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African Animal of the Week: Impala

Images Courtesy of Big Game Hunting Adventures

The impala is a medium-sized antelope that inhabits much of sub-Saharan Africa. Find out everything you ever wanted to know about impala hunting.

This week’s animal of the week is another popular animal to hunt in Africa: the impala.

The impala is one of the most common and widely distributed animals in all of Africa. Not only are they extremely common, but they are beautiful animals and provide tasty table fare at the same time. Because of these factors, the impala is possibly the most popular animal to hunt in Africa. No African safari is complete without one.

impala hunting

Impala Description

Scientific Name: Aepyceros melampus, also known as the Rooibok (Red Buck)

The impala is a medium-sized antelope and is found across the majority of sub-Saharan Africa. There are three widely recognized sub-species of impala: the eastern impala (Kenya, Uganda, & Tanzania), the black faced impala (Namibia and Angola), and the southern impala (Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). Though all three sub-species are similar in body size, the east African impala is the largest and has slightly larger horns.

They are very similar in size to most whitetail deer with males (rams) usually weighing around 70-175 pounds. Females (ewes) are slightly smaller, usually in the range of 60-100 pounds. Their coats are short and are a light brown colored coat on the back and flanks and white on their bellies.

Impala are herd animals and found in a variety of areas ranging from the open savannah and to moderately forested bushveld areas. Depending on the food sources available, they will either browse or graze. The one constant in their behavior across their range is that they must drink water daily. As a result, they are never more than a short distance from a water source.

Impala Sex Determination

Determining the sex is easy: males (top) are significantly bigger bodied than females (bottom) and only males have horns.

impala hunting ram

impala hunting ewe

Recommended Calibers for Impala Hunting

Impala are not extremely large or tough animals. However, tracking a wounded one can make for a very long day if they are not hit hard enough. With this in mind, I recommend cartridges in the .243 Winchester-.300 Winchester Magnum range.

That being said, these animals are often hunted in conjunction with large, thick-skinned game, such as buffalo and elephant. In this situation, there is nothing wrong with using something bigger, like a .375 H&H, a .416 Rigby, or a .458 Lott on impala. Big bore rifles will make short work of an impala without causing extensive damage to its meat or cape, especially when using solids or premium soft point bullets.

Hunters going after impala with archery equipment should use a heavy (at least 500 grains) arrow with a sharp, fixed blade broad head shot from a bow with at least a 55-pound draw weight. If hunting them in conjunction with larger antelope, such as kudu or eland, I recommend using an even heavier arrow and draw weight.

Hunting Methods

There are two primary methods of hunting impala: from a blind overlooking a water source or via walk and stalk.

Since they must drink water daily, sitting in a blind overlooking a water hole can be a great way to see literally hundreds of impala in a single sitting.

However, most impala are hunted via walk and stalk. This is one of the most effective ways to hunt impala, especially during the morning and evening when they are usually feeding. Though it can be difficult to get inside shooting range without being detected by the dozens of eyes and ears present in a herd, a skillful hunter can still be quite successful by going slowly and making the most of any available concealment.

Shot Placement

The best shot placement on an impala is to aim for the heart and/or lungs (“the boiler room.”) For both rifle and bow hunters, on an impala standing broadside to you, aim at the back half of the shoulder approximately one third of the way up the body. A shot placed as indicated will hit the heart and/or lungs as well as giving you a margin of error of a few inches in all directions in case your shot placement is slightly off.

impala shot placement broadside

 

Remember to adjust your shot placement if the animal is quartering towards or away from you. You should aim slightly forward of the shoulder if it is quartering towards you (top) and slightly to the rear of the shoulder if impala is quartering away (bottom). While a quartering away shot is fine, I do not recommend taking a shot on an impala quartering towards you with a bow.

 

impala shot placement quartering towards

impala shot placement quartering away

 

Do not aim for a fixed spot on the impala’s skin. Instead, try to visualize where the vitals are located in the impala and place your shot so that your bullet (or arrow) hits them. Unless you hit the central nervous system or break the shoulder, the impala will probably run off. However, don’t worry: if you hit the impala in the boiler room, it won’t go far and will probably leave a good blood trail.

In the video below, the hunter hits the impala high on the shoulder. While it worked out in this case, I don’t normally recommend intentionally aiming for a high shoulder/spine shot.

Cost to Hunt Impala

Impala are often some of the least expensive animals to hunt in Africa. The sheer number of them in most hunting areas really helps drive their price down. The exact price depends on the country and outfitter, but an impala trophy fee will usually cost $200-600, with an average of about $350.

Ready to plan that impala hunting trip?

Like what you see here? You can read more great hunting articles by John McAdams at The Big Game Hunting Blog. Follow him on Twitter @TheBigGameHunt.

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African Animal of the Week: Impala