African Plains Game Hunting Packages
African plains game hunting packages are how most hunters receive their introduction to African hunting. By taking one to three plains game hunts, a hunter is properly introduced to most of the experiences they need to acquire before graduating to more serious matters like hunting for Africa’s big five or dangerous seven. Taking that first plains game hunting safari is a wonderful experience. As renowned author Craig Boddington so succinctly put it, ‟The first safari to Africa is a magical experience and most of us spend the rest of our lives going back and trying to recapture that magic.”
The variety of plains game species on the African continent is amazing. There are over 170 huntable species in Africa, and the bulk of them fall into the plains game category. A hunter could spend a lifetime (and a fortune) hunting Africa and trying to collect a trophy or representative animal from each species. It would be nearly impossible and would offer one of the greatest hunting challenges on the planet.
African plains game hunting packages are available all over the African Continent. From Ethiopia all the way south to the Eastern Cape of South Africa, plains game is distributed widely. Due to their game ranching industries, South Africa and Namibia account for the bulk of the plains game hunts in Africa, but other countries such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Zambia draw their fair share of hunters. It is hard to find an African country that is open to hunting that does not offer some type of plains game hunts
Popular species for African plains game hunting packages include the spiral horn antelopes. The kudu has to be the number one target of most African plains game hunters due to its lengthy and distinctive curled horns. Nyala, bushbuck and eland are other popular spiral horn antelopes that most hunters will take at some point in their career. Mid-size animals such as gemsbok, wildebeest, hartebeest and zebra also make most hunters lists. Smaller antelopes such as blesbok and impalas also end up in the typical plains game hunter’s trophy room. Many hunters will then turn to the smaller antelopes. A popular modern plains game quest has evolved which is referred to as the tiny ten. The tiny ten is composed of small antelopes such as the blue duiker, suni, Damara Dik-Dik and others. The sheer variety of animals available makes African plains game hunting packages some of the more affordable and satisfying hunts of modern Africa.
Plains Game Hunts Overview
By and large, most safari hunters in sub-Saharan Africa are plains game hunters. A lot of hunters who have never been to Africa are put off in part by the perceived thought that it’s just too expensive to go on an African safari. However, this is not true. It is entirely possible to book a plains game hunt for less than the cost of an elk hunt in the United States.
African plains game hunting brings more hunters to Africa than all of the Big Five hunting combined. Sub-Saharan Africa contains more species of animals than any other hunting destination in the world. The phrase “African plains game” covers animals from the 2,000+ pound giant eland to the 25 pound dik-dik, and many medium-sized game animals in between.
African plains game hunting takes place over a wide variety of geographical areas ranging from heavily wooded savanna to high barren plateaus, and a wide range of grasslands between the two. All of these areas offer their particular type of animal with their unique challenge for the hunter. Sometimes the animal can be taken at distances less than 50 yards; sometimes the shot must be taken at ranges exceeding 300 yards. It all depends on which animal is hunted, and what its habitat holds.
In this article, we will cover plains game hunting by country. We’ll discuss hunting in seven of the most popular countries for plains game – Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Botswana Plains Game Hunts
There are two major hunting areas in Botswana, the Okavango Delta and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The Okavango Delta is home to a very diverse animal population, and is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The Kalahari Game reserve is home to some of the largest and most beautiful antelopes on earth, such as the Cape eland, gemsbok, and greater kudu.
Botswana also offers the opportunity to hunt on private game ranches. As a matter of fact, bushbuck, black wildebeest, and blesbok can only be hunted on these ranches.
Recently (2019) Botswana reopened the country to hunting again after a five-year closure. This happened for a number of reasons. Among them are; the negative impact of the hunting suspension on livelihoods, particularly for community-based organizations that were previously benefitting from hunter utilization; a general consensus from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks that the hunting ban should be lifted; and the fact that predators were increasing and causing a lot of damage as they killed livestock.
Hunting will be reinstated only in designated Concession Hunting Areas. An efficient hunting quota allocation system will be developed based on science. Animals to be included in the hunting quota shall be those currently in Schedule 7 of the Wildlife and National Parks Act of 1992.
Most plains game hunting in Botswana begins with an airplane flight to Johannesburg South Africa. A lot of hunters elect to overnight in J’burg after long hours of being cramped in an aluminum tube with 250 new friends. There are numerous hotels near the airport, or the hunter can stay at a lodge. It’s only a short flight the next morning to travel to Maun, or Gaborone, where your Professional Hunter will meet you and transport you to the hunting area.
At this time, it’s not known if animals like the Zambezi sitatunga, delisted years ago, will be off limits, or if parts of the Okavango Delta will be re-opened to hunting. From current information it appears that all previously huntable species will be available.
