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Shot Placement (2): Kudu

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

Apart from the medium (deer size) game like blesbok and impala, kudu no doubt is the most sought after big game by locals as well as visiting hunters. On a 90 degrees side-on shot the easiest for the new hunter is to move the crosshairs up the front edge of the lower leg to just above the bulge of the shoulder (or a horisontal line on its level) while breathing in. Breathing out will lower the crosshairs and stop the breath at the bulge or its line and squeeze the trigger.

Africa game hate being lung shot - they will punish you by fleeing into the darkest, thorn laced brush they can find. A wounded Cape buffalo, bushbuck, blue wildebeest, nyala and sable will do their best to kill you there. A lung shot Oryx on the open savannah of the Kalahari will feint death and put a long horn through the unwary hunter. In dense savannah and more so in dense tropical habitat the visistor must resign himself to heed the shot placement advice from his PH.

A wounded kudu is is not a killer but a master at camouflage and hiding in dense habitat. So, like all other game, local hunters from teenage years are trained to shoot for the heart top chambers - or the brain if there is no need to save the cape and if it is open country.

The 45" bull on the right is typically what the local meat hunter will go for. With a foreign client the PH would retire into hiding and wait for the 52" bull on the left to step around for a clear shot - but I remember when I took these photos the right hand one fled at the sound of the camera, and this from about 70 meter and me being in the shade. Those radar antennae ears aimed at me do not miss any foreign sound so a loud safety catch is a liability.

I marked the aiming point in red here but it was too late for a shot as he is in the process of taking off at speed. I stalked him well but as I focused the camera on coming out from behind a dense brush he sensed me and took off.

Look at the bull on the left trying to identify me 70 yards away, hidden in deep shade. Both these bulls have 48" horns but the one on the right which is the safe shot has a deeper curl and may be 48.5" - 49". Behind them is very dense bush and a lung shot will make for a challenging and time consuming follow-up.

At the white mark there is not even lung - no vital organ at all. The diaphragm will be perforated causing a lingering death. There will be very little blood left on the leaves at the level of the entry and exit holes and more than likely nothing left on the ground.

Shots at kudu will most likely be between 40 meter and 100 meter, so there is no need for a "flat shooting" .300 Win Mag with 150 gr plastic "ballistic tip" bullets. In fact that would be about the worst combination that can be imagined as it may not even reach the heart, breaking up on the shoulder joint and the rib cage as its own high kinetic energy level destroys it in an act of suicide. A local hunter will have his .308W or 30-06 with 180 gr best quality bonded core like Federal Fusion, or Peregrine VRG-3 flat nose monolithic controlled expansion bullets. A 300 Win Mag is a good shooter but needs a 220 gr bullet to properly exploit all that case capacity.

Other popular cartridges for kudu is .303 Brit, 8x57 Mauser, 7x57 Mauser and 6.5x57 Mauser. My biggest kudu was shot at 110 meter with a borrowed old 6.5x58 Portuguese Mauser in very much the same stance as the one above and the long 160 gr round nose solid bullet passed through and was gone. The bull went 40 meter and died running.

In the shot above, the bullet will break the inside shoulder, pass through the ribs, take out the top of the heart, pass through an opposite rib, break the opposite elbow and either pass through or stop against the skin. With best quality bullets meat and skin damage will be negligible.

At the shot the bull will partly fall into the bullet, correct himself, swing out right into the dense bush and will be dead within 20-50 yards.

Back to what is a 100% suitable cartridge for Africa big game (elk size) - deer size game here are called "medium" or "small": probably the best starting point is to look what the one-rifle meat hunter uses here. By default he does not want meat spoilage, shoots for the heart top chambers because he does not want adrenaline infused meat as happens with a fleeing, lung shot animal, and he wants to hunt big and small game with the same rifle and often the same weight bullets. The one-rifle hunter here overwhelmingly uses the .308W with 180 gr best quality bullets.

I have been using my 26" barelled Musgrave .308W with 180 gr bullets since 1971 for springbok, blesbok, warthog, impala, kudu, black and blue wildebeest, red hartebeest, oryx and eland, and my elder son uses a BRNO ZKK 601 in the same calibre, hunting oryx, blesbok or springbok on the same day depends what is encounered. He prefers 150 gr Hornady bonded core bullets which is good for the long shots of 200-300 yards he needs to do in the desert like Karoo area.

The younger son has a Musgrave 30-06, and because he only hunts plains game (black wildebeest, blesbok, springbok) he uses 150 gr. Hornady SST and does not shoot unless he is certain of a brain shot. The SST is no good for a heart shot into the shoulder as it has as litte integrity as a Nosler Ballistic Tip.

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