Kudu Hunting in Southern Africa: Tips and Trips
Updated: Feb 19
If you plan to go on a hunting safari in Southern Africa, do not miss the opportunity to hunt a kudu. Here is what you need to know when it comes to kudu hunting.
What is a kudu?
A kudu is a large African antelope similar in size to an elk and without doubt the #1 large antelope species for hunters on the African Continent. Cross the instincts and behaviors of a Rocky Mountain bull elk and hardwood lovin’ old mossback whitetail buck and that is the kudu.
Nick named the Grey Ghost because often as they stand still in the thick jess bush, they are virtually invisible. Two exceptions that give them away, their oversized radar ears which are white ringed and orangish pink inside and if they bolt, like the cagey whitetail buck the large white tail flagging alarm instantly give their position away. They carry impressive horns which spiral up like a corkscrew, horn length is measured around the spiral which means the deeper the curl the longer the horn, more on this later by species.
Safari Club International recognizes six sub-species which include the Lesser kudu and five sub-species of greater kudu.
Lesser kudu as its name implies is the smallest in body and horn length. Shoulder height 38-41” and weighing 175-220-lbs. The lesser kudu is a graceful, slender, medium-sized antelope with long, spiraling horns. It has a straight back, large ears and a bushy tail. It is grayish brown in color (becoming bluish gray in older animals), with 11-13 well-defined white stripes on each side, an incomplete white chevron between the eyes, and white patches on throat and neck. Its short, brown mane continues as a white dorsal crest. Only the males have horns, and these are keeled, with 2-3 close spirals, and diverge only moderately. The female is slightly smaller, without horns, and is a rufus tan in color.
Abyssinian greater kudu
The Abyssinian greater kudu has a smaller, paler body, and horns that are usually much smaller than in the East African or southern subspecies. There are usually 4-5 vertical stripes on each side. Found in Ethiopia, Sudan and perhaps small pockets in northern Somalia.
East African great kudu
The East African great kudu is somewhat smaller than those of the southern subspecies, the body color is brighter, and the stripes are more conspicuous. There usually are 6-8 vertical stripes on each side. Found in southeastern Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
The western subspecies has the smallest, palest body and the smallest horns of any greater kudu. Usually there are 4-5 vertical stripes on each side. Found in Central African Republic and western Chad.
Hunting a Southern Greater Kudu and Eastern Cape Kudu
For this blog we are going to focus on the two most common species hunted today in Africa which is the Southern greater kudu and Eastern Cape kudu. In simple terms they are identical with the greatest difference the Eastern Cape kudu is smaller in body and horn length. As the name implies, they are also found in different regions.
Southern greater kudu
The Southern greater kudu is the most wide spread species and may be found in Southern Angola, Zambia, southeastern Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Kingdom of Eswatini (formally Swaziland) and parts of South Africa.
This subspecies is the largest and darkest (grayest) in color and has the longest horns. There are 9-12 vertical stripes on each side. Horn length on mature bulls can range from 48” to over 60”. Rule of thumb 50”+ mature kudu is a shooter with mid- to high 50” exceptional kudu bulls. Few crack the tape over 60” and a hunter can go their whole career and not see one.
Eastern Cape kudu
The Eastern Cape kudu is found, well in the Eastern Cape of South Africa with most outfitters meeting their clients in Port Elizabeth on the southern edge along the Indian Ocean. Horn length on a mature bull can range from say 39” to 50”. Few exceptions can be 50” plus.
Trophy kudu, judging tips and tricks.
For many hunters, other than photos the first time they lay eyes on a kudu in the field they have no idea if it is a good one or not. Here are four easy tricks to up your field judging game.
First, as mentioned earlier the deeper the curl the longer the horn, it simply takes more inches to rotate around an imaginary center. Like wrapping a tape around a pop can or large coffee can. Interesting little side not if I may digress – the “pipe” or center of the spiral goes from tip of horn to the kudu’s eye; they know exactly where the tip is.
Second, a mature kudu regardless of length the tips will point up or out. If the tips point backwards it is simply not mature. Note: This is not a 100% rule as some kudu grow horns faster than others and of course genetics. Look at the bases, this will tell you more key information, and remember the ivory tips tell you basically zero.
Third, typically (not always) as a rule of thumb the more parallel the horns the longer the horns. The wider horns that form an impressive V-shape, which often appear the biggest typically have shorter horns. This may have to do with the depth of curl which seems to follow horn shapes. This is less scientific, but interesting non the less.
Fourth, the only solid method of judging a mature kudu is his body. Like all aging males loses the sleek, thin athletic build, walks a stiffer, loses hair (in this case the neck), sagging skin, belly, broader face...you know all the old man characteristics. The horns will have secondary growth at the bottom and be more rubbed, broken, chipped.
Where do I hunt Southern greater kudu?