Plains game species that were available to hunt before the ban, and will presumably be available in the future, include: blesbok, bushbuck, bushpig, duiker, eland, gemsbok, giraffe, hartebeest, hyena, impala, jackal, kudu, lechwe, ostrich, porcupine, reedbuck, springbok, tsessebe, warthog, waterbuck, wildebeest, and zebra.
Mozambique Plains Game Hunts
Mozambique is a relative newcomer to the safari hunting scene due to a civil war fought from 1977 to 1992. The game population was greatly reduced during this period, but it is making a fantastic recovery. Located on the southeast coast of sub-Saharan Africa, Mozambique has excellent hunting on the huge government concessions that make up most of the hunting areas in the country. Mozambique’s hunting concessions consist of the government areas, known as coutadas, and game ranches. Hunting areas are mostly unfenced. Their average size is in excess of 150,000 acres. In most areas, the terrain is flat, and hunting isn’t very difficult.
Hunting access in the northern and western areas is usually done by plane, then a safari truck to camp. The camps near Beria are only accessible by car, a three to six hour drive. The safari season runs from May to the end of September.
No automatic or semi-automatic firearms are allowed. However, handguns can be brought into the country strictly for hunting purposes. A special permit which must be obtained before the hunter arrives in Mozambique is available through the Ministry of Interior. Be prepared to pay for the privilege. No weapons that chamber military calibers such as 7.62 NATO are allowed.
Some of the plains game on license in Mozambique include; Bushbuck (Chobe & Limpopo), Bushpig, Duiker (blue & red), Cape & Livingstone Eland, Chobe & Sharpe Grysbok, Hartebeest, Hyena, Impala, Kudu, Nyala, Oribi, Suni and numerous others.
Of all the sub-Saharan countries in this article, Mozambique is probably the least developed, or improved. Some of the hunting lodges can only be reached via air charter. Travel to Mozambique (Malavane International Airport, Maputo) is difficult as there are no direct flights from the United States. You have to fly into Johannesburg, or another African country like Ethiopia, or Kenya before transiting to Mozambique via another flight. There are flights from Europe, or Qatar, but connections are sometimes tedious. Factor in the in-country transportation, and a Mozambique safari can get expensive.
One way to hunt plains game in Mozambique would be to tie the hunt together with a dangerous game hunt. The country is hip-deep in buffalo, and a combination hunt would be a great adventure.
Namibia Plains Game Hunts
Since independence in March of 1990, Namibia has enjoyed great political stability. It’s a safe and affordable destination for a plains game hunt. Annually, more than 5,000 hunters visit Namibia. It is an excellent destination for first time hunters, and those who want to bring their families.
The majority of hunting safaris take place on countrywide private game ranches, conservancies where hunting is permitted, and in government hunting concession areas located in the northern part of the country near the Caprivi Strip in the east, and in northwestern Namibia above Walvis Bay. Hunting areas range from a few thousand acres on private lands, to hunting concessions covering more than a million acres. Most of the hunting areas consist of heavily-brushed savanna, and large desert plains. Some areas are quite challenging due to the elevation changes. Hunters need to be aware that the high plains where a lot of hunting takes place can be very demanding to those who aren’t used to high altitudes.
Namibia is a great destination for plains game hunting. The country is well-known for its famous Oryx (gemsbok) which is the national animal, and featured on Namibia’s Coat of Arms. They are found all over Namibia and can live in climates unsuitable for other animals. Other animals found in great numbers include; greater kudu, Cape eland, blue and black wildebeest, blesbok, impala, steenbok, springbok and many others.
Hunting plains game in Namibia is usually done by driving to the hunting area, then tracking on foot. Most of the private hunting areas have comfortable lodges serving excellent food. Average driving time from the Windhoek airport to a lodge is two to five hours. Some hunting is done out of remote tent camps, but these are quite nice. Namibia’s hunting season runs from February 1st to November 30th. Hunting takes place from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. Hunting lights are allowed, but not for cats. It is legal to hunt from a vehicle. If large plains game is on the list, a hunter would be best served by using a rifle with similar energy and muzzle velocity as a .375 H&H Magnum.
A partial list of plains game, and similar, animals available in Namibia include; African wild cat, chacma baboon, blesbok, bushbuck, bushpig, dik-dik, duiker, eland, gemsbok, giraffe, grysbok, hartebeest, hyena, impala, klipspringer, kudu, lechwe, nyala, oribi, ostrich, puku, reedbuck, roan, sable, sitatunga, springbok, steenbok, tsessebe, warthog, waterbuck, wildebeest, and zebra. Plus, there’s a whole host of other animals that fall into the medium-sized game list, with perhaps, the hippo being the largest.
