What should I look for in a Bushbuck in South Africa?


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Apr 23, 2009
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What should I look for in a Bushbuck in South Africa?

BTW below please find an article that I wrote for Africa Hunter that came out a couple of issues back. And below some photos.

Limpopo Bushbuck - Hunting

Tragelaphus scriptus roualeyni or more commonly known as the Limpopo Bushbuck is I suppose my favorite plainsgame to hunt especially next to the Limpopo river. This sometimes, very wary and shy character can give you some uphill battle if you specifically hunt after them for a top trophy. They are found in the thick riverine bush next to the river and depending on time of the year you hunt them you might call it jungle.


Typical Bushbuck habitat next to the Limpopo river.

They quickly get use to humans and their surroundings, don’t get me wrong I’m not saying they get tame but get to use to the fact that they move in an area close to humans. Since farmers have fields and workers on the farm usually inhabits some good spots close to the river, they usually see and hear people. But let me tell you they can and do know the difference between a hunter and worker doing their everyday work and life. As soon as you step into the bush bordering the river they know you are after them. Most bushbuck shot by international clients are targets of opportunities hunting for other game and bumping into a good ram is not a difficult task and it all depends on your luck. Bushbucks become almost entirely nocturnal in areas where they are apt to be disturbed frequently during the day. When alarmed, individuals react in a variety of ways. Sometimes they will sink to the ground and lie flat, or they may bound away, making a series of hoarse barks. Although they move more at dawn and dusk they can be hunted anytime of the day and most of the good rams we have hunted was shot after 9am in the morning and late afternoon.


A very good example of mature bushbuck with spreading tips at 15 1/2".

Basically what I’m getting at is that the bushbuck is really a very good adversary to hunt hard for and it’s all worth it. He is the smallest of the spiral horns and is also the most aggressive as well. Although I have never experienced it except for one ram which was shot in the liver (As we found out afterwards) I have never felt threatened or in danger with bushbuck. The ram was hit and we found it lying motionless, my dog a staffordshire terrier went closer and as soon as his snout touched the ram it suddenly came alive and instead of stabbing him with the horns gave him headbutt and went flying past him into the reeds where the second shot ended him. So I suppose if it was, me instead of my dog those horns could have given me a nasty surprise.


My 17" shot when I was 17 in 1993.

I have been lucky to have hunted quite a bit of bushbuck myself as well as with clients with good success. I’m also of the oppinion that the minimums setup for SCI and specifically for limpopo bushbuck are too low (Total score of 33). A ram with 12” horns and 4 1/2” bases will make the book for example. Most non-fully mature rams shot will make the book, so I hunt for bushbuck in the Roland Ward class, which bears a minimum of 15” for the longest horn those rams will be fully matured and would have enough time to spread their genes. I’m not saying you can only shoot 15” rams as not all mature rams grow horns that long, but as long as the horns are around 13 ½” in length and have thick bases of around 5” + it is mature and easily qualifies for the book and gets a total score of 37. That is where I would like the minimum to be around 37 instead of 33. Bushbuck horns vary a lot in size and form some bushbuck or most of them form the nice spread of the outer points and some never really spread but just have a full spiral with horns pointing a little outwards. The ones with the tips and nice spread pointing outwards are very attractive. As a side note you will also see variations in coulour and the amount of spots as each bushbuck as got their unique markings. Old rams will look very dark but upon closer inspection you will see the lack of hair as they get older and you must be very careful when skinning the trophy like any other spiral horn antelope where hairslip is common. Bushbuck make for excellent full mounts and for their size they will fit in most trophy rooms with ease. Caracal and leopard being their biggest enemies, you will be surprised at the amount of young and smaller sized ewes you will see while hunting them, they are masters at escaping danger.


Another very good bushbuck shot on the banks of the Limpopo.

