By McKenzie Sims



I love bow hunting, but must admit I am no expert. Far from it. I get extremely excited when I close in on animals and because of that; I have even lost a couple of animals in the process. I am not proud of it, but if anyone tells you they have never lost an animal, they probably haven’t hunted enough. I do practice and work hard at trying to better my shooting abilities, but when it comes down to drawing back, it’s like I black out and lose all control of my senses. If that ever happens, I think I should stop hunting!


I have traveled to Africa with my bow on three occasions, though have only been on two bow safaris, once to the Limpopo Province in South Africa and the other in the Northern Cape. The third trip was to Zambia where I hoped to try for a hippo on dry land with my bow, and a Cape buffalo. That didn’t happen, but I did get lucky and got a few other different species. On my two bow-only safaris the weather was never ideal for bowhunting, and I got the timing wrong on both.


In July 2013, I traveled to the Limpopo Province of South Africa to hunt a few plains-game species with my bow. I wasn’t with an outfitter because the property I was on wasn’t a hunting property. There were not many different game species, but the game they had was primary for feeding the predators that were there for rehab and for breeding. There were numerous lions, even white lions; there were cheetahs, hyenas, and even a monster of a leopard that had been raised when he was found abandoned as a cub. So, everything I was to hunt would be food for these animals.


July is meant to be a good time for bowhunting as it’s mid-winter when everything has dried up. The water sources are getting lower, and the food has lost a lot of its nutritional value, so the wildlife comes frequently to water and food sources. I have spent a lot of time in Africa throughout the winter months over the years, but this time was different. Our winters in Southwest Wyoming can be brutal; we measure snow not in inches but in feet, and during the winter it is very common to see days and even weeks where we are below zero Fahrenheit. It’s not uncommon to have several days that hit negative thirty-five F with the windchill. The wind is brutal even during our summer days when we sometimes get thirty, forty, and even fifty-mile-an-hour winds, so I’m used to the wind.


But I have never experienced wind in Africa like I did during that week of July. The wind was howling, making it much colder by African standards. And the wind didn’t help in many ways. One, it was colder, so the game didn’t move as much; to move in the howling winds would affect all the senses that keep the animals alive. And shooting a bow and arrow in the wind is difficult to hold steady and your arrow drifts much more. So, from the beginning, we knew we had our work cut out for us, and over the seven days I was only able to get three shot opportunities. One was on the first day from a pop-up blind over a water source where I got a baboon. The next was Day 3 from of an elevated tree blind machan where I took an impala.


Then on Day 5 out of the same blind I arrowed a blue wildebeest that we spent the next two days tracking without finding it. My shot was just a bit high and clipped one lung, and if you know blue wildebeest you know they are very tough animals. They did find it a few days after I left. They figured the wildebeest had died that same day, but with little blood to follow and with so many tracks around, his were lost in the mix. The good thing was the meat was still salvageable for feeding predators, so it was not considered a waste.


My key lesson from this safari was, no matter how much planning you do and how perfect the timing is, Mother Nature can always throw a wrench in your plans, so be prepared for that and take it as it comes. Remember, a bad day on a safari is better than a good day at work, unless that good day at work adds to your safari fund!


My second bow safari was in the Northern Cape in November of 2021, and this is where I say I was a bit late or extremely early for prime archery conditions. November can be great for bowhunting as it’s getting warmer, and the rains have yet to really start to bring back the new growth and much-needed water. However, my timing was a little off. I arrived on 5 November, but the week prior to my arrival they had had a few really good early rainstorms, so the bush was beginning to come to life, making the food source be more abundant – the animals did not have to rely on feed. They still needed water, but rain filled up natural water sources so it was harder to pinpoint where the game would be. My second mistake was making this safari only five days – too short in most cases, but even shorter for the bowhunting conditions we were about to face.


