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African Animal of the Week: Waterbuck [PICS]

waterbuck featured
All images, unless specified, courtesy of Big Game Hunting Adventures

The waterbuck is a large species of antelope found in Africa. Keep reading to learn everything you wanted to know about waterbuck hunting in Africa.

Though they aren’t quite as popular as blue wildebeest, zebra, or impala among hunters in Africa, waterbuck are still a relatively common African animal, depending on where you hunt. They are also striking in appearance, which makes them a popular target for many hunters, especially those on a return trip to Africa.

SEE ALSO: 6 Animals In Africa You Need To Hunt

Waterbuck Description

Scientific Name: Kobus ellipsiprymnus

Waterbuck are broadly divided into two sub-species: the common waterbuck (South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawai, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya) and the defassa waterbuck (Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Sudan). Though both sub-species are similar in appearance, they are distinguished by a few slight differences in body size and coloration.

Waterbuck have coats of shaggy fur that is a reddish brown or grey color. One of the primary distinguishing marks on a waterbuck is the coloration of fur on their rump. Common waterbuck (below) have a white ring of hair that looks like a bullseye, while defassa waterbuck have a patch of solid white hair there instead.

common waterbuck bulls eye

A big waterbuck bull will weigh around 500-600 pounds and stand between four and five feet tall at the shoulder. Cows are slightly smaller and will often weigh 400-500 pounds and stand about four feet tall at the shoulder.

They are grazing animals and are usually found near grasslands. However, they can be found in wooded areas and will eat leaves and branches when grass is short, such as during the end of the dry season. However, no matter where they live, they will never be found far from water. They are extremely dependent on water and do not tolerate dry conditions well.

Waterbuck are herd animals, with cows and young calves living in herds ranging from a handful to a dozen animals. As you can see in the video below, bulls are territorial, and they are known to fight other bulls who venture onto their territory. Due to this, it won’t take long for another bull to move into the territory of an older bull once he dies, so mature waterbuck are often found in the same places year after year.

Waterbuck Sex Determination

Waterbuck are sexually dimorphic, so males (bulls) and females (cows) are relatively easy to tell apart. Not only are bulls (top) usually physically larger than cows, but they have horns, which cows (bottom) lack.

waterbuck male

Waterbuck female

Recommended Calibers for Waterbuck Hunting

Pound for pound, waterbuck are not especially tough. However, they are relatively large animals, which necessitates the use of an appropriately powerful cartridge. Because of this, I recommend the .308 Winchester, when using premium controlled expansion bullets, as the minimum cartridge for waterbuck hunting. The .30-06 Springfield and .300 Winchester Magnum are both excellent choices as well. If you want to use something larger, especially if you’re hunting waterbuck while on a dangerous game hunt, there is nothing wrong with using a .375 H&H or .416 Rigby either.

If you want to bowhunt waterbuck, you should use an arrow weighing at least 500 grains and shoot it from a bow with at least a 65-pound draw weight.

Waterbuck Hunting Methods

The vast majority of waterbuck hunts are conducted via walk and stalk. They are fiercely territorial, so once a piece of good waterbuck habitat is identified, slowly and carefully walk through it with the wind in your face. Odds are good that there is a nice bull hanging out there and as long as you’re careful, you can probably spot him and get a shot off. Since they are so territorial, even if you spook him, he’ll probably return to the same area and you can try again later.

Another common method is to sit on a hillside and observe the grassy areas where they like to graze in the mornings and evenings with binoculars. Once a suitable bull is spotted, it is often a simple matter of approach to within rifle range as long as the wind is right and caution is exercised.

Waterbuck Shot Placement

As stated above, waterbuck aren’t extremely tough animals. However, a wounded waterbuck can make for a long day, so shot placement is still important. Fortunately, shot placement is relatively simple: simply aim at the center of the shoulder, approximately one third of the way up the body (this goes for both rifle and bow hunters) when the animal is standing broadside.

waterbuck shot placement broadside

Adjust your aiming point accordingly if the animal is quartering towards or away from you by aiming slightly forward on a quartering-towards shot and slightly to the rear if it is a quartering-away shot. While I don’t recommend shooting a waterbuck quartering towards you with a bow, the quartering-away shot is an ideal orientation with a bow and is the same for a rifle hunter.

waterbuck shot placement quartering towards

Cost to Hunt Waterbuck

Even though they aren’t as common as impala or blue wildebeest, there isn’t nearly as much demand for waterbuck among hunters as other animals, namely kudu. The price of a waterbuck hunt varies from country to country; the trophy fee ranges from $1,500-$2,500, with an average of around $2,000.

Ready to go waterbuck hunting?

All images, unless specified, courtesy of Big Game Hunting Adventures

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: Waterbuck [PICS]