Hunting Trophy Kudu in Africa
Hunting trophy kudu in Africa is on the top of the list for most plains game hunters. The only antelope that is more sought-after is the impala. The kudu is divided into different subspecies and is widely distributed in Africa from southern Angola to South Africa. The males carry long, spiraled horns that make for a beautiful trophy.
The male kudu is the finest spiral-horned antelope that can be hunted in Africa. Due to their large population numbers, they are fairly easy to locate, but finding a really good specimen, with horns in the 55 inch to 60 inch range can be quite a challenge. Several methods of hunting trophy kudu in Africa can result in a successful hunt. The best times to hunt are in the morning on animal trails leading from feeding areas; midday near watering areas as kudu need to drink frequently, or in the evening when the kudu leaves cover to forage.
Kudu Distribution in Africa
Southern Greater Kudu
The Southern Greater kudu is usually the kudu hunters think about when they want to hunt trophy kudu in Africa. It has the biggest horns of all the kudu species. The largest kudu horns ever found measured 72 inches along the curl. They weren’t hunted, but picked up in Mozambique. Current record is 68-1/4 inches taken near Alldays, South Africa. Kudu horns used to be measured in silhouette from the base to their tips in a straight line. Then, in 1986, the Roland Ward standard changed to measure around the spiral which gave a longer length. A splendid Southern greater kudu is one whose horns measure 60 inches, but one in the 50-55 inch range is still very impressive. Less than 4% of all kudus harvested have horns 60 inches, or larger.
The number of Southern greater kudu entered in the record books is more than double all the other species combined. Modern game ranchers have worked hard to improve the breed, and to raise larger trophy animals. Southern greater kudu are large antelope weighing 600 pounds or more. Males stand 44 inches at the shoulder, and have a coat of hair that varies in color from grey to brown. They are found primarily in South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. To a lesser extent they inhabit Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Malawi. The best country to hunt trophy kudu in Africa is South Africa.
The Southern greater kudu population is steadily increasing; spreading into the Karoo and nearby lands. Private game ranches have aided the kudu partially through habitat improvements and better management tactics. South African game breeders now have kudu that exceed 61 inches.
Eastern Cape Kudu
The Eastern Cape kudu is found only in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. The record horn measured 58-3/8 inches and was taken in 1977 near Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The animals are somewhat smaller in body than the Southern greater kudu, and the horns are shorter and heavier in relation to their overall length. SCI rates the Eastern Cape kudu as an arbitrary species mainly for separate listing in their record book. In reality it is very hard to distinguish this kudu from a smaller version of the Southern greater kudu. It is somewhat hard to define an Eastern Cape kudu when hunting trophy kudu in Africa as a recent influx of kudu from Northern South Africa have bred with the Eastern Cape kudu and their genes have become intermingled.
The Eastern Cape kudu’s range runs from the Indian Ocean coast to well into the Karoo, a semi-arid region known for extremes in climate.
Abyssinian Greater Kudu
The Abyssinian greater kudu is found in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia. The Safari Club International (SCI) world record Abyssinian kudu was taken in 1984. Its longest horn taped 59-5/8 inches. The Abyssinian greater kudu has a slightly smaller body than the Southern greater kudu. Its horns are significantly smaller than its southern relative. .A 40-inch Abyssinian kudu trophy would be the equivalent of a 50-inch Southern greater kudu. Any horn size approaching 50-inches would be a top notch trophy. Hunting trophy Abyssinian kudu in Africa is a very physical hunt. These animals are strictly mountain antelopes, and the hunter has to be in excellent condition to climb the steep terrain.
Ethiopia is probably the best country hunt trophy Abyssinian kudu in Africa. Their range covers the territory from the north east of Somalia, up into Eritrea, all the way to Sudan. The best areas to hunt (and to avoid Somali pirates and warlords) are in the Danakil Highlands which peak at the Danakil Alps at 6,990 feet, and the thorn-covered mountains in the Omo Valley. Mount Alutu, north of Abidjatta-Shalla National Park, rises to 7,661 feet. It’s home to a large population of Abyssinian greater kudu. Alutu has a very dry climate, and is covered with acacia trees and shrubs, and shots can exceed 400 yards. Hunting Abyssinian greater kudu in Africa will call on all the hunter’s abilities and physical strength. The intense pleasure of a successful hunt will last a lifetime.
