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The .375 on Elephant - Brian Marsh

To my knowledge the .375 H&H Magnum has been proven by five experienced professionals to be a suitable calibre for the hunting of elephant, whether for the citizen sport hunter who may shoot only one elephant in his lifetime (provided he knows exactly where to place his bullet) and for the experienced professional, but I confess to a few doubts to its suitability when the newly licenced professional is not yet experienced. I was privileged to be given a preview of Lust for Life (shortly to be released by Safari Press, California), the adventures of professional hunter Sten Cedergren who hunted through the ‘golden era’ of safari in East Africa and retired from professional hunting in 1997 at the age of 78. Sten commenced his African hunting as a problem animal control officer in Kenya in the 1950s, and had this to say about his elephant rifles:

“Shooting elephant cows and young bulls with the .470 was fine, but I soon realized when going after the big bulls in very dense bush, or the close bamboo forests on Mount Kenya and the Aberdares, that I needed something bigger... On my next visit to Nairobi I went again to Shaw & Hunter and was shown a beautifully balanced Westley Richards .500 Nitro Express boxlock non-ejector with 24-inch barrels, and once I had that rifle in my hands I knew I had to have it.”

The .500 NE fires a 570-grain bullet at 2150fps - the same velocity as the 500-grain .470 bullet - which Sten considered inadequate for big bulls in thick bush... Sten also raised a point about relative ‘knock-down power’ which I think is worth recording. He tells of an elephant hunt where his Mexican client took a head-shot on his elephant:

“‘Shoot,’ I hissed, and the client’s .375 boomed, and at the bullet’s impact the bull’s hindquarters sagged a bit, but he quickly recovered, turned around and in an instant the bushes were closing behind him... We found afterwards that my client’s 300-grain solid .375 bullet had only just missed the brain and had he been using a larger calibre with a heavier bullet, the shot would probably have stunned the bull and he would have gone down, giving the client sufficient time to close in and finish him off.”

Sten brought the bull down, but had his bullet not connected it is highly likely that they would never have seen it again. When an elephant escapes from a misplaced brain-shot it just goes and goes and goes, and the chances of the hunter ever catching up with it are about nil.

To my mind there is no hunting offence more immoral than to let an animal escape wounded due to the hunter being inadequately armed. To allow an elephant to escape wounded to die a lingering and painful death, or to recover with hate in its heart and become a man-killer, is nothing short of a crime if the hunter lost it in the first place because he was inadequately armed, and I believe that the inexperienced professional hunter who carries a .375 as his back-up weapon when hunting elephant, is inadequately armed.

Bull taken using Bruno .375.
17 year-old Chris Falkenberg with his bull elephant
taken in the Rifa Safari area using a Bruno .375.

No safari client of mine ever lost an elephant wounded. I lost a couple when cropping elephant in my tyro days which led me to embrace the infallible when I entered the safari field. As we all know, the brain-shot is considered to be the classical shot on elephant and I would tell my clients that they must go for this shot and explain how to do it. But then I would also explain that a brain-shot elephant collapses instantly, and if it was still on its feet the instant after he had fired, that he had missed the brain and it was wounded, then it became my duty to put in an immediate following shot to stop it from escaping. When the client came into the aim for the brain, I came into aim for the shoulder, and if the elephant’s shoulder was still in my sights immediately after the client fired, I would pull the trigger. I do not subscribe to the philosophy that it’s the client’s animal, he has paid for it, and he has the right to demand that his PH does not shoot it. The prime hunting ethic is that a hunter makes a quick, clean kill and ensures that there is minimal suffering, and this ethic must supersede any demand that a client may make.

Article continues below.

The inexperienced citizen sport hunter using a .375 on his elephant may do well to take heed of the fact that Harry Manners took The Monarch of Murapa, a truly massive elephant bull, with a single side-on shoulder shot with his .375. If properly placed, and we must suppose that every hunter knows exactly where to place his bullet, this shot will sever the main arteries coming out of the heart and will very quickly bring the elephant down. John ‘Pondoro’ Taylor writes that he preferred the shoulder shot on an elephant if he was tackling a single bull, and the Rhodesian between-wars professional ivory hunter, Crawford Fletcher Jamieson, records the same in his diaries which I was privileged to read. Both asserted that the shoulder shot offered the largest and safest target, and if properly placed, and its a big enough target for there to be no excuse for it not to be properly placed, your bullet will always bring the elephant down, generally within 100 metres.

Go to Page: 1 2 3 4 Related Articles: Hunting African Elephant Part 1
Hunting African Elephant Part 2
Hunting African Elephant Part 3
Fact File: African Elephant
African Hunter Vol.5 No.2 April 1999
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