Hunting Trophy Bushbuck in Africa
The spiral horned bushbuck is found in many African countries. Here’s a general list of bushbuck habitats. The Abyssinian bushbuck’s territory is the lowlands of Ethiopia. Giant, or Barker, bushbuck are only found in the southern Sudan; They are no longer recognized as a huntable trophy animal. South Africa is home to the Cape bushbuck. It is also found in southern Mozambique. The Chobe bushbuck is located in Angola, northern Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Zaire, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. East African bushbuck roam from Kenya to Mozambique. The harnessed bushbuck is in West Africa from Senegal to Congo. Limpopo bushbuck range along the Limpopo River valleys in Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Menelik’s bushbuck are only located in the mountain areas of Ethiopia. The Nile bushbuck inhabits Zaire, Uganda, and southern Sudan. Shoan bushbuck live on the central plateau of Ethiopia, however, SCI does not list them as a different species.
Bushbuck males typically weigh between 100-130 pounds, and stand 32 inches to 36 inches at the shoulder. They range in color from a light brown to a dark, almost black, brown. Only the males have horns. As the name indicates, bushbuck prefer inhabiting thick brush or vegetation, usually near riverbanks.
Roland Ward lists the largest Chobe bushbuck horn at 19-5/8 inches. SCI scores one at 20-4/8 inches, with an overall score of 55-3/8 inches. When hunting trophy bushbuck in Africa it can be hard to differentiate the three bushbuck species, Chobe, Limpopo, and Cape from each other. The Chobe weighs right around 100 pounds and usually the Chobe bushbuck is smaller than the Limpopo or Cape bushbuck. The typical Chobe bushbuck stands less than 32 inches at the shoulder. It can be found in Zimbabwe in the Zambezi River Valley and surrounding areas.
Hunting Chobe bushbuck in Africa means that you have to be aware of other animals like lion, hippo, and elephant that share the habitat. Coming across a sleeping Cape buffalo while stalking a bushbuck can provide for a few interesting moments – especially if your rifle is a .243. A .375, or larger would be my personal minimum when hunting trophy bushbuck in the dangerous game areas of Africa.
Hunting trophy bushbuck in Africa is best done in the Limpopo Province in South Africa, or the upper Limpopo Valley in Zimbabwe. This province is the premier destination in the world for trophy bushbuck. Roland Ward’s Records of Big Game list the largest trophy South African bushbuck, both Limpopo and Cape, right at 21-7/8 inches. It was picked up in KwaZulu-Natal in 1994. SCI rates the largest Cape bushbuck at 52-1/8 inch taken in 1987 in Zululand. The largest Limpopo bushbuck measured 54-3/8 inch, and was taken in South Africa in 2008.
HUNTING TROPHY CAPE BUSHBUCK
Hunting trophy Cape bushbuck in Africa takes place all over South Africa except in areas near the Transvaal and northeastern Zululand. Cape bushbuck trophies are as much about their coloration and striping as horn size. For instance; if a large dark ram is wanted, then the Drakensburg Mountains in the eastern portion of the Great escarpment would be the place to look. Should you be on quest for large horns, then hunt the KwaZulu-Natal Province in the southeast region of the country.
KwaZulu Province terrain is mostly steep mountain slopes covered in thick bush and thorns. Shots can be 200-300 yards, and taken from the absolute top of a hill. Bushbuck can be seen in the early morning, or late afternoon, but they usually are visible for only a few seconds. When moving through the bush, you must be as quiet as humanly possible. Bushbuck will flee at the slightest sound. They are jumpers, and can cover as much as 15 feet in one bound.
The Cape bushbuck adapts easily to human habitation. They can survive completely unnoticed near farms and villages, and can become almost tame. However, if they are threatened, they can turn secretive and nocturnal. Bushbuck are different from other similar-sized plains game. They can be quite aggressive and will use their sharp horns to fight off predators, or even humans. There have been any number of incidents where someone, or someone’s dog got a very nasty surprise from what they thought was a very dead bushbuck. The old adage is true in this case. It’s the dead ones that can kill you.
They are masters of camouflage and are hard to see during daylight hours. Even when you approach them closely, they can be hard to spot. One method of hunting trophy bushbuck in Africa is the spot and stalk approach. Locate a high vantage point near their areas. Use a good binocular to search the surroundings. This can take hours, but it will let you evaluate horn size and coloration. When glassing, the hunter may not see the entire bushbuck standing in the open. Look for the white spots or back stripe on the animal. Look for movement.
Another good method is the bush stalk. The hunter can track the bushbuck through its natural brush and bush habitat while looking for the flash of a horn, or the flick of a tail. It will hold until the hunter gets close, and then dart off to the next clump of thick brush, sometimes giving off a sharp bark as it runs. If you continue to track it, it will stay ahead of you, just out of sight. Bushbuck do tend to stay in the same general area, so another hunt on another day is possible. Usually their habitat runs between one to 15 acres. Bushbuck drink at midday and evening. They can be hunted by setting up an ambush next to one of their frequently-used tracks and waiting for them to make an appearance. The best times to hunt are during the hottest part of the day, or late in the afternoon, just before sunset. Sometimes on early winter mornings the bushbuck will stand in an open area letting the sun drive out the night’s cold.
