"Alike majestic in carriage and brilliant in hue, all that marks distinction, or can command our admiration in the wild denizen of the waste, would seem to be in him combined and concentrated. Other antelopes may be stately, elegant or curious, but the solitude seeking koodoo is absolutely regal!" Capt. William Cornwallis Harris
One of Africa's most stately and sought after game animals, the kudu is widespread and classified into many different subspecies mainly along geographical variances yet they all sport those magnificent spiral curled horns which never fails to quicken the heartbeat.
Kudu are one of the iconic antelope of Africa and perhaps the most hunted due to their relative abundance and distribution across the continent. They make for an excellent hunt if pursued on foot and in earnest. It is easy to get a Kudu in your sights BUT to get a really big bull is one of the better challenges for he African hunter.
Part of the spiral horned group of antelope, the kudu is an extremely sensitive and wary quarry, blending in with their surroundings remarkably well, often preferring to stand dead still instead of taking flight. Kudu have earned the name "the gray ghost of Africa" a description which cannot be more suited to this fine animal.
Typical to their cousins, they rely on their unusual gait of walking or simply standing still with large ears flared to hide and protect them from danger. Often all you'll hear are the sound of hooves and the knock of their spiral horns on branches as they take off ahead of you.
Kudu are browsers, feeding in the early morning and late afternoon and standing in shade during the heat of the day. They form small family groups usually consisting of cows and young and during the mating season there is always a bull in attendance. Bulls will normally form bachelor herds which can reach up to 10 or more animals however the older bulls remain solitary for much of their lives.
Kudu hunting tips - the hunt
The best time to hunt kudu is early morning or late evening, by walking or glassing from vantage points such as hills and across plains and dambos. Sometimes they are quite inquisitive and will give the hunter ample opportunity for a shot.
Some hunters believe the best time to find them is midday as they stand beneath shaded trees and form a dark outline which is clearly visible instead of blending in with their surroundings. Bulls also tend to rest by lying down and if you are vigilant and glass an area well you'll pick up the protruding horns between the brush and grass.
Kudu hunting tips - the caliber
Although they are large bodied, any good plains game caliber starting from 270 Magnum upwards is sufficient. As with all African antelope, medium to heavy grained soft-nosed bullets are best.
Kudu hunting tips - the trophy
Measurements are taken from the base of the horns, along the spiral ridge to the tip and adding the circumference of the bases.
Any kudu with horns over 50 inches is a good trophy but most PHs will use 55 inches as a starting point. The horns usually must be going into their third full curl. The curls must be deep, almost like a half coiled spring and should not appear stretched out.
The easiest way to judge the size is from a facing position where the horn silhouette should resemble the curves of a tall, small-waisted woman. Wide spread horns are impressive however are usually misleading and score lower than deep curled narrower horns.
Kudu hunting tips - where
The Southern Greater Kudu is the largest of all the species, with the Eastern Cape, East African, Abyssinian and Western varieties being slightly smaller in body and horn length. However good kudu are found in most African hunting countries and all display the same distinctive alert nature. In some regions of Africa the conditions, such as arid inhospitable areas, do have an effect on trophy size.
The countries consistently producing the best Southern Greater Kudu today, are the northern and northeast regions of South Africa, southern to central Zimbabwe where 55 inches should be the minimum starting point. Namibia has recently been noted for big trophies as well with prices currently being the best on the continent. Zambia and Mozambique are also good non-ranch style hunts for wild Kudu.
The East Cape Greater Kudu subspecies is restricted to the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. The animals are smaller bodied and their coats tend to be longer haired, especially around the neck area, and are often more spectacular looking due to their variation in color. The true definition of an eastern cape kudu is vague as recent translocation of Kudu from the Northern parts of south Africa in order to stock game ranches where regular hunting takes place has led to larger genes introduced to the regions where the cape kudu occurs.
The East African Greater Kudu are widespread throughout east Africa with Tanzania being the best hunting option. They tend to have more pronounced color with prominent white vertical stripes and back mane.
The much talked about lesser Kudu is a distinct species found from east Africa upwards and today is becoming a much sought after game trophy due to its scarcity. Tanzania, CAR and Ethiopia tend to produce the best options at these animals.