Springbuck Hunting in Southern Africa

by Peter Ruddle

Springbuck is a strikingly marked, sleek, graceful, agile gazelle-like antelope and once the national emblem of South Africa; however, today it is only recognised as the name and logo for the national rugby team. The species name was translated from the Afrikaans word “Springbok”, which means “jumping buck”. The name was derived from its unique behavioural trait known as pronking: a leap in the air with an arched back and stiff legs.

The springbuck have a unique skin flap (pouch) along their backs, which lifts into a white crest or fan during their pronking display. On occasions, this hair may rise or be raised by rubbing your hand along the spine, after the animal has been shot and it smells like candy floss (cotton candy).

In the 1800s, large migratory herds of “Trekbokke” (migrating Springbuck) herds were recorded in the Cape; one particular herd witnessed in 1848 took three days to pass the town of Beaufort West. The last migration took place in 1896-1897. Since then habitat modification by farmer’s erecting barbed wire fences to protect their agricultural grazing fields and livelihoods, roads, human development, urbanisation and hunting have all taken their toll on this once great springbuck migration.

A pronking springbuck
A pronking springbuck

Historical Distribution of Springbuck

Historically springbuck distribution has remained pretty much the same over the years. They have been divided into three regionalised subspecies, namely: The Angolan springbuck (Damara springbuck) found in south-western Angola and northern Namibia. The Kalahari springbuck (Western springbuck) found in the Northern Cape, Botswana and Namibia and the common springbuck (Cape or South African springbuck) found across the grasslands and semi-arid regions of southern and central South Africa

Where to hunt Springbuck

The Rowland Ward Record book only recognises one species of springbuck as opposed to the Safari Club International Record Book that recognises the three subspecies along with three colour variant species, the black, white and copper springbuck.

The Angolan springbuck is the biggest of the springbuck, in both body and horn length but hunting opportunities for this subspecies are very limited.

The most sought after is the Kalahari springbuck that is both noticeably bigger, in horn size as well as body, than the common springbuck. As the name would imply, these springbuck are predominantly hunted in the Kalahari Desert regions of Namibia, Botswana and the Northern Cape province of South Africa. Isolated pockets of Kalahari springbuck may also be hunted in other regions of the country where they have been introduced to improve the local genetics.

Common springbuck occurs across most provinces in the central grassland plateau of South Africa, the semi-arid Karoo and North West provinces. They can also be found in the Drakensberg foothills of KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

One other population of springbuck exists and these are known as Heartwater springbuck. Limited numbers of this springbuck type may be found in the Limpopo province. Due to their resistance to Heartwater, a tick-borne disease, these springbuck are worth more alive than dead, as they are traded for game breeding programs. Non-breeding males beyond their prime may become available for hunting from time to time.

A Kalahari springbuck
A Kalahari springbuck

How to Hunt Springbuck

Rifle Hunting

This handsome coloured khaki beige medium-sized antelope, with a dark brown to black stripe across its flank and white underbelly, can make for a tough hunt, even with a rifle. Being a true plains game species, this species prefers open short grasslands and relies more on keeping its distance from hunters and predators than camouflage. When heavily hunted the shooting distance can be well over 400 yards. This type of terrain makes for very difficult hunting conditions and inevitably requires a long-distance shot on a small target.

They are generally hunted walk and stalk style but a vehicle may be used to cover as much ground and distance as possible in search of a suitable trophy. They may be spotted from a distance and once glassed over the stalk can be planned. Springbuck flourish in semi-arid conditions where there is often very little vegetation available to assist you during your stalk. Making use of as much broken ground as possible, you may be able to close the distance on your quarry.

When hunting in the sandy desert regions of the Kalahari, it is best to carefully crest the sand dunes before exposing yourself to the world. Like most antelope, they feed early morning and late evening making them less wary whilst feeding compared to during the midday heat. In the desert, they may seek out shade if available but they are quite happy to rest out in the open during the heat of the day, often in good size herds making it even more difficult to approach them with so many observant eyes constantly scanning their surroundings for any sign of danger.


