What are the legal requirements to hunt in South Africa?

South African now comprise of 9 provinces, in the place of the former 4 provinces As part of the transition arrangements the hunting regulations as they applied in the former four provinces still apply, irrespective of in which new province the area or farm is situated. Each of the former four provinces independently made and enforced nature conservation and hunting regulations.


There are some minor differences in the regulations between the former four provinces. I will restrict my explanation only to the area formerly known as the Transvaal province, now Limpopo, North West, Mpumulanga and Gauteng provinces, where I used to live and operate. Only with special prior arrangement will I offer any plains game hunting in an area that was not part of the former Transvaal province. Most of my own bird hunting has for years been undertaken in the Free State province, where I will continue to offer wingshooting and plains game hunting opportunities.

To just touch on political matters again I can assure you that there is absolutely no talk or plans by the new democratically elected government to make any immediate or drastic changes to the Nature Conservation Regulations which I am about to describe here now. Unfortunately the idiotic (that is the only word that I’m prepared to use for it) new Firearms Control Act has recently been implemented. The effect of the full implementation of the Act on trophy hunting by foreign hunters remains to be seen.

The former Transvaal province could be roughly divided into three major hunting areas: (I) The southern region near Johannesburg, now in Gauteng (ii) The northern and western so called “Bushveldt”, now North West and Limpopo provinces and (iii) the eastern Transvaal “Lowveld” near the Kruger National Park in Limpopo and Mpumulanga provinces. While hunting on a properly selected concession area in any of these areas you can really expect to see a great variety of game and numerous good trophies. As the major part of the Mpumulanga province “lowveld” hunting area is also malaria area I do not offer any hunting in this province at present.


The explanation given here of the hunting and game regulations is an attempt to simplify and abbreviate a very complex matter. There are some half-truths and under, or overstatements which I consider warranted for the sake of simplicity. If you require the full information you would need to read the entire Nature Conservation Ordinance and all the Regulations of each individual province. Here these documents were summarized with those simplifications, which I thought allowable.

Hunting and fishing in those areas which were formerly part of the Transvaal province was controlled by the Division of Nature Conservation of the Transvaal Provincial Administration through the Nature Conservation Ordinance, Ordinance 12 of 1984. As part of the transitional arrangements the individual provinces promulgated laws in which the continued validity of this ordinance within the boundaries of the new province was enacted. This Ordinance classifies wild animals into a two distinct groups, “wild animals” and “game”. The further subdivision of these two groups together with some examples of the most often hunted species within each group is given in the table below. A good understanding of the implications of this classification is essential to understanding the Gauteng, Limpopo, North West and Mpumulanga provincial hunting regulations.

Classification of Animals in terms of the Transvaal Nature Conservation Ordinance and some examples of each class of animal.

Animals called “GAME ANIMALS”

Animals called “WILD ANIMALS”



















Game birds







Most birds


Vervet monkey



There are some very important differences regarding to procedures to follow to make hunting of animals in these different classes legal. I will restrict my explanation of the legal requirements to “ordinary game”, which not only greatly simplifies matters, but these are also the animals most commonly hunted. The warthog, bushpig, jackal and baboon are also often hunted, but a very simple procedure is all that is required to make hunting of these “problem animals” and “wild animals which is not game” legal.

Ownership of game

In the four new provinces situated in the former Transvaal game as well as wild animals “belongs” to the owner of the land on which it is found. Although the game belongs to the owner of the land the relevant individual provincial Nature Conservation authorities still have full control over the hunting of such animals. Because almost all of the area in the province is in private ownership, it follows that the game also belongs to private landowners, and the hunting in this province is on privately owned land and it is privately owned game that is hunted. To the best of my current knowledge there is only one reserve in which the State has a share where there are possibly some hunting opportunities for foreign hunters.

Permission to Hunt.

