Impala – the colours of Africa

Posted by on Jan 22, 2014 in The Faraway Blog | 0 comments

The Hunting Blog – Impala are a common game animal in any safari that involves savannah, and that means many hunters take them for granted. It’s a mistake, because those tan skins shaded with cream and black are among the most lovely to be found in Africa, and the rams (a male impala is a ram, not a buck) are elegance personified. In early winter when the rut is in full swing their hoarse croaking never fails to raise a tingle of excitement. During this frenetic time males are dazzled by hormones but ewes remain alert, so while you make your moves on a trophy, some canny old girl may still bust you with a wheezy snort of alarm.

Some make the mistake of comparing the very large-horned Eastern impala from Tanzania and the like with the Southern impala found across South Africa and nearby countries. It’s hardly a fair comparison as they are different species. The Black Faced impala is an unlikely proposition for a first time safari, but they (and the intermediate types) are interesting animals in their own right.

Whatever the species, look for solid bases, ridges that extend well beyond the beginning of the upward curve, and above all good long tips. The male illustrated is an exceptional Southern, just shading 26 inches.

All the world wants impala venison, and for good reason. Tender and lacking strong gamey qualities, it is along with eland one of the great delights of camp life. Predators agree, and impala, along with warthog, make prime leopard bait.

So here’s to the cheap and cheerful impala, the most underrated game animal on the Dark Continent.  It’s a lesson that is usually learned too late. Long after the safari has faded from memory, a crate will arrive from a distant port, and out will come an array of horns. Interesting in their own way, but already dull grey-black museum pieces. If you’re very lucky, somewhere at the bottom will also be a folded skin. When you open it, you’ll hold in your hand the sleek terracotta colors of pure, wild Africa, still lively and sleek as they were among the camel thorn.

And then you’ll remember everything.

Pete Ryan