Elephant are considered by many to be the most dangerous of the Big Five hunts. They are also among the most exciting. Typically, elephants are shot a point blank range, 20 yards or closer requiring a precise bullet to the brain, an elusive target especially for novice hunters. Since elephants are herd animals, there is always the danger of herd members catching scent or suddenly charging, as was the case in this tragic event. A large herd bull with cows and calves is especially dangerous as pachyderms are very protective of their young.
I experienced the thrill of this close encounter in Botswana on a bowhunting safari over the July 4th weekend 20 years ago. As Luke Blackbeard and I enjoyed coffee around the morning campfire, he inquired, “Isn’t July 4th a holiday in the US? Is there something special you’d like to celebrate?” My tags were nearly filled so I thought for a moment and replied. “I’d like to stalk close enough to an elephant to have my picture taken with it.”
This was 18-year-old Blackbeard’s first year as a Professional Hunter and with youthful enthusiasm and novice hunter inexperience we set out. We drove in the Toyota Land Cruiser to an areas that looked like a war zone. Trees were smashed in every direction and we soon picked up fresh elephant tracks, the oval prints much larger than my hat. Blackbeard constantly checked the wind and cautioned me to make as little noise as possible. Eventually, he spotted two young bulls standing in a patch of trees. He cupped his hands to my ears and whispered the need for absolute silence. One step at a time, we sneaked closer until we were 30 yards from the unsuspecting animals. I handed the camera to Blackbeard and he took just two pictures due to the sound of the shutter. We backed away as quietly as we had approached and my 4th had the best fireworks of all.
Aren’t They Endangered?
It depends… National Parks in Southern Africa are overpopulated with elephants who feed on the leaves of trees in the dry season. When all the reachable foliage is consumed, they break down trees to reach the top leaves. Large trees are often stripped of their bark by bulls that use their tusks to push them over. Even if the tree is too large to dislodge, the lost of bark kills it.
Central African elephant populations are down, due primarily to loss of habitat. Remember rural villagers live in houses made of elephant food. If you think rabbits and deer are a nuisance around your home, imagine what a herd of elephants can do.
Here are the facts as reported on The Outdoor Hub:
A big game hunter was killed during a hunt in Africa last week when an elephant fell on top of him and crushed him to death. News24 reports that Theunis Botha, 51, was hunting in Zimbabwe when he and a group of men hunting alongside him came across a group of breeding elephants. What followed was like a WWE cage match in the jungle, as three elephants instinctively charged the hunters. In the heat of the drama, Botha fired off a shot at the elephants, but was then lifted off the ground by a fourth elephant that charged from the other side.