Hunting Sable in Africa

Hunting Sable in Africa

The African sable (Hippotragus niger) is an antelope that inhabits the savannah of East Africa below Kenya and down into South Africa.  Like the roan, the African sable is one of the Hippotragus, or horse antelopes.  The African sable is the third largest antelope in Africa behind the eland and roan.  A mature male sable weighs around 520-600 pounds and is 46 inches to 56 inches at the shoulder.  The female is slightly shorter and weighs 30 to 50 pounds less.

There are four subspecies of African sable.

Black sable, sometimes called the Mastitis sable.  This is the standard sable whose habitat covers south of the Zambezi River through Zimbabwe and Botswana down into South Africa.  Its name is derived from its coloration, as it has the darkest coat. 

Giant Sable, or Royal sable, so named because their horns are longer than other sable subspecies.  Only a few still exist in central Angola.  It is listed as Critically Endangered and is on Appendix 1 of CITIES.

Common or southern sable, sometimes called the West Zambian sable, of western Zambia, Malawi and parts of Angola, it is classified as vulnerable.

Eastern sable is the smallest of the sable family.  Its range is the costal lands of southern Kenya, through eastern Tanzania and into Mozambique.

The African sable has a thick neck and heavy hide.  It is a compact, tough animal with long horns, up to 65 inches, that sweep back over its withers.  A mature bull is almost totally black and is a magnificent animal to behold.  Its life span in the wild is anywhere from 14-16 years. 

African sable antelope live in woodlands and grasslands, subsisting on grass and leaves.  They are dependent on water and they stay near a source that is close to where they feed on open plains.  They live in herds of 30 or more animals.  Sable bulls are very territorial and will fight another sable bull for territory and breeding rights.  These fights can be quite bloody, and can result in death to one of the combatants.  A hunter must be aware that when hunting sable in Africa, the bull can, and will, charge if it is wounded, senses a threat, or is just in a bad frame of mind that day. 

When the African sable is faced with a predator, like lion, it will stand its ground and use its horns to fight off the threat.  More than a few of the cat family have died with large sable-shaped holes in them.

Calves are born between January and March, but this varies depending on location.  Young males are chased out of the herd when they reach three years of age. They then form bachelor herds of 10-12 animals.  The most dominant bull in the new herd will join a herd of females when that herd’s male dies, or is killed.  Young females stay with the herd.  When the African sable herd gets too large it will split into smaller units composed of females and calves.  Each smaller herd will only have one dominant bull. 

Hunting sable in Africa, like the roan or eland, requires that the hunter uses enough gun.  The African sable bull is a proud animal that has a proud demeanor and stands apart from the herd.  This can make him somewhat easy to approach as he will stand and watch rather than run and hide.  Be careful, though, as mentioned above, he will charge and is fast.  Be ready and aware at all times.  Some outfitters say that a rifle in .270 caliber is sufficient when hunting African sable.  However, a better choice would be one of the .30 caliber rifles with heavy for caliber bullets in the 180 grain to 220 grain range.

Overall, a better choice would be the .338 Winchester Magnum with a 250 grain to 275 grain bullet traveling at 2500 feet per second and packing 3800 foot pounds of muzzle energy.  Even the 9.3mm or .375 H&H are good choices for hunting sable in Africa.  Should the sable be wounded and decide to charge, the larger calibers are better at stopping one before anything painful happens.

When hunting sable in Africa, if a side shot is possible, then the heart/lung shot should be taken.  Come one third up the body and center the crosshairs about two inches behind the foreleg.  For a neck shot aim center on the neck where it joins the body.  The African sable will drop in its tracks.  Forward quartering shots are taken by aiming for the leg on the other side and shooting through the body.  Rear quartering shots can be made the same way.  Do your part and shoot straight, and you will have an African sable trophy that you will treasure for years.