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Shot Placement (4): Blue Wildebeest

Updated: May 1, 2020

There exists no proper English name for this antelope. "Wildebeest" is a corruption of the Afrikaans name "Wildebees" - literally translated as wild cattle. The horns resembled that of cattle to the original Dutch settlers in South Africa so it was a called "wilde beest" (wild ox/cow) in Dutch. Also, their style of congegrating in large herds made them appear like wild cattle.

This is a fat female and will be very good meat.

In English it is also called the "gnu" but that is from the First Nations' (the San) name for it, mimicking the soft sound they utter when a large herd is content and feeding. It is like the night watch calling from the castle walls: "Ten bells and all is well!" - it is a mutually re-assuring uttering.

Sitting on a hill in the Maasai Mara in Kenya and listening to the rising up of the continuous gnu... gnu... sound from a few thousand wildebeest grazing on the plains was to appreciate one of the unique experiences in Africa.

Despite being a funny looking animal it is very good eating. In South Africa blue wildebeest habitat is more in dense as well as open savannah than on open plains like in Kenya. This means that a wounded animal will disappear into dense brush and may cause hours of wasted time in tracking and dispatching it.

While they are somewhat dumber than Cape buffalo and when wounded do not circle around to attack you from the rear when being followed, it has the habit of wriggling its rear end into a dense dry brush that has the same shade of blue-gray, facing you, and charging the inattentive hunter from about 20 yards. A high-lung shot blue wildebeest will live for half a day - a situation we as ethical hunters do not wish to create.

The low position of the heart is shown in the photo above. For that dense savannah where he is living that is the only shot the hunter must aim for - the proper “behind the shoulder” concept of old. The term stayed the same but in practice evolved into “behind the elbow” as bullets became lighter and more fragile to meet the “faster, flatter shooting” culture started by the .270W with little 130 gr bullets and the .264 Win Mag with 120 gr bullets.

Most shots on wildebeest will be quarter on - that is just their way when they sense danger lurking from a certain direction. The centre of the heart is on a line upwards in the centre of the gap between the front legs. The heart top chambers will be an inch to the right of this line as indicated in the photo above. The visitor is always advised to follow the middle vertical line between the legs and put the bullet at the same level as the first prominent shoulder bulge as shown by the yellow dot.

Another semi frontal shot below (by the way, this is an exceptional trophy, about 30.5” (RW+2”):

Because the majority of shots on blue wildebeest are frontal or semi frontal the hunter has no choice but to break the shoulder joint, break through the rib cage and demolish the heart top chambers while the bullet must remain intact and not turn the good meat to pulp.

One day I shall show X-ray photos of an impala front quarter with the amount of lead into the meat caused by a fragile cup & core bullet: Apart from the visible fragments there are thousands of micro pieces of lead in the good meat away from the actual “spoiled” part where blood vessel bursting occurred.

The quartering away shot: by now the reader knows the anatomy. Shot placement must be 3 inches above the elbow and centre between the two front legs. This is a very shootable bull with good body weight.

This is an older female in very good condition - a real shooter. She has 26”-27” horns which is rather good for a cow - but In my opinion this is too acute an angle for a quartering away shot as the possibility exists to perforate the stomach, particularly if the animal is moving - or starts to move when trigger pressure can not be stopped.

I’d rather pass, and hunt for another opportunity of a safer shot - South Africa has lots and lots of wild game and a few hours spent for unpoilt meat is worth it.

So - which cartridge and calibre to use for blue wildebeest?

Of course it is the bullet that does the work and not the geometrical shape of the cartridge case where the bullet is expelled from. The visiting hunter who is a reloader will be clever to load Barnes 168 gr TSX in his 30-06 or .308W. Because blue wildebeest are mostly hunted in dense or open savannah shots rarely are further than 120 yards. If best quality bonded core bullets are used like Federal Fusion, any .30 calibre non magnum cartridge with 180gr bullets are good (220 gr in case of the .300 Win Mag).

In the case of the standard 7mms 160-175 gr bullets are good and certainly not lighter than 175gr in case of the 7mm Rem Magnum. Local meat hunters with a .308W and 180 gr bullets far by far outnumber any other cartridge and have nothing but successful one shot kills. The 30-06 / .303 Brit / 7x57 / 7x64 Brenneke are also popular.

From personal experience, guiding hunters the following are the poor performers:

**Winchester Fail Safe . Having seen the in-effective penetration of this bullet after five shots on wildebeest one can only wonder why on earth it was called "Fail Safe" because it failed 100% of the time. Who would design a bullet with a hollow rear end into which a loose tin cup is inserted, into the cup a loose piece of lead wire is inserted and then a loose thin wad of metal is inserted to hold these in place and the base of the bullet is roll crimped to contain it all. Open the roll crimp and all those inserts simply fall out. On impact the thin copper jacket at the rear end bursts open and those individual pieces are individually flung in all directions, each one making its own little wound channel for a few centimeter. An absolutely silly design.

** All the Nosler renderings. They all break up and cause too much meat damage. Only the Partition penetrates sufficiently but the tumbling rear end causes a bad meat wasting wound channel after the fragmenting front end had detached itself from the shank and caused massive entry damage, mostly sideways.

** Remington CoreLokt. 20 years ago this was in the same class as the Hornady Interlock but since 8 years ago it has become a useless bullet - often leaving the jacket behind immediately after entering the skin and a much deformed lead core tumbling for a short distance. The core is 100% not locked.

** Hornady SST.

** All the Speer offerings.

** All the Sierra offerings.

** Local PMP original "red pack" ammunition.

Finally - the mounted trophy:

My personal, subjective preference is for European mounts and not caped.

Blue wildebeest horns present beautifully in a European mount. Look at the artwork done by a local engraver. It immediately softens the impact from being a dead animal’s skull to an interesting wall piece which will be admired by everyone.

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