Africa bow hunt: Fantastic adventure

PHOTOS BY GARRY BRANDENBURG — A Sable antelope, a zebra and Kudu were three of the five animals that Garry Brandenburg bow hunted on a recent voyage to South Africa. Planning for this unique bowhunting adventure began in the spring of 2019 at an Iowa Bowhunters Association banquet where the donated hunt was purchased. The plan was to travel to South Africa in 2020 but a pandemic changed all kinds of travel. The postponed 2020 time slot was moved to 2021. And that is how my June 8 to June 18 adventure came to be.

FRICA is a huge continent, at least four times larger than the United States. It is a very diverse land mass containing 121 intricate mosaics of terrestrial ecoregions identified by biologists and botanists. Obviously the expanse of habitat types from the Sahara desert to mountainous rainforests to dry woodlands and large savanna grasslands cannot be easily portrayed. What Africa can and does do well is use its natural resources as a drawing card for tourism, both photographic and for regulated hunting. These utilizations of the land are in addition to limited agricultural capabilities, plus mining, sheep, cattle ranching and vineyards and much more.

I have always been enthralled and fascinated by Africa. This continent has some of the most diverse habitats and thus a wide diversity of animals found anywhere on planet earth. As a young boy growing up on a Bremer County farm, I could only dream about travel to Africa. My thoughts at that early stage of life was how impossible it would be to accomplish that dream. Yet somehow I never let that dream die. Decades of time and a career in conservation work helped me focus on turning that dream into reality. I made it happen.

The bug to travel to Africa began in early 2005, soon after I retired from the Marshall County Conservation Board the previous summer. I was invited to go on a photographic safari in East Africa, Kenya and Tanzania, with other outdoor and nature photographers. That voyage sealed the deal and cemented the idea that I needed to return in the future, someday and somehow, to experience more of this fantastic place.

It was August 2007 that my wife Bobbi and I returned to South Africa, this time on an archery hunt for plains game animals. Melorani Safaris was the destination hosted by the landowner Stewart Dorrington in the northwest province about three hours drive from Johannesburg. I harvested seven animals representing six species. Bobbi accompanied me to a hunting blind one morning to witness critters coming and going to a water hole. Later on, as I continued to hunt, she accompanied the landowner’s wife Bronwyn Dorrington to all kinds of local venues. It was time well spent for both of us.

Dorrington told me then, and it remains true today, that “South Africa has a magnetic pull on all those that visit. Most hunters return because each safari offers a different and unique experience. The revenue earned from overseas hunters is what keeps wildlife on the ground in Africa today and tomorrow. Hunters know that when they hunt South Africa, they are contributing to conservation and preservation of habitat.”

In summary, wildlife ranching pays the bills, and because it pays it stays. Native wildlife is already superbly adapted to life in the bushveld. Whereas domestic cattle ranching is a tough go, similar to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, complete with all the expenses and labor of growing protein, native wildlife supplies the same or greater quantity of protein without all the associated costs. In Africa, wildlife taken by hunters is fully utilized for its meat. Nothing goes to waste.

During 2019, at the spring banquet of the Iowa Bowhunters Association, an auction item came up for bidding. Long story made short, I purchased a South Africa bow hunt. It was to happen in 2020. We all know that 2020 was a year of cancellations with just about everything put on hold. So plan B was set in motion to move travel time to 2021. Finally as time drew nearer and airline tickets were acquired, it was time to add another chapter to my bow hunting memory book. Travel days to South Africa were June 8 and June 9. Hunting would take place during the next seven days. Travel days back to the United States were June 17 and June 18. Proof of negative COVID tests and record of vaccination were required to leave the USA. An additional COVID test in South Africa was required prior to being able to leave the country. My safari company already had that contingency covered on how to get that test.

This archery hunt for plains game animals was successful in many ways. First, I met new people and gained new friends. Second, I did harvest several species I had not taken in 2007, namely this time a Sable, zebra and blesbok. I also arrowed an Impala and a kudu to make five critters on this safari. Thirdly, I contributed to long-term conservation and management of wildlife resources in a country where an entire industry of hunting has a proven track record of success. Game ranching utilizes many portions of African landscapes, habitat zones and soils that are ill suited to other land uses including more traditional commodity type agriculture. Native wildlife thrives within these rigorous, unyielding and unique settings.

So it is that I returned to Africa. “The bug that bites the hardest is the bug to return.” I have only touched the tip of a very large “iceberg” of what Africa is and what the land offers. I am blessed and feel extremely fortunate to have allowed my childhood dream of travel to Africa come true. It was a long time coming but well worth the wait, the effort and the cost.

Will I return again to Africa in a future year? Maybe yes. Perhaps not. However, I can continue to dream about the possibilities. I already know that one must think positively about dreams that inspire one to action. Africa is just one place in the world where dreams can be realized. By the way, I know I will return to Alaska and Canada. I am now shifting my dreams to New Zealand and Australia. And for sure all four corners of Iowa remain on our travel list.

For your funny bone: “What is the difference between a Labrador dog and a marine biologist? One wags a tail and the other tags a whale.”

Garry Brandenburg is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology.

Contact him at:

P.O. Box 96

Albion, IA 50005


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