Hunting Blesbok in Africa

Hunting Blesbok in Africa

The blesbok or blesbuck (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi) is a plains game antelope found on the open plains of South Africa.  Once almost extinct after having been heavily hunted for their skins and meat since the late1800s, the African blesbok now numbers in the hundreds of thousands after having been reintroduced on the game farms of southern Africa.  The African blesbok is a close relative of the African bontebok with which it is sometimes bred producing an offspring called a bontebles.

Both rams and ewes share the same physical characteristics.  They have a white face and forehead which inspired their name from the Africaans word for a blaze - bels.  The male African blesbok weighs between 120 to 150 pounds with the female lighter at 100 to 130 pounds.  Their bodies are brown with a lighter brown on the back.  Their belly and legs are white.  The African blesbok breeds between March and May with the ewes giving birth to a single calf after 240 days of gestation in November and December.

Many African antelopes have names ending in -buck or -bok.  It’s generally accepted that the -buck is the English spelling and -bok is Africaans.  They are the same animal, different terminology. 

Blesbok prefer open grassland plains with water nearby.  Usually they don’t stray more than a few hundred yards from where they bed.  Once, they were so numerous that they stretched from horizon to horizon.  However, by the early 20th century they faced extinction.  With proper animal husbandry, hunting blesbok in Africa is still possible.  The African blesbok has now increased in numbers to where it is no longer considered endangered.  Their population is estimated to be in excess of 250,000.  Ewes and their young tend to herd together.  Rams are a solitary antelope.  The blesbok’s historical distribution was the coastal plains of south-western South Africa, but with the expansion of game ranching, their range has greatly been expanded and they have been introduced to Namibia.

The African blesbok calf is prey to lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, pythons, and other predators.  They rely on their speed - 40+ miles per hour - and their alertness, to avoid getting caught.

Hunting blesbok in Africa has become quite popular in South Africa.  Hunting them can be quite challenging as they tend to face the sun when grazing with their heads down low to the ground.  This makes choosing the right animal difficult.  Shots tend to be long as the animals congregate in large herds and have excellent eyesight.  Setting up a blind near water hole approaches  works well as the African blesbok must have water.   The best time to hunt the blesbok is in the morning or late afternoon when they are grazing.

If the blesbok hunt is on Highveld plains where the range may be over 200 yards, a proper flat-shooting caliber is needed.  Something along the lines of a 7mm Magnum, or one of the hot .30s like the 300 Winchester Magnum or 300 Weatherby pushing a 150-grain partition bullet would work well.  Actually, hunting blesbok in Africa can be accomplished with nothing bigger than the .243 Winchester that starts a 100-grain bullet at 2900 feet per second, except when the distance opens up and a heavier bullet will do a better job of anchoring the antelope.   The .243 will work quite well if the African blesbok is hunted in brush where the range will be close.

Point of aim is critical.  Set the scope’s crosshairs on a point about one third up the blesbok’s body, and just behind the foreleg.  Be sure to compensate for distance and wind drift.  Practice shooting off hunting sticks at ever-increasing distances until the ability is there to be able to place bullets reliably into a four inch circle.