South Africa Plains Game Hunts
South Africa has long been the most popular hunting destination in the world. It is a perfect venue for the first time hunter, especially for plains game. Most of the hunting in South Africa takes place on private game farms, with some hunting areas in provincial game reserves. Private fenced farms have over twice as much game as what is on public land.
More than half of the most popular plains game species are taken in just two South African provinces, the Limpopo, and Eastern Cape. There are over 30 species of antelope alone that are available to hunt. A number of game farms offer the opportunity to hunt non-indigenous exotic species; some that aren’t even from Africa.
South African hunting areas are spread over all of the country. A lot of them can be reached by car, but sometimes the distance from Johannesburg makes it much more practical to travel by air charter.
As in other African countries, South African plains game hunting is mostly done on foot, with a safari truck used to travel from the lodge to the hunting area. The habitat is grassy plains filled with thorn bush and acacia. Some areas are quite rocky and can require serious climbing. Good boots, well broken in, are a necessity no matter what you see your PH is wearing. He’s been walking the hills all his life – you haven’t.
South African plains game can be hunted year around. June through August are the most popular months. These are the coldest winter months, so warm clothing in layers is a must. There can be frost on the ground in the early morning, and the temperature can climb 40 degrees by late afternoon.
South Africa offers the greatest diversity of plains game hunting in all of Africa. The most commonly hunted plains game are: impala, warthog, Greater kudu, springbok, blesbok, gemsbok, and blue wildebeest. But, a plains game safari in South Africa offers something for everybody.
Tanzania Plains Game Hunts
Theodore Roosevelt hunted in Tanzania on his famous 1909 safari. Ever since, hunters have dreamed about a safari in Tanzania. When planning a plains game hunt, visions of huge herds of countless animals comes to mind. Tanzania has a wild life population that no other African country can equal both in numbers and variety. Tanzania has over fifty species of animals that can be hunted. That’s why it is considered one of the pre-eminent hunting destinations in the world.
Tanzania has a beautiful coastline on the Indian Ocean. It’s bordered by Kenya and Uganda in the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west, Zambia and Malawi in the southwest, and Mozambique to the south.
There are three main hunting areas in Tanzania; Masai Land in the north, the Selous to the south (named after big game hunter Frederick Selous, and encompasses 19,000 sq. miles), and the central and western regions. Trophy quality is outstanding and many animals have made it into the record books. There are more than 150 hunting concessions in Tanzania, some of which encompass more than two million acres. All of them are free range – no fences. The land in Tanzania consists of grasslands, shrub savanna, and areas of dense forests. The northern land can be extremely arid with weather like a desert.
Lodging is primarily tent camp, but is usually quite nice. The tents are set up before the start of safari season, and removed after it closes. Both the Selous and the western and central areas can only be reached by aircraft. A flight to most camps from Dar es Salaam requires one to three hours. Tanzania’s hunting season runs from July 1 to December 31st.
The Tanzanian government strictly controls the minimum number of days for a hunting safari, depending on the specie being hunted. A 7-day hunting safari is the minimum allowed, and can include up to two buffalo and some of the most common plains game species. The minimum equipment requirement for rifle hunting is .240 caliber for any game other than dangerous game. Dangerous game or big game hunting requires a .375 caliber. Game licenses will only be issued to hunters in possession of the minimum caliber required for the game listed. No handguns or semi-automatic rifles are allowed.
A few of the animals that can be taken on a plains game hunt in Tanzania include: East African bushbuck, Kirks dik-dik, Abbotts Duiker, blue duiker, Harvey’s red duiker, red Natal duiker, Patterson eland, Roberts gazelle, southern gerenuk, Lichtenstein hartebeest, silver back jackal, greater East African kudu, puku, Roosevelt sable antelope, suni – and a host of others. The only limit to what you hunt is your budget. Here’s another case where planning a joint hunt of dangerous game/big game and plains game makes sense.
The wildlife authorities and the Tanzanian government allocate quotas by each plains game species to each hunting block or hunting territory on an individual basis. The cost of hunting permits and licenses in Tanzania are very high and may, or may not, be included in the cost of the hunting safari.
The biggest downside to hunting in Tanzania is the cost. Overall, Tanzania is the most expensive country in Africa to hunt. On the plus side, you really do get what you pay for – the opportunity to not only shoot a trophy animal, but also to view an immense number of different animals. Tanzania is home to some really large Cape buffalo and elephant. Recent surveys put the buffalo population at over 270,000. Herds of hundreds of buffalo are not uncommon.
