Judging Kudu

Magnificent bull....very old thick hard bases and well worn on the tips....perfect bull to take....

For me it it is never about the inches but the look and age and most importantly the experience and the actual hunt....

I have hunted one horned Kudu on more than one occasion with German hunters....they were all ancient and the clients were ecstatic and the hunts hard but oh so rewarding.....

One time we hunted two kudu with one horn each, both very old and battle scarred, one left horn one right horn, same client same hunt, same property, huge place in the Waterberg mountains....a hunt I will never forget neither will my client....

Another hunt I hunted with a hunter who was on his third trip, every time he wanted a kudu but did not get one. We hunted hard, found a old bull but would only measure 47" right shape and age, he took it without hesitation....last day last afternoon hunting for another warthog we bumped into a ancient 56" kudu, blind in one eye, hunter did not hesitate and his dream came true twice on the same hunt....that's how it works sometimes....make the best of what is offered....

Little back ground on the Kudu, I told my outfitter that he was the boss, if he told me to shoot, I was going to and if he said hold off, I would take his advice, that's what I was paying him for.

we had passed on a few bull's the day before, there was another one with this bull and a few cows. We originally didn't see this bull and Lieb had told me not to shoot the one we did see. Just not big enough, now having said all this, these Kudu where 250 yards plus, when the second bull came out, he said as soon as it stops, kill it. The bull and the cows started trotting off and finally gave me a shot at about 360 yards. I had a good rest and I took the shot and cracked him. He ran about 75 yards and piled up.

I remember asking Lieb, what was the difference between the 2 bulls, to me they look about the same size, I will never forget his response, He said after being dozens and dozens of successful kudu hunts you just know. I guess I used the same system on whitetails here in the states. If I have to ask myself if he is big enough, then odds are he isn't!!

anyway it was a great first trip to Africa, and I was planning my next safari before I got the airport for the long ride back to Columbus!!
The Kudu

The kudu with its magnificent spiralled horns is one of Africa’s most gracious and handsome antelope. It is the only indigenous antelope at present enlarging its distribution naturally. Wildlife ranching and the private sector also have generally had a positive effect on this species, as it has been widely reintroduced onto private properties within its natural distribution.

Taxonomy notes:

The common name kudu is derived from the indigenous Khoikhoi language of Southern Africa. The scientific name is derived from Greek: Tragos denotes a he-goat and elaphos a deer; Strephis means ‘twisting’ and Keras means ‘horn.

Greater kudu may be distinguished from a similar species, the lesser kudu (Tragelaphus imberbis), by the presence of a throat mane.


Fig 1: The Kudu


The Great kudu is a large antelope with tawny colouring and thin, white, sparse vertical stripes. Greater kudu may be distinguished from a similar species, the lesser kudu (Tragelaphus imberbis), by the presence of a throat mane. The male has long black twisted horns. Females do not have horns


Fig 2: Growth and size charts.


Greater kudus are found extensively throughout Southern Africa, in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique and Zambia and even further north in Tanzania, Kenya and parts of Angola.


Fig 3: Distribution in South Africa.


Kudu are highly alert and notoriously hard to approach. When they detect danger – often using their large, radar-like ears – they give a hoarse alarm bark, then flee with a distinctive, rocking-horse running motion, the male laying back his horns to avoid overhead obstructions.

Their cryptic colouring and markings protect kudus by camouflaging them. If alarmed, they usually stand still and are very difficult to spot.


Fig 4: Dealing with threats.

Habitats and Ecology:

They can be found in a very wide habitat range including hilly areas, slopes of mountains with trees, woodlands, bush thickets, riverine areas, bushveld and wooded savannah areas.The mean home range size is 90-350 ha during wet summer periods and may expand to 600ha during droughts. Predators, such as lions and leopards, African wild dogs, hyenas, and sometimes pythons, hunt kudu and their young.


Fig 5: Natural Predators.


Like many other antelopes, male kudu can be found in bachelor groups, but they are more likely to be solitary. Their dominance displays tend not to last long and are generally fairly peaceful, consisting of one male making himself look big by making his hair stand on end. Males are seen with females only in the mating season, when they join in groups of 5–15 kudu, including offspring. A pregnant female will leave the herd to give birth to a single offspring. She will leave the newborn lying hidden for 4–5 weeks while coming back only to nurse it.


Fig 6: Mother and calf.

Types of herds:

Herds of over 20 usually split up into smaller groups. Young cows remain with their mothers' unit, but young bulls form bachelor groups when they reach sexual maturity, normally at two years. Adult Bulls that have won the right to mate will join herds of females and their young in mating season, but favour other habitats out of the mating season. No territorial spacing exists amongst bulls, but they do show age and hence size-graded dominance hierarchies.


Fig 7: Different types of herds.

Hunting Kudu:

Some of the best kudu hunting methods include stalking their feeding areas early in the morning, or ambushing the bulls as they return from cover and on higher grounds. You can lie in wait at watering holes at midday, still-hunting in thick cover, or tracking. Avoid hunting kudu with . 270 or lower calibre rifles.

If you're after a good kudu trophy, you will want to avoid head and neck shots. Instead, go for the high heart or lung shot.


Fig 8: Shot placement.

The Kudu Trophy measurements:

Horn lengths in the low 50's are fairly common; 55 inches and over can be considered a really good trophy; and 60 inches and over is exceptional. The Eastern Cape Kudu is considered a subspecies of the greater kudu and horns length will be around 5 - 10 inches less than its northern cousin and darker in color.


Fig 9: Skull.

