Hunting Trophy Mountain Nyala in Ethiopia

Posted On : Dec 16, 2016

Posted By : Tom Murphy

Trophy Male Mountain Nyala

Hunting Trophy Mountain Nyala in Ethiopia

The mountain nyala is found in the Amorro, Arusi, Bale, Chercher, and Din Din Mountains of Ethiopia.  These tall massifs lie south of the Danakil Depression (hottest place on earth) and east of the Rift Valley.  They also inhabit to a lesser extent the land west of the Rift Valley, near Ambo on Gibat Mountain.  Their preferred habitat is giant heather at altitudes between 6,000 to 12,000 feet.  Roland Ward’s Records of Big Game show that the largest trophy mountain nyala sported a horn that measured 39-1/2 inches, and was taken near the Chercher Mountains in eastern Ethiopia.  According to Safari Club International’s records, a nyala that scored 117 inches with a 48-6/8 inch horn came from the Arussi Mountains in the Ethiopian highlands.

Some of the largest mountain nyala come from the juniper-hagenia forest of the Bale Mountains (also known as the Urgoma Mountains) located in the Oromia Region of southeast Ethiopia.  The better trophies are usually found in the Odo Bulu and Damaro hunting concessions.  This hunting area is approximately 235 miles from Addis Ababa, and can be reached by vehicle in a day’s drive.  Alternately, chartered flights are available; current cost runs in the $4500 range. 

Mountain Nyala Hunting Methods

Hunting trophy mountain nyala in Ethiopia is done in two basic ways.  The first is a high mountain hunt in the heather where a hunter will spend most of his time climbing up, or sliding down the hills.  The mountain nyala is more exposed and can be spotted as it moves from the heather to open ground.  Hunters can climb to ridgetops and use spotting scopes or binoculars to locate a trophy mountain nyala.  Depending on the terrain, a mountain nyala can even be seen when it beds down in the brush.  Usually the animal will lie down between 10 am and 3 pm. 

The hardest part in hunting trophy mountain nyala is stalking into shooting range.  If the hunter isn’t in good (make that excellent) shape, the hurried climbing and walking at altitudes above 10,000 feet can be excruciating at the least, and can lead to altitude sickness, which is accompanied by vomiting and headaches.  Shots can be quite long in the mountains of Ethiopia.  It is not unusual to have to take a shot in excess of 300 yards.

The second method of hunting mountain nyala is by hunting the forests.  Here, the brush limits visibility to as little as 15 yards. The land on the lower mountain slopes where the heavy forests grow is still steep and rough.  It consists of ridges and ravines with rivers at the bottom.   The heavy brush and difficult terrain make glassing and spotting difficult.  Seldom can a hunter see more than 600 yards in any direction.  Here is where a good understanding of the habits of the nyala is necessary.  They tend to spend the night higher up the mountains and will seek out an open area to stay.  In the morning they will descend to the forest where they browse. 

Forest nyala differ from their high mountain brothers.  They tend to have a slightly darker coat and are larger in the body.  Their horns have a sharper curve and tend to be thicker than the high mountain nyala.  Part of this difference could be that the forest nyala is a browser and gets better, or more, food than does the high mountain animal who feeds primarily by grazing.  Hunting trophy mountain nyala in the heavy grass, trees, and shrub in the hot, humid climate can be quite challenging both physically and mentally.  Sometimes the hunter rides the small Ethiopian horses, which is an effort in itself.  Sometimes the hunter hikes for hours up and down steep canyons.  A 700 pound nyala stag can move uphill out of a canyon with deceptive ease.  He can also slide through thick vines, creepers and bamboo faster that a human can run on flat land.

Trophy Mountain NyalaMountain Nyala

Forest hunting trophy mountain nyala is probably the most challenging method of taking one.  Trying to spot an animal in the wide swath of greenery that surrounds the hunter takes complete concentration.  Good binoculars are important.  Every piece of green has to be scanned, and scanned again.  A mountain nyala can appear out of nowhere.  If he hasn’t seen you, or hasn’t got your scent, you may have a chance at a shot.  Most likely he will be visible for what seems like a millionth of a second as he catches a smell of you and departs for places unknown.  Then it’s time to take a drink of water, creak up to your feet and begin the stalk once more.

Mountain nyala are wanderers.  They don’t seem to be territorial, and one trophy nyala bull can be seen in one area one day, only to disappear and reappear on a hillside miles away.  One of the best habitats for mountain nyala is in the mountains of the Odo Bulu hunting concession near the town of Raytu.  There is no reason for mountain nyala to leave the area, but known bulls from there have been found many miles away.  Sometimes they are seen once, but never again.

Like other game animals, hunting trophy mountain nyala is a challenge for the hunter in that he or she must be in excellent condition, and be competent with a firearm.  Normally, a mountain nyala won’t be a first time hunter’s choice.  A client usually has hunted numerous other African animals, and has decided that a mountain nyala mount is just what the trophy room needs.  An Ethiopian safari is a fairly expensive venture.  As of 2016, a license fee for a mountain nyala is $15,000.  It is paid in advance and not refundable.  When it comes to spending upwards of $75,000 to hunt trophy mountain nyala in Ethiopia, the pressure to perform is quite high.  Ethiopia game laws state that if a nyala (or any other animal) is shot and only wounded, it is yours, even if it escapes.  A couple of drops of blood and your hunt is over. 