Zambia Plains Game Hunts
The history of modern game hunting in Zambia is a short one. Zambia only opened its borders to safari hunting when it created Game Management Areas (GMA) in the 1970s. Then, in 2001, Zambia revoked all the licenses previously sold to the safari industry, and all hunting came to an abrupt halt. In 2003, Zambia reopened for hunting and licenses were again granted. This happened only after a redistribution of the safari concessions.
Hunting in Zambia occurs in three different areas; GMAs, conservancies and private hunting areas. This amounts to approximately 6.5 million acres, mostly GMAs. Hunting in Zambia takes place for the most part in the Luangwa Valley or in the Kafue plateau region. The balance of hunting takes place around Bangweueu Lake on the North Zambian Plateau, a wetland area of 15,000 square kilometers. The lake averages 12 feet in depth. Some safari hunting is done in western Zambia. Most hunting areas are unfenced.
Zambia is home to a large variety of plains game/antelope, including several species that are found nowhere else. They include; the black lechwe, the Kafue lechwe, and Cookson’s wildebeest. In addition, Zambia is host to a large population of sable antelope that has been known to produce some very impressive trophies. It is this author’s humble opinion that the sable is the most beautiful of all the plains game in Africa, and a most worthy trophy.
Most Zambian safaris are done on foot. The hunting concessions are fairly flat, and the hunting is relatively easy. A safari truck may be employed to take the hunter to a game area, but the hunt will be walk-and-stalk.
A lot of the camps in Zambia are the ubiquitous tent camps. Some of them are quite nice. The idea of staying in a tent instead of a lodge may sound strange, but it’s actually quite pleasant. Lying in bed at night, listening to a lion growling on the other side of a flimsy piece of canvas will give a hunter a true appreciation of Africa’s wildlife. Actually, it IS quite pleasant to sleep in a tent, and quite safe.
In some private hunting camps the accommodations are either bungalows or permanent lodges, so a hunter can choose either type. The best hunting in Zambia is from June to November.
Zimbabwe Plains Game Hunts
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country bordered by Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia. It has long been a favored destination for hunters worldwide. There are no direct flights from the United States to Zimbabwe. Our last hunt saw us fly Delta to Johannesburg, South Africa, then overnight at a nearby hotel, and take the morning South African Airways flight to Victoria Falls, where we met out Professional Hunter, and travelled to the Matetsi hunting area.
There is good plains game hunting in Zimbabwe. On our safari, we saw sable, kudu, bushbuck, waterbuck, and numerous other species of plains game. As an aside, we counted over 1400 elephants during our trip. The camera got a good workout.
The hunting areas in Zimbabwe are spread out over a large area, and there’s no fencing for the most part. Zimbabwe is mostly mopane forests, or grassy open areas. Hunting takes place in one of three different types of areas: tribal hunting lands, private hunting concessions, or governmental hunting areas, each with their own set of rules and regulations. Private concessions and government hunting areas can measure in hundreds of thousands of acres – all open land.
Zimbabwe hunting is done by foot. Due to the vast hunting areas, travel by safari truck to some of the areas is necessary, but the hunting areas are not very rugged, and the hunting is not especially hard. Most hunting areas are accessible by vehicle from Harare, or, as we did it, from Victoria Falls. Lodging can run the gamut from rondavals with thatched roofs to extremely nice lodges. Most of the government hunting areas have large tent camps including electricity (generator).
Plains game hunting runs year around. However, due to the rainy season, most hunting is conducted between April and October. June and July are the best hunting months.
There are no limits to the number of firearms that may be imported into Zimbabwe. But, if you are travelling through South Africa, you will only be allowed to bring two firearms through that country, even if you are just in transit. Black powder firearms are allowed, but travelling with black powder is prohibited as it is considered an explosive. Handguns can be brought in for hunting purposes, but they are only allowed in certain hunting areas. That, plus a required $1500.00 import permit, does limit their usefulness.
Some of the available plains game include: Chobe/Limpopo bushbuck, blue/red/common duiker, Livingstone eland, gemsbok, grysbok, southern/common impala, klipspringer, greater/southern kudu, Nyala – and the list goes on.
Plains Game Hunts Summary
The African continent offers fabulous hunting for plains game. With a vast variety of habitats, myriads of species and subspecies, there is something for everyone that calls themselves a hunter. No matter whether you are a first-timer or an experienced veteran of multiple safaris, Africa offers something for all of us. The allure of plains game hunts along with the dangerous game of Africa make this continent the greatest destination on earth and one of the worlds last truly great adventures!