The rams vary a lot in body weight from 50kg to 80kg live weight while the females hardly ever touch the 40kg mark. They are not particularly tough to kill but with their habitat you always don’t have a clean shot trough brush and shadows. So examine their vitals and killing zone very thoroughly as you will not have a lot of time to place the shot. Bushbuck hunting is not for everyone it takes a lot of patience and slow walking trough thick bush constantly looking for the twitch of an ear the shine of a horn or the swing of a tail. Unlike kudu they will keep their ground until you are too close and then run off to the next thick bush with a bark which sometimes get you by surprise for that will be the first time you will see them. Running after them or going after the same animal again is mostly futile as they will keep an eye on you and by the time you think you have outwitted the ram he will be somewhere else vanished into the shadows. With bushbuck you have to spot them first, there is hardly a second chance. The good thing however is that bushbuck enjoy, staying in a certain area so you could go after him again later in the hunt. I would recommend a slower velocity caliber of around the .30 class with an180gr bullet the shot will be close mostly under 100 meters and will be in thick cover. A 6mm bullet will also kill them very easily but with fast light bullets deflecting easily on brush why go trough the trouble.


An almost fully matured ram at 14".

A funny thing happened to me when I was 17, by that time I have shot 2-3 nice bushbuck rams the biggest one around 15” and that is when I decided to have my next ram mounted. I saved up for the R400.00 needed that time to do a shoulder mount for the bushbuck. Two weeks after my decision I was sitting very quietly on a side of a hill when I spotted a beautiful bushbuck ram almost pitch black with the white striking marks standing out. He was slowly moving up the hill and there was a nice open shooting lane where he would pass and the shot would be about 50 meters. Sitting down and resting the 303 Enfield over my knee I waited for the ram and what felt like hours which probably was a couple of seconds only he cleared into the lane and I fired. The ram crashed down and as quickly as he dropped he ran directly opposite from me and vanished into the thick stuff all the time I could hear him going trough the brush and then finally crashing down again. I slowly stood up and moved to the spot where he was at the shot and found good amounts of blood. With rifle at ready I followed the track and spotted the ram lying down where he crashed and not taking any chances I picked up a rock and threw it at him with no reaction. I marveled at this specimen exactly what I was looking for and later before skinning measured the horns at 16 ½” a side. Perfect he was almost pitch black and the horns where nicely pointing outwards, that afternoon my father took me to the taxidermist and I paid him for the shoulder mount very proud and very happy. The following week I was out hunting again for some meat for staff working on our house that we were building looking for kudu mostly. Unsuccessful and on my way back I spotted a bushbuck ram lying down and had to make a quick decision before he decided to take action I could see by his ears he was picking up some danger but didn’t know the exact location as I stood completely still. He was lower than me on a ridge and I picked up the 303 Enfield again aimed and squeezed of the shot. The ram jumped up and made as much ground away from me as possible when suddenly everything went quiet. Did the ram fall over dead or just stopped to wait for me? Slowly moving my way closer I spotted him lying on the ground with his backside towards me. This was also an exceptional ram not as dark as the other one but it had a bigger body and the horns didn’t turn outwards at all. But wow what horns he had extremely thick bases and long, I was in heaven two very big rams hunted properly on foot in less than 9 days, I was sitting with a problem though I only had R400.00 for one mount but I so wished I could get both mounted. After skinning it the official score on the second ram was 17”. Pleading with my father he told me that I could only get one of them mounted and I was going to choose between them. The other ram was better looking pitch black and super horns but this one was 17” in the end length won and we took the road to the taxidermist again.


A very nice 16".

The taxidermist could not believe my luck two very big bushbuck shot so close to each other, in the end he mounted both and sold the pitch black ram and I went home with the 17”. I wish I had enough money to have both but that gives me a good reason to go find a perfect pitch black bushbuck ram again. Unfortunately when I started my hunting career photos didn’t matter too much and I never took a photo of the other bushbuck but at least I have a good old photo of the big 17”. A word of warning bushbuck hunting is addictive and once you get the hang of it you will not look back. It takes patience and strategy to outwit those rams they haven’t grown that size being stupid. Best of luck to all of you going after this super trophy animal.


A very old and battered ram of 17" notice the lack of hair.
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Very interesting article. I have never hunted bushbuck before.

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