Hunting Plains Game on Safari in South Africa
Hunting plains game is one of the most popular types of hunting that is conducted in Africa. The southern parts of Africa are home to more species of plains game than any other hunting destination in the world.
The abundance and variety of antelope species in South Africa makes it a hunters paradise, especially for those who favor small to medium-sized game. You can also book a very enjoyable plains game hunting safari in South Africa for considerably less than the average hunt in the United States which makes it very attractive to foreign visitors from around the world.
Plains game hunting is conducted in a variety of geographical areas which vary in climate, vegetation and topography, typical hunting areas can range from densely wooded savanna to wide open grasslands. South Africa’s great diversity of plains game abound from the bush-veld of the Northern Limpopo Province to the vast open plains of the Free State Province and then back to the hot sands and heavy thorn bush of the Kalahari. Each area offers its own unique habitat and is ideally suited to specific plains game species and holds its own special challenges for the plains game hunter.
Hunting in the bush-veld, because of its thick, dense cover, shots can often be taken well inside 100 paces. The vast, wide open plains of the Free State may demand shots out to 300 or 400 paces, while the thick thorn bush of the Kalahari can often present the hunter with shots at less than 50 paces, the stalk can be extremely strenuous due to the seemingly endless sand and hot temperament of the region. Various hunting techniques are used and range from walk and stalk to glassing and hunting from a blind with bow and arrow.
Why Safari in South Africa?
- Different hunting areas in South Africa
- Unforgettable locations, wildlife and African experiences
- More Plains Game species than anywhere else in Africa
- Unique Plains Game species found only in Africa
- Both Rifle Hunting and Bow Hunting available for Plains Game
- A variety of Hunting techniques available to visiting hunters
Plains game species that can be found in South Africa
The Black Wildebeest or white-tailed gnu is one of two closely related wildebeest species that are hunted on the central plains of Southern Africa. By the early nineteen hundreds, the Black Wildebeest were almost hunted to extinction but through committed conservation efforts their numbers have been re-established. Black Wildebeest are mainly active during the early morning and late afternoon preferring to rest during the warmer parts of the day. Recommended caliber is a 7mm Magnum, a heavy .300 magnum or larger calibers like a .375 H&H when hunting black wildebeest in thick bush-veld conditions.
The blue wildebeest, also called the Common Wildebeest, White-bearded Wildebeest or brindled gnu, is a large antelope and are amongst the most popular plains game species that can be hunted in South Africa. The species gets its common name from the silvery-blue sheen to the coat, the base colour of which varies from greyish to brown. In open country, the recommended bullet caliber is a flat shooting .300 magnum, use larger calibers and heavier bullets for denser bush-veld conditions.
The Common Blesbok or Blesbuck can be hunted throughout most of South Africa and favor open plains where water is available. They have a distinctive white forehead which inspired the name – ‘bles‘ is the Afrikaans word for a blaze such as one might see on the forehead of a horse. Longer shots are often required when hunting Blesbok on the open plains in South Africa so faster shooting calibers are ideally suited with a relatively flat trajectory. Recommended caliber is the .270, 7×57 and .300 Winchester Magnum.
The White Blesbok is not an albino, but rather a color variation on the common blesbok, their white color and straw colored horns set them apart from their common brothers. White Blesbok can be hunted throughout most of South Africa in all the same areas where the common blesbok are prevalent, simply spot the “White” mixed in with the rest of a herd of Common Blesbok. Recommended calibers include the .270, 7×57 and .300 Winchester Magnum.
The Bontebok is a tall, medium-sized antelope and one of the rarest species of plains game that can be hunted in South Africa with the proper permits. Bontebok closely resemble Blesbok, but have a few unique distinctions including a white blaze that stretches from its forehead to the tip of the nose, they also have a distinct white blaze around the tail. Recommended calibers include a .270, 7mm or a good quality 30 caliber bullet.
Bushbuck are the smallest of the spiral-horned antelope and the most widespread antelope in Sub-Saharan Africa. Two species are recognised, the kéwel is a smaller animal, with a mainly red or yellow ground colour which is conspicuously striped and patterned. The imbabala is larger than the kéwel and its colouration varies greatly with geography and habitat type. Bushbuck are found in rain forests, mountain forests, forest-savanna mosaics and bush savanna forest and woodland. They are often encountered during the late afternoon in the thick bush surrounding river courses. Recommended calibers include 7x57mm or a 30 caliber rifle with suitable 160 to 180 grain bullets.
The Common Reedbuck is typically found around water sources and marshy areas, mostly nocturnal animals that are hunted during the late afternoon and early morning. Common Reedbuck are fairly widely distributed throughout South Africa and can often be distinguished by a white patch under the tail when they are darting from predators or running away. They commonly hide in high reeds and the taller grass surrounding marshes during the day, hence the name “Reedbuck“. Recommended calibers include a 7mm or .270
The Blue Duiker is a small antelope found in Western, Southern and Eastern Africa, it is the smallest duiker. These tiny antelope favor the coastal forests along South Africa’s east coast and their activity is diurnal so limited to daytime. The Blue Duiker’s hair is a blue-gray colour with a white belly and a short tail with a white underside.
