For a hunter on a plains game hunt, a zebra is a popular trophy. Hunters interested in hunting zebras in Africa should know that there are various types of zebra.
Burchell’s Zebra, or plains zebra; found in Angola, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Grant’s Zebra; located west of the Luangwa River in Zambia, and throughout Tanzania.
Crawshaw’s Zebra; east of the Luangwa River in Zambia, northern Mozambique, and southeast Tanzania.
Mountain Zebra -There are two subspecies of mountain zebra.
The Burchell’s zebra is the most commonly hunted of the species. It can be hunted on private ranches in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. In South Africa, the Limpopo Province is the premier destination for hunting zebra in Africa. There are no seasonal restrictions on South African zebra hunting, so they are a suitable trophy all year around.
A Burchell’s zebra has several features that differ from other species. It has what is called shadow stripes on its hide. These are faint stripes between the more pronounced black stripes and can appear to be brownish in many instances.. These animals are more gregarious than the other species and tend to herd in large groups when there is good grazing. They can often be found in the company of wildebeest and /or eland and have been seen mixing with Cape buffalo.
A typical herd consists of a single stallion with several females and foals in tow. When the young males become mature, they are kicked out of the herd and form bachelor herds until they are old enough to push the old stallions out of the breeding herd. Burchell’s zebras are water dependent, seldom found far from a source. They make yearly migrations to areas with water as the old sources dry up.
A stallion can reach up to five feet at the shoulder and weigh 850 pounds, or more. The mares are only a bit smaller, which makes sexing the animal difficult. Many mares have been killed; the hunter mistaking them for stallions, and the reverse as well.
Mountain zebra and Hartman’s zebra live in much rougher terrain, typically in smaller herds. They normally prefer grass but will browse on twigs and bushes if grass is scarce. They get necessary water by digging in dry riverbeds, and opening old waterholes when water is scarce. Their habitat encompasses south-western Angola, Namibia, and South Africa. The western mountains of Namibia are an ideal area to hunt Hartman’s zebra. The Khomas Highlands, located in the central highlands of Namibia, and centered around the capitol city of Windhoek are well known as an ideal area to hunt Hartman’s zebra in Namibia. Another good area is in the Kalahari Desert, especially near the small village of Aroab in southern Namibia.
Zebras have no horns and are not trophy hunted in the same way as horned plains game. The Safari Club International has no listings for zebra in their trophy book. Because their hide is so spectacular, their trophy value is judged by its quality, size, and coloration. Older stallions usually have hides that are scarred from fights with other males, and encounters with predators like lion, hyena, leopard, cheetah, crocodile, and African wild dogs. Some hunters want a zebra hide with little, or no scarring. Their best choice is to go for a younger animal or a mare. However, an old male, replete with battle scars, and close encounters of the predator kind, makes for a colorful trophy.
The best method for hunting zebra is normally the spot and stalk. Zebras are fairly prolific, and locating a herd is relatively straightforward. They are most active during the early morning or late afternoon hours, and can be found traveling to, or away from a water source. If they are in open terrain, a stalk can be quite difficult as they have excellent eyesight and the herd will be watching diligently for danger. The males have a habit of hanging back at the rear of the herd, so they often present a good shot opportunity. If a shot presents itself at all, it could be in excess of 200 yards.
Another hunting method involves checking water holes for spore and tracking the zebra from there. Providing forage is ample, they will move away from the water hole, browsing as they go. Always be aware of the wind, though, as they can scent humans from a long way out. Keep the wind in your face, and, depending on the thickness of the bush, you should be able to approach quite closely. Zebra make a bit of noise when they move, so you should be able to hear them, even if the bush is too thick to see them until you are right on top of the herd.
If you can get close to a herd of zebra, be aware that you may only have a very short window of opportunity to shoot. If the animals are out on the open plains you should have more time to get on the shooting sticks and get a well-aimed shot off.
An 800-pound zebra stallion is a large plains game animal. They aren’t as tough as eland or wildebeest, but they are deserving of some respect when it comes to caliber consideration. Rifles in the .270 to .300 range, like the 7mm Remington Magnum, or the .308 Winchester are adequate for hunting zebra in Africa, but only when premium ammunition is used. Choices include Nosler’s Trophy Grade Ammunition loaded with a 168 grain AccuBond bullet for the 7mm Remington Magnum, or Federal’s Premium Vital-Shok loaded with a 180 grain Nosler Partition for the .308 Winchester. With these calibers, bullet placement must be perfect.
A lot of zebra hunts are add-ons to hunts for larger plains game, or dangerous game like Cape buffalo, or elephant, where a heavier caliber rifle will be carried. This rifle, caliber from .375 to .458, would certainly be more than ample for a large zebra stallion. The .375 H&H Magnum, the .375 Ruger, or the big .375 - the .375 Weatherby Magnum with a well-constructed 270 or 300 grain bullet - would take a zebra anywhere out to 350 yards. A .416 – be it Remington, Ruger, or Weatherby – is like a .375 on steroids. Bullet weight is 400 grains for all three .40 calibers. You do your part and any one of these will put a zebra right in the dirt. Granted, 5,000 foot-pounds of muzzle energy is a bit overkill, and can leave a big hole for the taxidermist to play with, but it will certainly do the job. Plus, if the shot isn’t perfect, there will be two large holes leaving a blood trail. This author used a .416 Ruger on an old stallion and didn’t have to walk very far to get to the trophy.
A lot of PHs will instruct first time zebra hunters to take the “Sergeant’s Shot”. This is where the leg stripes join the body stripes and form an inverted “V” at the junction, similar to a sergeant’s chevron stripe on his uniform shirt collar. This will work, taking out the lungs or heart, but it has a slight drawback. If the animal is facing any direction other than broadside, this shot can be a bit too far forward. A better shot is to follow the back of the foreleg up one-quarter of the zebra’s body. This also will be a heart-lung shot, but it allows a bit more error if the shot is a little off. Pick a specific stripe and call the color. A neck shot will put the animal right down, but it requires knowledge of the spine’s location. If the only available shot is a “Texas Brain Shot” (rear of zebra), place the bullet right above the juncture of the tail and body. This will break the spine, and allow a finishing shot from a better angle.