The key difference between a male and female waterbuck is that the female does not have horns and is smaller.
Waterbuck inhabit scrub and savanna areas along rivers, lakes and valleys. A gregarious animal, the waterbuck may form herds consisting of six to 30 individuals. These groups are either nursery herds with females and their offspring or bachelor herds. Males start showing territorial behaviour from the age of five years, but are most dominant from the age of six to nine.
Males reach approximately 50 inches at the shoulder, while females reach 47 inches. The waterbuck is one of the heaviest antelopes. A new-born typically weighs 30 pounds, and growth in weight is faster in males than in females. Males typically weigh 450–600 pounds and females 350–450 pounds.
The waterbuck is of a robust build. The shaggy coat is reddish brown to grey, and becomes progressively darker with age. Males are darker than females. Though apparently thick, the hair is sparse on the coat. The hair on the neck is, however, long and shaggy. The long, spiral horns curve backward, then forward. Found only on males, the horns range from 22 to 30 inches in length. To some extent, the length of the horns is related to the bull's age. A rudimentary horn in the form of a bone lump may be found on the skulls of females.
When one considers that animals’ bodies comprise about 70% water, it is no surprise that African mammals all have had to develop tactics for keeping hydrated in a mostly dry and hot environment. Waterbuck are very water dependent being especially prone to dehydration. They are always found within a 5-mile radius from water, but usually less than 2 miles from water, and will drink several times a day.
Waterbuck are grazers and feed on the medium to short grass pastures adjacent to waterholes. Their digestive systems are adapted to coping with a high amount of roughage although they do select the more palatable protein-rich grasses available. They do also do some browsing during dry conditions. Grass has lower moisture content than browse and waterbuck need to drink to help digest their food. Because they drink frequently their droppings are usually wetter than other ruminants and the pellets tend to deform and stick together in clumps.
After a gestation period of nine months, a single calf is born and rarely twins. For a few weeks after birth, the mother hides the young in dense thicket or long grass before it joins the herd. Births peak during the summer months in South Africa, while mating occurs during winter. Mating can happen during the year at a lower intensity.
Shot Placement for Waterbuck Hunting
Your waterbuck trophy should have an average shoulder height of around 52 inches, weigh about 550 pounds and have a horn length of approximately 25 - 26 inches. The Safari Club International minimum score for a waterbuck is 70. This is measured by adding the length of each horn as well as the circumference of the bases.
The waterbuck is a very sought-after trophy for many hunters traveling to Africa, with its impressive horns sweeping back and then hooking forward. Its sheer size makes it a desirable trophy on many safaris. Hunting a free-range waterbuck is not easy. Stalks will be long and patience is required. A waterbuck bull is a must for any aspiring African hunter. Waterbuck are very territorial when mating and it is not uncommon while hunting to come across bulls in a ferocious battle.
While most waterbuck are shot behind high fences in the Eastern Cape, Nick Bowker hunting has access to a number of free-range herds in the Bedford area.
As with most African animals shot placement should always be in the bottom third of the shoulder. The 7mm's and 30 calibers are the preferred selection. 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.
Waterbuck vital organs for shot placement
An old waterbuck bull is without a doubt one of the most cunning trophies to hunt. It is very alert with a keen sense of smell and super eyesight. Waterbuck secrete an oily secretion which covers their entire body giving them a musky smell; one can often smell waterbuck before seeing them at close quarters.
Judging the trophy quality of a waterbuck can be very difficult at times, especially lone bulls. Always keep in mind that a thick heavy darkened neck is the first sign of maturity. Look at the bases and ensure ridges are prominent and rough, not smooth and soft indicating immaturity. The hook in the horns is where the hidden length lies. A good shape with smooth tips is a sign of a good bull and certainly one to consider taking.
IDENTIFICATION: Large greyish-brown antelope with a shaggy coat of course, grey hair and impressive horns. The most prominent feature, which no other animal has, is a white ring on the rump encircling the tail - its own bullseye!
Waterbuck Trophy taken with Nick Bowker. Your Professional Hunter and Outfitter