Limpopo Dangerous Game
Note that not all species of dangerous game that we offer on safari are available in all provinces in which we hunt. Rather, availability of dangerous game is province-specific. Therefore, please contact us regarding your dangerous game preferences and associated lead times and we will discuss all possibilities with you in detail.
On the African sub-continent there are 7 species of game that are generally classified as “Dangerous Game.” This includes the traditional “Big 5”, consisting of Cape buffalo, lion, elephant, leopard, and rhinoceros plus the addition of hippo and crocodile. We hunt all 7 species across a wide range of biomes.
Dangerous game, and especially the Big 5, receive worldwide scrutiny from a game management perspective. This is to say that, for the most part, the population numbers of these species, as well as the breadth of their natural range, has been declining over the past few decades. Primarily, this is due to shrinking habitat (humankind has a tendency to take all the best land for its own purposes), disease, poaching (illegal hunting), human/animal conflict in a domestic setting, and (for predators) a decline in the number of prey animals. Controlled lawful sport hunting as a conservation management tool has never been linked to declining population numbers. In fact, as individual animals mature and then decline they die of some natural cause irrespective of the role of the hunter. So, it is this naturally occurring surplus that hunters tend to harvest. In addition, the license fees hunters pay for the privilege of harvesting this surplus are the financial backbone of the game conservation effort.
Considering the fact that these species receive worldwide scrutiny, the ability to hunt these species, and especially the ability to export them out of the country where they were harvested, is controlled by national and in some instances international regulations. These regulations are often based upon political considerations more so than science-based conservation principles. Moreover, these regulations often change over time, so it is worthwhile to keep up to date on regulations affecting the species you may most want to hunt. Please contact us for the latest information and lead times on booking a safari for any of these species.***
We wish to emphasize that while we have categorized these 7 species as “Dangerous Game”, hunters should realize that any hunted species represents some level of danger. The plains game animals of Africa fight hard for survival, for breeding rights, and sometimes for territory. Thus, they are by nature quite tough. Especially, all wounded animals with horns, claws, or teeth, should be approached with extreme caution. Even the bushbok (smallest of the spiral horned antelope at 175 pounds) can be very aggressive.
The hunting of dangerous game requires a rifle of larger caliber than plains game. In most African countries, and certainly within South Africa, the minimum caliber required is .375 (the .375 Winchester being disallowed). A quality bullet with a sectional density of .300 or better is preferred. This caliber will handle all of the dangerous game if the first shot is properly placed, however the .375 is by no means a “stopping cartridge”. If the hunter can handle the additional recoil a .416 is a much preferable choice, especially when dealing with large, heavily-built animals like elephant, buffalo, rhino, and hippo. And for elephant, a .416 is still capable, but a larger caliber like the .470 or any of the .500’s is superior. However, and this cannot be stressed enough, irrespective of the caliber, the hunter must be able to make the first shot the killing shot.
***NOTE: This section of the website is not meant to be a treatise on the complexity of these issues, as space simply won’t allow it. To learn more about how hunting is affected by international influence visit the websites of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora & Fauna: www.cites.org) and IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature: www.iucn.org)
CAPE BUFFALO (Syncerus caffer)
The Cape Buffalo is a large African bovine, black in color and carrying a heavy-set pair of horns. Actually, the underlying skin is gray in color, but the short thin growth or black hair covering the skin gives the appearance of being black.
Both the bulls and cows carry horns. The adult’s horns are its characteristic feature; they have fused bases, forming a continuous boney shield across the top referred to as a “boss”. Females lack the massive boss often carried by mature bulls, but the cows can also grow an impressive set of horns that reach lengths in excess of 50 inches, thus making either sex a worthwhile trophy. Both cows and bulls are very adept at using these horns in defense of themselves and their calves. The horns form fully when the animal reaches the age of 5-6 years. However, as the horn is derived from matted hair (correctly called “keratin”) the bases of the horn (which will form the hardened boss with age) is still soft, has a pulpy texture and at this stage of growth is more gray in color and not yet jet black like the hardened portion of the horn.
Owing to its highly unpredictable nature, which makes it extremely dangerous to humans, the Cape Buffalo has never been domesticated, unlike its counterpart the Asian water buffalo. On some occasions individual buffalo will seem to be happily grazing with nothing more on their mind than filling their bellies. On other occasions, and for no apparent reason, they will charge without provocation. Other than humans, Cape Buffaloes have few predators other than lions, and the occasional large adult crocodile. It usually takes several lions to take down a mature buffalo, and the lion is taking on a huge risk in doing so.
