Trophy Nyala Hunting in Africa
Where to Hunt Trophy Nyala
The common, or southern nyala is found only in southeast Africa. Its habitat includes the lower Shire Valley of Malawi, parts of central and lower Mozambique, Namibia (introduced), South Africa (native, but widely introduced beyond its natural range in provinces like the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and Northwest ), and in the Zambezi Valley and southeast of Zimbabwe. Roland Ward’s record book shows the largest trophy to have a horn of 33-1/4 inches, and a 7-1/2 inch circumference. It was taken near Mkuze in KwaZulu-Natal in 2010. SCI Book of Trophy Animals shows a 34-1/8 inch horn with an 8-2/8 inch circumference. It was taken near Hluhluwe Game Reserve in South Africa.
One of the best places for hunting trophy nyala is the KwaZulu-Natal Provence located in the south-eastern part of South Africa. There are over 30,000 Nyala in South Africa. This number includes both free-range and managed animals. There are some very large nyala in Mkhuzi Park in KwaZulu-Natal that run near 30 inches in horn size.
Trophy Nyala Hunting Methods
The most important part of nyala hunting is silence and slow movement. When tracking a mature bull care must be taken to examine any thickets encountered. Mature bulls are shy and good at hiding. Usually the hunter cannot see the entire animal due to the heavy bush. About the only way to really see the nyala is when he moves. This is when absolute silence is required. If the bull is not disturbed, there’s a very good chance that he will move far enough out of the bush to where a shot can be taken. Should the shot not anchor the nyala, then the animal will disappear into the tangle of the brush. Unless there is a good blood trail, the nyala will probably be lost. If it cannot be found within a short period of time, then it will undoubtedly become prey for a leopard or hyena. Then a trophy is lost and the hunt is over.
Adult bull nyala are not aggressive by nature, but if wounded can cause a great deal of damage. They have been known to charge straight towards a hunter; head bent low and their horns aimed directly at your stomach. Wherever nyala are hunted, the best method is to track them through their territories on foot in the early morning and evening hours. Nyala don’t like cold weather, and tend to avoid southern slopes when the temperature drops. They can be seen on north and east facing slopes, soaking up the morning sun. Locate a high point with good views and get on your binoculars. Check the area from different positions. Nyala will usually sun themselves for about two hours after sunrise. When they start to move to forage is when they become visible. They have a small home range, and tend to repeat daily movements, including using the same paths to find water and forage.
Judging Trophy Nyala
Any nyala over 27 inches is a large animal. It can be difficult to judge horn size in the field. Trying to spot the difference between 27 inches and 30 inches takes a lot of experience. The hunter must look for other characteristics when hunting trophy nyala. The hunter must judge the body as well as the horns. Young nyala are darker than mature bulls and have a thinner neck. A mature, trophy bull will carry itself differently, and have a heavy neck. Older bulls tend to take on a grey appearance, and can shed hair. Another identifier is the nyala’s forehead color which tends to get darker with age. Young bulls have bright brown coloration, while old bulls have almost black faces. When in the bush, sometimes this will be the only obvious sign of a mature bull.
Most nyala hunters are more interested in horn shape than absolute length. The quickest way to judge a nyala’s maturity is by observing the horns. If the horn tips point inward it’s a sign that the bull is immature. If the horn tips flare outward with a shape like a lyre, or if they are parallel, it’s fairly certain that the bull is mature. The more shape to the horns, the longer they are. An old bull’s horns are rough in texture, dark, and have pronounced ivory tips. It’s not unusual to find a bull with heavily worn horns, so much so that they have a thick tip.
When to Hunt Trophy Nyala in Africa
A good nyala bull can be hunted year round. Because nyala tend to stay in a small area, at certain times of the year, they will frequent the same territory on a daily basis. Terrain, weather, temperature, and the rut will determine their location. Bulls need to drink water every day. They will stay in the hills during the day, but go down to water in the afternoon. You can hunt the hills until the afternoon, but then it’s time to descend into the lower areas. Some nyala drink twice a day – around noon, then in the early evening. When the bulls sleep on the hills during winter, they normally will start down towards water after basking in the sun – somewhere around two hours after sunrise. The best way to locate a bull when he comes down the hill is to set up where you have a good view of the open grasses between the hill’s bush, and the river’s greenery. Locate his natural trail and stay in the general area. The hunter will only get an opportunity for a shot when the bull goes down to water. He normally will spend the day down in the thick brush near the river, only leaving near sunset to climb to a place to sleep. The important point here, is to move your hunting position as the day changes. So, use the binoculars in the morning, then walk and stalk in the afternoon.