When ranch-hunting springbuck in either Namibia or South Africa, the best place to bow hunt is over water or mineral licks. The provision of artificial watering points in the desert and semi-arid regions provides the perfect bowhunting conditions.
Although the springbuck is not a water-dependent species, they rely on getting their moisture intake requirements from the grasses, herbs, leaves, fruit and seed pods that they eat. During the dry winter months, these food sources do not provide as much moisture as during the summer growing months and springbuck will readily drink when water is available.

Many outfitters have constructed permanent blinds and platforms overlooking these waterholes. They also provide salt licks and in some cases mineral game blocks which also attract game to these blinds.

Springbuck Habits

Springbuck is a gregarious species that move around in small herds during the dry season and form larger herds in the spring when food is more plentiful and for the protection of their lambs in the nursery herds. Trophy males may be found in mixed herds, bachelor herds or even as single territorial males.

They run with their heads held low and attain speeds of up to 80 km/h (50 mph) and can jump more than 10 metres (11 yards). Pronking behaviour may be witnessed during the breeding season or after rain showers as if in the celebration of life. This behaviour is best described as being like a bouncing ball. The animals bounce up and down on their stiff outstretched front and hind legs whilst bending their heads down and in most cases raising the white hair on their backs. This is truly a magnificent sight to behold.

Best Season to Hunt Springbuck

Springbuck can be hunted year-round in South Africa and during the hunting season in Namibia and Botswana. Most trophy hunting takes place during the southern hemisphere’s winter months (northern hemisphere summer) when hunting conditions are more pleasant.

There are many benefits to hunting in winter; some are more obvious than others are. Winter being a dry time in Southern Africa means animals need to move more to find food and feed for longer due to less forage being available. This increases your chances of bumping into these animals. Being the dry time of the year, the Springbuck will also visit the waterhole more frequently thus offering the bowhunters a better chance of bagging a trophy.

Sparring springbuck
A couple of sparring springbuck

The lesser-known recognised benefits are fewer biting insects, ticks and snakes are less active. This is often a question raised by concerned hunters who have not yet visited the African shores and afterwards wonder what all the fuss was about.

Trophy Quality

Trophy quality ranges from area to area, what might be a good trophy in one region would be overlooked as a cull animal in another region. This is the case when hunting common springbuck compared to Kalahari springbuck. If you particularly want to shoot a big trophy, you need to hunt in the Kalahari.

A good benchmark figure for a common springbuck can range from 12- 14 inches depending on the area and for a Kalahari springbuck, it could be anything over 14 inches.

The world record springbuck is 20 4/8”, however, photographs of even bigger bred animals are being circulated on electronic media.

Qualifying Measurements

Angolan Springbuck (Antidorcas marsupialis angolensis)

Safari Club International Record Book Rowland Ward Record Book
Archery Min. Rifle Min. Record Measuring Method Minimum Record Measuring Method
34″ 39 7/8″ 1 14″ 20 4/8″ 7

Kalahari Springbuck (Antidorcas marsupialis hofmeyri)

Safari Club International Record Book Rowland Ward Record Book
Archery Min. Rifle Min. Record Measuring Method Minimum Record Measuring Method
35″ 52 4/8″ 1 14″ 20 4/8″ 7

Common Springbuck (Antidorcas marsupialis)

Safari Club International Record Book Rowland Ward Record Book
Archery Min. Rifle Min. Record Measuring Method Minimum Record Measuring Method
27” 30″ 48 4/8″ 1 14″ 20 4/8″ 7

The latest SCI Record Book also has categories for black, white and copper springbuck.

Springbuck Breeding Projects

Black and white springbuck have been around for many years. Many outfitters offer a Grand Slam of Springbuck that includes a common or Kalahari springbuck, black, white and copper springbuck which have kind of been accepted by the non-purest as the accepted original colour variants of the species.