Being one of the most widespread subspecies, the Southern Greater Kudu can be found in many sub-Saharan African countries. The most common hunting destinations that require the least amount of travel are Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Each location has their own pros and cons.
Hunting Southern greater kudu in Namibia
Namibia, least populated country per capita in Africa. Namibia is a relatively a new county, very friendly, financially solid and pro-hunting. In fact, the Namibian Minister of Environment and Tourism has implemented a ban on any hunting bans. With daily flights from Germany and South Africa combined with one of the simplest temporary import of sporting rifles makes this easy travel! When the lights go out at night, you will see more stars then you knew existed.
Hunting Southern greater kudu in Zimbabwe
Since 2000 Zimbabwe has gone through several trials; economic and political. With this being said, many very popular hunting concesions from days gone by are simply void of game. There are few holdouts that still have incredible game, but you will need to do your homework. Aside from kudu, many hunting concessions also include elephant, lion, leopard and Cape buffalo. Which even if you’re not hunting are very cool to see. Zimbabwe is a quota country, which means when quota is full no more can be taken, confirm in writing with your outfitter prior to booking.
Hunting Southern greater kudu in Botswana
Botswana: Very few outfitters however in my opinion the best chance of the holly grail 60” kudu! Bit more of a headache to arrive with firearms as there is an ammo tax due upon landing in Botswana Pula currency.
Hunting Southern greater kudu in South Africa
South Africa offers the kudu hunter an uparalleled mix of options and eco-systems, then tops it off with practically a year-round hunting season. By far and away hosts more hunting then the previous three countries combined. With this being said its offerings vary widely! Free range (rare, but there), large fences private lands to very small fences private lands.
Kudu hunting rates
Rates vary widely! While South Africa represents the very best bang for buck in big-game hunting! From all-inclusive plains game packages to day rate safaris and trophy fee style al-a-cart safaris. First step is to set your realistic budget for the hunt, trophies, airfare, trophy dip/pack/crate/shipping and taxidermy. Second is to review your bucket list of species and ultimately start crossing off outfitters and speices that simply don’t fit within budget.
As with most things in life you get what you pay for, I’ll just leave that right there. As mentioned before there are both the Southern greater kudu and Eastern Cape kudu in South Africa. If you care which species you hunt and/or care about horn length make sure you know where you are hunting and what is typical for that concession. Many outfitters hunt multiple areas in South Africa and ultimate hunt both species, so make sure you know what you are booking.
What is the best weapon to hunt a kudu?
Predominately kudu are a rifle hunt as they are very clever with great senses, namely those radar ears. Many outfitters guide archery hunting also, which is cool but make sure you understand two things, style of hunting (blind or spot and stalk) and success rates.
Blinds which are typically over bait/water have the highest percent of shot opportunity. However, me personally I don’t want to sit on a plane for 20 hours to see Africa through a small blind shooting window. I want to take it all in, but hey that’s just me.
Rifle hunting plan on a 100- to 300-yd shot typically from standing shooting sticks. Practice this before you get there! My favorite caliber for plains game is my .338 win mag.
First if you draw blood, any blood, one drop size of pin head you bought it. I like knock down power and bigger diameter bullet holes!
Second, you don’t need speed in Africa and in fact if your hunting thick jess speed may hurt.
Ok, ok I get it, there are several locations where you are not hunting thick jess bush. Take the caliber you shoot the best! Shot placement trumps everything, just keep in mind they are a big tough antelope. Muzzleloader is basically a no go, you can’t legally fly with black powder, black powder substitute or primers and many places in Southern Africa it’s not even a legal weapon. In South Africa specifically your outfitter must be licensed to buy, store and transport black powder and primers which quite frankly most are not.
Make your kudu hunting trip more enjoyable.
Non-hunter observers welcome in each county we have covered here, however depending on what side trips they want to experience. South Africa offers unlimited site seeing options like; shark cage diving, wine tours, cultural villages, historic tours, wildlife viewing, fastest zip-line on the planet, golfing, God’s Window/Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Sun City, Table Mountain, Kruger National Park. These are just a few options and can easily be added on to a hunting trip.
Who do I ask for help?
The African Experience varies just as much and its best to visit with a qualified professional who has hunted multiple regions, multiple outfitter and seasons. One must simply hunt great, good, poor and shitty areas/outfitters to know the difference. If you been one time or with one outfitter, how would you know how your outfitter/concession would rank against the rest of the market?
The only way to know all the various details is extensive days with boots on the ground, period. It’s these multiple all-night flights, thousands of travel miles visiting and separating the cream from the crop, that gives them the knowledge. Not every outfitter is the best, and they know the intricate details defining each outfitter which affords the wisdom and experience to personally consult. A great agent will offer a range of personally hunted destinations, not just one they know. But first they should want to learn what your goals are, and then match your goals with the perfect outfitter for you. From your key species, budget, weapon, lodging request and site seeing interests, they can recommend the best outfitter, concession and dates to make your trip successful.