Free-Range Hunting in South Africa Still Exists

By: Peyton Merideth
Contrary to what you might read on the internet, there are a few outfitters and hunting operations in South Africa that provide world-class hunting experiences without the use of high game fencing.
I booked my first South African safari over 20 years ago, and like many first timers, I inquired about game fencing.  Coming from Alaska, where hunting behind game fences was unheard of, I was initially concerned.  However, I was assured that while most hunting operations in South Africa were fenced, my hunt wouldn’t be negatively impacted.  Over time, after several “once in a lifetime” safaris, I learned more about South Africa’s game laws and how game fencing is used as a conservation tool, along with the private ownership of wildlife.  For discerning hunters who wish to experience the thrill of hunting in South Africa without game fencing, there are a few “best-kept secret” spots, particularly in the Eastern Cape.  These outfitters and hunting operations offer outstanding free-range hunting opportunities based on low-fence sheep and cattle ranches.
I recently hunted with several Shoshone clients on one of these low-fence sheep ranches, located just north of Grahamstown, approximately two hours from Port Elizabeth.  The Eastern Cape, particularly the Grahamstown area, has a rich history with deep colonial British roots.  Frontier wars were fought on these ranches, and in fact, hunters can still find relics of this time buried in the South African soil.  A few years ago, while on safari on the same ranch, a friend of mine found a musket ball buried beneath a tree.  It’s hard not to soak up the history of this land while enjoying some fantastic free-range hunting.
Typical of most South African safaris, the Shoshone outfitter we hunted with offers a multitude of plains game species.  However, some of these species are endemic to the Eastern Cape.  While they can be hunted elsewhere, such as the Limpopo Province behind high fences, they are not native there and often struggle to survive due to certain tick-borne pathogens.  Here in the Eastern Cape, species like Springbok are plentiful and run in large herds.  Other traditional Eastern Cape species, such as Black Wildebeest, Eastern Cape Kudu, and Cape Bushbuck are also abundant in this region.
Night hunting for Bush Pigs in the Eastern Cape of South Africa is indeed an exhilarating experience, especially when conducted over bait at night.  With the help of remote-controlled bait lights or motion sensors, hunters can increase their chances of spotting these elusive nocturnal creatures.  Accompanied by David McElwain, Shoshone Adventure Consulting’s Videography & Creative Director, who was filming segments for our new Shoshone YouTube Channel, the safari took us to the coast near the city of Port Alfred.  Here, we embarked on a specialized hunt for Bush Pigs and Blue Duikers.  Having previously been unsuccessful in hunting Bush Pigs, I was eager to have another opportunity to pursue these elusive creatures.  The hunt itself is a unique experience filled with anticipation and excitement.  
When we arrived at the bait site, we parked the truck about 200 yards away at the top of a hill.  In the dim light, barely illuminating the bait site at the bottom of the valley, we could already see pigs feeding.  Recent rains had left the solar-powered light insufficiently charged, making it difficult to make out the pigs clearly.  With caution, we inched our way down the steep embankment, aiming to close the distance between us and the bait.  Not a breath of wind stirred the air, and the sound of our footsteps in the grass seemed amplified with every step.  Looking back up the steep hill towards the truck, I remember thinking, “Man, I really hope we don’t have to walk back up this hill!”  
Finally, we stopped about 75 yards from the bait, and my professional hunter set up the shooting sticks.  Despite the darkness, the full moon and the faint light above the bait allowed me to pick out the largest pig’s front shoulder. I squeezed the trigger, and the pig dropped in its tracks.  Even with a suppressor on my rifle, the shot echoed across the valley as did the impact of the bullet.  My quest for a giant bush pig was finally over!  Capturing this awesome adventure on video was icing on the cake.  Overall, night hunting for bush pigs in the Eastern Cape of South Africa with one of our preferred Shoshone outfitters is an experience unlike any other.  It combines the thrill of the chase with the beauty of the thick coastal forrest.  It’s an adventure that will stay with you long after the hunt is over.
David and I returned to the farm and rejoined our Shoshone clients on their hunt.  During our absence, all three clients shot magnificent Eastern Cape Kudu, Springbok, Zebra, Mountain Reedbuck, and several other free-range trophies.  As a hunting consultant, understanding my clients’ expectations, especially after they have traveled across the world to a new place with all the trepidation that brings, is the essence of booking hunts.  On a personal note, I love sharing Africa with people for the first time because she rarely disappoints.  Watching the awe and excitement on my clients’ faces as they experience the beauty and adventure of the African wilderness is incredibly rewarding.  It’s moments like these that remind me why I love what I do.  
Over the course of their hunt, our Shoshone clients harvested nearly 40 free-range game animals, with only three fallow deer hunted within a separate high fence operation.  It’s worth reiterating that without high fences and the private ownership of game in South Africa, there likely wouldn’t be the numbers of diverse wildlife for all to enjoy.  However, for hunters who desire to experience South Africa outside of a high-fenced game operation, there are several excellent options available that provide a fantastic hunting adventure sure to please anyone.  Whether it’s tracking game through the seemingly impenetrable coastal forest or stalking animals on the open veld, the beauty and thrill of hunting in South Africa is unparalleled.  

Author’s Note:

Peyton Merideth is the Chief Operating Officer for Shoshone Adventure Consulting.  He has hunted and toured South Africa numerous times with his family and specializes in setting up hunts for first time visitors to Southern Africa.  For information about hunting free-range game in South Africa, please contact Shoshone Adventure Consulting.

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