Game hunting laws in SA: Cross the T’s and dot the I’s

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GAME hunting laws and regulations in South Africa differ from province to province, depending on the management of what is termed a Nature Conservation Authority.

Although each province has different hunting regulations they all do have a very similar view on tourist safari hunting. Most make a distinction between what is termed local or meat hunting and non-resident or tourist safari hunts.

In addition to this there are the traditional game and hunting laws, some similar to what you may already practice at home, which one has to consider and which may affect your hunt in various ways.

Most South African hunting organisations, outfitters and PH’s will point to sections of the Wildlife Act of their province when you ask them about hunting regulations.

This is a lengthy document written in the typical legal jargon which only serves to confuse you.

Here are some of the basics you should know:

– Bearing in mind that most hunting properties in South Africa are privately owned fenced areas, many of the country’s game laws are structured around this fact. In the regulations and laws relating to game and the hunting thereof, a basic distinction exists between high fenced land and unfenced or open farmland.

Most high fenced land is called ‘exempted’ meaning that certain game laws do not apply within the confines of these areas.

Hunting seasons for example are not enforced upon exempted land whereas certain game animals have their traditional ‘open season’ if you pursue them on open unfenced land.

This means you can basically hunt all year round in South Africa and you can hunt all types of game regardless of the season.

The enforced hunting seasons usually only apply to local meat hunters who often hunt on unfenced open land because it is generally cheaper to do so.

– As a non-resident you cannot legally hunt unless you are directly under the supervision of a licensed professional hunter. In addition your hunt has to be under the direct control and organisational capabilities of a licensed outfitter. Both PH and outfitter have to be licensed in the province where the hunt will take place.

What this means is you cannot simply hunt with anyone who has game on their land, you have to make use of the established outfitter and PH channels. This is not necessarily a bad thing given the huge number of outfitters and PH’s that exist within each province. What it does is ensure that you as the client are at least getting a semblance of a ‘proper safari’.

Registered outfitters are required to prove they have the necessary capabilities to provide services which are necessary for a Safari hunt. These include but are not limited to: the legal permits which allow you to hunt, the service of a qualified PH, hunting, skinning and trophy handling services, suitable accommodation, meals and cleaning services, assistance with firearm importation and clearance. In addition, for what it’s worth, you are assured of getting a licensed Professional Hunter to guide you. Most PH’s are also outfitters as an outfitters license does not relate to a company but rather an individual PH. So more than likely, your PH is also going to be your outfitter and more often than not you will be hunting on land owned by them.

Most laws relating to outfitters and PH’s are there to protect an unsuspecting client rather than create even more complicated hunting or increase costs and if one realised what could actually transpire given the hunting set up in South Africa, these laws are definitely a good thing.

– General game hunting laws also exists, those that are a mixture between the old gentleman’s way of hunting and modernised intellectual ethics. There’s a whole list of these yet most are common sense and relate to the age old traditions of fair chase and challenge.

However if your property is high fenced and has qualified as “exempted” then many of these laws do not apply or if they do you can obtain a permit to exempt you from them. South Africa’s strong agricultural roots means that landowners have very particular and strong rights when it comes to protecting their crops and livestock and basically all methods of kill or capture are allowed.

Of importance to hunters:

You’re not allowed to take pot shots at game from the back of a vehicle, despite many custom built shooting racks on most outfitter hunting rigs – in fact you are not allowed to be within 200 meters of a vehicle? You’re not allowed to hunt at night nor with the use of a spotlight unless hunting leopard and hyena. No dogs are allowed to be used except when following wounded game or when hunting birds. There are also certain minimum caliber restrictions for certain types of game, basically dependent upon their size while you are not allowed to use an automatic weapon to hunt any game. Neither are you allowed to use traps or poison (unless you’re the landowner getting rid of problem animals).

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