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Feb 3-6 Nilgai centerfire

LostTexican

Member
Joined
Mar 27, 2022
Messages
36
Location
North West of ATL, GA
This is a long, wordy post.......It's hard to find info on these hunts, so I left my info here for someone else or just a passing time read:

Being from South Texas I put in for the draw hunts there every year for the last 15 years or so, I drew two nilgai hunts this last season. Both were successes.

A little about Nilgai; they are a very large Asian Antelope species from India. They were brought to south Texas in the mid 1920's to the famous king ranch, some say for food fare and others say as part of a circus that was sold there. Either way there are over 50k of them running across public and private lands in south Texas, mostly east of highway 69c.

Texas parks and wildlife division holds the draw for these hunts but they are managed entirely by the USFW on federal wild life refuges. With the permit you can kill as many as you want considering they're non native and in the area they're known for tearing up fences and crops. They are more cattle like than anything else I've eaten and hunted. If you do any reading on these animals you'll see that they are "hard to kill", I think they are just harder to hunt considering they act like a cat on a porch full of rocking chairs no matter where they are.

It does take a few years of selective applications to draw but it can be done by non residents. This is the 2nd and 3rd time I have drawn in the last 10 years. The first time I hunted these things with a bow on the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife refuge, wasn't successful but a few guys did kill them on that 8000+ acres spot. I drew a shotgun hunt in December and shot a young bull but lost it overnight and found it the next morning mostly ruined by coyotes. The 3rd hunt was a centerfire rifle hunt on a 6000+ acre refuge. All of these hunts are walk in/ bicycle only hunts. A lot of hunters will walk in and pop up a blind on the main roads or sit in a chair on the side of the main roads. The temps were still in the mid 80s and low 90s so rattlesnakes and mean critters are still out and about. On my scouting day before the actual hunt is open I stepped directly on a bull snake in the middle of the road of all places....we scared each other and he scurried up a tree (see pic). No harm but still nerve racking.

The temps dropped overnight and opening morning it was low 40's. These animals are not fond of cold weather and it doesn't elicit the same response that whitetail have with cold temps. I had a few spots on my map that I was going to systematically hit as the day/week progressed. The first spot was great, had cows and calves on me right away. They were all headed to bedding areas so I left all my gear at the spot I was sitting and followed them in with some distance. These animals are known to favor open fields to put their good eyesight to use but I can say personally I had more encounters and shot opportunities in the thick stuff than I ever have watching fields or roads like the typical hunters.
I found a mesquite tree flat and leaned up against one with my 45-70 and was there maybe 5 minutes before a group of bulls 4-5 started in and made their way to me. Knowing these animals have great eye sight and see orange I found the closest, best shot on a bull and didn't hesitate. I hit him in the vitals with a 420gr hard cast hand load, when he bucked and came back down I was on him again with another shot that hit him in the spine. I walked up and put one in the base of the skull to end the misery. The hide on the neck is the thickest there. My bull had just under an inch of hide. This is not blubber or fatty skin like elk or caribou. This is a hot weather animal and they don't carry fat like the animals I mentioned. They have short horns that they use to defend/fight during breeding season. The attached picture of the bullet is the one I peeled out of his throat from the 5 foot shot in to the base of his skull. That is insane when you think the other shots penetrated completely at 100 yards.

(Bulls don't breed until around 3.5-4 years old. When they start to aggress one another they will drop to their knees and hook their necks and start pushing each other around, it's not uncommon to find a dead bull with a broken neck from fighting or large puncture wounds at the base of their skulls from horns. )

Anyhow, I started cutting that bull up and since it was a nice bull I decided I'd have it mounted, so I caped it and bagged it all up. He weighed just under 500lbs if I were to guess and I felt it every step back to the car. I shot him about 2.5 miles back from the road, with all the running around that morning it was about 8 miles total boot distance before I was done. My father in law and myself always draw these hunts as a party application and hunt together. He had a game cart that I walked an extra mile to retrieve once I had the animal close to an area a cart would come in handy. Took all day to get it out of the woods in to a cooler. There is a pic attached to the thread of his backstraps, at the bottom of the pic is a finely trimmed backstrap from a whitetail for reference. These things are huge. comparable to a nice typical rocky mountain elk.