Tracking a wounded mountain nyala can be very difficult.  They are smart, and will make every effort to go downhill, uphill, or through rough terrain where you would think that a duiker couldn’t go.  They will run you until your knees quit, your breath is only a faint memory, and you’re shaking so hard your hat keeps falling off.

When it comes to choosing the proper firearm for hunting mountain nyala, a lot will depend on what type of hunt you will be doing.  If you plan on hunting the lower elevation forests, shots will be close and speed is essential.  If long range shooting up in the high elevations is planned, the caliber and type of gun will be rather different.  The discussion over the best caliber for any hunt has been going on since the black powder days, and will continue for the foreseeable future.  However, there are a few facts about hunting mountain nyala that are pretty standard. 

Rifles for Hunting Trophy Mountain Nyala

For forest hunting, your rifle should have a short barrel – 20 to 22 inches.  A number of hunters swear by calibers in the .270-.338 size.  Though, there are lot of hunters who prefer slow, large caliber rounds with heavy bullets.  American hunters dearly love the lever action rifle.  Every critter from ground squirrels to Cape buffalo has fallen to the hoary 45-70 pushing a large chunk of lead.  It will do the short range job on mountain nyala, as will the .450 or .444 Marlin.  Considering the financial and personal output needed to hunt trophy mountain nyala in Ethiopia, perhaps a better choice would be one of the .375s.  Hunters have been taking all manner of animals with the .375 H&H since before World War One, and it, or one of the other .375s will harvest a mountain nyala quite nicely in the forest.  It will also reach out for the long shots if one becomes necessary.

If a mountain nyala was on my to-do list, I’d take one of Ruger’s recent bolt actions chambered in .375 Ruger, or.416 Ruger.  Due to the high humidity and copious rainfall, I’d opt for the laminate stock, stainless steel Ruger Guide gun in either caliber.  There is a .416 version of that gun in my safe right now.  Its 20-inch barrel makes for quick handling in the bush, and the .416 Ruger caliber has plenty of horsepower to deal with any animal encountered.  It mounts a Leupold VX-3 scope with great light gathering abilities for twilight or heavy jungle conditions.  Granted, these two calibers are a tad overkill, but when so much is riding on the first shot.

Awesome Mountain Nyala TrophyHappy Mountain Nyala Trophy Hunter

Then there’s the high altitude, long range shots.  Any of the 7mm-.270 calibers will do the job, but the .30 calibers - .300 Winchester Magnum, .300 Winchester Short Magnum, and the booming .300 Weatherby Magnum, or similar, would be a better choice for hunting trophy-sized nyala in Ethiopia; especially when the bag might include greater Abyssinian kudu, or Northeast savanna Buffalo, or other large plains game.  Because of the possibility of a 350 yard, or more, shot, your rifle should wear some good glass. A riflescope with a 4-12x50mm optic will reach way out there, but still be able to be cranked down to 4 power if the shooting gets close.

As a side note, bullet quality, regardless of caliber, is of extreme importance when hunting trophy mountain nyala in Ethiopia.  Some of the better bullets available in loaded ammunition are Barnes TTSX, Norma Oryx, North Fork Solid Shank, Nosler Accubond, and Swift A-Frame.  If you are a hand loader, these bullets can be sourced in weights from 110 grains to 300 grains.  

Mountain Nyala Shot Placement

More important than the rifle’s caliber is shot placement.  When hunting trophy mountain nyala in Ethiopia, the absolute best aiming point is not the shoulder, but the lung shot.  Put the crosshairs one third up the nyala’s body, and just behind the foreleg.  The heart and lungs of the mountain nyala are much more massive than the average plains game antelope.  If the shot goes a few inches low, the heart, which sits rather low in the chest area, will be punctured.  If the bullet strikes a bit too high, the lungs will still be hit.  Hit way too high and the spine could be crushed.  A shot right in the middle of the heart-lung area has about a 16-inch kill diameter.  If you can’t keep a bullet within that circle, mayhaps you should take up a different pastime like knitting.

Physical Conditioning for Trophy Mountain Nyala Hunting

 And, as mentioned above, your body’s condition is extremely important.  If you can’t hustle up a 500 yard incline without sounding like a steam train with a stuck whistle, you had better start a comprehensive exercise program.  Usually a trophy nyala hunt is planned at least a year in advance.  This gives you enough time to get into shape.  If you live at, or near sea level, bear in mind that you will be heading up as high as 14,000 feet elevation.  At 7,000 feet, wood fires don’t get enough oxygen to burn with a tall flame.  The FAA requires that a pilot be on oxygen if over 12,500 feet for more than 30 minutes.  Above 14,000 feet elevation, continuous oxygen is required.

Now, picture yourself after having scrabbled up a hilltop in 85 degree weather and 80% relative humidity.  Rather than use any simile, let’s just say that if you’re not in good condition, you won’t be able to hold on a target, no matter what the range.  Remember, this hunt will be one you will think about for the rest of your life.  Get into shape.  Practice a lot with the rifle you will be taking to Ethiopia, Talk over your hunt with your Professional Hunter.  Above all, have a great successful hunt for one of Africa’s greatest spiral-horned trophy antelopes!