Sable are my most favourite plains game species without a doubt. They are stately and regal. Dignity in the animal Kingdom personified. I have been fortunate to guide Safaris for a number of these jet black, scimitar horned bulls every year in Northern Mozambique. However, more often than not, a client seeing his first sable bull is often blown away at just how beautiful the animal is, and doesn't pay all that much attention to what constitutes a trophy bull. That's understandable as they are a sight to behold!
In my opinion, the most important thing to look for in your trophy bull is the presence of secondary growth around the base of the horns. This denotes an old animal. A former Zim Parks ecologist once told me that sable bulls only start this around 5-6 years of age. As hunters we want to target animals with as much of this as possible. This is characterized by a slight swelling at the base of the horns and the prominent ridging starting to fade into this mass.
Secondly, length. Sable are easier to judge than, say kudu, as it's a horn that sweeps straight back, and there are no tricky spirals to figure out. A mature bull’s ears are about 9 inches long, so if your target animal has 4 ear lengths of horn you know roughly that the fellow is knocking around the 36 inch mark. If he has more horn than this it should be straight forward to figure out roughly how big he is.
Sable horns differ in other ways too. Some bulls might be 'tall in the arch' or their tips might descend. These all add inches. Also how much of a curl does he have? With practice it's pretty easy to sort the wheat from the chaff.