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Part Two - Heart and Lung Shot Placement and Trophy Measurement

Trophy Judgement
This is always a controversial topic, with there being almost as many different methods of field estimation as there are PH’s, with different hunters having different methods that seem to work in their own locality. It must be appreciated that there are three different sub-species of elephant available to sportsmen (L.a. knockenhaueri in Somalia, Uganda and Tanzania: L.a. cyclotis in the Congo and C.A.R.: and L.a africana across the whole of the southern part of the continent), and numerous tribal variations even within these subspecies. In Zimbabwe, for example, there are three clearly defined tribes with regard to ivory. Valley elephants tend to be small of stature, and carry long thin ivory; Hwange/Matetsi elephants are large bodied and carry very short thick ivory, whilst the Gonarezhou/Kruger population carry long thick tusks. There are photographs of elephant whose tusks actually reached the ground in Northern Botswana. They look truly impressive walking in the bush, but the ivory weighs out at only about 75lbs a side. Many of these bulls stand only about 8' high at the shoulder and have particularly thin tusks. Similarly, many of the Matetsi elephants (from the Zimbabwe/Botswana border area) have tusks that barely protruded 4' from the lip, that weigh over 70lbs. The Northern subspecies also have considerably less tusk length embodied in the skull which confuses matters somewhat whilst others have very short nerve roots in the tusks, making them solid for a much greater proportion of their length. Generally though, for a hunter who is being guided by a professional, leave the estimation of the ivory weight to the PH. Local experience works much better than any calculation.

Article continues below.

For the citizen hunter who has to do his own estimation without help, the most reliable rough guide to estimating tusk mass for all the Southern subspecies is: Length of tusk protruding from the lip rounded off to the nearest half foot, times the diameter of the tusk at the lip in inches, less ten percent. NB. If the ivory is noticeably tapered, deduct 2lbs per foot of visible tusk. Eg. An elephant is showing 3˝’ of ivory with an estimated diameter of 14". The tusks have virtually no taper. Then 3.5 x 14 = 49 less 10% (4.9, call it 5) = 44lbs of ivory. If the tusks were very tapered then the calculation would be: 3.5 x 14 = 49 less10% (5) less 6(3x2) = 38lbs One shouldn’t be more than 5lbs out with this method, but the trick is estimating the diameter at the lip. If in doubt though, one can always practice estimating the diameter of trees and then measuring them to verify. Another suggestion that one of the most experienced PH’s gives to his apprentices is to measure the diameter of your leg, say just above and below the knee. You now have something you can wrap both hands around to quickly produce a visual impression of what (16" and 14", in my case), diameter objects actually look like. It is then relatively easy to estimate if the tusks are thicker or thinner than the known objects and so estimate the diameter at the lip to within an inch or so.

Trophy Measurement
  • Safari Club International: Method 19 - Elephant tusks
    1. Weight of tusk: Weigh each tusk to the nearest half pound.
    2. Total score: Total the weights.
      Minimum Score: 100 points

  • Rowland Ward: Method 16 - Elephant tusks
    1. Weigh each tusk to the nearest pound.
    2. Measure the length on the outside curve and the greatest. Circumference, of each tusk to the nearest 1/4".
    3. Rank on the weight of the heaviest tusk.
      Minimum score: 80lbs (on the heaviest tusk).

The last article in the series (Part Three), ‘recovery shots’ on wounded and departing animals, and calibre selection will be discussed.

Go to Page: 1 2 3 Related Articles: Hunting African Elephant Part 1
Hunting African Elephant Part 3
Fact File: African Elephant
Firearms: .375 on Elephant
African Hunter Vol.5 No.2 April 1999
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