Hunting in South Africa: What You Need to Know. Part 2

An indigenous hunter-gatherer with a bow


by Peter Ruddle

When you travel to a foreign country to hunt, always make sure you gain a general understanding of its hunting laws and regulations. You don’t have to be an expert to form a basic idea on what principles the industry is organized, and identify the most important rules affecting your stay, but it might prevent misunderstanding and trouble. In this blog we shall also briefly cover firearm importation, visa, and vaccination requirements for entering South Africa.

Hunting Laws and Regulations in South Africa 

Hunting, including recreational hunting by foreign nationals, is legal and available in all the provinces of South Africa. Each province has its own nature conservation ordinance, and the provinces have more authority over their wildlife than the national government. Although we have one national driving license for example, outfitters and professional hunters are required to be licensed in each province that they hunt or operate and all hunting licenses and permits are issued by the provincial government offices. 

While game and hunting laws vary for each province, there are many similarities. Listed below are some of the more important regulations:

  • International (non-resident) hunters must be accompanied by a registered professional hunter and outfitted by a licensed outfitter.
  • Outfitters and professional hunters must be licensed to operate in the provinces where they hunt.
  • Professional hunters must be licensed to conduct a dangerous game safari otherwise they may only hunt plains game.  
  • Hunting licenses and permits must be prearranged before the client’s hunt commences.
  • Game ranches with exemption certificates or a certificate of adequate enclosure may apply for an exemption to the province’s hunting regulations. 
  • Minimum calibre requirements exist in some provinces, but the general rule of thumb is a .375 is the minimum calibre required for dangerous game. 
  • Clients may shoot from a vehicle in some provinces and others require a hunter to be 200 metres from the vehicle before pulling the trigger. 
  • Hunting may only take place during daylight hours which is defined as half an hour after sunrise and half an hour before sunset.    
  • Exemption for the hunting of nocturnal species at night with the aid of artificial light can be arranged with a special night hunting or exemption permit. 
  • Game hunting quotas and hunting season dates are decided by the landowner. 
Discover more hunting videos on our YouTube channel.

Licenses and Permits

The hunting outfitter is responsible for ensuring that the property where a client is hunting has all the necessary permits and also ensuring that the client has the correct permits and licenses before the commencement of the hunt. These licenses and permits are in most cases issued by the various governmental environmental departments.

  • CITES Permits

This is an international agreement that regulates the importation and exportation of certain species that are endangered or near endangered. Permits are required for the hunting and exportation of these listed species from the country of origin and by the country to which the trophies will be exported. Some importing countries also have restrictions on the importation of certain species so hunters must ensure that they will be able to bring these trophies home.   

  • TOPS Permits

A Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) permit needs to be issued for the listed animals before the commencement of a hunt and be prearranged by your outfitter. On completion of the hunt, the client must sign the permit to ensure the hunted animal’s derivatives may be exported from South Africa  

  • Hunting Licenses & Permits

The majority of animals fall in this category and the outfitters are to ensure that the particular province’s hunting permits or license requirements are in place. In some instances, landowners are exempt if they have the correct certifications whilst, in other provinces, hunting licenses are required by law. 

In general, this all sounds quite complicated and best left to the professionals (outfitters) to ensure that all is in order. However, it is advisable to double-check that all CITES and TOPS listed animal permit requirements are prearranged well in advance of your hunt to avoid any disappointment or confiscation of your trophies by the wildlife authorities.

Firearms and Ammunition

It is legal to bring your hunting rifle to South Africa to hunt with, with certain limitations. 

A number of different airlines travel to Africa, some of which have banned the transportation of firearms on their flights. Prior to booking you ticket you need to ensure that your carrier will permit the transportation of firearms on your flight. It is important that you familiarise yourself with the latest laws and regulations for hunters travelling with firearms and ammunition as each airline and country has different regulations.

  • The minimum calibre for plains game larger than a springbuck is a .270 or 7 mm rifle. 
  • A minimum of a .375 is required to hunt giraffe and dangerous game
  • When shooting pachyderms a full metal jacket or monolithic solid must be used. 
  • A minimum of a .357 long barrelled handguns (100 – 150 mm) may be used for hunting plains game.  

A viable alternative that greatly simplifies your travel would be to rent a rifle from your outfitter. This is legal in South Africa, and most outfitters have perfectly suitable weapons at the disposal of their clients. Be sure to discuss this with your outfitter before booking your hunt. 

Learn more about the rules for temporary import of hunting guns and archery gear to various African countries.


