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Gemsbok Hunting Doesn’t Have to Involve a Trip to Africa

Look into gemsbok hunting, and there's a lot to like.

The Gemsbok or giant oryx is a regal, magnificent-looking creature. It looks like royalty - proud, stately, big and dangerous. Even its name - GEMSBOK - has a monarchal ring to it. Gemsbok hunting is rightly one of the big game pinnacles of African hunting.

But one doesn't have to travel to Africa to experience hunting this splendid animal. You can enjoy the full gemsbok hunting experience right here in America. In Texas to be exact, for the giant oryx has been imported into the Lone Star State and the American southwest with astounding success.

In 1960 gemsbok were introduced into Robertson County, Texas and in the late 1960s through to the mid-1970s, something like 93 gemsbok were brought into New Mexico. Today their population is several thousand strong.

They easily adapted to the harsh, arid conditions of the Southwest and Texas open country, and with a general lack of big predators their population grew quite nicely.

Gemsbok can survive on almost zero free-standing water. They are able to squeeze every drop of water from the plants they consume. In times of drought they will feed at night, when plant water content is highest. They are experts at regulating their body temperature and getting the most from whatever moisture is available.

When drought conditions prevail and heat rises they can stop sweating, thus conserving water loss through dehydration. They also have a biology that can ensure that their brain temperature stays below body temperature during hot periods. Their feces are dry and their urine is extremely concentrated in order to avoid excess water loss. They are remarkable water conservationists.


They are desert grass grazers, although in the Texas landscape they will also eat sagebrush, mesquite bean pods, yucca, bulbs and roots, as well as wild melons and cucumbers and other juicy, water-laden plants.

These muscular animals are quite striking in their coloration. They have contrasting black and white facial colors that have the appearance of a butterfly when viewed straight on, along with black and white marking on their flanks and legs. The bulk of their body is colored a brownish-tan. The belly and rump are white. They also have a bushy, tasseled tail that is black. A black to dark brown stripe extends vertically down the front of their throat.

Their most striking features are their facial coloration and the long, wickedly pointed horns that both the males and females carry. Contrasting with most other species, the cows generally have longer horns than the males. The males horns are usually thicker and straighter, while the horns of the females often curve back slightly. They are knobby near the skull and tend to smooth out as they near the tips. Gemsbok are one of the only big game species where the horns of the females are often desired more than those of the males. Horns of an adult generally measure 32 to 36 inches, with some reaching up to four feet.


Interestingly, and in contrast to their horns, females weigh less than the males. A male gemsbok will weigh between 400 and 600 pounds, while a female will weigh between 250 and 500 pounds. They will stand at around four to four-and-a-half tall at the shoulder.

This giant antelope is blessed with an exceptional set of senses. Eyesight, hearing, and smell are all top notch, and sneaking up on one will be a real challenge, especially as they are a herd animal and like to travel in groups of 10 to 40 or so. That's many more eyes, ears and noses to spot you with. If you should find yourself busted, be aware that gemsbok can run at speeds up to 60 mph.

They can also be quite aggressive if threatened. Those swords on top of their heads make them very dangerous creatures. I recall one African rancher on television raising his eyebrows and responding matter-of-factly to a man who was visiting his game ranch, when the man asked him what would happen if he were to enter the pen where gemsbok were kept. "They would kill you!" he said. "They would kill you."

Typical hunting methods include spot and stalk and, especially for bowhunters, blind or stand hunting. Shot placement is a little tricky, as their prominent shoulder hump may fool you into shooting high. In addition to the stunning horned trophy, gemsbok provides some of the more delicious meat around. An Ox Ranch hunting guide can help with caping and preparing your trophy as well as helping you to secure and store the meat from your kill.


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Gemsbok Hunting Doesn’t Have to Involve a Trip to Africa