My father in law is getting older and has diabetes but is still an outdoorsy dude. He didn't see much action all week but has killed a few of these in the past on these draw hunts. He loves nilgai meat, so the goal was to shoot a few to completely fill his freezers for the next year. Unfortunately he can seldom get off those main roads I mentioned earlier. I told him I would hold off on shooting anything in hopes of him getting lucky, but if on the last day he hadn't dropped the hammer I would shoot anything I could for his freezer.

Knowing I had a pile of work on my hands with every one I shot, I went out the next day to just "get in to them" or watch them. There isn't much information on these animals and their behavior in natural areas. They are heavily hunted on private, high-fence ranches but not so much on these refuge hunts. Not to say I figured them out but I had over 60 encounters with nilgai in the next two days. Most guys hunt these animals and catch glimpses of these animals from far off or flashes of them crossing the road. I had an awesome time watching some rutting behavior and how they travel in herds. Their eye sight cannot be understated. In my few days of watching these animals inside 100 yards, they have a great nose but seem to prioritize it BEHIND their eyesight. I watched herds walk with the wind and even get down wind of me around 30-40 yards but didn't scare. Now If I blinked or even thought about blinking and those animals were inside 100 yards they would spook like turkeys. The cows play the same roll as most female ungulates and are the alarm beacon for the herd. They do this double take and if they see anything unsightly they let out this bark that sounds like drunk trombone player lol. Once the herd hears this, its all assholes and elbows as they all boogie out. They trust that bark like you trust your doorbell. I was lucky to hear this sound and witness this behavior. I had a few encounters with true trophy specimen bulls, I had them in the cross hair but being thankful for the bull I had and being out of cooler space I opted to just enjoy a rare thing. After eating that inner loin yesterday I regret not taking another, oh well.

I met a few of the other hunters out there and didn't hesitate to share my information on where I was seeing animals. My biggest tip was to get out of those pop ups on the roads and get in the brush and sit in the thick stuff really still. I met a pair of hunters that were father/son and the dad was having a tough time getting on animals. On the last day of the hunt I had to hit the road to make a work training event in Shreveport. I talked the dad to follow me out to where I had been seeing the larger herds and the most activity to see if we could get him on some animals. He was thrilled to get that close to them but learned really quick that he had to be ready for them a lot sooner. He missed out on a few cows but seemed content just finally getting on them. I tried to get in on some cows for my father in-laws freezer but I think the added pressure I brought with me to that little parcel they were on high alert and I had to be on the road by 10am.

These hunts are an amazing way of getting on exotic animals at low price points. I stayed in your typical roadside motel that was $60 a night in a town called Raymondville. I highly recommend more guys and gals put their name in the hat. The draw odds for first year success in the draws is around 1% but grows as your points are squared every year. If waiting is not in the cards I still think you should look in to an outfitted option. These hunts are fast and cheap in comparison to most western elk hunts. These hunts go year round and since they're exotic and the method of take is open ended. Most outfitters will run you about $3500 for a 2 day hunt. This entire hunt with taxidermy, fuel, food, hotel and all I am out about $2200.Nilgai meat is up there in terms of flavor and texture. I'd say its a close fight between it and elk meat any day. Some would say the nilgai is superior. I am just stoked to have a freezer full of it.
 

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RobertD

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 16, 2020
Messages
1,629
Location
Southwest Georgia (GA)
Great post. Really enjoyed it.

There is at least one regular on here who has done a similar hunt through the TPD draw. He had success as well, seems you guys can show folks a thing or two about these nilgai.

Edit, just saw you're from Georgia, what up 👊
 
Last edited:

Trap

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 17, 2021
Messages
432
Awesome. Thanks for posting. I was just learning about nilgai in Texas and starting to try and figure out a hunt. The draw hunts sounds way more interesting than a private ranch hunt.
 
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