Common Grey Duiker
The Grey Duiker is the most common small antelope that can be hunted in South Africa. The grey or common duiker, as he is known, occur in all of the areas and they are generally found in habitats with sufficient vegetation cover to allow them to hide like savanna and hilly areas. The Duiker gets its name from the Afrikaans word ‘duiker‘ which means to dive, relating to the animal’s habit of ducking away into bushes when danger threatens. Recommended calibers range from .223 up to the .375 depending on hunting conditions.
The Red Forest Duiker or Natal Red Duiker is a small antelope found in central to Southern Africa. While the red forest duiker is very similar to the common duiker, it is smaller in size and has a distinguishing reddish coloring and can easily be identified by its chestnut red coat. The red forest duiker favors a denser bush habitat than the Common Duiker and found in the forests of eastern South Africa, with the largest concentration occurring in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province.
The Cape Eland is the largest antelope in Southern Africa. An adult male is around 1.6 metres tall at the shoulder and the females are 20 centi-metres shorter, males and can weigh up to 942 kg with an average of 500–600 kilograms. They occur in the bush-veld, eastern Free State and Kalahari regions and their coats differ geographically, with elands in North Africa having distinctive markings (torso stripes, markings on legs, dark garters and a spinal crest) that are absent in the southern parts. Recommended calibers include .375 H&H with 286 grain or 300 grain bullets.
The Livingstone Eland is not common in South Africa, however, they are found in certain parts of the low-veld. The Livingstone Eland can be easily distinguished from the Cape Eland by the stripes on their sides and back. Recommended calibers range from a 7mm or 30 caliber rifle or .338, 9.3mm or .375 depending on the size and distance of your target.
The Grey Rhebok or Grey Rhebuck, locally known as the Vaal Rhebok or ‘Vaalribbok‘ in Afrikaans, is a species of antelope endemic to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Swaziland. The specific name Capreolus is Latin for ‘little goat‘. The Grey Rhebuck is a medium-sized antelope that occurs in mountainous terrain, only the males of the species carry horns, which are straight and upright. Based on his grazing patterns, early morning and late afternoon can be considered the best time for hunting Rhebok. Recommended calibers include all sizes for medium sized antelope.
The Gemsbok or Gemsbuck (Oryx gazella) is a large antelope that is native to the arid regions of Southern Africa, such as the Kalahari Desert. Gemsbok are one of the most impressive plains game trophies that can be hunted in South Africa. Gemsbok can go without surface water for months on end, as they derive moisture from the plant material they digest. Recommended calibers include the 7mm and 30 caliber Magnums, a Spitzer bullet is preferable for open country and a round nose is favourable for thicker bush to penetrate the brush without deflection.
The Impala is a medium-sized antelope and is the most common antelope found in South Africa. They occur in significant numbers and Impala are a very attractive mid-size antelope to hunt. The glossy coat of the impala shows two-tone colouration – the reddish brown back and the tan flanks; these are in sharp contrast to the white underbelly. The Impala is diurnal so mainly active during the day, though activity tends to cease during the hot midday hours, they feed and rest at night. Recommended calibers range from a 6mm or 7mm bullet right on up to the .30 calibers.
The Klipspringer is one of the smallest antelope species found in South Africa and hunted in rocky terrain or mountain ranges.
The coat of the klipspringer, yellowish gray to reddish brown, acts as an efficient camouflage in its rocky habitat and can be very difficult to spot when standing motionless. Klipspringer are more alert to predation from above so they should be spotted from below. Recommended calibers include a 22 centerfire with 45 to 55 grain bullets or heavier calibers.
The greater Kudu is one of the most handsome species of antelope that can be hunted and occur throughout South Africa. Kudu prefer broken or hilly terrain with thick vegetation were they are very well camouflaged and can be hard to spot, especially when standing motionless in thick brush. Recommended calibers for hunting kudu is no less than 7mm or .270 caliber rifles, use a larger caliber and place your shot well.
The Red lechwe are not endemic to South Africa and originate from the north of South Africa, they have been introduced to the Free State and Eastern Cape so can be hunted on selected farms. The Red Lechwe are a medium-sized antelope and only the males of the species carry horns. Activity peaks during the cooler hours of the morning and afternoon as most animals prefer to rest during the heat of the midday. Recommended calibers include a .30 caliber or larger.
The Mountain Reedbuck is an antelope found mainly in mountainous areas of much of sub-Saharan Africa. Slightly smaller than the Common Reedbuck, these medium-sized antelope favor mountainous terrain where they occur in small family groups. Mountain Reedbucks are predominantly grazers, and water is an important habitat requirement. They tend to feed in the early evening and morning hours, normally in small groups of six or fewer animals. Recommended calibers include a fast flat shooting .270 caliber for long shots at different elevations when hunting in mountainous areas.