The Cape Buffalo is a very large robust species. Were it not for its short stocky legs it would stand much higher at the shoulder than its normal height of 5.5 feet (large bulls). Larger specimens will reach 10-11 feet in length. A big bull will weigh as much as 2,200 pounds. The front hooves are larger than the back hooves as the anterior end of a buffalo is heavier and more powerful than the posterior end.
The Cape Buffalo is one of the most successful grazers in Africa. Herds of buffalo mow down stiff grasses thus making way for more selective grazers such as several species of antelope. The buffalo occupies a wide range of habitat; from swamps and floodplains to savannah grasslands, mopane forests, and dense mountainous terrain. It prefers dense cover such as reeds and thickets. Getting into this type of cover with a buffalo herd and sorting out the single animal to shoot can be quite the challenge. Having a big herd storm off in a cloud of black bodies and dust mere yards in front of you can be quite the adrenaline rush.
The size of herds can range from just a dozen or so animals to many hundreds of animals. The core of the herd is made up of related females and their offspring. These herds are typically surrounded by sub-herds of subordinate males, high-ranking males, other females, and old or invalid animals. However, any animal that has been “blooded” will be ousted from the herd. This is a “herd survival tactic” as the herd knows that the smell of blood is what draws predators. So, they will not allow a wounded buffalo to remain.
During the dry season, males split from the herd and form bachelor groups. There are usually two types of these bachelor groups: ones made up males aged 4-7 years old, and those old males of 12 years or older. These latter groups will contain the old “Dagga Boys” of historical legend. With the onset of the wet season the younger bulls will return to the herd in an attempt to mate with the females. The old Dagga Boys past breeding age will stay to themselves.
An interesting aspect of buffalo herd behavior is their apparent altruism. It is said that females exhibit a sort of “voting behavior.” During a rest some of the females will stand, shuffle around, and lie back down again. They lie in the direction they feel the herd ought to move. This movement is communal in nature and not based upon hierarchy. After a period of time, and when apparent consensus is reached, the herd will move off in the direction in which most of the females “voted”.
When chased by predators (mostly lions) the herd will gather together in a tight-knit group with the calves in the middle. When directly threatened they will mob a single attacker and have been known to kill individual lions. They have been known to chase lions up trees and keep them isolated there for as long as two hours.
In hunting buffalo heavy emphasis is placed on realizing that buffalo usually need to water twice each day. It is not considered a good idea to hunt them directly at a waterhole site as doing so will negatively affect herd behavior and actually, over time, make the hunting all the more difficult as the buffalo will resort to strictly watering at night. Rather, it is beneficial to know (if possible) where buffalo water and try to intercept them along some path quite some distance from their habitual watering places. When water sources are numerous this can be quite a challenge. The other technique is simply to look for buffalo tracks along a dusty road and pursue those tracks if the tracks indicate the presence of a decent bull. After a herd is located and the distance is closed to adequate shooting range one of the biggest challenges is sorting out the one buffalo you want. Buffalo have decent eye sight, and their hearing and sense of smell is superb. Being a herd animal, there are a lot of eyes, noses, and ears to defeat. Oftentimes a herd will have to be approached many times before a shot can be taken.
A .357 magnum rifle is adequate for buffalo. If this is the hunter’s caliber choice, a quality bullet with a sectional density approaching or exceeding .300 should be chosen. Because the first shot is often taken when an animal is herded up with other buffalo the first bullet should be a “soft” to minimize the risk of a pass-through bullet striking another animal. The remaining bullets in the magazine should be “solids” for follow-up shots. If a buffalo drops to the ground upon impact of the first shot the hunter should be exceedingly wary. Buffalo rarely drop at the first shot even though the first shot alone may be an adequate killing shot. Often, if a buffalo drops immediately it will signal that either the spine or the vagus nerve was shocked, neither of which may be a killing shot. Keep shooting so long as the animal shows any sign of life, and approach all downed buffalo with the utmost caution and prepared to shoot again. One of the lingering buffalo tales is “It’s the dead ones that kill you.” This saying did not come about for no good reason.
Click here to go to the Cape Buffalo Dangerous Game Gallery of the website depicting the respective specimens of this particular species that Bushmans Quiver has harvested.
