Hunting Kudu in Africa

Hunting Kudu in Africa

Hunting kudu in Africa requires a bit of knowledge about kudu taxonomy.  The greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) is an antelope found in the woodlands of eastern and southern Africa.  It is one of two species known as kudu, the other is the lesser kudu (Tragelaphus imberbis).  The greater kudu is one of the largest of antelope .  Males weigh between 400-600 pounds with the largest just below 700 pounds, and stand up to 65 inches at the shoulder.  Females are significantly smaller at 250-450 pounds and 40 inches at the shoulder. Only the males have horns and a beard and nose markings.

Greater kudus have narrow bodies, long legs and coats that run from red-brown to grey-brown in coloration.  They have vertical white strips that run down their body, and the males have a distinct chevron between their eyes.  Male kudus make more sounds than the females; grunting, humming and clicks.  They are highly prized for their large horns with up to two and one half curls.  The record size of these horns when measured on the curl was 73.87 inches - average runs 40-50 inches, with a 60 inch animal considered a magnificent trophy.

There are two subspecies of greater kudu; southern greater kudu and Eastern Cape kudu.  The Eastern Cape kudu only occur in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.  They are slightly smaller than the southern greater kudu, and have smaller horns.  Their coat is darker also.  Eastern Cape kudu horns average in the mid 40 inch range, with a 50 inch kudu being a magnificent trophy.  Their habitat includes both dry semi-desert and thick bushveld that have nearby water and adequate food and areas of trees for shade and shelter. 

Safari Club International recognizes the Eastern Cape kudu as a separate species from the southern greater kudu, however Roland Ward’s doesn’t.  Recent DNA testing does show a difference, though, so everything isn’t fully sorted as yet. 

Greater kudus tend to be less active during the middle of the day, and look for shade, especially when the temperature is high.  They drink and feed on leaves, grass, fresh shoots, roots and fruit during the early morning hours and late in the afternoon.  They will water both morning and afternoon.  They will stay in one area unless climate conditions or drought cause them to travel.  Greater kudu in Namibia have been known to cover very long distances in search of waterholes.

Predators that hunt kudu in Africa include leopards, lions, wild dogs, and hyenas.  Cheetahs aren’t strong enough to take down a mature male kudu, but do hunt kudu calves, injured and sick animals and female kudus.  The African greater kudu hasn’t got the body design to be fast, nor can it run at its top speed very long, so it tries to elude predators by jumping over obstacles to lose the attacker.

Female greater kudu reach sexual maturity between one to three years.  Mating occurs  at the end of the rainy season which varies depending on area.  Gestation takes eight months and calves are born during February or March when the grass is tall.  One or two calves are born, and are then hidden for two weeks.  Males become self-sufficient at six months; females at one to two years.  African greater kudus live 12 to 14 years on the average.

Most hunters who hunt kudu in Africa consider this hunt to be at the top of their list of antelope / plains game hunting.  Hunting kudu in Africa with success is a high point in any hunter’s life.  This “Gray Ghost” as the greater kudu is sometimes called due to his ability to vanish, or hide, has superb eyesight, hearing to rival any large-eared animal and a sense of smell that a bloodhound would envy.  Kudu need to drink often, so check for tracks around water holes or pans (ponds). 

Horn length can be quite impressive. On an African greater kudu hunt, fifty inches is good, fifty five inches belongs on a wall, and sixty inches, you buy the drinks when you get in the record book.  African greater kudus aren’t especially tough, and they have been taken with rifles in the 270 range.  The 30 caliber magnums are popular with 180 grain bullets.  A caliber larger than .338 isn’t considered necessary, but the 375 will do an excellent job of dropping a greater kudu, and even the 458 Lott has been employed, mainly because that’s the caliber that was available when the chance popped up. 

Shot placement when hunting kudu in Africa is of paramount importance.  A shot to the neck or head is out of the question due to the possibility of ruining the trophy.  The best choice is a high heart/lung shot.  Come up the foreleg about a third of the body, then move the crosshairs just behind the leg.  Even if you are a bit too high, you’ll still take out the lungs.  Much higher, though, and you will get to see an awful lot of Africa before the kudu goes down.