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Hunting Eland
That Elusive Quarry
Richard Kostkas
~The acute angle of the winter sun did not require my checking the time. Sadly, remaining hunting time was almost at an end. This day was the final day of our sixteen day safari. Again we had failed to close on the wily game we tried so hard to take these past six days. And this elusive master of hide and seek stands taller than a horse, and can weigh on the hoof upwards of two thousand pounds. By now, you who are Africa spell-bound as I am, know of whom I speak, the magnificent eland.~

PH Graham Hingeston of HHK Safaris and author with eland.
PH Graham Hingeston of HHK Safaris and author with eland.

There are among us, we hunters of game animals, those who prioritise the hunting first, and the collection of same, as secondary, in the motivation that drives each of us to the extremes of effort we sometimes expend, in pursuit of our goals. To those of you who yield to the first motivation, and I do not condescend to the other, try hunting the eland. You may be exasperated, but not disappointed in the quality of the chase. And I further qualify that preference by suggesting you “hunt them on purpose”, as Craig Boddington, the prolific hunting scribe so stated in regard to eland hunting and further described this animal as one of the consummate challenges in hunting the spiral horned species. In his latest book, Where Lions Roar, he freely admits that his Lord Derby Eland was by far his best African trophy to date.

From discussions with other successful eland hunters, I agree with Boddington, “that most eland are taken as incidental to the hunt for other species”.

The eland we were working so hard to collect, was the “Livingstone” variety, so named after the famed explorer of the Rhodesian wilderness. There is the larger version, the so-called “Lord Derby” eland, a much larger animal found in Central Africa, home of the Bongo, Dwarf Buffalo, and other specialized species, and in Zambia, Tanzania, and Kenya, etc., is the “East African” eland. And in South Africa, a smaller in body eland exists, the “Cape Eland”. Although this can change, as all things in Africa will in these times, eland occur from South Africa north through Mozambique to Kenya and the southern Sudan, and then west to Chad and Senegal. They breed in the months from July to November, producing one calf, after a gestation period of about eight and a half months.

However, an eland is an eland when it comes to their inherent wildness, and the ability to detect the human smell that sends them off on their galloping sprints that can cover many miles in just a few minutes. If and when they slow down to a walk, and if you are still in range, i.e. considering the time of day as a prime consideration for continued tracking, your best efforts can again be thwarted by the fickle wind. Whirling currents and eddying gusts can defy the skills of Africa’s finest trackers. The eland has a sense of smell and acute hearing that is legendary. Your feet will smart and unconsciously drag with increased effort, as a dry branch snaps underfoot, sounding the alarm to all within earshot, and with your facial expression, you sheepishly apologized to your annoyed P.H., and the startled trackers. It is hard hunting, pure and simple, requiring total concentration, and the presence of mind to take advantage of a situation that may be marginal and fleeting in the African bush. I have heard tell that this animal is not hard to kill, and will drop more than likely, to the well placed shot - if a reasonable calibre is utilized. And also, I have heard tell, and read in various accounts of other’s hunts, that were fraught with concern for a potentially lost trophy, of eland taking multiple hits from heavy calibres, before succumbing to the fusillade.

Article continues below.

The tracking was going well, as the soil in this section left sharp imprints of the eland’s hooves. We now had two hours invested, as the eland were continuously moving, although at a leisurely feeding pace. The broken branches from their horns were numerous along the circuitous route they had taken since early this morning.

An animal of importance, deserves special consideration, and in this respect regarding calibre used, I offer just this; use a premium bullet (and there are many), with enough mass, to ensure penetration of those massive shoulders, or on a quartering shot, it must be capable of entering the heart/lung area after passing through much non-vital anatomy. As a consideration in point, my eland, a fully mature bull of silver medallion quality (SCI), dropped within twenty yards to one well placed .416 calibre, 350 grain Swift bullet handloaded by myself. As Finn Aagaard, the writer said, as well as Craig Boddington, “this is a bullet placement game”, and killing power mystique is over emphasized by the promoters of new calibres, and their respective firearms. However, it makes for interesting reading, and I confess to succumbing to this heady wine, leading to new unnecessary guns, many times, and as an inveterate gun nut... I will continue to do so.

At the opening scenario of this article, our long day began at dawn, when we found fresh eland bull tracks, and terminated (for the eland) at 3.30pm, with an estimated twenty-five miles covered on foot, through mixed thorn brush, grassy savannas, and mopani woodlands. The dry toast and coffee gulped down in the pre-dawn chill, by mid-day, had long since burned off any caloric intake that represented, and I was into my reserves, as the rumbling from my stomach objected. Once on the track, we did not stop as this was an all out effort to close the gap with the eland, after being repeatedly foiled the previous five days. As an experienced Pennsylvania deer hunter of public lands, this was awfully familiar. But it was not to be! Not this Safari. The perfect .375 H%H I especially built just for eland, maintained its virginity. Two previous Safaris did not produce an eland. However, I qualify that, as we did not, at any time, ... dedicate any substantial time for eland. And to improve your chances for success, this you must do.

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You might be a big game hunter if you park behind your desk in downtown Houston, 15 floors above the millings on the street below, close your eyes and perfectly sense the distinctive aroma of crackling mopane wood, and know there is a reason you "race the rats". ~ Clay Bryant
African Hunter Vol.5 No.4 August 1999
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