Gemsbok Hunting in Africa

Hunting Gemsbok in Africa

The gemsbok (Oryx gazella) is a large, impressive antelope native to southern Africa, and is found in hot, dry areas like the Kalahari Desert, or the Namib Desert. Gemsbok have been widely introduced onto game ranches throughout South Africa, greatly expanding their range.

Gemsbok have thick, horselike necks with short manes and a solid muscular bodies.  Both sexes have horns with the female’s being longer, but the male’s horns are thicker with larger bases.  Gemsbok make beautiful trophy mounts and hunting gemsbok in Africa is quite popular.  Female gemsbok use their horns to defend themselves and their young from predators.  Males use their horns to defend their territories and to fight with other males. Gemsbok are one of the few plains game species where the female trophy is sometimes more desirable than the male.

Gemsbok live in herds of 50 to 200 animals although the average number is 15.  In the larger herds, females vastly exceed the males who tend to be solitary and mark out their own territory.  Males weigh up to 500 pounds, and females are a bit lighter at 420 pounds.  A mature bull will stand 46 to 50 inches at the shoulder.  Horn length for the female can reach as much as 48 inches, while male horns generally average 33-38 inches.

Male gemsbok use their horns for aggressive displays of sideways jabs and straight on fighting.  As a result, there isn’t any crowding in a gemsbok herd.  Each animal stands exactly one horn’s length from the next.  In hot desert habitat, the gemsbok is highly mobile.  They will remain in areas where surface water is readily available.  When outside temperatures rise, the gemsbok’s internal temperature rises to help throw off heat.  Their body can also lower the temperature of the blood going to their brain to be below body temperature. 

African gemsbok both graze and browse.  Their food of preference is desert grass.  They graze at night and in the early morning hours when plants hold more moisture.  Plants growing in the area that gemsbok inhabit have adapted to the hot, dry conditions by either storing water, or collecting dew.  Their water content can be increased by 25% during the night, so when the gemsbok feed in the early morning hours, they are getting a full day’s requirement of water along with their food.  They can survive for weeks like that.  Gemsbok can exhibit osteoplagia,”bone eating”, to replenish calcium and phosphorus lacking in their vegetable-based diet.  This normally occurs after the winter months.

The dominant herd bull will breed with any receptive female.  Females reach their sexual maturity at age two; males are later, but won’t be able to breed until becoming a dominant bull.  Gestation lasts 9 to 10 months with one calf born.  Gemsbok calving is seasonal and based on the annual rainfall.  Weaning occurs after 3 to 4 months.  Females come into heat three to four weeks after weaning.

Predators that have been observed hunting gemsbok in Africa include lions, cheetahs, and hyenas.  They have a life expectancy in the wild of 18 years.  Their conservation status is “Least Concern”. 

Hunting gemsbok in Arica requires a good set of boots because you will get to see a lot of country while you are searching for a trophy.  Open country hunting demands a flat shooting rifle with a good scope, preferably a variable 3-9x.  Gemsbok have excellent eyesight, hearing and sense of smell.  Closing on one, or picking one out of a herd will require careful planning.

Caliber choice will be predicated on the toughness and size of the animal when hunting gemsbok in Africa.  A .270 caliber rifle is the minimum for hunting gemsbok in Africa.  You would be better off with one of the .30 Magnums with at least a 180 grain bullet.  No matter what caliber rifle you choose to hunt with, hunting gemsbok in Africa is a memorable experience that you will never forget.