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Hunting Eland - Richard Kostkas
Tracking the eland in typical Lowveld conditions.
Tracking the eland in typical Lowveld conditions.

About 9.30am, Majohra, head tracker for Graham Hingenston, P.H. and President of H.H.K. Safaris, identified five bulls travelling together that had crossed within the hour into the adjacent square. Peeling off excess clothes, I checked my gear and was ready to engage the chase once more. My daughter Susan was with me as an observer, and together, the five of us took up the spoor.

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.

We eventually passed through the entire width of this land section, and it was evident the five bulls had crossed into the adjoining section.

Graham and his trackers discussed the situation, and turning to Susan and I, he said, “Dick, Majohra will go back and fetch the vehicle. We need to drive to the other side of this section, and see if the eland are still here.”

Within the hour, we were driving the bordering road of the northern side of this section, and much to our relief, it was devoid of eland sign. The bulls were still in the new section. At this point, Graham decided to return to camp for lunch, and return to the initial entry point of the bulls in this section, and pick up where we left off in the tracking. By delaying the chase, hopefully the animals would bed down, and we could then approach from downwind, undisturbed. We would return about 3pm or so. The strategy worked, as at 5pm, after two hours of fairly easy spooring, the resting eland were positioned in a screen of brush and acacia trees about one hundred yards directly ahead of us.

Graham set up the shooting sticks which normally I decline, but in this instance, I was glad I used them. For the life of me, I could not make out the animals at first, despite the advantage of peering through an incredibly bright Zeiss rifle scope. Majohra, the tracker, was obviously very happy and pleased with the situation. “Graham, I still can’t see them”, I hissed almost panicky. He kept orienting me in a faint whisper, to the spot, and with great relief, I finally saw a swishing tail. It is just amazing how well they blend in with the landscape, especially to an untrained eye. For thirty long minutes, with my arms now beginning to fatigue, I maintained a shooting position. My greatest concern was to identify and shoot the right bull. Without warning, they began to move. An obviously large bull was on the extreme left, apart from the others. Without looking beyond him, I centred the crosshairs just behind the left shoulder, as he was slightly quartering from me.

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At the sharp crack of the .416 Remington, animals were everywhere, and due to the effect of recoil and this distraction, I lost sight of my eland. However, Graham and the others were vocal at this point, and grinning from ear to ear. “He’s down Dick... just over there... to the right of the big tree”, Graham was yelling and moving forward towards the eland now obviously down. At a trot, I covered the distance quickly, and there he was... with his entire body mass prostrate, and now fully visible in the waning afternoon sunlight. What a sight! I was totally thrilled!

Carefully approaching the downed bull it was evident he had succumbed quickly, which always leaves me with a good feeling. I caressed the beautiful tan coat and marvelled at this animal’s exceptional beauty. He was a magnificent specimen in his prime, with spiral horns perfectly matched, and after the drying period, both were just shy of thirty-six inches. The trackers and Graham returned to retrieve the vehicle and also get additional camp help to assist in loading the carcass, which probably exceeded fifteen hundred pounds. I stayed at the kill site with the game scout from Naunetsi Ranch. It was well after dark when we saw the distant lights of the Toyota, and by shouting back and forth, they found us. Now beginning to feel the cool night air after the exertion of the day and excitement of the kill, I was ready for something to drink besides water.

On returning to camp, everyone was in a jubilant mood. My “holy grail of the eland quest” was now over. But no doubt... when in Africa, I would do this again.

The next morning we were on our way north-west again to finish up the lion hunt, and with fresh eland meat to replace our old baits. I sincerely felt this hunt will have been successful despite the outcome of the cat hunt, which by the way, had some seriously dangerous but delicious experiences, but that is another story.

Africa always delivers in its opportunity for adventure and excitement. It has never failed me!

Each of the major animal species when taken on an individual basis, is special, and when considered in that light, as opposed generically, i.e. as plains game, you then really begin to appreciate their uniqueness. And the eland satisfies in so many ways. He is large, crafty, beautifully horned, and challenging to hunt. They are truly superb animals! They are certainly worthwhile coming to Africa to hunt, even to the exclusion of everything else.

Now... if I can only finagle a way to get up to C.A.R. or thereabouts, to try for one of those glorious Lord Derby Eland. It never ends! Isn’t it wonderful? For those of you who are now converted.... “good hunting!”

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You might be a big game hunter if you are known among your circle of friends by the score of your Kudu ~ Eric Harting
African Hunter Vol.5 No.4 August 1999
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