Elephant Hunting in Namibia

Many hunters dream of the day they can relive one of Africa's oldest hunting traditions of toting a double rifle over their shoulder and taking on a beast the size of a double decker bus.

A big bull Elephant with 100 pound ivory tusks is considered by many as the ultimate African trophy, but these days anything over 40 pounds is still considered trophy quality.

The Caprivi strip region of North-east Namibia, has produced some big bulls due to the relative proximity of the large Botswana herds and their movement through the Caprivi into Angola. They travel great distances in search of food, and often follow a seasonal route covering hundreds of miles.

The Eastern Caprivi is an oasis for elephant, with rivers like the mighty Zambezi, Chobe, Kwando and Linyanti. Mamili National Park is the largest wetland area in Namibia that enjoys conservation status and so creating a protected zone for the fauna and flora living in this lush, complex marshland.

Dzoti hunting concession is one of the youngest registered conservancies but definitely one of the most promising Elephant hunting areas in Namibia. The area comprises of 250 kmĀ² and borders directly with three major National Parks. Contrary to popular opinion, Elephant hunting is not illegal and is permitted in African countries like Namibia, where their populations are stable, adequately protected and well managed. The biggest threat they face is not from trophy hunting, but from human encroachment into their habitat.

They are continual feeders, resting during the heat of the day and are destructive to their habitat if confined to certain areas, often destroying hundreds of trees. Their impact extends to the destruction of the habitat of other species as well, thus creating a serious dilemma for conservationists.

Elephant hunting is done mostly on foot by following promising fresh tracks until the animal is sighted. It is then determined if the tusks are of trophy size or not. Usually this type of hunting involves hours of walking only to be disappointed by a large bodied but small tusked bull.

Generally older larger bulls will have younger, more alert bulls in attendance and they often raise the alarm or cause problems by always seeming to be in the way of the larger bull. In most cases, an Elephant hunt is a psychological battle of endurance, patience and persistence with many blisters, sunburn and exhaustion.

The shooting part of the hunt is fairly quick, usually a brain shot is recommended at close quarters with heavy grain solids from a large bore calibre. The minimum is the .375 H & H which is a legal requirement in many countries. Most hunters prefer something heavier starting from .416 or .458 Magnum upwards with heavier double rifles being the best choice.

When facing the Elephant a frontal brain shot is one of the most difficult shots to master. The brain, the size of an American football, is situated well back in the skull. The actual point to aim at, for a frontal brain shot differs tremendously at the different angles the animal holds his head at the time of the shot.

With a side brain shot, the brain is situated in front of the ear hole, behind the eye and slightly above the zeugmatic arch. In short, any sort of brain shot on an Elephant is not easy. There are many things to consider before taking it! A broadsided heart / lung shot is a better bet when it is difficult to get in close to the elephant or there is little time to take the shot.

Score is taken from the weight of both tusks and they do vary quite considerably. It is not often that a good bull carries evenly matched ivory. Usually older bulls will wear down their favourite tusk digging and stripping bark, much in the same way we humans are either left or right handed.

A good set of tusks must protrude from the skin flap for at least a meter, usually much more depending upon the thickness. Remember a considerable portion of the tusk is hidden in the skin and skull bone, probably at least a third. The thickest part of the tusk is usually at the lip.

Despite their size, Elephants are worthy of their status and offer one of the most arduous hunting challenges available today.