Sable Hunting in Africa

Interesting facts about the Sable Antelope

  • Sable congregate in herds of 15 to 20 individuals with matriarchal social structure. Within the group, the more dominant female is the leader. There is only one adult male (called a bull) in each herd. The juvenile males are exiled from the herd at about 3 years old.
  • All the female calves remain. When the herd gets too large, it divides into smaller groups of cows and their young. These groups will form new herds, once again with only one adult bull.
  • The young males, which have been separated from the herd, associate in "bachelor groups" of up to 12 individuals. Among the bachelors, the most dominant will be the first individual to join a new group of females when the position is open. Very seldom, during their fights for supremacy, are they able to inflict bodily harm to the contender.
  • If threatened by a predator, including lions, they will confront it, using their scimitar-shaped horns. Many of these big cats have died during such fights.
  • In Ernest Hemingway's book, The Green Hills of Africa, he describes the habits of sable antelope, which he used to hunt.

The difference between a male and female sable antelope

Both the sable antelope male and females have horns. The male’s horns are longer and heavier. The male has a jet-black coloration while the female is dark brown.

Sable antelope male with horns and dark coloration

Sable Male

Sable antelope female with shorter horns and lighter coloration

Sable Female

Background information for African Sable Hunting

The sable antelope is sexually dimorphic, with the male heavier and about one-fifth taller than the female. The head-and-body length is typically between 75 and 100 inches. Males reach about 46–55 inches at the shoulder, while females are slightly shorter. Males typically weigh 550 pounds and female 490 pounds.

The sable antelope has a compact and robust build, characterized by a thick neck and tough skin. It has a well-developed and often upright mane on its neck, as well as a short mane on the throat. Its general colouration is rich chestnut to black.

Females and juveniles are chestnut to dark brown, while males begin darkening and turn black after three years. However, in southern populations, females have a brown to black coat.

Calves less than two months old are a light tan and show faint markings. The underparts, cheek, and chin are all white, creating a great contrast with the dark back and flanks. Long, white hairs are present below the eyes, and a wide, black stripe runs over the nose.

Both sexes have ringed horns which arch backward. In females, these can reach 24–34 inches, while in males they are 32–48 inches long. The average lifespan of the sable antelope is 19 years in the wild and 22 years in captivity.

Sable antelope live in savanna woodlands and grasslands during the dry season, where they eat mid-length grasses and leaves. They visit salt licks and have been known to chew bones to collect minerals. They are diurnal, but are less active during the heat of the day. They form herds of 10 to 30 females and calves led by a single male, called a bull. Males fight among themselves; they drop to their knees and use their horns.

Sable antelope trophy bull. Where to place your shot when sable antelope hunting in Africa

Shot Placement for Sable Hunting

Sable Antelope Hunting in South Africa

Your sable antelope trophy should have an average shoulder height of around 50 inches, weigh about 550 pounds and have a horn length of approximately 38 inches. The Safari Club International score for a sable antelope is 100. This is measured by adding the length of each horn as well as the circumference of the bases.

A jet black mature Sable bull is without a doubt the most impressive trophy in any African collection. Trophy quality is judged by the color of the skin; always ensure the bull is of jet black color and not a tanned chocolate color, thus indicating immaturity. The bases of the horn must be solid black with dominant ridges following the length of the horn. Look for the climb from the base, the hook backwards and lastly the length of the tips. All in all, every hunter's dream.

Nick Bowker has his own sable herd. Sable are not indigenous to the Eastern Cape but have been introduced. Sable are now widely spread across the Eastern Cape and prices are now much more reasonable. A sable bull should be on every hunter’s wish list.

 A large magnificent antelope with shoulders higher than hindquarters. Sables have a stiff mane running down the top of the neck onto the shoulders. Facial markings and under parts are white, with both sexes having long sweeping scimitar-like horns.

Where to place your shot when Sable antelope hunting in Africa. Vital organs of a Sable antelope for shot placemen

Sable vital organs for shot placement

The horns of the sable bull are exceptional and the longest of any African antelope, with the exception of the kudu. Dependent on water, they prefer open and sparse woodland area in close proximity to the grasslands. Like the roan, sable bulls can be very territorial and the challenging interloper is in for a serious encounter if he does not retreat. Combat is usually done kneeling with rapid sweeps of their sharp and powerful horns, which can very occasionally result in the death of one of the combatants.

Hunters, too, must give this guy a wide berth, as the sable can be very aggressive and will not hesitate to charge if wounded, cornered, or simply feels threatened. Hunting sable is best during the early morning hours and late afternoon when he grazes in or near the open grasslands. A daily drinker, ambush the approaches to water. When hunting sable in the herd, look for the bull to be somewhere on the periphery.

The side-on presentation calls for the high heart/lung shot directed straight up the foreleg about one third into the body. We recommend the 300 magnums for sable hunting. For those hunters who do not wish to go through the red tape of having to bring a rifle in to South Africa Nick Bowker Hunting has available a Sako carbon light 300 Winchester Magnum fitted with a suppressor. The rifle is mounted with a Swarovski DS with a built-in rangefinder. We have hand loaded Hornady ELD-X 200 grain ammunition. This set up including ammunition is available as part of all hunting packages free of charge.