AFRICAN LION (Panthera leo)
The African lion is a large carnivorous feline typically having a short tawny coat, tufted tail, and (in the male) a heavy mane of longer hair around the head, neck and shoulders. However, recently some female lions living in Botswana have been discovered to sport manes. The presence, absence, color, and size of the mane is associated with genetic precondition, sexual maturity, climate, and testosterone production. Color variations in pelage varies from light buff, to silvery gray, to yellowish red, and dark brown. White lions (more cream colored) also exist, but this is a color variation caused by a recessive gene, and is not a separate subspecies, nor albinism. Lions are the second largest living cat after the tiger with males living in the wild reaching 550 pounds. A record measurement from actual hunting records includes a huge male shot outside Hectorspruit in eastern Transvaal in 1936 weighing 690 pounds. An interesting genetic comparison is made between cats and humans in that, after discounting other primates, the cat family is the closest genetic relative to humans in that there is only a 7 gene distinction between humans and cats.
In the bush males seldom live longer than 10-14 years, as injuries sustained from continual fighting with rival males greatly reduces their life span. Lions typically inhabit savanna and grassland, although they will readily take to bush and forest if necessary. Compared to other cats, lions are very social in nature. Lions live in “prides” consisting of related females and their offspring and a very small number of adult males. Lions are apex predators and are not amiss to taking on almost any other species, especially if they have the numerical advantage and the individual prey is aged, very young, or injured. Average prey includes animals weighing between 400-1200 pounds. However, like most predators, they are lazy and will scavenge a meal before putting forth the effort to kill something. They do most of their hunting at night, and sleep or lie about for as much as 20 hours the remainder of the day. They may engorge themselves on as much as 65 pounds of meat in one sitting. Lions will also kill competing predators, but very seldom will they eat them. Lionesses are capable climbers and sometimes pull leopard kills from trees. Their climbing skills are much more advanced than they are given credit for.
Lions do not confine their breeding to any particular season. The female will typically give birth to 1-4 cubs. Within a typical pride 80% of the cubs will die before reaching two years of age. This is due to predation, disease, or infanticide practiced by intruding males that drive out the existing dominant males.
Lion population numbers in the wild have been declining for quite a few years. The principal causes of wild lion population decline are: (1) loss of habitat (humans take all the best land for themselves), (2) loss of traditional prey animals (reductions in their habitat), (3) disease, (4) poaching (illegal hunting) and (5) domestic lion/human contact (humans killing lions invading their domestic space). Legal, managed sport hunting is deemed an insignificant cause of the decline in wild lion populations. In fact, South Africa has had a significant and viable captive-bred lion program for decades. Through genetic selection, this program has produced specimens which sport hunters most desire, and it is only logical thinking that each lion harvested that has its genesis in one of these programs is one less wild lion being taken. In addition, it is quite easy to maintain genetic diversity within a captive-bred population, where inbreeding is a real risk as wild populations become more geographically isolated. There currently exists a lot of controversy surrounding the captive breeding of lions, but it is important that the industry be fairly and scientifically evaluated before any judgments are made. Traditional methods of lion hunting include the following:
(1) Coursing. This is the hunting of lions with dogs. The well-known canine specie Rhodesian Ridgeback was bred for this purpose. The hunting of lions with dogs is no longer pursued as far as we know.
(2) Chance Encounter. This was sometimes the case 60-70 years ago when a hunter had a lion on license and would encounter a lion while hunting something else. Today lions are considered a “destination species”, and most hunters that want a lion come to Africa just for that purpose.
(3) Baiting. As mentioned, lions are lazy and will come to set baits. Once a feeding pattern is established the hunters will build a blind from which to shoot the lion. This becomes a waiting game until the lion decides (if ever) to return to the bait.
(4) Calling. Lions will respond to the calls of other lions, as well as hyenas, thinking that the vocalizatiosn signal the killing of a prey animal.
(5) Spooring. This involves finding a set of fresh lion tracks and following those tracks until the lion is sighted.
What method of hunting is followed has much to do with the country and province within which the hunting takes place as existing regulations will determine which methods are permissible. Baiting, calling, and spooring are all very exciting hunting methods. When spooring, the lion will soon realize he is being pursued. Often, he will roar a warning, or mock charge the hunters to demonstrate losing his patience with being pushed. Either of these acts (roaring, which can be quite loud and intimidating) and the mock charge, if not previously experienced by the hunter can be immobilizing. All that can be said is to regard both as a possibility and mentally (at least) be prepared for either. After either one of these intimidating displays, the lion may then, unpredictably charge. In contrast to a leopard charge where the leopard attempts to injure every member of the party, a lion will typically single out one individual to bear its wrath. Consequently, a charging lion must be dispatched with finality. A common mistake is to shoot too soon resulting in a miss with not enough time remaining to fire again. Thus, rely on the accompaniment of the others in your hunting party and all shoot when the distance is optimum.
