Hunting Red Hartebeest in Africa

Hunting Red Hartebeest in Africa

The red hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus caama) is a species of hartebeest found in southern Africa.  More than 130,000 animals exist, making hunting red hartebeest in Africa a popular hunt.  The red hartebeest is closely related to the tsessebe and the topi.  It is one of ten subspecies of hartebeest and is sometimes treated as a separate and distinct species.  It is the most colorful of the subspecies, and has a longer face than the other hartebeests.

As with all species of Hartebeest, both sexes of red hartebeest have horns that curve upwards and inward.  Horn length tops out at 23-24 inches. Males use their horns to fight and defend themselves, and their horn size is both larger and heavier than the female’s.  The average weight of a male is 330 pounds, and the female is 265 pounds.  Approximate lifespan for either sex is 18 years in the wild.  Red hartebeests have an excellent sense of smell and hearing, however their eyesight is not good. 

There are few predators hunting red hartebeest in Africa.  Lions, leopards, hyenas, and cheetahs will attack them, but the red hartebeest makes up only a small portion of these predator’s diets.  Only lions prey on the adult animals, the other predators will kill young calves.  The dominant male hartebeest will guard the herd, sometimes by standing on a small hill, or termite mound for better vision.  If danger appears, the male will alert the herd by starting off in a run.  The rest of the herd then follows him in single file running in a zigzag pattern.  They can run at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour for an extended period of time.

Red hartebeests graze almost exclusively on grass. They will eat melons and tubers for their water content if free standing water isn’t available.  Hartebeests are nomadic because they feed on food sources that disappear if they stay in one place too long.  Like most antelopes, the red hartebeest is diurnal.  It feeds in the early morning and late afternoon.  If the climate is hot, the hartebeest will seek shade during the day.  In the cooler months, the animal will graze on the plains during the day to stay warm.  They are social animals and will form large herds of up to 300 animals.  The herds are broken down into 15-25 hartebeest groups composed of the dominate male, females and the young. 

A dominant male will fight to keep its territory and females.  The two fighting males will drop to their knees, and head butt each other.  They use their horns to force their opponent’s head off to one side, so that they can gore him in his neck and shoulders.  This continues until one or the other red hartebeest submits.  A dominant male can hold his harem and territory for around six to seven years.  Then, a younger, stronger male will drive the old bull away and assume his position.

Red hartebeests communicate with grunts and low, quacking sounds.  Herds migrate only during times of great need such as climate change and drought.  The red hartebeest is the least migratory of all of the antelopes.  It also consumes the least quantity of water and has the lowest metabolic rate among the antelopes.  The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared the red hartebeest to be an animal of “Least Concern”.  The red hartebeest is found primarily in southwestern Africa.  Southern Africa’s diverse topography, climate changes, multitudes of vegetation habitats, and geologic diversity have led to changes among hartebeest species.  This has caused red hartebeests to diverge somewhat in their ability to consume the food that they can tolerate.

Red hartebeest mate throughout the year.  Breeding periods are affected by the availability of food and water.  Both sexes reach sexual maturity between twelve and twenty months.  Mating takes place with the dominant male only.  Any other male will be chased off.  In very large herds, the female may mate with a number of males.  Gestation takes around 240 days, and one calf is born.  Just before birth, the female leaves the herd and locates a thicket where she can be safe.  Usually the birth occurs just before the summer rains begin.  Calves are hidden in the brush to increase their chances of survival from predators.  At four months the calf is weaned.

When you go hunting red hartebeest in Africa be sure to use a high quality flat shooting rifle.  Red hartebeest have to be hunted on open plains and shots can be long when hunting red hartebeest in Africa.  The .270 Winchester with at least a 130 grain bullet is the low end of the spectrum.  Here’s where the .300 Winchester Magnum, the .300 Weatherby magnum and other .30 caliber powerhouses come in to their own.  When hunting red hartebeest in Africa, aim half way up the body, on a vertical line slightly behind the foreleg and you will have a great trophy.