I first arrived in the South African camp in darkness in 1994, stowed my gear, and went to bed. The next morning, I awoke and put my bare feet on a zebra skin rug. Wow! Ever since that first day in Africa, I’ve wanted to shoot a mature, male zebra. Little did I realize that it would take nearly 20 years of effort to finally get a shot. Zebras are easily the most misunderstood game animals in Africa. Yes, they look like a horse, but just try sneaking up on one in the African bush.

Agagia 2012 1 530First Try

My first shot opportunity came two years later, on a game ranch in South Africa. I was tucked into an American-style tree stand when I heard the blowing sound of a zebra. Eventually I watched a line of the striped animals carefully work down a hillside, pass through a patch of trees, and approach a waterhole. The shot distance would be 30 yards, a range I was comfortable with, yet a dilemma suddenly occurred to me: Which one do I shoot? The animals don’t have horns and they all looked alike.

I knew to pick out a young stallion for its excellent skin and more tender venison, but choosing would be difficult.  As the animals filed toward the water, a large one at the rear of the column suddenly looked alert, made an alarm sound, and the entire herd stampeded away. Apparently, it had caught a whiff of human scent and showed no curiosity about the matter.

Ten Years Later

Nearly a dozen safaris would pass with still not bow shot at a zebra. Finally, in Namibia with Eden Safaris, I heard the tell-tale blowing sound as the sun set. I thought I’d finally get another chance. A couple of zebras came near the waterhole where several kudu cows and impalas were drinking. As always, the striped animals were very wary of danger and only approached a few steps at a time. Just when a shot seemed imminent, one of the zebras flatulated, the herd spooked, and they stayed in the bush until darkness. How could a zebra fart ruin a hunt?

Agagia 2012 1 449Finally

Six more safaris would pass until opportunity finally “nocked.” I was hunting with Peter, a professional hunter on Agagia Safari’s special bowhunting-only property. We spotted a herd of zebras a couple hundred yards from our blind, which was situated by a waterhole.

I watched them with binoculars and again wondered how I’d  pick out a young stallion when the animals all looked alike. With Peter’s experience, fortunately, he was able to identify the gender difference right away.

Just then, lady luck made an offering. One of the zebras left the herd and came to drink right in front of the blind. And… it was a young stallion. The animal stood broadside and the unique sergeant stripe made the perfect aiming point. In seconds, I was at full draw and the Easton Injection shaft and Big Nasty broadhead buried deep into its chest. The animal raced away, but only lasted a few seconds. We feasted on zebra tenderloin the next night and the skin was little short of amazing.

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Joe Byers
Joe Byers has more than 1,000 magazine articles in print and is currently a field editor with Whitetail Journal, Predator Xtreme, Whitetails Unlimited, Crossbow Revolution, and African Hunting Journal magazines. He’s spent the last three decades depicting the thrill of the chase and photographing the majesty of all things wild. Byers is a member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association and numerous other professional and conservation organizations.