The first morning we sat in a hide at ground level. This is a cool system that’s very popular in Southern African bowhunting camps, where the ground is dug out and a solid structure blind placed in the hole – these blinds looked like massive rocks. While we sat in the blind and watched Africa come to life that morning with the sun painting a picture across the African landscape, Danie and I talked about how difficult it was going to be with all this fresh green grass sprouting up.


Nothing came to water or feed that morning so after a while we got picked up from the blind and went about trying the spot and stalk technique. This proved to be the way forward. We first stalked a monster of a white springbok but, as I mentioned at the beginning of the story, I melt when I draw back my bow and that’s what happened. I drew back and sent a 650-grain Grizzly Stik arrow into a buffalo thorn acacia. But I did redeem myself on this same big white springbok just two days later.

This trip was quick, and 650-gr packed with zero luck out of the blinds was not for lack of trying, so we had to do everything by spot and stalk. We managed to end the safari with a few very fine antelope species in the salt, but not all we were after.

That is common on any safari. You will have a key species list and you most likely won’t get them all, but you probably will add a few animals of opportunity along the way that you didn’t have on your initial list.


Sometimes timing of trips isn’t always the most opportune, but you just have to make the most of it and use what conditions you are given. You’re in Africa on safari. Smile. Life is good!

In May 2018 I packed a bow with me on a safari to Zambia where the primary focus was a leopard, and after that the Cape buffalo and a dry-land hippo. Though this was not specifically a bowhunting safari, and I was using a rifle for the cat, it took a lot of our time and quota away with a rifle. We did get the cat early and that gave us time with the bow. However, May in Zambia is the very start of the season. The bush is thick and green, so getting shots on the smaller plains game was tough in thick vegetation.

For the primary focus of buffalo, we either could find the right bull but not close the distance with the number of eyes, or we could get close, almost too close in the very thick bush but never be able to pick out a mature bull, so my quest for a bow buff continues. But on that trip I did manage with a bow to take a monster puku that ranks high in the SCI record book, and I took an old warrior of an olive baboon.


The takeaway from this trip is that it’s very hard to be successful with a bow when you go on a safari with the bow just as a second option. You almost need to have it be a bow-only trip. You need to be OK about leaving without a lot of the desired animals you had on your list. With the leopard being the main reason for the safari, May was a great time, and I could have used a bow for this cat, and maybe I should have, but that gives me good reason for another safari. If I had wanted to do a bow-focused safari in this part of Zambia and a leopard wasn’t my number one animal, I would have planned it for later in the year, July to October, when it’s much dryer. The bush isn’t as thick and the game seems to congregate more, giving options for sitting water and stalking.



In conclusion, when planning a bowhunting safari, it’s key to make a plan with the outfitter for the dates he thinks work best. That doesn’t always line up with our busy schedules and I have mentioned a few of my hunts that didn’t happen during ideal archery time. That’s OK. Different times of the year are better for different species and for different methods. Earlier is better for spot and stalk; the ground is fresh and quieter on your feet, but it’s also very thick and can make getting a shot difficult. Later is good for sitting at feed and water, but the caveat is the ground is very crunchy with all the leaf litter.


Pick your top key species and make a plan with your chosen outfitter. Focus on the main species you want, and if others offer opportunities and you can afford to take them, do so.  Hunting is hunting and nothing always works out 100% perfectly. That’s part of the fun in it – the challenges had, and the experiences earned.



Residing in Southwest Wyoming, 28-year-old McKenzie Sims grew up as an outdoors kid, playing sports as a youngster, shed hunting, riding bikes, playing with his dogs.


He has visited six continents and hunted 17 different countries within them. He has hunted and explored much of the Western United States, and a few other states in the South and East.


His greatest hunting accomplishments have been finishing his North American Grand Slam of wild sheep, completing his Dangerous 7 of Africa, finishing his SCI African 29, and hunting the majestic bongo and mountain nyala of Africa.


He still has many dreams and aspirations for his hunting career and hopes many will follow along with him.