South Africa legalised bowhunting between 1984 – 1986. Recurve, longbows, compound and crossbows may be used for hunting. The following norms apply to hunting with bow and arrow:

Category 1

Small game: Includes gamebirds, small carnivores, hares, hyraxes, rabbits and pygmy antelope

  • A bow with a minimum draw mass of 40 pounds;
  • A bow generating a minimum kinetic energy 30ft/lbs; and
  • A minimum arrow weight of 300 grains.

Category 2

Medium game: Includes reedbuck, impala, blesbok, warthog, bushpig, springbuck, and nyala.

  • A bow with a minimum draw mass of 50 pounds;
  • A bow generating a minimum kinetic energy 50ft/lbs; and
  • A minimum arrow weight 400 grains.

Category 3

Large game: Includes wildebeests, kudu, gemsbuck, zebra, waterbuck, sable, and hartebeests.

  • A bow with a minimum draw mass of 60 pounds;
  • A bow generating a minimum kinetic energy of 60ft/lbs; and
  • A minimum arrow weight of 500 grains.

Category 4

Cape buffalo 

  • A bow with a minimum draw mass of 80 pounds;
  • A bow generating a minimum kinetic energy of 80ft/lbs; and
  • A minimum arrow weight of 750 grains. 

Category 5


  • A bow with a minimum draw mass of 90 pounds;
  • A bow generating a minimum kinetic energy of 90ft/lbs; and
  • A minimum arrow weight of 750 grains.


The hunting of pachyderms (elephants and rhinos) with a bow is prohibited in South Africa.

Notwithstanding the above requirements the following conditions apply:

  • In the case of mechanical broad heads 5% additional kinetic energy is required for Category 1, 2 and 3 wild animals.
  • Broad heads must have at least two cutting edges.
  • The minimum permitted arrow length is 50cm.

Trophy Export/Import Restrictions

South Africa at this stage is still a signatory to the IUCN and has a sound conservation management strategy in place. Legally harvested trophies may be easily exported through a registered taxidermist and shipping company but must comply with the importing countries regulations. In general no raw meat, skin or other derivatives may be exported without a veterinary clearance certificate to prevent the possible spread of diseases like foot and mouth (hoof and mouth).  

The following documentation forms part of the supporting documentation in the export application process:

  • A copy of the PH Register (SA Professional Hunter Register and Trophy Export Application), signed by the client, the professional hunter and the hunting outfitter.
  • A Hunting Permit (depending on the species/province where hunt took place), signed by the client.
  • CITES Import Permit into foreign Country for CITES Appendix I species (if applicable).  Please check under “General Info” / “CITES” for the list of CITES Species.
  • Nature Conservation Exemption Permit or CAE (Certificate of Adequate Enclosure).
  • Transfer of Hunting Rights from Landowner to Hunting Outfitter (if not hunted on own property).
  • Permission to hunt from Outfitter to Client.
  • A TOPS Hunting Permit, if applicable, signed by the client.  
In the light of widely discussed trophy import ban, some hunters are turning to new technologies.

Travel Information

The visa and health information should only be used as a guideline. When making your travel arrangements ensure that you get the latest information in this regard.  


A passport and visa are required to enter South Africa. Passports must be valid for at 30 days beyond your intended date of exit from South Africa and have at least two blank pages upon each entry. Visa requirements differ from country to country, some are issued on arrival and some countries citizens require preapproved visas. Check with your nearest South African diplomatic mission into which category you fall. 

Letter of Invitation

When applying for a temporary firearm importation permit you will require a letter of invitation to hunt in South Africa from your outfitter. To be safe, keep a copy of this invitation and your firearm proof of ownership in your gun case should this at any time be requested by the authorities.       

Currency Restrictions

Any amount of cash over ZAR 25,000 (USD 1,300) in value must be declared when entering the country. A maximum of ZAR 25,000 may be exported unless more was declared on entry into the country.    


Visit your doctor at least a month before you travel. The following vaccinations, medicines and precautions may be recommended. 

  • Cholera: The vaccination is only required when active cases are reported.
  • Hepatitis A & B: Recommended for unvaccinated travellers.
  • Malaria: Hunters are recommended to take prescription medicine if visiting a malaria area. Most of South Africa is malaria free. 
  • Rabies: If you are bitten by a dog or other strange behaving mammal, seek medical attention. Do not pet strange dogs.
  • Typhoid: Recommended for most travellers.
  • Yellow Fever: Required if travelling from a country with risk of YF virus transmission.

Insect repellents for biting flies, ticks and mosquitoes are provided in most camps. Your outfitter will also update you with the latest information and health requirements.  


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