East Africa Greater Kudu
East African greater kudu territory includes Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan in the Imatong Mountains, Tanzania, and the Karamoja region of Uganda. The largest horn recorded in SCI is 61-7/8 inches, taken in the 770 square mile Selous Game Reserve in 1991, but horns in the 50-52 inch are much more common. The body of the East African greater kudu is larger than that of its relatives to the south, but its horns are shorter by 7-10 inches. This must be taken into consideration when hunting greater kudu in Africa. Do you want a large animal, or large spiral horns?
The true East Africa greater kudu rarely, if ever, leave their mountainous habitat. Hunting one is hard work. The hunter must be capable of making hour-long climbs over exceedingly rough terrain. Rather than hunting specifically for an over-50 inch trophy, the hunter should enjoy the overall hunt. If a trophy is collected, so much the better.
Ernest Hemmingway called this kudu “The Gray Ghost” due to its gray to gray-brown coat which provides excellent natural camouflage. These antelope rely on concealment, and spend most of their time in the thick bush. They are very hard to see against their natural habitat, usually only being spotted when the move. Any sound out of the ordinary will send them running at top speed. They have a tendency to run for a short distance, then stop and look back to see what is pursuing them. This is when a shot becomes possible.
The best country to hunt East African greater kudu is Tanzania; particularly around the 21,000 square mile Selous Game Reserve, the Rungwa game reserve near the Ruaha National Park, and the Ikoma area near the Serengeti National Park.
Western Greater Kudu
The western greater kudu habitat includes north-eastern Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, and western Sudan. The best hunting is in the southeastern area of Chad, or the Ouandou Djalle area of Central African Republic. It has the smallest body and shortest horns of any greater kudu. The largest Roland Ward trophy was taken in Chad in 2003. Its longest horn measured 49-1/2 inches. Using a different method of measurement, SCI certified another kudu from Chad that topped out at 53-1/2 inches.
The western greater kudu’s original range was thought to be southern regions of Chad where they tended to stay in the forests and thickets of the high country. However, over the past few decades, they have wandered farther south into CAR where they have been subjected to hunting pressure. The best areas for hunting trophy western kudu in Africa are in the high, brushy mountains of Chad. The hills and small mountains in the Guera region of south-central Chad have a high population of western greater kudu. Also, the red-fronted gazelle can be hunted in the same area.
Lesser kudu are found in southern and eastern Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, southeastern Sudan, central and northeastern Tanzania, and the Karamoja region of northeastern Uganda. The best hunting areas are the Danakil and Omo regions of Ethiopia, and Mto wa Mbu in Masailand, Tanzania. Kenya is closed to hunting. Somalia is a tad too dangerous. About the only places to hunt trophy lesser kudu in Africa are Tanzania and Ethiopia. Some lesser kudu can be found on game ranches in southern African countries, but the native species is not a southern animal. The longest trophy lesser kudu horn in the SCI record book is 36-5/8 inches in length. It was taken near the Omo River in Ethiopia in 2007.
Lesser kudu are quite reclusive. During the day they hide in thickets and brush. They weigh less than half as much as a southern greater kudu can require many days of hard hunting to collect. They will move to the middle of a thicket when they feel threatened, and the hunter will have to move silently, as any strange noise will send them off.
Normally lesser kudu are only available on a 21 to 28-day license. Expenses will run right around $50,000 to $70,000 by the time the daily rate, trophy fee, and travel are covered. However, there is an alternative. This website, Discount African Hunts, has a 10-day hunt for lesser kudu, gerenuk, and other northern species that takes place in Masailand for under $17,000. The trophy fee for lesser kudu is $5,000. This hunt is considerably less expensive than some others on offer.