For any hunting of any nature, even animals classified as “problem animals” (or vermin), by anyone other than the landowner and his immediate family the written permission of the landowner is always required. The information required to be provided on such a “written permission” is prescribed by the Ordinance, and besides requiring statements about the specie, number and sex of animals to be hunted, includes the requirement that both the hunter and the landowner sign the document. Many landowners use this document to, in addition to the prescribed information, also contain a formal “contract” between him and the hunter regarding cost of trophies, method of payment and indemnity for him and his staff in case of an accident. By signing the written permission to hunt, as is required by the Ordinance, the hunter also then enters into a contractual agreement with the landowner. In South Africa the land owner is very often a farmer by occupation, and the terms “Concession Area” and “Farm” can mostly be interchanged . Similarly  “Land Owner” and “Farmer” have very similar meaning.  Foreign hunters need not concern themselves with all the detail, as it is the duty of the hunting outfitter to ensure that all hunting is in strict accordance to the legal   requirements. The hunting outfitter has to obtain a so-called ‘transfer of hunting rights’ from the land owner even before he is allowed to advertise any hunting opportunity to foreign hunters. In effect this transfer of hunting rights allows the hunting outfitter to let his appointed professional hunter guide a client on the property without the requirement for the specific client to have a “written permission” from the landowner.  

Hunting Concession areas and Game found on such Areas.

The size of the areas on which huntable game occurs varies from a few hundred to many thousands of hectares. These concession areas or hunting farms may harbor only one or two huntable species, as is often the case in the southern region, or twenty or more species on many of the larger farms in the western and northern areas. The size of hunting farms in the Transvaal lowveld also varies very much. Some private farms even have some of the “Big Five” offered for hunting. Please note here that I do not normally offer the hunting of the “Big Five” or dangerous species of game. My professional hunters license allows me to, but logistics make it impractical for me to offer buffalo and other dangerous game as a rule.

Quality of Farm Fences and Open Farms.

The effectiveness of the fencing surrounding a defined hunting area, which may be all or part of a single farm or parts or all of a group of neighboring farms fenced an managed as a unit, largely determines the correct course of action to make hunting there legal. Where the surrounding fence is of “low quality” with respect to the degree to which it can control the movement of game onto or off the property the farms are referred to as “open farms’. On such an open farm game may only be hunted during some defined hunting season, which is normally in our winter, from May to August, but the hunting regulations, which are promulgated each year, determine the season, classes of persons who may hunt and the species and sex of game, which may be hunted. Before hunting an official hunting license for each animal you intend to hunt has to be obtained at a nominal fee. The farmer or land owner still owns the game, but the Director of the relevant provincial Nature Conservation department, in his capacity as the highest executive officer of the Division of Nature Conservation, regulates the hunting by the declaration of specific hunting seasons and through the issuing of hunting licenses. This state of affairs is similar to that which exists in the United States, except that our hunting seasons are usually much longer.

Game-proof Fenced or P3-Exempted Farms.

 In those instances where the farm, or farms or parts thereof, is surrounded with a fence of such quality and height that there is no likelihood of any movement of game into or out of the surrounded area the landowner may apply to have the farm declared exempted from most of the regulations controlling the hunting on other land. If such a farm is exempted a so-called “P3” permit is issued on which all the conditions controlling hunting on the farm is indicated. The P3 permit specifically lists those species that are “exempted” from almost all other measures introduced to protect animals on open farmland. The hunting of such exempted species of game or protected game on that area is legal at any time of the year, and no license or any other documentation, other than the written permission of the landowner, is required to hunt. Clearly a lot of responsibility for conservation of game on such a farm is placed with the landowner, and the authorities did this intentionally. In actual practice it is a very successful conservation approach. It ensures that the landowner is responsible to control hunting pressure below the sustainable yield on his property. If he exceeds the maximum sustainable yield, the species will become extinct on his farm, but because the fences are of such height and construction that animals from neighboring farm cannot restock his farm it is only a limited area in which the particular species is exterminated. Such a farm can then only be re-stocked at great cost to the farmer; this economic incentive ensures that game is hunted under very good control on the P3-exempted farms.

