Why do we bowhunt?
We are in midwinter, and it is clear that bowhunters are still hunting many animals, although game prices have gone up significantly. Yes, we do get fewer trophy photos than in previous years and bowhunters are probably taking fewer animals per hunt than before, but they have not lost their enthusiasm for the bow and arrow. The arrows are still flying.
It is also true that many bowhunters have bought rifles since it is much easier to obtain a gun licence now than it was just a few years ago. And having bought a new weapon, a hunter is certainly inclined to test it and take animals with it. This is only natural and to be expected. However, will this result in a permanent decline in the bowhunting industry? Will bowhunters swap their bows for rifles? No, I don’t think so. I think many hunters will hunt with both rifle and bow – as do most bowhunters in the USA.
This made me again consider the reasons why we are bowhunting. What is so great about bowhunting? Why do so many game farm owners allow only bowhunting on their ranches? The first thing to remember is that nothing has changed now that rifle licences are more accessible! Bowhunting became popular before the draconic gun laws of a few years ago when everyone started handing in their rifles and handguns – some of which were beautiful heirlooms handed down from father to son over generations.
It is still true that game on bowhunting game farms is calmer and that one can engage in other activities on these farms that cannot be done on a game farm where shots are fired and heard during the hunting season.
I think bowhunters use bows because a bow is an effective weapon, because it is quiet and because it presents challenges of its own. It certainly is an exciting weapon to hunt with and tends to bring the hunter within close proximity of his or her prey. The fact that so many hunters took up the bow and arrow and that so many game farms opened up for bowhunting is proof enough that it is an effective hunting weapon and that hunting with the bow and arrow has a special appeal. We are well past the time when hunters and game famers still have doubts about the effectiveness of the bow and arrow.
Why are there so many bowhunting-only game farms?
Although many rifle hunters complain about bowhunters hunting from blinds, it is also true that most game farmers prefer bowhunters to hunt from blinds. Hunting from blinds creates a controlled environment. Not only are the water, feed and lick placed at acceptable distances, ensuring shots within a particular bowhunter’s ability, but the game farm owner can also keep track of the hunter’s movements and the number of arrows released.
However, Africa’s Bowhunter does encourage bowhunters to hunt on foot as well. Stalking an animal with a bow and arrow is probably the ultimate challenge and something all bowhunters that are in good health should aspire to.
Game farm owners can use the bowhunter as an instrument in their game-breeding programmes. Biltong hunters can be instructed to focus on genetically impaired or injured animals, or the farm owner can ask bowhunters to focus on certain game species that are in abundance or to refrain from shooting animals that are rare on the farm, especially now that so many game farmers have expensive colour variants on their land. It often happens that a game farmer would offer lower prices, for instance on young impala rams that might be in excess or he might raise the price of some animals he wants to protect.
While bowhunting is done on a game farm, many other activities can still be engaged in at the same time, without people having to worry about being hit by a stray bullet. During summer, or when there are no bowhunters on the farm, the same blinds used for hunting can be used to view and film game and birds.
I think over the last number of years many people turned to bowhunting just because it was something new to them and then many of them went back to rifle hunting. However, a true bowhunter will certainly also hunt with a rifle, but will never trade in his bow permanently if he or she can help it. I have heard too many testimonies of hunters who said they would never give up their bows after they had made their first bow kill.
Rean Steenkamp – Editor