Bushbuck;The Whitetail of Africa
Bushbuck; The Whitetail of Africa
By: Tim Herald
No doubt Africa’s dangerous game is my greatest hunting passion, and maybe even obsession, but hunting the bushbuck ranks very high with me as well. This small to medium sized antelope remind me very much of whitetails in the US.
They are secretive, love to hang out in thick cover, and they are most visible in the early mornings and late afternoons. Bushbuck seem to have small home ranges, and if you know a good ram is in an area, you can concentrate your efforts there hoping to find him. The one difference in most bushbuck hunting versus whitetails is that most whitetails are taken out of a stand or blind, while most bushbuck are taken by slow deliberate stalks on the edge of this cover.
There is debate on how many bushbuck “subspecies” there really are, but I think most hunters can agree there are at least eight. These are the Abyssinian, Nile, East African (or Maasai), Chobe, Harnessed, Limpopo, Cape, and Menelik’s. They vary in color from a bright reddish orange with white stripes and spots, to being almost completely chocolate brown.
The harnessed bushbuck is the smallest and a big male will be 95-99 pounds, whereas an East African bushbuck ram may be over 150 pounds.
As mentioned before, slow quiet walks around the edges of thick cover are often the method of hunting that proves successful. This maybe in riverine areas that are jungle like, and bushbuck will come out on the edges and feed on fruits, flowers and browse on an assortment of green leaves. Menelik’s bushbuck in Ethiopia, or Cape bushbuck in South Africa maybe found high on mountains, but they will still be close to thick cover where they spend most of the day and be seen in the open, mainly early and late.
My largest bushbuck came high on a mountain in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. We had walked the edge of cover in a few places during the morning, and since we were in the mountains, we tried to get to some good glassing spots before we expected the bushbuck to retreat into their bedding areas.
Mid-morning, my PH spotted a bushbuck ram on an opposite hillside that looked pretty good. He was about 700 yards away and slowly feeding through an area of high grass and sparse trees, but he was making his way toward a thicket. We knew we had to hurry.
We hit a trail that would lead us around the head of a huge draw and we would end up somewhere below the ram. We would have rather been above him, but the wind was wrong for that. We hot-footed it over as quickly as possible, and when we got to where we thought we were even with him, we peaked up over a steep bank, and to my surprise, he was only about 40-45 yards away. I had my Trijicon Ascent down on 3 power, I quickly found the ram, he raised his head, and I took a deep breath. I knew he was a really big one.
As soon as his shoulder was in the clear, I squeezed the trigger and he dropped in his tracks. When I got to him, I was absolutely elated as he was over 16” and just a beautiful old dark brown ram.
Last year I was in Uganda where they have both Nile and East African bushbuck. One evening we were taking a walk looking for a nice ram, and just at dark, we spotted a good one feeding in some high grass about 100 yards out. He spotted us about the same time I spotted him, and he stood frozen looking at us and hoping he was camouflaged.
I had a Trijicon 4-16x50 Credo Scope on my .300 Win Mag, and I had it set on 6x while walking. I quickly took aim, the scope’s 50mm objective lens helped me see more clearly than with my naked eye, and my illuminated reticle was perfect in the quickly fading light. My shot was true, and I had a fantastic ram.
I may never get to hunt all the bushbuck, but I feel lucky to have hunted five subspecies. You can believe whenever I am in a place that holds these elusive antelope, I will carve out time to pursue one of Africa’s most fun challenges.