuff. As they will wash and clean your clothes each day; used the previous day.
  • Bring an excellent collection of optics! The eyesight of Nick and his crew is astonishing.
  • They see stuff with their naked eye that is difficult to pick up with good binoculars.
  • As a result, great binoculars will make your experience much better with the amount of glassing you will be doing.
First time hunter in Africa with Nick Bowker.
Kudu hunted with Nick Bowker.

“Practice off shooting sticks.” – The majority of shooting will be from the standing postion.

Blue wildebeest African trip with a first time hunter.
Blue Wildebeest trophy hunted with Nick Bowker
  • The majority of your shooting will be standing off of sticks.
  • The first time I went on my African hunting safari, I did not realize how much shooting would be off sticks.
  • Practice, A LOT, and be prepared to get a quality shot off in the standing position off sticks quickly.
  • When you anchor an animal with one good shot, it makes everything so much better.
  • As a result, you don’t want to spend a half-day or more tracking a trophy.
  • Bring quality bullets and know your ballistics…this will be valuable in preventing frustrating circumstances.
  • Listen to your Professional Hunter. For instance, Nick can quickly judge an excellent African animal from a great one.
  • Even after two trips, every decent Kudu bull still looks enormous to me. He will promptly be able to tell you what is a shooter and what isn’t. Hence trust their judgment.
  • Start planning your next trip after experiencing your first trip, as this is such an addicting experience. Besides, South Africa offers hunters a very affordable African hunting safari.”

See Craig Boddington’s advice on the top 10 mistakes First Time African Hunters make.

African hunting safari planning.
Red Hartebeest hunted with Nick Bowker.

Getting to South Africa

First-world airports and easily affordable travel make South Africa a convenient and trouble-free destination for the first-time African hunter. There are daily flights between the US and Europe and South Africa. See Getting to South Africa for an affordable African hunting safari.

It would help if you considered using a travel agency that specializes in airfare to international hunting destinations. Especially in the case of first-time African hunters. As they can assist with all aspects of your travel plans from:

  • Airfare and lodging
  • Entry visas
  • Firearm permits
  • Trip insurance policies
  • Medical evacuation services

We recommend Gracy Travel. Gracy will take care of your entire trip including the paperwork for rifle permits and make planning your African hunting safari easy.

Cape buffalo hunting trip planning with Nick Bowker.
Cape Buffalo hunted with Nick Bowker

Overnight accommodation in Johannesburg

If you need to overnight in Johannesburg, we recommend staying at Afton Safari Lodge. Rooms are reasonably priced, and Afton specializes in the assistance of hunters.

A VIP Meet and assist service is also offered for $100 for up to four persons. You will be met at the aircraft door and accompanied through customs and baggage handling.

As well as collecting rifles and being driven to Afton Lodge. Here you will overnight. Afton will take you back the next day to catch your connecting flight.

Traveling with children to South Africa

New requirements were introduced by the South African Department of Home Affairs.

From 2 April 2019, all minors may be required to produce:

  • Passport.
  • An Unabridged Birth Certificate.

Or a passport that details both parents for all international travel to and from South Africa.

Travelers should visit the Department of Home Affairs website.

Suggested African Hunting Safari Packing List

Packing for the first time African hunter

Travelling to South Africa for the first time african hunter.
Gemsbok Bull hunted with Nick Bowker
  • Two pairs of hiking boots
  • Three hunting shirts (earth color)
  • Two hunting pants
  • One warm jacket
  • One pullover
  • Casual outfit
  • Loafers
  • Sleepwear
  • Cap/sun hat

Extras for the first time African Hunter

Rifle considerations for your african hunting trip.
Caracal hunted with Nick Bowker
  • Binoculars
  • Torch
  • Sunglasses
  • Small backpack
  • Sunscreen

Rifle Considerations for planning your african hunting safari

Suggested packing list for your african hunting safari.
Red Lechwe hunted with Nick Bowker

For many bringing their rifle is a must. Getting hunting firearms into South Africa is relatively easy, even for a first-time African hunter.

Thousands of hunters bring firearms into South Africa every year. However, you do need to be prepared.

Hunters who bring their rifles must comply with their local home country regulations. These include licensing requirements and ownership proof.

Currently, only AIRLINK carries firearms to Port Elizabeth. Connecting flights must be with AIRLINK. When traveling with weapons, it is advisable to use the service of an agent in Johannesburg.

Rifle Agents for the first time African hunter

We suggest Henry Durheim. Henry will ensure you hold valid permits for your rifles while hunting in South Africa.

  • Henry charges $140 per rifle.
  • And will pre-register the firearms.
  • Meet you on arrival.
  • Take you through customs and accompany you to your connecting flight for an additional $100.

Henry needs to be contacted at least a month before arrival.

If you are overnighting in Johannesburg, we recommend the services of Afton Safari Lodge. They also provide agency services for rifle permits. Afton charges $100 for this service. See overnight accommodation in Johannesburg above.

The following needs to be sent to Henry or Afton at least a month in advance. See the checklist below for detailed information.

