One animal that conjures up thoughts of hunting on the dark continent of Africa and one that will truly test your skills as a hunter is the magnificent Kudu.
Hunting this incredible animal, for most hunters, will be the pinnacle of their hunting career. Dubbed the Grey Ghost because of its incredible ability to melt away into the vegetation never to be seen again.
For this very reason, when a Kudu presents you with a rare opportunity, you need to make sure you have the correct rifle caliber.
Before deciding on the correct caliber, one first needs to assess the terrain where Kudu are found and match a caliber that can handle those conditions.
Mountains, valleys and thick vegetation make up the Kudu’s habitat. This type of terrain is synonymous with long shots, difficult angles and small windows of opportunity.
Don’t be fooled a Kudu bull standing five-foot at the shoulder and weighing 600-pounds will either melt into the surrounding bush without making a sound or clear the tallest mountain peak before you can even chamber a round.
Requirements of the caliber
The ideal caliber for hunting kudu needs to fulfill certain criteria in order to get the job done. Remember we are dealing with a big burly animal that feels comfortable in uncomfortable terrain.
- Good velocity
- High energy
- Flat trajectory
When it comes to hunting Kudu there needs to be a balance of patience and speed. Patience is needed by the hunter to wait for the perfect moment when the Kudu bull is standing in the ideal position.
Kudu are vulnerable for only a second and this is where speed comes in, that needs to haul some serious lead and get across the valley faster than a Vegan heading to an all you can eat salad buffet.
One of the characteristic features of a Kudu and most African plains game species is their large lungs. A mature Kudu bull’s lungs are on average 10”- 12” in size, with the heart located on the lower third of the lungs.
That means holding the crosshairs center of a Kudu’s lungs for an efficient double lung shot the bullet should preferably not drop by anything more than 6” at 300-yards. Anything more than that, and a very long day under the hot African sun lays ahead of you.
There is a fair amount of strong muscle and bone packed into those elegant legs of a Kudu, so when the bullet does arrive at its target, it needs to thump the Kudu with enough force and energy to obtain good penetration.
Experienced hunters know that accuracy is not only about hitting a small target or getting a sub-MOA grouping, rather it’s about doing it consistently.
Hitting a piece of paper multiple times on a range is very different from being out in the field. The last thing a Kudu hunter needs before pulling the trigger is doubt and wandering whether the next bullet is going to be a random flier.
The .308 needs no introduction and certainly doesn’t require any fluff from this writer to boost its already impressive reputation.
Looking at some common ammunition rounds, the Remington MatchKing BTHP 168-grain, the Federal Power-Shok 150-grain, Hornady Custom SST 150-grain and the Barnes VOR-TX TTSX 168-grain all come flying out the muzzle at speeds well over 2,700 feet per second and show no signs of slowing down as far out as 400-yards with the Federal Power-Shok 150-grain recording the slowest of the group at 1,771 feet per second at that distance.
Alright, the .308 Win has the speed but what sort of power is behind that pace? Well, not a single bullet dropped below 1,000 ft-lbs. or anywhere near it at 400-yards.
It won’t matter how many mountains that Kudu bull has climbed, he is going down after being hit with that amount of force.
There is pace and power so the .308 must surely be a flat shooter? Unfortunately, not quite. Well not in terms of what we are looking for in a Kudu caliber anyways.
The flattest trajectory readings came from the Hornady Custom SST 150-grain with a drop of -7.9” at 300-yards. The rest all ranged in around -8.9” to -9.2”, which is not bad and can certainly be adjusted for.
It doesn’t mean the .308 Win can’t be used on Kudu, it’s simply a matter of knowing your ranges and either being comfortable holding or dialing in for the difference. Either way, the bullet will produce the goods.
.300 Win Mag
Probably not the first choice for those devout meat hunters and who can blame them, Kudu meat is without a doubt some of the finest table fare around.
I won’t even try and over explain how well versed this caliber is to hunting Kudu because just about any round you put through the barrel of a .300 Win Mag will result in a Kudu bull being delivered to the taxidermist.
Just a minute though, we can’t move away yet without spending a little time highlighting the mouthwatering ballistics of the Hornady Superformance GMX 165-grain bullet.
A muzzle velocity of 3,260 feet per second with a speed of 2,235 feet per second at 500-yards while thumping out a force of 2,148 ft-lbs. at 400-yards is simply beautiful.
Cherry on the cake, with a zero of 200-yards you are looking at a drop of -5.5” at 300-yards, case closed, buy a .300 Win Mag, a box of Hornady SuperFormance and send photos of your Kudu bull when you are back at the lodge.
The underdog in this group of fine calibers but certainly no push over. We are teetering on the edge here when it comes to a caliber being “too small” for Kudu, but this section is written from first-hand experience of hunting Kudu with a .270 Win.
What the .270 Win lacks in energy, which is not much given a 130-grain Nosler Accubond hits the gong on 300-yards with 1,717ft-lbs, it makes up for in being one of the flattest shooting calibers around.
Sure, if you have a .270 in hand and you can close the distance by an extra 80-yards then go for it, any hunter in their right mind would want to get as close to a Kudu as possible. But don’t doubt this caliber, it is fast, it is accurate, and it is surprisingly powerful.
What’s an article about hunting in Africa without mentioning the .375 H&H? Certainly not an enjoyable one.
Just about any Professional Hunting guide in Africa has a client or themselves taken down more than one or ten Cape Buffalo with a .375 H&H, so there is no need to go down the path of penetration or power when it comes to Kudu.
What is surprising though, is the ballistics from a 250-grain .375 H&H Magnum bullet produce ballistics that are competitive with almost any .30 caliber.
Looking at a muzzle velocity 2,735 feet per second, energy of 4,153 ft-lbs. and a trajectory just under -8.2” at 300-yards. Impressive figures and certainly good enough to classify the .375 H&H as a suitable Kudu hunting caliber.