Male and female gemsbok present very low sexual dimorphism (physical differences between males and females) and are almost identical in appearance. This is most notable in the fact that both males and females have horns, though the males are a little bit shorter and thicker. The females are longer and thinner and tend to curve backwards. Gemsbok are thought to have evolved this reduced sexual dimorphism to facilitate longer acceptance of juvenile males by the older territorial males. This has allowed them to better survive in vast empty spaces where finding mates can be a serious challenge
Gemsbok are widely hunted for their spectacular horns that average 33 inches in length. Female gemsbok use their horns to defend themselves and their offspring from predators, while males primarily use their horns to defend their territories from other males. Gemsbok are one of the few antelope species where female trophies are sometimes more desirable than male ones.
Gemsbok are light brownish-grey to tan in color, with lighter patches toward the bottom rear of the rump. Their tails are long and black in color. A blackish stripe extends from the chin down the lower edge of the neck, through the juncture of the shoulder and leg along the lower flank of each side to the blackish section of the rear leg.
They have muscular necks and shoulders, and their legs have white 'socks' with a black patch on the front of both the front legs, and both genders have long, straight horns. Large very handsome antelope. The face is black with white marks and the tail is long and black. A rough coat with coarse hair, predominantly khaki in color.
Gemsbok stand about 47 inches at the shoulder. Male gemsbok can weigh between 400–530 pounds, while females weigh 220–440 pounds.
Gemsbok cows isolate themselves from the herd before calving. After giving birth, a mother gemsbok hides her calf for about 3 to 6 weeks. This is quite different from most antelope species whose young travel with the herd almost immediately.
The gemsbok mother remains within sight of her concealed offspring and visits them a few times a day to nurse. New-born gemsboks are colored in an inconspicuous brown, blending with their environment. Their black and white face marking won’t appear until it is ready to join the herd with the mother. It will continue suckling until it is 6 to 9 months old.
The social structure of the gemsbok sets them apart from most other antelope species. Other antelopes in the area, like springboks, employ a harem system where one dominant breeding male controls a group of females and young, and bachelor males form separate herds of their own.
Gemsbok, on the other hand, form mixed herds of both males and females. The male rank within these groups is maintained with sparring contests that may escalate into fights. These fights are most likely to start due to competition for resources, such as a female in estrus or a water hole.
Shot Placement for Gemsbok Hunting
Your gemsbok trophy should have an average shoulder height of around 46 inches, weigh about 500 pounds and have a horn length of approximately 31–33 inches. The Safari Club International score for a gemsbok is 88. This is measured by adding the length of each horn as well as the circumference of the bases.
Gemsbok males and females make spectacular trophies. Extremely aggressive and very dangerous when injured, cornered, or threatened, both sexes carry very long spear-like horns. The female (cow) of the species tends to be slightly smaller in body. Her horns, however, though more slender, are most often longer than those of the male (bull). The cow’s horns tend to curve slightly backward, while the bull’s horns are thicker and straighter.
In assessing the trophy, remember that the cow’s horns tend to be longer and will often out-score the bull. Hunting gemsbok requires a good pair of boots, as you are apt to cover a lot of country. Gemsbok can resist serious drought and live up to 20 years. Trophy judgment is extremely difficult, as body size differs remarkably from one gemsbok to another.
Gemsbok have been introduced in to the Eastern cape and are not truly free ranging. Standard cattle and sheep fences are a partial impediment to the movement of a gemsbok. However, warthog holes provide the ideal escape plan. They simply flatten their horns and go through the warthog hole and get very adept at escaping through warthog holes. Gemsbok are relatively widely spread across the Eastern Cape. Hunts are conducted mainly using ambush techniques in open country as well as walk and stalk techniques.
Gemsbok vital organs for shot placement
This open country will demand one of the flat shooting rifle and scope combinations. Always alert with excellent eyesight, hearing, and smell, your approach will have to be carefully planned.
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.
Beware of the predominant humped shoulder; it will try to trick you into shooting too high. Follow the back line of the front leg to about one third into the body and squeeze. Never shoot above the horizontal midline of this beautiful antelope unless you are in need of a good day’s hike. Hunting gemsbok will provide a wonderful trophy and his meat is one of the most delicious to be found on the African continent.
Gemsbok Trophy taken with Nick Bowker. Your Professional Hunter and Outfitter