Hunting a 60-inch Trophy Kudu in Africa
The best areas to hunt trophy kudu in Africa are the Limpopo Province, North West Province and the Kwa-Zulu Natal Province in South Africa. The habitat where they are hunted consists of very steep, heavily-forested terrain. Roads vary from poor to non-existent, so a lot of walking and hiking will be involved. Many hours will be spent staring through binoculars, slogging through heavy brush, and climbing, always climbing. Sometimes the hunter has to endure long drives, starting at well before first light just to get near kudu hunting areas.
If your goal is to hunt trophy kudu in Africa, you will have to understand that you will pass up a number of what would be fairly good trophies during your search. However, the reward for taking a 60-inch greater kudu is a memory that will last the rest of your life, not to mention the envy of all of your hunting friends!
The Effects of Live Animal Auctions on Kudu Prices
Live animal auctions and the prices that breeders will pay for a 60” bull in his breeding prime have changed the dynamics of kudu hunting in South Africa over the last several years. Auction prices have reached into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for exceptional bulls still in their breeding prime. Once a rancher learns that even his average 60” bulls are worth over $10.000 US at auction, they are reluctant to allow hunters to harvest them at trophy fees that are significantly less. They would much rather dart or net them from a helicopter and transport them to the next game auction for a big payday.
Many outfitters have adopted trophy fee schedules based on the length measurements of the horns. The bigger the kudu you shoot, the more you will pay. Most Trophy Fee pricelists list 60” and up kudus as Price on Request (POR). There are still a few concessions in Limpopo and other regions where you can still shoot the biggest kudu you can find, but those opportunities are rapidly disappearing.
A hunter’s next best bet is to find an outfitter that can deliver kudus in the 55”-59” range at reasonable prices. And every once in a while, a farmer will let an older 60” bull that is past his prime go for a somewhat lesser (bargain?) price.
Field Sizing of Kudu Horns
Determining horn length before shooting has to be done very quickly. Holding the binoculars tight against your eyes for too long while trying to make the horns grow will usually result in the kudu disappearing from sight. Here’s where you will have to listen to your PH. If he says, “good bull – shoot!”, take him at his word. Kudu horns can be hard to judge. The wide spread horns can look longer than narrower horns. If you are glassing him looking down from a hill, his horns tend to look larger.
If this will be your first kudu hunt, you need to put in some time studying up on the animal. Hunting trophy kudu in Africa begins at home by reading hunting magazines, going to a zoo, or wild animal park, or checking out some mounts on display at hunting conventions.
When hunting trophy kudu in Africa, any horn length from 48 inches, or up, makes for a good trophy. Horn lengths in the low fifties are fairly common. Anything over 55 inches is a really great trophy. Over 60 inches – better have a good spot on the wall, and be prepared to buy the drinks. Any 60+ inch kudu is an exceptional trophy. Look for horns with almost three full curls. The curls should resemble a spring, deep and close together. Kudu horns should be fairly narrow.
Rifles for Trophy Kudu Hunting in Africa
There has been a lot of heated discussion about what caliber is appropriate for hunting trophy kudu in Africa. Every rifle from the venerable .270 Winchester to the .458 Lott has been touted as the pukka kudu rifle. In actuality, any caliber that would be used for mule deer will work. But, bear in mind that a trophy kudu can weigh up to 600 pounds and stand 63 inches at the shoulder. The .30 Magnums are flat-shooting enough to work out to 350-400 yards with a 180-grain bullet, and anchor the animal. However the .375 cartridge, be it H&H, Ruger, Weatherby, or Remington will do the same, but with a 270-grain bullet that packs more power. With your scope sighted one inch high at 200 yards, the bullet will drop less than 7 inches at 300 yards. As a general rule, it’s better to be over-gunned than under-gunned. Also, when trophy hunting kudu in Africa you must use quality bullets. Any of the Barnes VOR, Hornady DGX, Speer Trophy Bonded Bear Claw, or Nosler Partition series of bullets come highly recommended. They all have controlled expansion and great weight retention qualities.
Shot Placement for Trophy Kudu Hunting in Africa
As with all hunting, shot placement is more important than caliber. The neck or head shot can give the taxidermist much more work, so don’t take it unless no other shot presents itself. A high heart/lung shot is preferred. Aim just behind the foreleg and one-third up the body. This will shut down the boiler works and the kudu won’t go far.