Hunting the Kudu Trophy:

The magnificent horns are spread in beautiful open spirals. There is no scientific proof for claims that narrow horns relate to bush dwelling and wide horns to plains kudu, as the two forms are found in both habitats. However, narrow-horned kudu are more mobile in thickets and are seen moving more frequently in thicker vegetation, whereas a wide horned kudu tends to conceal itself rather than to move. The horns of a kudu are constructed in such away as to give the animal constant eye contact with the tips


Fig 10: The Kudu Trophy


Smithers, RHN, 1983. The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion, 1st edn. University of Pretoria, CTP

Book Printers, Cape Town.

Focus on the Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros),
Deon Furstenburg, GEO WILD Consult (Pty) Ltd.

Wikipedia.com, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kudu







Kudu | Wildlife South Africa

Judging Kudu is best done by PH who see them everyday. I cannot even get close on the hoof and in a hurry! Too many people stretch the size. I only believe the tape. When taped many Kudu shrink. I just want old, mature, well worn warrior. But I would shoot a 60" Kudu any day.
What does it mean for a kudu bull's horns "to come to a point" since they all have points unless broken off.
What does it mean for a kudu bull's horns "to come to a point" since they all have points unless broken off.
I have no idea - I have never heard the expression. However, the tips are an indicator. If they are starting to flare or twist back out, and all other indicators with respect to size and condition are correct, then he is likely an older bull. If they have started to flare out and the curls are deep, then it is likely an older high scoring bull. All of which is pretty academic. You should take the animal your PH recommends.
Never heard that term used either. I guess it probably means both horn tips point inward, toward each other at the top, creating a “point” shape?

“Judging” kudu is truly in eye of beholder. Quite a few seem to like widely flaring horns. Some like lots of curls/turns. Some like tips pointing outward at top. Some like tips pointing inward at top and some like straight tips… and so on. I think usually, those multiple turn, tight twist, often wide spreading, impressive looking kudu end up a little disappointing for measurement. Conversely, those narrower, wide coil heads that often turn inward at the top, many times, yield surprising length.

Overall, I’ve learned to judge by overall appearance keys like enough curls and size compared to the head/ears. The greatest indicator of length, IMO, seems to be depth of curl- in other words sweep or diameter of the curl, usually sweeping out to tips of the ears or wider. At a glance, those also give the appearance of a vehicle’s coil spring that is somewhat flattened or compressed. Those with what seems like a lot of turns and an appearance of an extended, pulled apart cork screw usually won’t have the expected length, but they may look impressive.
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Actually, I got my answer straight from the horse's mouth (Jerome). He meant some horns end with straight points and others are still curving.
kudu are in my opinion the hardest to judge
so much lies in the curls and if you dont have time and few different angle to look at it is very hard to judge
there is so much said about the number of curls, the tips, which way the tips face, spread of horns etc etc its all bullsh#t, the length of a kudu is measured along the ridge following the curls untill there is no more ridge then you go straight up to the tip.

so the length is all in the curls, if it has deep curls, it measures well, if its a "flat" bull with no depth in the curls it will look long but very seldom measures well.

one thing i have learned over the year hunting kudu, narrow(close together horns) measure better than expected, wide bulls dont reach expectation but look more impressive
Field judging a kudu bull has various aspects to be taken into consideration and depth of the curl, length of the tips and thickness of the base has an impact but so does horn mass and even the area that you are hunting in, some areas are known for better trophy quality than other areas.

I will add two pictures, the first picture is a beautiful bull but the tips are long and thin, based on harvesting age appropriate animals, I would pass this bull up to give him at least another year. The second bull has thick horns with worn tips and thick bases with mass all the way up the horn, this in my opinion is a great bull to take. This all being said, I personally don’t hunt with a measuring tape as I believe a true kudu hunt has much more to offer.

Picture one:


Picture two:


Both these pictures were taken about two weeks ago, we are blessed with fantastic kudu genetics as well as population numbers and we end up passing up allot of bulls to give them time.

Kind regards
Aj Fourie.
The second bull in my opinion is almost ready, but I would give him more time as well.
to be dead honest, this crowd around the water hole, i dont see one great bull, a few impressive ones but none that are measuring deep in the 50's

your first set of 2 pics, what i look at if i have time, is the base of horns, first pic the base is light in colour, meaning fresh horn which has just grown over the summer, so he is proabably still growing, the second bulls base was not light in colour, so no more growth in him means he is probably older
to be dead honest, this crowd around the water hole, i dont see one great bull, a few impressive ones but none that are measuring deep in the 50's

your first set of 2 pics, what i look at if i have time, is the base of horns, first pic the base is light in colour, meaning fresh horn which has just grown over the summer, so he is proabably still growing, the second bulls base was not light in colour, so no more growth in him means he is probably older
That second bull won’t go to deep fifties, I’d put him in middle fifties but yes, definitely the older one between the two and he displays beautifully as well!
Took me a long time to realize and learn to “see” the best technique for kudu. The traps for mis-judging kudu are many and usually include number of revs and width… among others. But IMO, the best guesstimator above all others is depth of curl.
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Would anyone try to judge the size of my Kudu?
I dont have measurements, but i would be curious what size (in inches) he could be

View attachment 524375
Where did you hunt the bull? Right horn will measure 3 to 4 inches more than left...
From the photo left horn wont make 50...
Any more pics?
I would say this is an exceptional bull for EC. I asked because the back ground indicated to me that it came from there.
Somehow it looks like this bull sent a lot more growth to the right horn versus the left...
He shows a lot more thickness and especially thickness in the ridge(the part you measure along) of the right horn and some in the depth of the curl...
I would say 49 left 52 maybe 53 right...(I am not an expert by any means on EC kudu...)
Great EC bull and the thickness and neck shows it is a very old bull...
Well done...
The memories and hunt experience is what it is about not the tape.....average kudu taken are smaller than this....
This is a dagga boy kudu....

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doing some culling today for the pot!
Should have recieved it, seems your FFL was a bit of a hassle