Bring nilgai hunting into focus with these facts.
You’re more likely to find success nilgai hunting in Texas than you are in their native India and Pakistan. Approximately 35,000 feral nilgai antelope now populate Southern Texas, and the Texas government categorizes them as an exotic, meaning that there is no closed season, no bag limit and no possession limit on the animal. You can hunt them wherever you can get permission from a landowner, so long as you have a valid hunting license.
Nilgai are big animals. Mature females average 300 to 400 pounds while mature bulls will get close to 700 pounds. The adult males tend to a darker bluish grey coloration – which also gives them their other name, “blue bull”. The legs are black. Females and young animals are paler brown.
Nilgai are built high in the shoulders, sloping back to their rump. They are marked with white spots or patches on their face, neck, and feet and they are white on the inner thighs and rearend. They sport a “beard” of hair in the midsection of the throat.
Only the males bear horns, which are six to ten inches in length, smooth, black, slightly curved (either forwards or backwards) and quite sharp. They almost appear as “devil horns”. It’s a small trophy, but the meat and challenge of nilgai hunting more than make up for what they lack in headgear.
The meat of the nilgai is exceptional. The animal was first introduced to Texas in the 1920s and then again in the 1930s by the King Ranch for sport and as a food source for cowboys. The animals adapted to the Southern Texas environment quite well. They present an exceptionally challenging hunting opportunity, one which Ox Ranch is pleased to offer on their 18,000 acres of Texas hill country.
Nilgai have a reputation for being extremely resilient and tough to put down. They have thick hides and leave little to no blood trail. Very rarely will a shot drop them in their tracks, unless it’s a spine shot or brain shot. More often than not they will run after being hit, and run they can.
Winchester Arms ranked the nilgai as the second toughest animal to kill, after the cape buffalo. The animal’s hide covering its vitals is extra thick, not unlike that found on wild boar. Accuracy and power are essential when choosing your weapon.
It is not uncommon to see many nilgai during the day. The trick is getting to within range without being seen or heard. Nilgai have eyesight and hearing on par with or even better than that of whitetails, although their sense of smell is less so. They favor open, scrubby forests and grasslands and are diurnal (active during the day). They are grazers and do not come into feeders, so they are not in competition with a ranch’s deer population.
If you plan to bowhunt nilgai you will definitely have a challenging hunt. Stalking within range of the antelope is a tough proposition. Nilgai are creatures that are constantly moving, so taking a bow shot at distance on an animal that rarely stands still can be daunting.
A better bet would be to set up a ground blind or tree stand at a convergence of travel lanes. Setting a blind or stand up near lanes between bedding, feeding and dung piles offer an opportunity for a close bow shot.
A word about dung piles. Nilgai are unusual in that they relieve themselves in the same spot, creating large fecal piles, up to 20 or so inches in radius. The manner in which they relieve themselves is elaborate, with the males standing with their legs about a yard apart, their rumps lowered and their tails almost vertical. They will remain in this position for around 10 seconds after finishing relieving themselves. This behavior is a territorial marking trait.
Another hunting option is to hunt nilgai during their rut when, like most animals, they become a bit less concerned with caution in favor of more amorous pursuits. You are more likely to find success stalking to within range during this period as bulls have their attention on the cows.
But whenever you choose to hunt nilgai, be prepared to either work for your kill if you’re going the spot and stalk route, or be ready to exercise your patience if you choose to do it from a ground blind or tree stand. In either case, you must be absolutely deadly with your ability to place an arrow or bullet into the vitals of an animal, and you must be shooting with enough power to get that piece of lead or broadhead to penetrate the nilgai’s tough hide.