Lions are thin-skinned animals and not as heavily constructed as their larger neighbors in the dangerous game community. Thus, a well-placed shot with a .30-06 is capable of a clean kill. However, therein lies the challenge. No one can predict the conditions under which the lion will be encountered, whether alone, or in a group, the manner in which the lion presents himself (position), nor his temperament at the time the shot needs to be made. It is much better to err on the side of using a more powerful rifle, and in South Africa regulations require that must be a .375, or larger. The vitals of all the cats are just a bit further back than other plains game animals. A quality large caliber expanding bullet placed just behind the shoulder usually does the job very well. Lions will often react violently to the shot. Keep shooting until no visible signs of life remain. Approach downed lions with the utmost caution. Shoot immediately if any movement is detected. After closing to within 7-10 yards throw something at the lion and be ready to shoot again before moving directly to the carcass.
Click here to go to the Lion Dangerous Game Gallery of the website depicting the respective specimens of this particular species that Bushmans Quiver has harvested.
ELEPHANT (Loxodonta africana)
The African bush elephant (as opposed to the African forest elephant – Loxodonta cyclotis) stands 10-13 feet tall at the shoulder and can weigh 10,360 – 13,330 pounds. It is the largest living terrestrial animal. Despite its enormous size it can be very difficult to spot an elephant in its natural habitat, and hunting them can be very difficult. This can be attributed to two factors. First, elephants can cover a lot of ground in their daily movements. For the hunter this means finding fresh tracks and then staying on that track hoping to close with the elephants before nightfall. Secondly, if elephants have been pressured they seek the thickest bush they can find. Often, it is possible to know their whereabouts, but getting close to a herd in thick bush, finding the right individual within the herd and then having enough visibility to place a killing shot can be extremely difficult and dangerous. Two other factors make the hunting of elephants particularly dangerous. One is that they are more prone to an unprovoked charge than other species. The other is that they pivot on their hind feet when investigating anything that approaches them from the rear. Thus, from the rear, if you approach to within 15 yards of a standing elephant (elephants are typically shot within 20-25 yards, and he turns on you, your “safety zone” has now suddenly shrunk to possibly only 10 yards, or even less.
In African elephants both bulls and cows can grow tusks. However, a recessive gene will sometimes produce both bulls and cows without tusks. Tusks continue to grow throughout the elephant’s lifetime. Elephants have a lifespan about the length of a human, or a bit less. Elephants are at their most fertile between the ages of 25 and 45. An elephant’s dentition has a lot to do with how healthy they are and how long they live. Elephants have four molars with which they masticate their food. As the front pair wears down the tooth fragments and falls out or is ingested. The back pair then move forward, and in turn is replaced by another set in the back of the mouth. This replacement takes place about every 10 years and only 6 replacements are available. Thus, by the time an elephant is 60 years old it is on its last set of molars and those are usually heavily eroded at that age. An elephant 60 years of age is headed toward starvation no matter how lush the vegetative environment in which it lives because it doesn’t have the dentition to properly masticate its food.
An elephant is both an important component of an ecosystem and also one of its most damaging. An elephant will consume 990 pounds of vegetation in a day. They eat grass, leaves, fruit, bark, roots and almost anything of a vegetative nature. In doing this they often strip limbs from trees, or push over the entire tree. This is beneficial in the sense that this keeps tree canopies from closing. The increased sunlight reaching the earth’s surface in turn produces a lot of forage that benefits all grazing animals. In contrast, too many elephants result in too much damage, serious reduction in tree numbers, damaged stream banks, etc. And during a drought, elephants will surround dwindling water holes denying other animals access to water.
Despite shrinking populations globally elephants are actually very much over-populated in some ecosystems, and their numbers can increase dramatically thus demanding that some sort of population control be introduced. Envision an ecosystem capable of supporting 85,000 elephants, but instead stocking levels are at 100,000. An elephant’s gestation period is about 22 months. But, a healthy population can increase at 2% per annum. Thus, those numbers get very big very quickly, like this kind of annual growth (assuming no deaths): 100,000; 102,000; 104,040; 106,120; 108,243. Thus, in this ecosystem 8,243 elephants could be removed in five years and at the end the ecosystem would still be over-populated by 15,000 elephants! The significance of this is huge.
