Impala is probably one of the most common and affordable bushveld antelope for the budget-conscious hunter to pursue in South Africa. Known by some as the McDonalds of the bush, the similarity of the black markings on the back of the hindquarters to the logo of the fast food chain is quite obvious. These antelope are not as challenging to hunt as say kudu, but don’t underestimate them, they will still properly test any experienced hunter’s abilities.
Scientifically known as Aepyceros Melampus, which roughly translates to ‘high horn’ and ‘black foot’, Impala is of medium size with adult rams having a mean shoulder height of round 85cm and average weight of 55kg as opposed to 75cm and 45kg in ewes. Occurring from the northern parts of East Africa to those of South Africa (endemic) and into the eastern Kalahari, they prefer grassland and open bushveld on flat terrain within 1 to 2 km from water. Rarely will they move more than 8km away from a water source which preferably should be a natural waterhole. They require roughly 2,5 litres of water a day but can be independent of water in the wet season when the moisture content of vegetation is high. Drinking usually occurs from sunrise till late morning. Being intermediate feeders the prefer feeding on short grass, young twigs and leaves of woody plants, wild flowers and fruits.
Only males carry horns and adult rams older than 4,5 years will occupy territories of up to 10 ha. Ewes reach sexual maturity at the age of 13 months and rams at 18 months, however she will only mate for the first time once 18 months of age is reached. Similarly, the rams will only start mating at ages between 36 to 60 months – if in the dominant position. Mating usually occurs in the autumn at the end of the wet season in April and May with gestation close to 200 days. Impala ewes do have the ability to delay birth with up to one month during unfavourable conditions.
Impala has a life expectancy of 15 years in the wild and ewes can produce 13 lambs in this lifetime. With population growth just under 50% per annum in favourable conditions, sustainable hunting should always be considered. During the rut period dominant rams become particularly vocal and almost totally oblivious of their surroundings. Though they lose quite some weight during the rut due to their competitive activities, this might be the easiest time to stalk right up close to them as they are totally pre-occupied with defending their territories or fighting off challengers.
Impala is known to retain a safety distance of between 30 and 60m, but in areas where hunting occurs frequently the distance will surely increase. When fleeing, the herd disperses with individuals scattering in all directions. Reaching speeds of up to 60km/h they often make sharp turns through the bush and take leaps well over 10 metres far and up to 2.5 metres high. The herd will usually regroup approximately 400m away.
Impala are mostly territory bound and the same herd could easily be found over and over again within a 3km radius. Relying more on smell than sight, wind definitely plays a huge role when hunting these antelope and approaching them downwind is essential. Their eyesight is fantastic nonetheless!
Calibres ranging between .243, 25-06, .270 or even the 7×57 all with soft-point bullets would do the job, however the smaller 100 gr bullets (6mms) tend to cause meat damage while the heavier +180 gr bullets are perfect for bushveld conditions. My personal preference is my 30-06 in 220 gr travelling at 2250 ft/s. Naturally shot placement is important especially with the heart situated very low. The heart-lung area stretches approximately 300 cm² and the brain only round 50cm².
Meat & Trophy
The slaughtered carcass represents 58% of an Impala’s live weight which is between 22 to 44kg (between both male and female) – my personal statistics show an average carcass weight of 26.5kg. Rowland Ward minimum horn length is 23,625 inches with the South African Method minimum set at 23,500 inches – that is 59,70cm. SCI register at 54,000 points.
Fritz is an avid hunter, writer and student of wildlife & outdoors. His writing has also been featured in Man Magnum Magazine – South Africa.
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