Exotics: Blackbuck Cartridges

By Chuck Hawks

Texas blackbuck
Photo by John L. Tveten. Courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) is a medium-small antelope species that hails from India and, to a lesser extent, from Pakistan and Nepal. They have been introduced in various other places, including Argentina and Texas in the U.S., where they are hunted as exotics.

Blackbuck are very attractive animals. Females are tan or light brown on top and white underneath and males are brown to dark brown (nearly black) on top, white underneath, with white eye rings. The mature males have long, wide, ringed horns that grow in a tall "V" shaped pattern. These horns make three to four corkscrew twists in their length, which might reach 23" in Texas. (In India, where they are fully protected, blackbuck horns can be 28" in length.) Mature males average about 85 pounds in Texas and might reach 95 pounds on the hoof in India. Extremely large individuals can scale 125 pounds in either place.

These herd animals are delicate and seemingly playful creatures, quick in movement. They are usually found in fairly small groups of up to 20 individuals, led by a dominant male. Breeding can occur at any time of year and fawns are born throughout the year, although fewest are born in winter. Somewhat like the North American pronghorn antelope, blackbuck are naturally plains animals that can run at high speeds for long distances to evade predators. Their eyesight is excellent and their hearing is very good.

Blackbuck were first brought to Texas in 1932 and there are free ranging herds in the state, as well as in Argentina, but the great majority of Texas blackbuck are in hunting preserves and on fenced ranches. Blackbuck are said to be the second most common exotic in Texas, after axis deer.

Since the blackbuck and the pronghorn are similar in size, the same calibers are appropriate for either species. In Texas, blackbuck are commonly hunted from stands where a typical shot might be 100 yards and 200 yards would be a very long shot. For this reason a long range caliber is less necessary for hunting exotic blackbuck than it is for hunting native pronghorn antelope.

Please bear in mind that in all cases and for all calibers I am assuming that the hunter uses a bullet of adequate weight, sectional density and expansion characteristics for the cartridge recommended. I am also assuming that the hunter gets that bullet into a vital spot (usually the heart/lung area) of the blackbuck.

Blackbuck are thin-skinned, medium size animals built for speed. Soft point or plastic tipped bullets along the lines of the Hornady SST, Nosler Ballistic Tip, Remington Core-Lokt, Sierra GameKing and Winchester Power Point are appropriate. Appropriate bullet weights would be 90-100 grains in 6mm, 100-120 grains in .25 caliber, 120-140 grain in 6.5mm, 130-140 grains in .270 and 7mm, and 150 grain in the .30, .303 and 8mm calibers.

One of the real problems with cartridge recommendations is the vitality and state of mind of the individual animal when shot. Most hunters have noticed how relatively easy it is to kill a relaxed animal and how difficult it can be to stop an animal fleeing for its life. These are variables that are hard to account for in any list. For the record, all of the cartridge suggestions below assume a reasonably undisturbed animal, not one high on adrenaline.

It would be too cumbersome to list every possible blackbuck cartridge, and I would inadvertently leave out someone's favorite if I tried. The cartridges mentioned below are merely examples of satisfactory blackbuck cartridges. If a cartridge is not listed it does not mean it is not appropriate. Look for a cartridge with similar ballistics. If you find one, then the cartridge in question is also probably adequate.

Here are some possible blackbuck cartridges:

.243 Winchester, 6mm Remington, 6x62 Freres, .240 Weatherby Magnum, .250 Savage, .257 Roberts, .25-06, .257 Weatherby Magnum, .260 Remington, 6.5x55, 6.5mm Remington Magnum, 6.5x68, 6.8mm SPC, .270 Winchester, 7mm-08, 7x57, 7x64 Brenneke, .280 Remington, .30-30, .308 Marlin, .300 Savage, .308 Winchester, .30-06, .303 British, 8x57JS and similar cartridges.

Zeroed to take advantage of their maximum point blank range (+/- 3") these are all 200+ yard blackbuck cartridges with the recommended bullet weights. Remember that success is more a matter of where you hit them rather than how hard you hit them, particularly with a light framed but high endurance animal like a blackbuck. Make that first shot count!

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Copyright 2006, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.