Waterbuck Hunting

Waterbuck hunting will require long stalks in the savanna and woodlands and are very sort-after trophies with their impressive horns that sweep back.

Shot placement should be on the bottom third of the shoulder for hunting waterbuck
Shot placement for Waterbuck hunting

Table of Contents

Waterbuck Hunting | Nick Bowker Hunting

Waterbuck Hunting Cost

The average cost of a Waterbuck is $2000. A plains game package hunt often includes a Waterbuck Trophy.

All-Inclusive $7000 Starter Plains Game Package for 7 trophies and 8 days hunting. (Inclusive of a Waterbuck Trophy)

  • Waterbuck
  • Sable antelope
  • Impala
  • Mountain Reedbuck
  • Springbok
  • Blesbok
  • Warthog
Waterbuck hunting with Nick Bowker

The Waterbuck in Pictures

Waterbuck names in different languages.
Waterbuck markings on the rump.
Waterbuck predators.
Waterbuck diet and habitat.
Shot placement
 Distribution across South Africa.
Calf at a waterhole with mother.
Waterbuck herd on the grasslands.
Waterbuck growth and devolpment.
Waterbuck trophy hunting.

Interesting facts

  • As the name suggests they are never far from water.
  • They can evade predators such as lion by rushing in to water.
  • Predatory cats are often reluctant to get their feet wet, even if it means missing out on a meal.
  • Waterbuck has a lot of hair around their necks, making them look like they should live in colder climates.
  • As the hair is hollow, it allows for extra buoyancy when swimming and lets the waterbuck keep its head above water.
  • Waterbuck release a special oil over the hair, which repels the water and prevents it from becoming saturated with water.
Waterbuck trophy shot in South Africa.
  • The oil has a foul smell, and for a long time, it was thought to be distasteful to crocodiles, thus keeping the waterbuck from being eaten. This theory, however, has been disproved.
  • A more credible theory is that the oil acts as an insect repellent and reduces the number of ticks that waterbuck have.
  • The trademark white ring around the waterbuck’s hindquarters is used as a follow-me sign.
  • If one of the groups spot a predator and runs, the rest will follow to avoid becoming dinner.
  • Waterbuck are day time grazers.
  • Waterbuck hunting involves a lot of glassing on savanna hillsides to find a loan bull.
Waterbuck trophy hunting.

Difference between a male and female

The difference between a male and female waterbuck is that the female does not have horns and is smaller.

Waterbuck male standing in the long grass.
Waterbuck male standing in the long grass
Female standing in the woodlands. Females do not have horns.
Waterbuck Female in the woodlands

About the Waterbuck

Description of Waterbuck for Hunting

Waterbuck hunting in South Africa

Waterbuck inhabit scrub and savanna areas along rivers, lakes, and valleys. A social animal, the waterbuck, may form herds consisting of 4 – 15 individuals.

These groups are either family groups with females and their offspring or bachelor herds.

Males start showing territorial behavior from the age of five years but are most dominant from 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 newborn 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 gray and becomes progressively darker with age.

Males are darker than females. Though thick, the hair is sparse on the coat. The hair on the neck is, however, forms a long shaggy beard.

The long, spiral horns curve backward, then forward. Found only on males, the horns range from 22 to 30 inches in length.

The length of the horns is mostly related to the bull’s age. A rudimentary horn in the form of a bone lump may be found on females’ skulls.

Trophy shot with Nick Bowker in the Eastern Cape South Africa

Information for Waterbuck hunting

Waterbuck trophy

African 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 hot and dry 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 mostly grazers and feed on medium to short grass close to water.

Their digestive systems are adapted to coping with a high amount of roughage, although they select the more palatable protein-rich grasses when available.

They will also do some browse grass during the dry months. Grass has lower moisture content than browse, and waterbuck need to drink regularly 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 or rarely twins.

For a few weeks after birth, the mother hides the young in a dense thicket or long grass before it joins the herd. 

Most claves are born during the summer months in South Africa, while mating occurs during winter.

Mating can happen during the year at a lower intensity.

Waterbuck hunt in South Africa.

Waterbuck Hunting in South Africa

Vital organs showing the position of the heart and lungs.
Waterbuck vital organs

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 67. This is measured by adding the length of each horn and 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.

Most waterbuck are shot behind high fences in the Eastern Cape; Nick Bowker hunting has access to several free-range herds in the Bedford area.

A combination hunt in Bedford of a red lechwe, nyala, sable antelope, kudu, and waterbuck makes for a spectacular hunt.

Waterbuck hunting.

Trophy Judgement and Rifle Caliber

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 bringing a rifle into South Africa, Nick Bowker Hunting has available a Sako carbon light 300 Winchester Magnum fitted with a suppressor.

Mounted on the rifle is a Swarovski DS with a built-in rangefinder. We have hand loaded Hornady ELD-X 200 grain ammunition. This setup, including ammunition, is available as part of all hunting packages free of charge.

An old waterbuck bull is one of the most cunning animals to hunt. It is very alert with a keen sense of smell and super eyesight.

Judging the trophy quality of a waterbuck can be challenging at times, especially lone bulls.

As with all African animals, a thick heavy, darkened neck is the first sign of maturity and often the most visible maturity characteristic when observing at a distance.

Also, look at the color of the horns. An old bull will exhibit at least two-thirds of the horn as an off white color.

Look at the bases and ensure they are solid and prominent.

The hook in the horns is where the real hidden length lies and differentiates a good bull from an outstanding bull.

A good symmetrical shape with smooth tips signifies an old bull and a trophy worth considering.


SA Venues – Waterbuck

Sabi Sabi – Wild facts

African Wildlife Foundation – Waterbuck

Wildlife South Africa – Waterbuck Fact File

Siyabona Africa – Travel Guide Waterbuck

Smithers RHN – The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion