Hunting Red Lechwe in Africa
The red lechwe (Kobus leche) is an antelope found in Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Angola. The best area to go hunting red lechwe in Africa was the Okavango Swamp in Botswana. Not only was the hunting great, but the Okavango Delta is one of the prettiest places on earth. Unfortunately, most hunting in Botswana has been halted, so other countries are now your best bet for hunting red lechwe in Africa. Red lechwe have been introduced onto game ranches in South Africa, and now exist there in huntable populations.
Red lechwe stand 35-39 inches at the shoulder and weigh 150 to 260 pounds. Only the males have the lyre-shaped horns. The red lechwe’s hind legs are longer than its forelegs. This enables them to run in muddy or marshy soil. They use the water as protection from predators. They run in herds that can number into the thousands. These herds usually consist of all males, or all females. The only time they mix is during mating.
All lechwe prefer to graze on the edge of wetlands or floodplains. They consume water plants as a main source of food, but also eat green leaves and the buds of flowers and fruit. The red lechwe’s horns are smaller than its cousins, the Chafue Flats lechwe and the black lechwe. The red lechwe is well-adapted to swamp and flood plain living because of their particular splayed hooves. They normally feed while in the water. They can be seen dunking their heads in the water to eat aquatic plants. They are slow and clumsy when on land, which is why they flee to water when danger threatens. Their powerful hind legs drive them through the water while their splayed hooves keep them from getting stuck in the mud.
Red lechwe will follow the seasonal floods to be near water. If the water source dries up and the aquatic plants die out, the lechwe will have to feed on available grasses. This can cause their body condition to deteriorate. Generally, females and their young stay closer to the water than the males who inhabit drier areas. Their average life span is 10-14 years.
When their population density increases, they form a breeding herd composed of hundreds of animals of both sexes gathering together for mating. Female gestation is around seven to eight months, after which one offspring is born. Usually the rut varies from November to February and can last up to ten weeks. Breeding areas are on higher, drier ground. Males reach sexual maturity in about two and one half years, but don’t start to breed until age seven. Females reach sexual maturity in one and one half years.
Hunting red lechwe in Africa on the open plains isn’t as easy as it might seem. Trying to pick a good ram out of herds consisting of hundreds, or even thousands, of antelope can be very frustrating. Trying to follow a good set of horns as the animals mill about and cross and re-cross each other can be difficult. Also, estimating distances over flat plains or swamps takes practice, especially on hot, hazy days. Red lechwe aren’t particularly nervous animals and will allow a competent hunter to approach within shooting distances.
Red lechwe are listed under Appendix II of CITES and require an export permit from the country of origin. Chafe and black lechwe are not listed.
When hunting red lechwe in Africa, look for the swept back horns of the male. A good set of horns will start with thick bases turning sideways and upwards. They will flare out as they start the forward curve, ending in tips that curve forward and are shiny. Because of the possible long distance shooting, the hunter needs to have a rifle zeroed to 200 yards and flat shooting out to 350 yards. A good bullet in the 165-180 grain area works well when hunting red lechwe in Africa.