Blackbuck hunting can be unforgettable.
The blackbuck antelope, though native to India, has found a home in Texas. Blackbuck hunting is a popular activity in the Lone Star state, with the total population numbering around 20,000 animals.
Introduced into the Edwards Plateau in west-central Texas in 1932, the blackbuck took to the environment like no other. The only real problem the animals have had is the occasional winter kill, when snow blankets ground vegetation, preventing the antelope from getting enough calories to maintain their body heat.
Blackbuck are a regal looking antelope. With a brown to a blackish brown upper body (hence the name), contrasting with an almost snow white coloration on the underbelly, rump and inside of the legs they are striking. White also encircles the eyes, the ears and the chin, while the rest of the face is dark.
Females are considerably lighter in color than the males, particularly as the males age and their dark brown upper coats deepen in color.
Generally only the males carry horns, and what horns they are. Forming a V from head-on, the horns are long and elegant, ridged and corkscrewing three to five times all the way to their pointed tips. Trophy blackbuck horns will measure 18 to 24 inches in length, although they will occasionally grow to nearly 30 inches.
In any case, the animal makes a stunning mount, regardless the length of the horns.
They are a small antelope, standing approximately 30 inches at the shoulder. Males weigh on average around 80-85 pounds with a top weight of around 125 pounds. Females run around 60 pounds with a top weight of around 75 pounds.
Blackbuck populate many exotic game ranches in Texas, where coyotes are their primary predator. But coyotes predation is mainly on the old or ill, or newborn fawns, as blackbuck can easily outrun the canines. This selective predation leaves mature males the opportunity to grow to trophy size in both body weight and horn length.
Ox Ranch has hundreds of blackbuck on its 18,000 acres. The ranch contains antelope with some of the best genetics in Texas, with many animals that carry horns spiraling five or more times.
Blackbuck can withstand the hottest of temperatures, often maintaining activity in the heat of the summer daytime. They do, however, require water frequently throughout the day, and will at times travel some distance to get it.
As with many ungulates blackbucks are primarily grazers, feeding heavily on short to medium grasses. They also browse on bushes and low trees, and have a liking for certain agricultural crops such as millet and sorghum, much to the chagrin of farmers who view the animals as pests.
They are territorial, with bucks aggressively defending territories of five to thirty acres, especially during the breeding season. Mature male blackbuck spend much of their time herding and keeping tabs on their females, although females can and do visit other male’s territories to drink or feed. Females can bear one fawn twice a year, a breeding capacity which has helped lead to their population success in Texas.
Blackbuck are typically hunted from a ground blind, which provides the hunter with the best chance for success on these fleet footed antelope. Stalking is possible but is even more challenging, as the animals have excellent eyesight and hearing, and the more or less open country they frequent makes stalking extremely difficult.
A hunter must make use of every bit of cover available, be camouflaged and move slowly and deliberately. This is some of the most challenging hunting to be found.
Blackbuck are timid creatures and when alarmed they can really motor, reaching speeds of up to 50 mph. Hunting from a ground blind overlooking a water hole or prime feeding area requires more patience, but is likely to prove more successful in the long run. Smaller, flat shooting cartridges are preferred, and excellent marksmanship is a prerequisite.
Their meat is also considered by many to be outstanding table fare.
Give blackbuck hunting a try, and you may come home with some excellent meat and a beautiful trophy mount that you will cherish for years to come.