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The .375 on Elephant - Brian Marsh

Always using my .470 for elephant during my cropping days on Nuanetsi with a Jeffery .404 as my reserve, I had no need to crop elephant with my peep-sighted Cogwell & Harrison .375 and only ever did this on one occasion. This rifle was fitted with a detachable ‘night’ scope which had two broad elevation pointers and single pointed upright which made it effective for cropping in moonlight, and I had used it to crop hippo on moonlight nights by ambushing them on their exit paths on the banks of the Lundi river.

There was a succession of bad droughts in the south-eastern lowveld in the early 1960s with a consequence that elephant emigrated in numbers from the Gona-re-Zhou onto the European-owned cattle ranches in search of water, causing in some cases a loss of valuable water and damage to troughs. Bruce Austen (mentioned earlier) was then warden of the south-eastern lowveld and I received a phone call from him early one morning requesting I go to the cold-storage ranch at Twiza to chase off four elephant bulls that were nightly breaking the fence around a paddock and half-emptying a storage tank.

“Shoot one of the bulls while they are at the tank,” said Bruce, “and the others will take the hint, and I’ll issue you with a cropping permit for it so you can keep the carcass and the ivory.”

It was just past the full moon, making it feasible for me to go that night, and I drove straight over to meet the manager and see the set-up - to find the pumphouse ideally situated for a night ambush on the tank. It was within easy shooting distance and there was an opening in the side wall through which I could shoot, and I returned that evening with my recovery team and vehicles and my night-scoped .375.

The ranch compound was adjacent to the paddock and I assumed the four bulls would not risk coming in till the inmates had settled down for the night, by which time the moon would have risen high enough to give sufficient light for me to shoot by, but in this I was wrong. I heard the fencing wire break shortly after the moon had risen and the four bulls came in, appearing in the gloom like four floating hulks being windblown slowly towards the tank.

I examined them through my binos when they stopped at the tank, which amplified what little light there was sufficiently to show me that one bull was clear of the others and standing directly side-on to me. I would have liked to have waited till the moon had risen higher but thought they might scent me and take off. I picked up my .375 and peered at the bull through the 2-1/2x scope. The sight picture in the reduced light of the scope made it appear that the bull had not moved, but in fact he had. He was now quartering towards me. I took aim at where I supposed the aiming mark on the shoulder would be and fired, and all four bulls stampeded through the fence opposite and into the mopane forest beyond.

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I now strained my ears to hear the bull fall, as I was sure he would, but heard not a sound, and after waiting till the moon was well up I walked to the fence where the bulls had broken through, still convinced that the bull must be down. I then walked slowly into the moonlit forest, staring at every suspicious-looking shadow and stopping often to listen, then walked a little further and stopped again, and after a while I came to a clearing some 25 metres wide where I stopped yet again to listen, unaware that the wounded bull was standing in the shadows at one side of the clearing. I took another slow pace forwards into the clearing, whereupon the bull became aware of my presence and he turned around so that his head was towards me, the moonlight reflecting white upon his tusks.

I swung up the rifle up to my shoulder and fixed the two gleaming tusks in my scope, which now, due to the magnification, seemed to be suddenly at the end of my barrel and for an instant I thought he was charging.

I could not see the elephant clearly in the shadows, but I could clearly see his tusks, and taking an aim at where I supposed the centre of his chest would be, I kept on firing till the bull collapsed.

I was now able to see that my 300-grain Kynoch solid had not taken the bull in the shoulder, as I had supposed, but had squarely struck the bone of the upper foreleg, which had cracked, and by God’s good grace had broken while the bull was running and which had brought him to a halt. On butchering him I found my bullet had not penetrated the bone at all, completely disintegrated on impact instead, and had his leg bone not cracked and subsequently broken I would probably have never seen him again.

My advice to the tyro professional hunter is not to hunt elephant with a .375. And to the inexperienced citizen sport hunter using a .375 on elephant, to use only monolithic solids and to aim for the correct place on the shoulder to ensure he severs the main arteries above the heart.

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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