  • Completed SAP 520 Form
  • Copy of Your Passport
  • Complete Flight Itinerary
  • US Customs Form 4457
  • Invitation letter from Nick Bowker Hunting

Regulations for a Temporary in Transit Import Permit

First time african hunt with Nick Bowker.
Roan Antelope hunted with Nick Bowker
  1. No more than ONE firearm per caliber or gauge.
  2. No more than 200 rounds for each permitted firearm.
  3. Ammunition is packed in a separate lockable case.
  4. No ammunition is other than for permitted firearms.
  5. Do not try and bring ammunition for your PH’s rifle.
  6. Firearms must bear the manufacturer’s serial number or any other mark by which the gun can be identified.
  7. The identification number must be stamped.
  8. The mark is affixed in the prescribed manner on the barrel, the frame, or the firearm’s receiver.
  9. Handguns are allowed only for hunting.
  10. Any visitor bringing a handgun into the country needs a letter from a registered association.
    1. Stating that he/she is a registered member of the association.
    2. The handgun to be used for hunting purposes.

Prohibited firearms which may NOT be imported into South Africa, include:

  • Any fully automatic weapon
  • Any semi-automatic weapon
  • No semi-automatic shotguns
  • Handgun(s) for self-defense
  • Weapons that fall under military categories
Rifle consideration for your african hunting trip.
Zebra hunted with Nick Bowker

If bringing your own rifle is not a must. We suggest using the outfitter’s rifles. Nick Bowker has high-end rifles and optics included in packages free of charge. Using the outfitter’s rifles will simplify planning your African hunting safari

Check List for Rifle Permit

Getting to south Africa for your african hunting trip.
Waterbuck hunted with Nick Bowker

First-time African hunter rifle permit checklist.

  1. Completed SAPS 520 Application Form.
  2. Did you SIGN the SAPS520 application form? You must sign sections 4.3 and J3 on page 6.
  3. Copy of photo page of the passport.
    – Minimum of THREE blank pages left in the passport.
    – Validity of at least four months beyond your planned return.
  4. Copy of Complete Itinerary as issued by your Travel Agency or copies of your return airline tickets.
  5. Proof of Ownership.
    – Firearm license / Firearm registration form
    – Letter from local Sheriff OR
    – Invoice from Firearms Dealer
    For hunters traveling from the United States of America, the CBP4457 Customs Form will be sufficient. Please note that this form must be dated, signed, and stamped by US customs.
  6. Proof of Export from Country of Origin – For hunters traveling from the USA, the CBP4457 Customs Form will be sufficient.
    – This only applies to US applicants.
South African first time hunting with Nick Bowker.
Kudu trophy hunted with Nick Bowker

Check List for Rifle Permit for the first time African hunter (continued)

Hunting with Nick Bowker in South Africa.
Caracal (Lynx)
  1. Invitation Letter from Hunting Outfitter on Company Letterhead (with the following details).
    – Registered Outfitter Number.
    – Registered PH Number.
    – Office Address.
    – Contact Details.
    – Name of the area where the hunt will take place.
    – Date of the planned hunt.
    – Species of Animals that the hunter is planning on hunting – (this is for the SAPS to verify if the rifle calibers are suitable).
    – Details of firearms that the hunter intends to import.
  2. VERY IMPORTANT: The copies of the passport and US4457 form must be certified as true copies by a notary or your local sheriff.
  3. Download the CBP4457 Customs Form. This is only a blank form; you need to take your rifles to your nearest customs office for the form to be completed, signed, and stamped by US customs.
Giraffe hunted safari style on a first time african hunting trip.
Giraffe hunted with Nick Bowker.

Frequently Asked Questions

When can you hunt in South Africa?

There are no seasonal restrictions on hunting in South Africa. Most hunting land is privately owned.

What is the best time of year to hunt?

Hunting takes place from March through October. The Winter months, when it is most pleasant, are from May until early September. We can hunt year-round, but be ready for the heat from late October until late February. 

What Caliber and Firearm do you recommend?

You can bring 2 guns per hunter of different calibers and up to 200 rounds per rifle.

If you are hunting dangerous game, you must have a .375 minimum. For Plains Game, we recommend a 300 mag or similar.

Can I rent a rifle for my Safari? 

About 80% of our clients do this, as they do not want to travel with their rifles internationally. If you fly through London, which is much cheaper sometimes, you will not be able to bring a rifle, so this is the best option. Rifles are included free of charge in our packages.

What Should I take on an African hunting safari?

We recommend packing light with no more than 2 or 3 sets of clothing. Below is our recommended packing list. Laundry is done daily.


Two pairs of hiking boots
Three hunting shirts (earth color)
Two hunting pants
One warm jacket
One pullover
Casual outfit
Loafers
Sleepwear
Cap/sun hat
Binoculars
Torch
Sunglasses
Small backpack
Sunscreen

Planning your trophy hunting trip in Africa.
Giraffe hunted with Nick Bowker

Shooting Distances and Safety

How far are the shots?

The average shot with a rifle for Plains Game would be under 150 – 300 yards. If you are comfortable taking longer shots, that is OK

But please practice shooting from sticks and standing up, as this is the scenario most of the time. We will range the animal for you, so you will know the distance.

Is South Africa safe and do we need shots?

South Africa is as safe as anywhere else in the World. We will pick you up at Port Elizabeth International Airport and escort you to our lodge located approximately 2 hours north near Bedford.

This is a quiet town, and our lodge is located in the bush about 20 minutes outside of this town. To date, we have never had an issue with security. No shots are required.

Suggested packing list