CAPE BUSHBUCK HUNTING METHODS
In the Eastern Cape Valley it’s almost impossible to hunt in the incredibly-thick bush. One method is to sit on the edge of the bush where you have a fairly long sight line. Bushbuck tend to browse along the edge of the bush where they can get to new shoots of grass. In this type of hunt, you will need a flat shooting rifle, a good scope, and a pair of shooting sticks as the shot can be over 200 yards. Hunting with dogs is possible both in the Cape Valley and KwaZulu Natal. You best be in excellent condition, though, as chasing the dogs as they chase the bushbuck can be extremely tough. Your humble author will never see 65 again, and has had both knees replaced. Chasing dogs chasing bushbuck is definitely not on my list of things to do!
A lot of bushbuck are taken when an opportunity presents itself to a hunter who is actually hunting something else in Africa. Bushbuck are typically taken on a 7-10 day plains game hunt in conjunction with other animals, plains game or dangerousgame. There are no seasonal restrictions on hunting bushbuck in South Africa, so they can be hunted year round.
As the name implies, Limpopo bushbuck are found around the Limpopo river drainage area. They are also found around the Sabi River lowlands in southeastern Zimbabwe, the southern area of Mozambique contingent to Zimbabwe, and the Limpopo River drainage of Botswana. The best places to hunt trophy Limpopo bushbuck in Africa are the northeastern region of South Africa and the upper Limpopo River valley in Zimbabwe. Their habitat extends from sea level to 9,000 feet elevation in East Africa. Males tend to be slightly redder than the dark brown of the southern species, but darker than the northern bushbuck. The Limpopo bushbuck lives in a much drier area than its nearby cousins, and is seldom found far from water.
SIZING TROPHY BUSHBUCK
When it comes to hunting trophy bushbuck in Africa, the hunter needs to look for horns at least twice the length of the ear to get into the 14-inch range. Also take into consideration horn shape and mass. The heavier the horn, the longer it will measure around the spiral. Wherever you hunt trophy bushbuck in Africa you will be hunting in heavy brush. You will have to be sufficiently stealthy to get up on them, or all you will find are fresh tracks. Or, you will have to shoot across a clearing a couple of hundred yards. Here’s where your choice of rifle becomes important.
TROPHY BUSHBUCK RIFLE SELECTION
When choosing a rifle for hunting trophy bushbuck in Africa, the best recommended calibers are anything in the .270, .300, or .375 range. It’s not as important as to what caliber you use, but what conditions are like at the time of shooting. Because a bushbuck is relatively small, the chances are that all you will see of him will be the head and upper shoulders. The top of his back might be visible, but probably not in tall grass. There is a good possibility that you will have to shoot through grass to hit a vital area. Smaller, lighter, fast bullets are more easily deflected than larger, heavier, slower bullets. A 95 grain projectile from a .243, traveling over 3200 feet per second, can and will fly someplace other than the target if it has to punch through grass. Shooting uphill or downhill through grass means you have less grass for the bullet to penetrate. Shooting across a flat covered with grass is just about guaranteed to fail. Any .30 caliber rifle matched to a 180-grain bullet at 2700+ feet per second is a better choice, but any bullet, regardless of weight, will be affected by contact with grass.
Because bushbuck hunting usually involves busting a lot of bush, my current choice of rifle has a synthetic stock and a brushed stainless barrel and action. It’s a .416 Ruger Alaskan that weighs 7 pounds, 15 ounces. Its 20-inch barrel makes for faster handling in heavy cover. I mounted a Leupold 2.5 fixed power scope on it, and sighted it for one inch high at 100 yards. I picked the .416 caliber because there are other large, economy-sized animals in its future. Muzzle velocity is right at 2400 feet per second, and muzzle energy is a tad over 5,100 ft-lb – probably adequate for a 130-lb animal. Also, its heavy 400-grain bullet will blow through bush to reach the animal. Just remember, all bullets will deflect to a greater or lesser extent when hitting anything from twigs to branches. The .375 will do the same job, and if plains game are the only animals on the menu, a rifle in one of the .300 magnums will do an excellent job.
TROPHY BUSHBUCK SHOT PLACEMENT
Shot placement on bushbuck is on the shoulder one third of the way up the chest. For a frontal shot, aim for the area where the throat joins the chest. Spine shots can be taken if no other part of the bushbuck presents itself, but you need to know exactly where the spine is located. There are no large arteries, or vital organs up high. A slightly-off shot will just wound the bushbuck and leave a negligible blood trail. A spine shot has to hit an area smaller than the bushbuck’s brain. A shoulder shot has more room for error. Hit too low and the lungs can be pierced which will drop the animal quickly.
HUNTING TROPHY BUSHBUCK IN AFRICA SUMMARY
Hunting trophy bushbuck in Africa can be a fun and rewarding endeavor. Due to the bushbuck’s secretive nature and propensity for residing in the densest cover possible, hunting trophy bushbuck is usually not easy and seeking out a true giant can be difficult. Picking the right outfitter that has access to properties with the right bushbuck horn genetics is crucial. If a true trophy bushbuck is on your agenda, contact a well-connected hunt broker such as Discount African Hunts to help you get on the right track by pairing you with the right outfitter in a premium genetics area. If you want to harvest trophies, you must hunt where trophy animals live!