What is the most popular trophy for international hunters who go on a safari to Africa? Lion? Elephant? Kudu? In fact, it is Impala. At least, according to a 2016 survey conducted by a South African university. What does it take for a species to be Number 1? Let’s see.
How Many Impala Are There?
The Impala is one of the most numerous African antelopes. Herds of Impala may be found roaming the savannah, scrub and bush landscapes in the southern and eastern part of the African continent. The males may stand up to 92 sm. (36”) at the shoulder and weigh up to 76 kg. (170 lb). Only the males carry horns, that keep growing all their lives. Impala has reddish-brown flanks and white underbelly, with a bushy tail and black stripes running on the hind legs. They are amazing jumpers, and may easily clear the typical 7-feet fence that African game farmers surround their property with.
Biologists divide the antelope into two subspecies: Common and Black-Faced. Trophy books and hunting clubs further divide the Common Impala into Southern and East African varieties, and some outfitters also have Black Impala, a color phase of the Southern Impala, on their price lists.
Southern Impala is by far the most numerous and the most widespread variety of the species. It is to be found in northern Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.
East African Impala
The range of East African Impala stretches from about the northern border of Mozambique to the north, into Tanzania and Kenia. East African Impala does not differ much from the Southern Impala in looks, behavior and biology. However, the trophies of East African Impala tend to be significantly bigger than those of the Southern variety, which is why the trophy record books have different entries for them.
Black-Faced Impala is much bigger than Common Impala. It is also darker in color, and has a characteristic black stripes on the sides of the nose running to the forehead. A small population of Black-Faced Impala exists on the Atlantic Coast of Africa, in southwestern Angola and northwestern Namibia. This subspecies is considered to be Vulnerable by IUCN, and there’s no legal hunting for its wild population. However, Black Impala can be hunted on Namibian game farms, if the fact that the import of the trophies into the USA is forbidden does not discourage you.
Who hasn’t heard of Bagheera the Black Panther? Melanism, a genetic mutation that causes overproduction of the color pigment melanin and makes an animal’s hair black or blacker than normal for the species, may happen in any species. Melanistic impalas are quite common, and some South African outfitters, by selective breeding, developed strains where almost every animal is black. Some game farms and ranches offer Black Impala hunting, for those who wish to add this unusual trophy to their collections.
Impala requires shade, and favors light woodland with little undergrowth, shrub and savannah type habitat where a hunter and the PH can see far to spot the animals, and yet there’s enough cover to stalk them. Impalas can be active in either day and light but is most conspicuous in the morning and in the evening. This behavior makes Impala one of the best quarries for spot-and-stalk hunting.
One thing about Impala is that they are sociable animals and usually stick together in small herds. When alarmed, the herd forms a tight group, as an anti-predator maneuver, and this presents a problem for a human predator, too. It is easy to lose track of the trophy you’ve chosen, and, the bullet might easily pass through your target and hit another Impala that stands behind. Hunters who use a rifle/round combination with high penetration, should take special care when setting their sights on an impala.
On the other hand, Impala never venture far from water sources, and must have a drink on a regular basis. This offers a bowhunter an opportunity to hunt this animal from a ground blind or tree stand positioned over a waterhole. A hunter who is interested in wildlife and nature should not discard an offer to hunt from a blind over a waterhole, as there are few better options to observe many creatures of the bush in their natural habitat.
The Secret of Its Success
Some people call Impala “Africa’s White-Tailed Deer”. The simile is accurate in many ways, as Impala takes about the same place in African hunting as White-Tailed Deer does in North America. And comparing the two animals explains what does it take to become a continent’s favorite game species:
Size matters in many ways. A bigger animal is a bigger reward when you harvest it. On the other hand, smaller animals require less space and food resources, and so can be more numerous (which matters even more, as you shall see). Just like White-Tail, Impala is in the golden middle in terms of body weight.
The most popular species need to be numerous enough to provide affordable harvest opportunities to everyone. Both White-Tailed Deer and Impala meet the criterion. In fact, Impala is one of the most abundant African antelopes, with population pushing 2,000,000 heads.
Nothing stirs the mind and talk of the hunters as a challenge. Like with deer hunting in North America, killing any animal is within the ability limits of even beginning hunters. To get a really impressive trophy – well, whole different story. This balance of challenge is what makes a species truly popular.
Rational aspects don’t explain everything. Impala is a graceful, beautiful creature, especially a big, mature buck with his long, lyre-shaped horns. These horns grow all over the creature’s lifetime, and make a spectacular trophy. You can’t go by looks alone, though. With its delicious flesh, Impala pleases not only the eyes, but also the taste buds, and is a popular object not only for trophy, but for meat and biltong hunters, too.
The Best Time for Impala Hunting
The best time for Impala hunting is now! Well, not necessarily. In terms of time of day, it’s best to hunt Impala in the morning or in the evening, when the diurnal antelopes are most active. If you have to choose the best time of year, then May, when the animals have the rut, is considered to be the best. And yet, today may be the best period of time in history to travel to hunt, and African outfitters have Impala hunting opportunities year round, so…
So what are you waiting for? Adding an Impala to the trophy list of your plains game hunt may cost as low as $300, and a plains game hunt for Impala and a few other African species can be had for less than a guided Elk hunt in the West (check out our tips on how to calculate the price of your African hunt). This is an experience not to be missed. Find your African adventure today with BookYourHunt.com!