Birds are never exempted and may only be hunted with a license and in a certain hunting season, irrespective weather or not other exemptions apply to the farm.

Special Permission and Permits.

The director of Nature Conservation is empowered to issue special permits to make hunting legal under a variety of unusual circumstances. It may therefore be possible for a foreign hunter to be allowed to hunt birds in a normally “closed season” if his hunting outfitter has made the required prior arrangements to obtain these permits.

Regulations Regarding Firearms and Caliber Requirements for Legal Hunting.

Other than prohibition of the use of .22 rim fire caliber there are very few caliber restrictions or prescriptions in the Ordinance. Hunting of “Game” animals, other than birds or hares, with a shotgun is also prohibited. The use of semi-automatic or self-loading rifles to hunt ordinary or protected game is also prohibited, but such firearms may be used to hunt “problem animals” and “wild animals which is not game”. There are no restrictions on hunting with muzzle-loaders or handguns, although your professional hunter will not allow the hunting of any animal with a weapon with insufficient killing power for the particular animal. On P3-Exempted farms, where most of the hunting by foreign visitors is undertaken, hunting with almost any weapon is allowed.

Bow and Arrow Hunting.

Bow hunting is still restricted and allowed only in the case of a special permit, or special exemption having been issued. Any prospective bow hunter should try to bring along some proof of his ability to hunt with bow and arrow. A certificate of competency or similar from a bow hunting club or similar document to provide written proof of the prospective hunter’s competency is required. Provided arrangements are made well in advance of the desired starting date any hunting outfitter will be able to arrange legal and ethical bow hunting for any huntable species.

Fishing Licenses and Requirements.

A license, bought at a nominal fee, and the permission of the landowner is required to make fishing legal within a declared open season.

Some Common Misconceptions about Hunting on Fenced Farms.

From past enquiries made by European and American hunters is transpires that they are inclined to think that hunting game in a game fenced area or farm (behind the fence hunting) is “easy” or unethical. Be assured that it is not so. It is often more difficult to hunt on such a farm, as the game become very wary due to the continued hunting pressure throughout the year

The important aspect to consider when deciding if hunting of an animal in a fenced area may be considered as ethical is not only the size of the fenced area, but also the size of the natural home range of the species being considered. The best trophy animals from many species are taken from the territorial male population. Knowing the typical size of a male’s territory is critical to evaluating the ethics of hunting a particular species in a smallish enclosed fenced area.

To explain the concept I will consider hunting a male, say impala, in a whole unfenced continent as Africa was a few centuries ago.  This male impala had its territory of about 66 hectares, or 165 acres, which was surrounded by the similar sized territories of other impala rams. If the ram saw, and felt threatened, by a hunter, it would run off to hide on another part of its own territory, where it would stand and watch out for the hunter on its tracks. If the hunter is seen again, it would run off again to yet another part of its own territory and hide there. This will go on and on and on, and the ram would normally never venture out of its own territory to escape from danger of a hunter. Only if very hard pressed would the ram run onto a neighboring territory, and the it would stay there for a short while before returning, or being chased back, to its own territory. So, although the ram had the whole African continent to run to in order to escape the hunter, it used at most a little bit more than the size of its own territory, say about 200 acres, to actually do so. This same behavior is still present today. If you hunt one of 10 territorial impala rams in a fenced area of, say, 1650 acres the single one that you have selected will still only basically use it’s own 165 acres to try to escape from you.  Now you tell me what is the difference between hunting a single impala ram on an unfenced continent of which he uses 200 acres to escape from you, and hunting a single ram in a fenced area of 1650 acres, of which he uses 200 acres to escape from you? I have intentionally used a 10:1 ratio of total area; territorial area in this example. If you, as a potential hunting client now want to demand that you do not want to hunt impala on an fenced area of smaller than 3300 (or a ratio of 20:1), will you please motivate your reasons for deciding on this particular number?