Conflicts between elephants and a growing human population are a major issue in elephant conservation. On a good site it takes about 1500 acres to support one elephant. Thus, in the 100,000 elephant population cited above a land mass of 1.5 million acres is required. Where do such huge blocks of land come from? Who wants to set aside good productive farm land for elephants when the demands of a burgeoning human population want that land for its own purposes? Thus, controlling elephant populations is a must and the culling of elephants through lawfully controlled fee-based hunting is an important conservation tool for that purpose.
In choosing a rifle for elephant hunting, the .375 in its basic African forms is the minimum caliber by law. If that is your choice, use the largest bullet available——typically 300 grain. If you can handle the increased recoil of a .416 you will be increasing your bullet mass by 33 1/3% (300 grain to 400 grain), and theoretically your “stopping power” by the same amount. If you can manage a .458, .470, or .500 you will realize yet an even more significant increase in stopping power. However, you must be able to deliver the first shot, and any subsequent shots, with confidence and this is not always possible for every shooter with the bigger calibers. For sure, the average first-time elephant hunter does not need a double rifle in typical African calibers to kill an elephant. The best choice is a reliable bolt-action rifle with a low power scope mounted low over the bore. Two characteristics such a rifle must have is unfailing reliability, and a certain “quickness” in the hands. Clumsily stocked rifles with long barrels and over-sized scopes are not the ticket for this type of hunting. Bullet placement includes the side brain shot, the frontal brain shot, or the heart lung area. These locations are best understood by consulting books dealing with shot placement. All elephants should be shot with solid bullets —- not expanding bullets.
Click here to go to the Elephant Dangerous Game Gallery of the website depicting the respective specimens of this particular species that Bushmans Quiver has harvested.
HIPPOPOTAMUS (Hippopotamus amphibius)
The common hippopotamus, or “hippo” as it is called, comes from the ancient Greek for “river horse.” After the elephant and rhinoceros the hippo is the third largest type of land mammal. Adult bull hippos average 3310 pounds, and a truly large bull may reach 4400 pounds, and since male hippos continue to grow throughout their lives, an exceptionally large bull may reach a ponderous 7050 pounds! Cow hippos seem to stop growing at around age 25. A hippo’s life span is about 40-50 years. Despite its rotund shape and short legs, a hippo is capable of sprinting up to nearly 20 miles per hour for short distances. The hippo is a highly aggressive and unpredictable animal.
Hippos inhabit rivers, lakes and mangrove swamps. Here territorial bulls preside over a stretch of river and groups of 5-30 females with their young. A group of hippos is called a herd, pod, dale, or bloat. Their skin is quite sensitive to the sun, so during the day they remain cool by staying in the water or deep mud. At dusk they emerge to graze on plant material including grasses and fruit in agricultural fields if they can find them. It is these night time adventures that often bring them in direct contact with humans.
People have survived the bite of a hippo, but the bite (if survivable), usually leaves a terrible wound. The jaw hinge is located far back in the mouth allowing the animal to open its mouth at almost 180 degrees. The bite force of one female has been measured at 1800 lbf). The teeth are much sharper than appear at a distance, as opposing teeth sharpen one against the other. The incisors can reach 16 inches, and the canines can reach 20 inches. In hippo human contacts in the rare instance in which a tooth did not pierce the body the clamping force of the jaws and following twisting and shaking action can tear a body in half.
The hippo’s skin secretes a natural sunscreen substance referred to as “blood sweat” due to its reddish color and sticky consistency. It is made up of two different acidic compounds together which inhibit the growth of disease causing bacteria. Hippos spend their time in some pretty nasty looking places, so it is easy to see why such a preventative measure might be necessary. This substance does not keep the hippo’s skin from cracking if it stays out in the sun too long. Hippos also fight quite a bit amongst themselves (both males and females) and the hides of harvested animals bear witness to these severe cuts and abrasions. Deep subcutaneous wounds often result. The places beneath the skin where the healing occurs are termed “flay cuts” which often results in tears in the hide during the tanning process. Therefore, it is almost impossible to obtain an unblemished full hide from a hippo. Planning the use of the finished tanned leather should thus include only small projects. Hippo meat is quite tasty and is considered a delicacy in some areas of central Africa. The teeth are valued almost as much as elephant ivory and a talented taxidermist can make some interesting displays out of the teeth.