However, today this has all changed and South African game breeders are at the forefront of breeding numerous colour variant springbuck. The debate rages on as to whether these genetically bred variants should be allowed to qualify for the record book or even be considered as separate subspecies. Numerous other colour Springbuck are also finding their way to the live game auctions, these include coffee springbuck and the royal springbuck.

Besides the colour variants, several game breeders are enhancing the horn lengths of their common springbuck by introducing Kalahari springbuck to their herds. As this trend continues, you will find bigger sized trophy animals in areas that previously could not compete with the size of the Kalahari springbuck.

A springbuck trophy with pouch lifted into a white fan
A springbuck trophy with pouch lifted into a white fan


Although springbuck can jump very high, well standard stock and jackal proof fences easily contain them. They are more likely to creep under a fence than jump and so to retain this species in a fenced area you need to ensure the bottom stands in a fence are well spaced.

South Africa is well known for its high fenced properties that are off-putting to the free-range hunting enthusiast. However, the reality is that these high fenced properties are entitled to hunt year-round without having to apply for individual permits and licenses. A once-off game ranching (exemption) permit entitles the outfitter to be the master of their own destiny. How, when and why he hunts on his property will not affect his neighbour’s wildlife numbers.

Conservation Threats

Habitat modification (destruction) by the fencing of stock farming enterprises has already seen the demise of the springbuck migrations. Today, sheep farmers still monitor springbuck numbers to avoid interspecies competition for grazing and large culling operations are conducted to control the springbuck numbers. These culling operations need to be well planned to minimise and avoid any long term impact on the springbuck populations.

Probably the two biggest threats to the springbuck populations are poor herd management and predation. Range management plays an important role in the success of calf recruitment rates into the population. Over utilisation of the property means that predators easily find and kill exposed unattended lambs hidden by their mothers during the first few weeks of their lives.

Likewise, underutilisation of available grazing by bulk grazers will mean that the concentrate grazers, like springbuck, will not be able to find suitable quality short grasses that will affect their condition. In a natural environment, animals in poor condition are susceptible to adverse weather conditions, like snow and cold fronts that kill off the weak and old.

A herd of springbuck
A herd of springbuck

Jackals are also considered a major problem in some areas. With the larger predators like leopard and hyena being wiped out in these areas, jackals and caracal numbers have increased as the balance of nature has been affected without the super-predators controlling the lesser predator’s numbers.

Springbuck Hunting Tips

Often springbuck can be extremely skittish making them extremely difficult to hunt. They occur mainly in arid grasslands and sandy savannahs, avoiding tall grasslands, stony terrain and bushveld. This often means there is no cover to work with when even a termite mound would be appreciated from which to take cover. These hunts often end up with long shots being taken over the open ground where distances are difficult to gauge, so make sure you have a good range finder.

Springbuck habitat can experience cold winter morning temperatures, sometimes well below freezing with frosty winds. Conversely, the days can be quite warm, so dress in layers so that you can peel your winter woollies off during the day. Due to the extremes in the daily temperature range, you will need to pile on warm clothes as soon as the sun dips below the horizon. Also, keep in mind the wind chill factor when driving around on the back of a pickup.

Flat shooting calibres, like .243 and .270, are perfect for hunting springbuck. However, when travelling from abroad you probably only want to temporarily import one rifle to use for the duration of your safari. Keep in mind most outfitters hire out rifles so it is not necessary to go through the whole temporary gun importation process. If this is the case, the outfitter can supply you with the most suitable calibre for the hunt.


Springbuck meat is highly palatable and in great demand as a delicacy. Being a small carcass, the joints make perfect roasts. Unfortunately due to international veterinary regulations, the meat cannot be exported and we, therefore, recommend you at least try a flame-grilled backstrap (tenderloin) whilst sitting around the campfire enjoying the ambience of an African safari to remember.

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