Another way to hunt trophy nyala is to drive around in the safari truck until a bull is found. If they have become accustomed to vehicles moving around, they won’t react to the truck. But, you must keep the truck moving. If the bull hears the engine quit, or the truck stop moving, he will head away from the area. The driver should continue at least one half mile before the hunters get out. The author has actually driven right by two big bulls at a distance of 3-4 yards, and they paid absolutely no attention to the truck. We weren’t hunting nyala at the time, but could have taken either one with little effort.
When hunting trophy nyala, the hunter must pay attention to the smallest details. There are only really two ways to hunt big bulls. The first is by glassing them when they are up high; the second by stalking them down low. When up high, you must take into consideration wind direction and outside air temperature. Don’t hunt on slopes that have had the wind blow across them all night. Bulls will be down lower if the temperature is down and the wind is up.
If the bull you are hunting seems to frequent a certain area down low, stay away from it. The odds are that the bull will return to the same area, but not if it senses something out of the ordinary.
A couple of words here about cross-valley, or across flood plain, long distance shots and the problems that can be encountered. First of all, you must be comfortable with shooting long distances. Second, your choice of rifle will have to be a flat-shooting caliber that you know better than your first ex-wife. Do some serious shooting at ranges of 300 yards and farther. You will have to be in good condition, and capable of being absolutely stationary for long periods of time. You’ll need some energy bars and water if you plan on being out for more than a few hours. Sometimes the grass and brush might not have been burned off and you will have to shoot standing up. That’s when a set of three-legged shooting sticks will be needed. A range finder is almost a requirement, and the ability to read the wind direction and strength is a necessity. You must take your time on a long range shot. If the shot misses, or only wounds the nyala, you won’t have time for a second shot. By the time you can crank another round into the rifle, the bull will be long gone. A wounded bull won’t go far, but if he isn’t hit in a vital place, he will go for the thickest bush he can find, and approaching him in the heavy bush will be nigh on to impossible. If you have a dog available, then locating a wounded nyala will be much easier. The dog will bay up the animal, and the nyala will be so focused on the dog that it might not even notice you.
Rifles and Ammunition for Trophy Nyala Hunting
KwaZulu-Natal is a hilly province, and hunting nyala across these hills can stretch out well over 300 yards. Everybody has a favorite caliber for hunting, and I’m not going to pick one and say that it’s the only one suitable for hunting a nyala. What I have learned, though, is that when working out past 300 yards, the 7mm- .280 family of ammunition, shooting a 160 grain bullet at 2,800 fps, or faster, is the minimum caliber for nyala. Not that it can’t be done with calibers in the .257 and smaller range, but you are probably only going to get one shot, and you want to anchor the bull.
The fast .300s are probably the best choice for hunting trophy nyala when the range gets long. Any one of them like the .300 Winchester Magnum, the .300 Weatherby Magnum, or any of the others that will push a 180 grain bullet at 3,000 fps, or more, are the best all-around calibers for Nyala, kudu, and similar plains game. I once owned a .300 Winchester Magnum that had been shot so many times that I think the muzzle was egg-shaped, but it did the job when I had to reach out and touch an animal out past 300 yards.
The same rifle will work when in the lowland brush. A short-barreled .375 loaded with 235 grain bullets would do well, but might be a stretch should the distance open up. I’d not be afraid to use one out at 300 yards, but I’d want a LOT of practice before I tried that trick.
When it comes to ammunition, use premium- level cartridges loaded with premium-level components. 20 rounds of Federal Premium Vital-Shok 180 grain ammunition is reasonably priced. This is probably the cheapest piece of gear on your hunt.
Rifle Scopes for Trophy Nyala Hunting
A good scope is a necessity. There are range-compensating scopes, red dot scopes, and the scopes you like. But, the only criteria that should be common to all of them is that they have a decent field of view at long ranges, be a variable power from at least 4x to 12x, be capable of gathering light in low-light conditions, and be rugged. We all have our preferences and favorites when it comes to guns, scopes, and loads. What I describe might not be what you like, but it will work for you under most encountered conditions.