Hunting Impala in Africa

Hunting Impala in Africa

When you set up your safari, be sure to plan on hunting  impala in Africa.  The African impala (Aepyceros melampus) is a medium sized antelope that just about every African hunter has on their list of animals to hunt.  Males stand 30-35 inches at the shoulder; weigh 110-160 pounds.  Females are smaller, 28-33 inches at the shoulder, 85-110 pounds.  Both sexes have the same red-brown coat.  The male is the only one with horns.

African impala’s habitats include woodlands, bushveld and savanna grasses near water because of its need to drink daily. It can be either a grazer or browser depending on the time of year and area.  It’s pretty much the basic animal of Africa.  Its uses include; camp meat, leopard bait, and  initiating the first time hunter to Africa.  There are three distinct social groups during the rainy season; territorial males, bachelor males, and females.  Breeding happens in May, producing a single faun in six to seven months.  Fauns travel with their mother for four to six months, then they form a juvenile herd.

The African impala is found in Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, and some other areas as an introduced animal.  The African impala is sometimes confused with the gerund.  But the gerund has shorter horns and is lacking the black stripes on the impala’s rump.

African impalas are active shortly after dawn and in the late afternoon, then feeding and resting/sleeping at night.  Impalas usually feed in herds after dawn, before dark and at night.  If they are spooked, they can run at speeds over 30 miles per hour, and jump over other impalas and bushes to a height of 10 feet.  Dominant males fight during the rut which takes place between full moons.  During the mating season, males will stay in small, easily-defended areas. They will try to breed any female that passes into his area, and will chase off any other males who are with the females.

The female African impala’s gestation period is six to seven months.  They have the ability to delay birth for 30 days, or more, if the conditions are poor.  The single faun will join a common group after a few months and only return to its mother to nurse, or when predators appear.  When the male fauns mature, they are forced out of the group. 

African impalas are prey for lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, and other carnivores and even pythons.  Impalas are very alert and watch their surroundings carefully.  If danger is present, the African impala will stand motionless while scanning and listening carefully to locate the problem.  If the alarm is raised, the impala will run for dense cover instead of taking flight across the plains.

The best time to hunt impala in Africa is during the autumn rut ( May in Africa ), when the biggest rams are in with the breeding herds.  Any stalk has to be made with great care due to the impala’s impressive ability to see and hear.  With all the eyes and ears in the herd on constant lookout for danger, getting close enough to an African impala for a shot takes serious work.  Also, impalas tend to clump together when alarmed.  This will make getting a clear shot at a single animal difficult.  It’s very easy to shoot one animal and have the bullet pass completely through and strike another.  Another way to hunt African impalas is to set up an ambush.  They are most active during the early morning and when the heat has gone out of the day.  If you can intersect the impala on its way to or from the feeding area, there will be a better chance to take one as they come by. 

It is legal to hunt impala in Africa with a .22 centerfire caliber rifle in most African countries, however using a larger caliber will help insure not having to track a wounded impala for hours.  The .243 Winchester with Hornady’s 95 grain SST bullet traveling 3196 feet per second in their Superformance load would be a good choice.

Any rifle that is used for plains game - 7mm up to the 30 calibers, will save shoe leather when you hunt impala in Africa, if the hit isn’t just perfect. The African impala isn’t tougher than the American deer, but sometimes seems like it.  There’s no such thing as overkill; dead is dead.  If you use enough gun, you save on having to chase a wounded animal.

African impalas are susceptible to the high heart / lung shot.  If you are shooting for the table, this shot won’t ruin too much meat.  Set your cross hairs about one third of the distance up the impala’s body, and slightly to the rear if you want to place the shot in the lungs.  The neck shot can be taken anywhere along the neck.  A brain shot will drop the African impala right in its tracks, but should only be attempted by an experienced hunter, or someone who regularly culls for a living.