The Nyala is a beautiful spiral-horned and middle-sized antelope, varying in size between a bushbuck and a kudu. The Nyala’s preferred habitat is the higher rainfall eastern parts of South Africa where they favor densely wooded savanna. The Nyala is mainly active in the early morning and the late afternoon. It generally browses during the day if temperatures are 20–30 °C and during the night in the rainy season. Recommended .30 caliber rifle for the best chance of a clean kill.
The Red Hartebeest is a large and incredibly fast reddish-fawn antelope with a sloping back and long narrow face. The awkward looking Red Hartebeest is one of the fastest of the plains game animals found in South Africa. Preferred habitat is the dry, arid regions of Namibia, the Kalahari, southern Botswana and north-western South Africa. Although the Red Hartebeest’s eyesight is not particularly good, they have very good hearing and an acute sense of smell so approach slowly from downwind if possible.
Recommended calibers include 7mm, .308, 30-06 and 300 Mags.
Roan Antelope are the second largest plains game species that can be hunted in South Africa. The body colour is overall fawn, with the lower parts of the legs dark brown to black with a distinctive black and white facial markings, a characteristic features of this species. The number of roan antelope has increased substantially over the last decade in South Africa as a number of breeding projects have reintroduced these rare antelope into areas where they naturally occurred. They mostly inhabit lightly wooded savannah, open areas of medium sized grass with easy access to surface water. Recommended calibers include a quality .338 magnum, 9.3mm or a .375 H&H.
The Oribi is a small graceful antelope mainly found in eastern, southern and western Africa and only really hunted by the most avid collectors. The Oribi favor open grassland and are found in very limited numbers in South Africa. The oribi is diurnal so active mainly during the day, though some activity may also be observed at night.The animal normally rests in cover during rainy storms and events. Recommended calibers include a 25-06 Remington or the 264 Win Mag.
The Sable Antelope mainly inhabits the wooded savannah in East Africa south of Kenya, and in Southern Africa. Sable Antelope are mostly active during the early mornings and late afternoons. Hunting Sable is best during the early morning hours and late afternoon when he grazes in or near the open grasslands. Their distinctive coloring makes them easy to spot, even in dense vegetation. Recommended calibers include the .338 Magnum, the 9.3mm and the .375 H&H are excellent choices.
The Common Springbok is a medium-sized antelope found mainly in southern and south-western Africa. These graceful animals are hunted on open terrain where their exceptional eyesight make it very difficult to get within shooting range. Active mainly at dawn and dusk, springbok form harems or mixed-sex herds. Springbok are hunted as game throughout Namibia, Botswana and South Africa because of their attractive coats; they are common hunting targets due to their large numbers. Recommended calibers include a 264 Win Mag or a .270 with a high velocity and a very flat trajectory.
The Black Springbok is not a sub-species, but rather a color variation on the Common Springbok and occur in all the same areas as the Common Springbok. When hunting springbok, long shots over open terrain are the norm as hunting springbok can demand shots in excess of 300 yards. Use a scope with 6x power or a 3 to 9 variable will in making those long shots, Recommended calibers include a 264 Win Mag or the .270 for those longer shots.
The white springbok is not an albino but rather another color variation on the Common Springbok which can be hunted in South Africa. White springbok occur mainly on the open plains of South Africa and are well established in most Southern parts of the country, they display the same territorial tendencies as the Common Springbok. Recommended calibers include 25 calibers, the 25-06 would be an excellent choice.
The Steenbok is a fairly common small antelope of southern and eastern Africa and have a wide distribution in South Africa. It is uncommon to hunt specifically for Steenbok, as they would normally be taken on a chance encounter while hunting for one of South Africa’s larger plains game species. During cool periods, Steenbok are active throughout the day; however, during hotter periods, they rest under shade during the heat of the day. All calibers have been used successfully.
The Suni is a small antelope that occurs in south-east Africa in dense underbrush and enjoys browsing in well-wooded areas.
They require very little water as they derive most of their water from the fruit and leaves on which they browse. These antelope are active at night and spend most of their days sleeping in shaded areas.
Tsessebe are an incredibly fast antelope and have the distinction of being the fastest antelope in Africa. Tsessebe are social animals and their basic group structure consists of small breeding groups. They are part of the same family as the Wildebeest and Hartebeest and share a strange appearance due to the fact that their shoulders are higher than their hind quarters. Recommended calibers include .30 caliber rifle combined with a bullet weight of 180 grains.
The Waterbuck is a large antelope found widely in sub-Saharan Africa and can be identified by the distinct white circle around their tails. The waterbuck exhibits great dependence on water. It can not tolerate dehydration in hot weather, and thus inhabits areas close to sources of water. Recommended calibers include 7mm’s and heavy 30 calibers.