With the exception of eating, hippos spend most of their lives in water. When they emerge to feed on land at night they may move as far as 6 miles inland. During the night they will feed for 4 or 5 hours consuming as much as 150 pounds of grasses or fruit. Thus, an invading hippo in a fruit orchard can cause quite a bit of damage in a week’s time. Finding them on land and getting between them and the safety of their water source can be one of the most exciting dangerous game hunts imaginable. Very quickly, when pressed upon, they will either run away or charge.
Because hippos are not sexually dimorphic it can be difficult to differentiate between young bulls and cows. The testes of the bulls descend only partially and a scrotum is not present. Both bulls and cows are hunted, but of course most hunters would prefer a large bull. Under hunting conditions, it takes a skilled Professional Hunter to tell them apart.
Hunting is typically by spot-and-stalk. When stalked on land the shooting is usually very close because hippos will often be found in thick riverine vegetation. As cited above a land grounded hippo will typically make a quick decision to head for the safety of water, or to charge. If a charge occurs there will be no time to make use of shooting sticks. A rifle of caliber .375 or larger is preferred. A good soft expanding bullet with a sectional density approaching .300 or better is the best choice, with the remainder of the magazine being filled with solids. Most hippo shooting is done up close, so smaller low powered scopes mounted on a quick-handling rifle are most appropriate.
Click here to go to the Hippo Dangerous Game Gallery of the website depicting the respective specimens of this particular species that Bushmans Quiver has harvested.
LEOPARD (Panthera pardus)
The leopard is distinguished by its well-camouflaged coat, opportunistic hunting tactics, wide-ranging diet, and its blazing speed. For its size, it is also an extremely strong cat evidenced by its ability to carry heavy carcasses considerable distances into tree canopies. It also is extremely adaptable, living in habitats as diverse as rainforest, grasslands, as well as arid and montane areas.
Its coloration is not that varied, as typically it will be pale yellow to yellowish-brown or almost golden. Its coat is spotted with individual rosettes resembling perhaps the petals of a simple flower. The pattern of rosettes is unique to each animal. The shape of rosettes seem to be more circular in eastern African populations, and more squarish in Southern Africa. Leopards that habituate forests are generally darker than those living in a more open environment. Melanistic (solid black) individuals do occur which are named “black panthers”. Black panthers seem to be more common in Malaya and the tropical rainforest on the slopes of Mt. Kenya.
The leopard is solidly built and muscular but with relatively short limbs. It has a rather broad head for its size. A big “tom leopard” (male) will weigh close to 200 pounds, but measurements and weight vary quite a bit geographically. South African leopards are generally pretty large compared to Tanzanian leopards and those from other geographical areas. The maximum recorded weight for a big tom was 213 pounds.
The leopard has the largest distribution of any wild cat. It is very adaptable, and within sub-Saharan Africa the species is still numerous and even thriving in marginal habitats where other large cats have disappeared. Although occasionally adaptable to human disturbances, leopards require healthy prey populations and appropriate vegetative cover for their hunting purposes. Both of these are in abundance in South Africa.
For the most part, leopards tend to be nocturnal. Activity patterns can vary widely over a large geographical area and quite a bit according to seasons. During the night they may range as little as a mile, or as much as 15 miles in search of prey. If uncomfortably disturbed they may move as far as 45 miles seeking safety. Their reputation for climbing is well known. They can ascend and descend any tree headfirst and with speed and agility. They are powerful swimmers but do not take to water as commonly as some other cats. Unlike the sociable lion, the leopard is a solitary animal and only interacts with other leopards during the mating season. A leopard is very territorial, especially during this time, and as territories often overlap one leopard may fight other male leopards for breeding rights and territory. A few instances of cannibalism have been reported.
If there is plenty of prey in an area the concentration of leopards can be significant. We know of one game breeder that released 67 blesbok onto his property and 6 months later not a one remained. These could only have disappeared down the throat of a leopard. And since a leopard may only feed once every three days that implies there were three leopards feeding off this one herd (6 months X 30 days per month = 180 feeding days, divided by a meal every 3 days = 60 feeding opportunities. 67 blesbok divided by 60 feeding opportunities means 1.1 blesbok disappearing each day. Thus, with the leopard feeding only about every three days, it would require at least 3 leopards to dispose of that many blesbok).
