Blackbuck Antelope: Small in Stature – Big in Sport
One of the most popular varieties of exotic animals in the hunting world tops out at less than 90-pounds: the Blackbuck Antelope.
I’ll never forget a good friend and hunting partner say to me once, “Blackbuck are really cool animals, but you can’t get much more than a sandwich off them.”
Though it was an exaggeration, his statement made me chuckle. No, they’re not the biggest game animal around, but there are several reasons why you ought to consider hunting them. Texas, in particular, is home to a large Blackbuck population in both free-range and high fenced settings, and pursuing them has long been popular for those seeking an exceptional animal and challenge.
Blackbuck antelope are known by several other names including Sasin, Kadiyal, Kala Hiran, and Indian Antelope. Native to India, Nepal, and Pakistan, their stunningly dark color, unique horns, and ability to thrive in warm climates have made them a staple for hunters. Texas and Argentina by far boast the largest imported population of Blackbuck. Released in the Texas Hill Country (Kerr County) in the early 1930s, Blackbuck antelope are the second-most-abundant exotic species in the Lone Star State behind axis deer.
Traits and Habits
Smaller than their Asian subcontinent counterparts, Texas Blackbuck have a maximum weight of around 85-pounds and a height of three feet. As the name suggests, mature bucks feature dark (often blackish) backs and shoulders contrasted by a white underside. The color contrast is also prominent in the face with white around the eyes and mouth. Does are typically brown to reddish-brown in color and don’t have horns. Bucks have permanent horns (not antlers) which they may shed. Known for their tall V-shape, horns can reach upwards of 30 inches. Their trademark ringed corkscrew design is both distinctive and majestic.
Blackbuck antelope greatly prefer open grassy spaces over rugged and heavily-wooded areas. If at all possible, they will gravitate toward shorter grasses and smaller types of brush for feeding. Ideally, they prefer to dwell in and around edge cover providing a quick escape, when needed.
Their incredible speed makes them nimble in the face of predators. In Texas, coyotes are the only predators that present any real threat to them. Further, Blackbuck antelope breeding can take place at any time of the year. With a gestation period of only about five months, does can breed within a month of giving birth. The result is not only good herd numbers, but horns appealing to the hunters that chase them.
Blackbuck antelope groups usually are made up of a dominant buck and a dozen or more does. The bucks are somewhat territorial and will assertively guard their domain from other males. At two- to two-and-a-half years old (physical maturity), young bucks often split from all-male groups to establish their own territory. Once they split, dominant males will devote the majority of their time steering does away from other males.
How to Hunt Blackbuck
Like with most exotics, Blackbuck Antelope can be hunted year-round in Texas. This is a beautiful thing for the sportsman and sportswoman biding their time between seasons for deer and other native species.
With a superior sense of hearing and eyesight, these wily game animals are extremely challenging to hunt. When coupled with their blazing speed, hunting Blackbuck on foot can be particularly taxing. Nevertheless, you can effectively hunt them using virtually any legal hunting method including safari style, spot and stalk, and from stands.
You can pursue this attractive animal with a variety of weapons including rifles, pistols, and bows. Whatever the approach, hunters must move cautiously, leverage cover, and make precise shots for success. Blackbuck are thin-skinned animals built for speed. Ideal rifle calibers include both lower ones (such as .243 and 6mm) to mid-range ones (such as 6.5mm or .270).
Hunters will find Blackbuck on many Texas ranches – primarily throughout the Edwards Plateau region. If you don’t have access to a lease or other such property, many Texas game ranches (both free-range and high-fenced) offer hunts with trophy fees usually ranging from $2,500-$4,000 for bucks and $400-$500 for does.
Culinary and Aesthetic Rewards
Blackbuck meat is considered one of the best of the antelope species – and that’s saying a lot. With about one-third the calories of beef, it’s lean and fairly easy to work with, as long as you avoid over-cooking it. Further, the venison from these agile animals has a veal-like texture and light flavor that’s ideal for a variety of table fare such as breakfast sausage, grilled backstrap, and stir-fried dishes.
Blackbuck are appealing to both the taste and the eye. Their vibrant hide and regal horns make for a stunning mount, regardless of horn length. Whether harvested via gun or bow or shed hunting, the horns alone make for a splendid display in the home, lodge, or office.
The last time I ate Blackbuck venison I did in fact have a sandwich (actually a burger). However, there was plenty of meat to spare and the tall, spiraled horns still strike up conversations to this day. Most of all, they conjure up beautiful images of this unique species of antelope roaming Texas.
If you haven’t done so, I recommend you arrange a hunt for one of these fleet-footed and delicious creatures. They will add a unique flair to your trophy wall. If you do, bring your favorite caliber or broadhead – and of course, patience.
Based in Texas, Jerald Kopp is President of 1st Light Hunting Journal. His articles cover a variety of topics about hunting and the outdoor lifestyle. Jerald is an avid outdoorsman with deer hunting and whitetails being by far his greatest passion. He was introduced to hunting and fishing at an early age and has been enjoying it for 40+ years. In 2005, he established the Empowerment Outfitter Network (EON) – a faith-based non-profit organization that provides hunting opportunities for disabled and terminally-ill children and youth. When not hunting, he spends his time traveling and enjoying life with Amy, his wife of over 30 years. Jerald and Amy have two adult daughters and a son-in-law.