GEMSBOK / ORYX – Oryx gazella

A quick look at the habitat of the gemsbok immediately draws a realisation of the inherent strength and survival capabilities of this animal. It ranks as one of Southern Africa’s most sought after species, an exotic looking trophy compared with many of the other more common antelope.

Gemsbok in Kalahari

The Desert Prince - Gemsbok or Oryx


Forming mixed herds of 12 or more dominated by a herd bull, gemsbok are most active at dawn and dusk especially around water. They are often easily spotted due to their preference for open areas and their black and white masked faces are easy to pick out. Mature Gemsbok bulls become solitary and are territorial although clashes are seldom fatal. Female Gemsbok hide their young for the first few months after birth before being introduced to the herd. Both females and male Gemsbok have the long, straight, ringed horns used successfully and effectively against predators like lion and leopard.

Ranging primarily through the expanse of the Kalahari and its fringes, the Gemsbok is adapted for desert and semi-desert life in unique ways. They can go for extended periods without water, have large hooves for even weight displacement in the sand and a unique temperature mechanism which allows their body heat to rise to dangerously high levels.

hunting tips – the hunt

Gemsbok are tough animals with a survival instinct unequalled in other antelope. Your first shot has to count and must hit a vital area. Therefore it is essential to get in close and have a good shot. They feed mostly in the mornings and tend to hole up in the shade during the heat of the day, often lying down. They blend very well with their natural surroundings and one will often not see them until they burst away.

Kalahari Gemsbok

Magnificent Kalahari Gemsbok bull

hunting tips – the calibre

A good medium to heavy long shooting plains game calibre is needed such as the 300′s and 7mm Magnums.

hunting tips – the trophy

Both males and females make good trophies with males carrying heavier bases but on average shorter horns. It is difficult to distinguish between males and females, particularly at a distance or in thicker cover. Often males horns tend to form a slight cup-like shape from just above the bases and may flow slightly backwards when viewed from the side.
The quickest way to judge a good trophy is to compare the ratio of smooth horn to ringed horn. Older animals will have a longer portion of smooth horn above the ringed section which should start from wide bases. More than half of the total horn length should be smooth and often PHs will refer to a good set of horns as shining, denoting prolonged use and an older animal.

hunting tips – where

kalahari dune

red sands of the kalahari dunes

By far the best place to pursue the hardy Gemsbok is in the blood red dunes of the “True Kalahari” where the animal is best adapted. To find such open expanses of duneland is rare and eastern Namibia must be one of the last true strongholds of this habitat and animal. Around the Kalahari transfrontier park in South Africa there are some magnificent hunting properties owned by clans of bushman ancestors. Unfortunately the most common way of hunting Gemsbok in these dunes is to chase after them in high powered vehicles and blast away.┬áThe true Kalahari is an experience in itself and holds so much for the dedicated hunter – vast open wilderness that is in a way the most unique of habitats with very special species. Gemsbok are widespread throughout South Africa and Namibia as well as Botswana and parts of Angola.

Four subspecies are listed for hunting purposes:
Kalahari Gemsbok – the most common and widely hunted with the better trophies coming from Namibia, Botswana and South AfricaFringe-eared OR Beisa Oryx – found in Tanzania and northwards through Kenya, being smaller bodied with shorter horns


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