A leopard hunts primarily by stealth and ambush. Their preferred prey size usually ranges in weight from 22-88 pounds, however they can take prey as large as 330 pounds, and in one instance a large tom killed an adult eland weighing 2000 pounds. This is a true testament to their formidable strength, as 2000 pounds is exceeding the weight of some cape buffalo. In another instance a big tom hauled a young giraffe (275 pounds) nearly 20 feet into a tree. They think very little of stealing into a camp or ranching environment and taking whatever they need to survive. Under such circumstances they will quickly devour what they can or drag the carcass over several hundred meters to cache the meat in a tree for later recovery.
Depending on conditions, leopard may mate all year round. If a female is in estrous it is very difficult to hunt leopard during these periods as both the males and females are focused only on copulating. The average life span of leopards in the wild is 12-17 years.
In some countries leopards are sometimes hunted with dogs. However, in South Africa the preferred method is either to locate a fresh leopard kill and hope to shoot the leopard over its own kill, or for the client to shoot bait animals to be hung in an attempt to attract a hungry leopard. Leopard are very suspicious and cautious. A leopard will have more “confidence” in returning to its own kill than in coming to a bait that has been killed by a hunter and then hung. However, plenty of leopard are harvested from hung bait.
Once it is discovered that a leopard is hitting a bait the hunting party constructs a blind from 50-75 yards from the bait. A light with operator controlled rheostat is affixed to a nearby tree and once the leopard is on the bait the intensity of illumination is slowly increased until the client can take the shot. However, what seems like a simple procedure does not result in a foregone conclusion. The client must be ready and shoot accurately and quickly at the first opportunity. Because leopards are shot in the dark, the first shot (and likely only shot) must be lethal. The minimum caliber is once again .375. High-quality expanding bullets are required. The most useful optical sights are illuminated red-dot sights, or telescopic sights with illuminated reticules. The client should have some experience in shooting with these sights at night in advance of booking a leopard safari. A minimum of 21 days is a suggested time window for having a good chance at a leopard.
For the last few years leopard quota issued by the Department of Nature Conservation have been non-existent. We cannot say when this situation will improve. Land owners, and members of the safari industry, believe that leopards abound. However, our view is not equally nor enthusiastically shared by others. In an attempt to bridge this difference of opinion PHASA (Professional Hunters Association of South Africa), in collaboration with the Tshwane University of Technology, has launched a research project aimed at collecting scientific data regarding the status of leopards in South Africa. The idea is to collect video footage or photographic images that clearly identify, illustrate and confirm the presence of free-roaming leopards within the broad study areas. Hopefully, this study will bridge the information gap between those that have to deal with leopards in the bush and the provinces establishing the various hunting quotas. In the meantime, it is still possible to hunt leopard in South Africa. These would be problem animals (usually livestock killers) that must be removed for safety reasons. A removal permit good for 30 days is allowed. If clients wish to hunt leopard under these circumstances the price is usually substantially less than the price of a quota permit. At the client’s request we will add the client’s name to a waiting list and the client must be prepared to depart for South Africa on 72 hours notice the moment a damage permit is obtained. Let us know if this is something you wish to pursue.
Click here to go to the Leopard Dangerous Game Gallery of the website depicting the respective specimens of this particular species that Bushmans Quiver has harvested.
NILE CROCODILE (Crocodylus niloticus)
The Nile crocodile is the largest freshwater predator in Africa and may be considered the second largest extant reptile in the world after the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). The Nile crocodile is widespread throughout Sub-Saharan Africa occupying rivers, lakes, and marshlands. Any body of water in South Africa (except possibly the most southern reaches) is likely to be inhabited by this dangerous predator, thus no natural body of water is safe for swimming. Although capable of living in saline environments this species is rarely found in saltwater, but occasionally will be found in brackish water.
On average, the adult male crocodile is between 11.5 and 16.5 feet. However, specimens exceeding 20 feet and weighing over 2000 pounds have been recorded. The largest Nile crocodile shot and accurately measured was in Mwanza Tanzania. This monster measured 21 feet 2 inches and weighed 2400 pounds. Sexual dimorphism is prevalent in crocodiles with females being 30% smaller than males.
The crocodile is an apex predator capable of taking nearly any animal within its range. However, their diet consists mostly of different species of fish, reptiles, birds, and small to mid-size mammals. They are primarily an ambush predator and can wait for hours, days, and even weeks for a suitable moment to attack.
Crocodiles are relatively social in nature, but a strict hierarchy exists with the old males being at the top of that hierarchy. They have primary access to food and the best basking sites. Crocodiles tend to respect this order and when violated the results are violent and sometimes fatal.