It is a common misconception that you can only hunt ethically on the very big concession areas, and that only the very big concessions have good quality trophies. The following arguments only apply to the well-managed hunting farms where the population and hunting pressure is in good balance. It is very true that the bigger the farm the bigger the chance of there being a few very good trophies on it. The chance is however only proportional to the number of animals, there is no real difference in hunting for one of three trophies amongst 300 impala on a farm of 900 hectares to hunting for one of 30 trophies amongst 3000 impala on a farm of 9000 hectares. By proper ethical hunting one hunter can only cover so many hectares in one day, and only if you are really looking for a record impala will it pay you to stay for a long time on one of the very big farms, where there are so many more trophies to choose from.


The Requirements for South Africans to Hunt.

In South Africa there is no law to provide for the issuing of a “license to hunt” as is the case in Germany and other European countries. This means any South African citizen who can obtain a firearm, or borrow one, may hunt, provided he gets the landowner’s written permission and complies with the other legal requirements. He does not even need to buy a license if the farm has an exemption P3 permit, or if he is hunting game classified as “problem animals” or “wild animals which is not game”. In the past this very easy access to hunting by virtually anyone so inclined has led to a number of violations of all rules of ethical conduct. Today, fortunately, more and more farmers insist that a prospective hunter be a member of a Hunting Association and be in possession of a certificate of competency. It is however not a legal requirement.

The Requirements for Foreigners to Hunt Legally in South Africa.

Any person not normally resident in South Africa may hunt only if his hunt is arranged by a hunting outfitter (HO). To become a hunting outfitter a prospective candidate has to attend an accredited hunting academy course, pass a theoretical as well as a practical examination on a wide range of aspects relating to hunting. A thorough knowledge and understanding of the relevant provincial Nature Conservation Ordinance is essential to pass these examinations. The prospective hunting outfitter must also demonstrate wide knowledge of game and birds, trees, grass and all aspects important to hunters. A permit to operate as a hunting outfitter may than be issued to successful candidates once certain other conditions have been met, amongst other a comprehensive public liability insurance cover has to be obtained.

A prospective overseas hunter is well advised to make sure that the hunter outfitter arranging his bunt is in possession of a valid permit to operate as a one. To get the numbers and validity of Andrew McLaren's permits click here.

The Duties and Responsibilities of a Hunting Outfitter and Professional Hunter.

It is the duty of the hunter outfitter to obtain all the necessary licenses or permits and permissions for his client and to provide certain staff and facilities for hunting. The hunter outfitter must amongst other provide a professional hunter (PH) to accompany his client on the hunt at all times. The safety of the client and making sure that the client hunts in accordance with the legal and ethical requirements is the responsibility of the professional hunter. To become a professional hunter a candidate also has to write a theoretical examination and do a practical field-test, as for a hunting outfitter. The hunting outfitter will ensure that the professional hunter he appoints to guide the client is in possession of a valid permit to act as a professional hunter. One person may hold both permits, he may then legally operate as a hunting outfitter and “appoint” himself as professional hunter. One professional hunter may at any time act as the guide for a maximum of two clients while hunting for plains or other game. Where a hunting party is to consist of three or four hunters it is a legal requirement that two professional hunters must guide them at all times. The same restriction does not apply to a party of dedicated bird hunters, and while on an actual wing shooting safari a single professional hunter may guide many foreign bird hunters.


Hunting related legislation varies amongst the 9 provinces of SA.  Information is available from provincial departments dealing nature conservation.   Provincial ordinances and promulgated regulations are roughly based on that of the 4 "old provinces", but all of these are under review.  Before 1994 South Africa was made up of 4 provinces, but under the new political dispensation there are 9.  Most provinces still subscribe to the hunting legislation of whichever “old province” it was part of.  There are continuous updates to the acts and ordinances, of which details are available from the provincial offices of Nature Conservation. The PHASA web site references these offices.  

