Hunting in South Africa: What You Need to Know. Part 1

a silhouette of kudu at dawn

By Peter Ruddle

Capital City: Pretoria
Official Language: 11 official languages
Currency: Rand (ZAR)
Size: 1,221,037 Km2 (2 x the size of France)

Historical Hunting Overview

Archaeological records indicate that the communities of hunter-gatherers in Southern Africa predate Homo sapiens. The oldest existing indigenous people, San and Khoi, that have lived in Southern Africa for at least 11,000 years, are also avid hunters. Numerous carbon-dated bones from hunted animals and San paintings found in caves throughout the country are clear evidence of this ancient practice.

Hunting is embedded in the cultures of many other ethnic groups of South Africa, each of them contributing something to the ancient practice. Remains of the Zulu Royal traditional hunting trenches from the 1800’s can still be found in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Park in KwaZulu-Natal. With the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, firearms began to replace traditional weapons such as spears and bows, and the colonists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries started to hunt not only for meat, but also for sport. 

But economic incentives always predominated in South Africa. Early settlers took advantage of the large herds of unique animals that roamed the countryside.  The demand for ivory led the more adventurous to make a living out of shooting elephants. This later transitioned into a business venture taking wealthy British and Americans on a safari. There are many books written by these pioneer hunters, some of them becoming bestsellers in Europe and America, as well as memoirs by famous authors, past presidents and other celebrities, who were inspired by their experiences of hunting safaris into the wilds of Africa, and inspired others to follow their steps. 

“Wild Sports of Southern Africa” (1837) by Cornwallis Harris is believed to be the first safari book ever.

Today, the Professional Hunting industry is well-regulated by each of the country’s nine provinces. Each of the provinces is responsible for the implementation of its own nature conservation ordinances. Professional hunters are required to be licensed in each of the provinces where they wish to conduct business. For this very reason, BookYourHunt lists all South African hunts according to the province as to where the hunt will be conducted.    

Protected Areas and Private Land

There are four types of conservation areas, namely:

  • National Parks

Together, the national park areas cover approximately 4,000,000 hectares or over 3% of the country. The most famous of these is the Kruger National Park. These areas are managed by the national government and do not allow any form of hunting.  

  • Provincial Parks

These are public nature reserves administered and managed by provincial and local governments. Depending on their protected area status, some may allow hunting. This brings the total land usage under biodiversity conservation by some form of government management to 9.2%

  • Private Nature Reserves

Numerous well established privately owned game and nature reserves cater solely to non-consumptive ecotourism, whilst others rely on hunting to subsidise their management costs which have been blown out of all proportion by the scourge of rhino poaching.  

  • Game Ranching

In 2016 there were over 5000 game ranchers and more than 4000 mixed game and livestock farms registered in the country as well as over 6000 unregistered properties. This number continues to increase and covers well over 25%of the country’s total land area. These are the areas where most hunts take place in South Africa. 

Game Ranching and Game Breeding

There is some confusion over the definitions of game ranching and game farming. The latter is a small property where game is intensively managed to produce and harvest marketable products and game ranching is a more expansive operation where income is generated from ecotourism, photographic safaris, trophy hunting and live game sales.  

In the early 1970s, farmers started to realise the potential of game ranching especially those farming on marginal agricultural land. These pioneer game ranchers started converting from traditional livestock and crop farming practices to creating wildlife habitats for the reintroduction of wildlife from the founder stock sold by the provincial nature reserves. 

The value of game ranching in these marginal areas far outweighed commercial agriculture and initiated a boom in the industry with the reclamation of vast areas of land. 

Most of these properties are high-fenced and range from 800 ha (2000 acres) to 80,000ha (196,000 acres) in extent. The reason for fencing these areas is to prove ownership of the wildlife on the land and to increase the number and variety of animals available for hunting year-round on these properties.

Learn more about fences and what they mean to landowners and game ranchers in South Africa

In May 2022, it was estimated that almost 20 million heads of game occurred on private land (game ranches and game farms) as opposed to the 5 to 6 million heads of game found in the combined government reserves.   

From a hunting perspective, game ranching has improved the overall trophy quality and made trophy fees more affordable. Species, like Sable Antelope trophy fees, have halved over the past 10 years. 10 years ago a good Sable trophy was 36” and now the average size for sale is 40”.   

Climate and Hunting Season

Trophy hunting is available year round in South Africa. Upland and waterfowl hunting is mostly restricted to the non-breeding season in most provinces, this being the months of June, July and August.  Most of the country receives summer rainfall, except for the Western Cape, where the climate is described as Mediterranean, and it rains mostly in winter. Summer temperatures can be very hot so hunting takes place early in the morning and late afternoon. Due to the summer heat and rains, most hunters prefer to hunt from mid-April to mid-September. 

In winter, many of the country’s hunting destinations experience early morning and night temperatures below freezing. Frosty mornings and even snowfalls may be experienced at higher elevations. It is best to dress in layers as in some instances the day temperatures can get quite warm but the mercury soon starts to drop when the sun sets in the winter months. 


Clients are spoilt for choice, South Africa has a wide array of accommodations, from 5-star luxury lodges to refurbished farmhouses and luxury tented camps. All rooms are ensuite, with hot and cold running water and flushing toilets. Many outfitters also provide shampoos, soaps, skin moisturising cream, etc. 

Meals range from gourmet cooking to tasty traditional food which often includes venison dishes from the animals you have hunted. Not all outfitters include alcoholic drinks in their daily rates but generally a wide variety of hard tack, local beers and local wines are available. South Africa has some great home-grown cultivars and produces internationally acclaimed wines. All in all, you will be spoilt rotten and go home a few pounds heavier.   

In-house facilities and on-site activities range from outfitter to outfitter. Many outfitters offer additional services so that even non-hunters accompany the hunting party can be catered for. These services range from visits to national parks, tourists attractions and other fun activities, like elephant experiences to golf and spa treatments.    

See more videos with hunting tips, trail cam footage, and more on our YouTube channel!

Hunting Species

Listed below are some of the more commonly hunted species, colour variants and exotics available for hunting in South Africa.


Baboon, Chacma


Blesbok, Common

Blesbok, Saddle-backed

Blesbok, White

Blesbok, Yellow (Golden)

Boar, Russian / European


Buffalo, Cape / African

Buffalo, Water / Asian

Bushbuck, Cape / South African

Bushbuck, Limpopo 


Caracal / Lynx

Cat, African Wild

Civet / African Civet

Crocodile (Nile)

Deer, Axis

Deer, Fallow 

Duiker, Blue 

Duiker, Common / Grey / Bush

Duiker, Red / Natal

Eland, Cape / Common / Southern

Eland, Livingstone‘s


Fox, Bat-eared

Fox, Cape / Silver

Gemsbuck / Oryx

Gemsbuck, Golden

Gemsbuck, Kalahari

Gemsbuck, Red



Rhebuck, Grey / Vaal

Grysbuck, Cape / Southern 

Grysbuck, Sharpe’s 

Hartebeest, Lichtenstein 

Hartebeest, Red / Cape


Honey Badger / Ratel

Hyena, Brown 

Hyena, Spotted 

Impala / Southern

Impala, Black 

Impala, Saddle-backed

Impala, White-flanked 

Jackal, Black-backed

Jackal, Side-striped 


Kudu, Eastern Cape 

Kudu / Southern Greater 

Lechwe, Red 



Monkey, Vervet 



Oryx, Scimitar 

Ostrich (Southern)


Reedbuck, Common / Southern


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