Population of skillful hunters and gatherers, the San have refined their hunting techniques over the centuries, they are mainly based on a great knowledge of the animals to be hunted, on the poisons to use and on an effective system of signs to communicate during the chase, without making any noise.
Thanks to their great ability they survived in a hostile environment like the Kalahari desert, their hunting and tracing skills are phenomenal, they know the habits of all animals; they are able to recognize the footprints and determine the age, direction, sex, health conditions of a specimen, and how long before it has passed in that area.
Hunting assumes a sacred value for the San, animals, and their interaction with man, have a significant role in the society of the San; they are the protagonists of an ancestral struggle that fights at odd weapons since the dawn of time.
The San hunt with simple but very effective weapons, the main weapon is the bow with poisoned arrows; but they also use sticks, spears and build a large amount of ingenious traps.
Mostly antelopes are hunted, though they do not disdain other prey such as lizards, snakes, frogs, and sometimes fish; a hunting fight is a team action that involves more people and can last several days.
When they identify a potential prey, hunters approach it as much as possible, immediately studying the direction and strength of the wind, throwing a handful of dust into the air; if the hunting ground is open, they crawl on their belly, camouflaging themselves with ostrich feathers or antelope skins.
After they have approached the prey, the hunters shoot their poisoned arrows; the arrows of the San do not immediately kill the animal, since the effect of the poison is not immediate and hence, they often have to chase the animal for a few days; in the case of small antelopes, such as common duikers and steenboks, it may only be enough for a couple of hours before the poison has an effect and causes death, but for larger antelopes it may take from 7 to 12 hours and for larger animals, such as the giraffe, up to 3 days.
Sometimes the San hunters are forced to chase the injured animal; the San are tireless runners, they can run for hours, and, running, it's as if they identify with their prey.
The poisoned arrows have a hollow shaft, originally without a buzz, with a pointed part consisting of a piece of bone and a poisoned tip, usually made of bone or iron; the tip is tied to this part of the stem using the grass that, once the arrow hits the animal, cleaves and the arrow stays stuck in the flesh.
The poison used by the San is derived from the juice extracted from the plants of euphorbia, mixed with the larvae of a small beetle, the poison derived from snakes or millipedes is added; the poison is boiled repeatedly, until it takes on the consistency of a red jelly, once cooled it can be used on the tip of the arrows.
The poison is neurotoxic, so it acts on the nervous system of the animal, without contaminating the flesh of the whole prey; the area where the arrow hits the prey is however removed, while the rest of the meat is suitable for eating.
The man whose arrow struck and killed the animal has the right to distribute the meat to all the group of hunters and to those who remained in the village waiting for their return.
In hunting expeditions to larger animals, men consume a part of the animal in the open-air, being unable to carry the prey to the village, in the past for example the feet of the elephants were cooked in holes where fiery stones were placed .
Not always the hunting is traced to the pursuit of the prey, many times the San hunter lurks at the entrance of the underground ditches excavated by the aardvarks or the warthogs, that are also used by other small animals to escape the warm sun of the day, and they patiently wait for the animal to come out of their den to strike them using a stick; other times they build traps near the water puddles where the animals go to drink and build cages to imprison guinea fowls and birds.
Before embarking on a large hunting expedition, men paint their body, using red, white, and yellow earth as a propitiatory ceremony; even scarification, consisting of vertical cuts on the face, serve as a spell for hunting.
Some tribes believe that eating the flesh of a fast animal before hunting will make the animal run away, hurting the hunt; then they usually eat beef of slow-moving animals; usually the gazelles and antelopes hunter not only does not eat these animals but also avoids touching them with his hands before hunting.
After a fruitful hunt and an abundant meal, the night around the fire they dance animatedly, men even launch poisoned arrows simulating hunting scenes, then falling into ecstasy for excessive movement and the unceasing rhythm of music.