Legislation around the local South African hunters, often referred to as “biltong” (jerky) or "venison" hunters, is lacking sadly though.  Anybody's brother-in-law and his buddy may take to the bush with a firearm and shoot the living daylights out of game that comes into sight, as long as he can pay, and the farmer approves.  The "antis" thus have valid ammunition, which us hunters provide them with.  The Confederation of Hunting Associations of Southern Africa (CHASA) designed training material which has become the informal minimum standard of competence required from local hunters.  But there is no legislation (yet) to back it.  It was naively envisaged that the recently revised Fire-arms Control Bill would address this aspect, but it did not.  We are left with no more than a moral obligation (hopefully driven by peer pressure?) to behave as hunters should.  

The recent full implementation of the new  Fire Arms Control Act have potentially far reaching effects for self-defense,  shooting sport, hunting and collectors.  Following the English and Australian proven recipes for failure, the South African Government added yet one more First World pipe dream to its fantasies on the Dark Continent.  There is continuous lobbying (world wide of course) for removal of all legal firearms - referred to as " guns" - from society.  With large numbers of illegal fire-arms in the hands of criminals, the government's idea seems to aim to disarm law abiding citizens to curtail the possible apprehension of criminals by firearm-competent citizens?  The debate is quite emotional, and not the topic of this web site.  Fortunately the net effect on hunting is not likely to be much in the short term.

Law enforcement is not exactly a South African strength!  Statistics of murder, rape and armed robbery are of the highest to be found, yet we subscribe to (debatably) the world's most ambitious constitutional model.  It is my belief that when you make rules without policing them, if fosters a culture of lawlessness. The policing of the hunting regulations is no better than the rest. Yet, as far as the practical policing of the hunting laws are concerned, we are however fortunate that the game in South Africa is by and large "private property" and the owners look after their own property. This means that despite large scale "technically illegal" hunting there is very little threat to the continued existence of the hunted species. 

The Professional Hunter and Hunting Outfitter

Until around 1980 there was no legislation with regards foreign hunters.  Many of the professional hunters of the time graduated from the "university of life", and some are still in the industry today.  Unfortunately it is a fact of life that in any rapidly growing industry incompetence, arrogance and greed are ever absent, and frequent customer abuse necessitated a legal approach to regulate trophy hunting.  Conservationists of the period, like Kobus Schoeman and colleagues, participated with professional hunters of the time, and founded the legislation of "trophy hunting" that is today known as "the Hunting Ordinances".

The Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA) cooperates closely with Nature Conservation, and adopted a policy of tightening up on controls in order to induce higher standards to the hunting industry.  PHASA acts as watchdog of potential transgressions of members as well as non-registered hunters.  Nature Conservation Departments of the various provinces police compliance to the requirements of the hunting laws.  In essence, the legislation around hunting by foreigners is similar in all provinces, and summarizes roughly as follows:

  • The foreign hunter has to be guided at all times by a professional hunter (PH) licensed for that province.
  • Said foreign hunter may only be recruited by somebody with a hunting outfitter’s permit for that province.
  • To qualify as PH, the incumbent needs to be a SA citizen, over the age of 21, have attend an accredited hunting school  training course for at least 10 days, and must pass the test criteria of that school.  This is followed by an examination set and marked by appointed nature conservation officials for that province. 
  • All provinces have lately adopted a policy of not issuing the newly qualified PH with an outfitter’s permit unless he is a land owner, or has actively guided hunters for at least 3 years.  Advocates of this policy argue that it is all for the benefit of the SA hunting industry.  These measures are meant to curtail the “fly-by-night” syndrome, hence securing high standards of service and professionalism, and a positive international image for the benefit of all.
  • There are currently further thinking in some provinces to introduce a 3 years apprenticeship under an experienced PH (after attendance of hunting school) before certification as PH will be granted .
  • On application for an outfitter’s permit, Nature Conservation scrutinizes the PH’s qualification and his “base camp facilities".  These are the physical necessities such as marketing material, vehicles, rifles, decent accommodation, skinning, trophy handling and cold storage.  Approval results in an outfitter's permit.