Nile crocodiles have exceptionally high levels of lactic acid in their blood which allows them to sit motionless in water for up to 2 hours. Blood levels of lactic acid this high would kill most other vertebrates. The mouths of crocodiles are filled with 64-68 sharply pointed cone shape teeth (about a dozen less than alligators). The bite force exerted by an adult crocodile has been measured at 5000 lbf.
On a sunny day, If not disturbed, crocodiles will spend up to 7 hours basking with their jaws open. Despite this condition of apparent stupor, crocodiles are constantly aware of their surroundings as well as the presence of other animals. When they enter the water they typically dive for only a few minutes at a time, but can swim underwater for up to 30 minutes if they feel threatened. If they remain inactive underwater they can stay submerged for up to 2 hours (again, due to high levels of lactic acid in their blood).
The stomachs of crocodiles will often contain “gastroliths”, which are stones that crocodiles swallow for various reasons, the purpose of which is not fully known. One crocodile measuring over 12.5 feet contained 11 pounds of gastroliths. One theory is that these gastroliths act as a sort of ballast, providing stability and an amount of additional weight to reduce buoyancy.
In the water crocodiles are agile and rapid hunters relying on both movement and pressure sensors to catch any prey unfortunate enough to be present within or near the water. They sometimes work together blocking migrating fish with their collective bodies to form a dam across a smaller stretch of waterway. Once fish are impounded in such a manner the most dominant crocodile will feed first. Groups of Nile crocodiles may travel hundreds of meters from a waterway to feast on a carcass. It is not unusual to see trail camera footage of a crocodile in repose beneath a hung leopard bait waiting for the dropped morsels from a leopard feeding. When feeding enmasse on a carcass in the water individual crocodiles will use their partners as leverage, biting down hard on the carcass and then twisting their bodies to tear off large chunks of flesh in a “death roll”. Most preying on land is done at night by lying in ambush near forested trails or roadsides as much as 150 feet inland from the water’s edge. A large crocodile is a formidable predator and will catch and devour any animal it feels it can grasp, hold and drown. Crocodiles have been known to feed on such species as the African rock python (Python sebae) exceeding 20 feet and weighing over 200 pounds, and to catch bull sharks swimming up the Zambezi River. A crocodile has been known to kill and devour a dromedary camel. In Kruger National Park a bull giraffe that lost its footing on a river bank was grasped by a crocodile, drowned and eaten. The Nile crocodile is the only predator in African known to attack and kill, on its own, a full grown Cape buffalo———-a feat that usually requires several lions to accomplish. One Kenyan crocodile was found to have over 40 greater cane rats in its stomach. The Zambezi River is approximately 2700 km in length. On average over 300 humans (about one every day) are taken on this river each year. A crocodile as short as 6 feet could easily take an adult human. And, of course the annual migration of Burchell’s zebra and blue wildebeests within the Maasai Mara in Tanzania has been filmed many times reflecting the actions of crocodiles taking large numbers of these animals as they cross the various waterways.
Nile crocodiles reach sexual maturity at about 12-16 years of age. Both males and females continue to grow throughout their life. A female measuring about 12 feet will lay a clutch of about 95 eggs in a hole dug into sand or soil. The nesting season can occur in nearly every month of the year, but in South Africa and Tanzania it generally falls in August through December. The female protectively guards the eggs for the 3-month incubation period. Pelting the female with stones will not always move her from her nest. In other instances she may fiercely attack anything approaching her nest. While incubating, the eggs have a temperature dependent sex determination. If the temperature inside the nest is below 89 degrees F, or above 94 degrees F then the offspring will be female. The eggs will produce males only if the temperature range is within these two temperature extremes. Only about 10% of eggs will actually hatch, and a mere 1% of hatchlings will successfully reach adulthood. Nile monitors eat quite a lot of crocodile eggs, and cannibalism among crocodiles is common. A crocodile must reach a length of 6.5 feet to be relatively safe from predation. Once they reach that size they are more assured to live a life of longevity, which is 70-100 years.
The hunting of crocodiles is done by either stalking them on land or by watercraft, or by baiting for them. However, crocodiles have an ectothermic metabolism, so they can survive for long periods between meals. This means that baiting for them in South Africa is not that prevalent as the hunting takes place primarily during the winter months when colder temperatures diminish the reptile’s hunger. During the winter a crocodile may not feed at all. But once it comes out of its fast it may consume up to half its body weight in one feeding. Consequently, the hunting of crocodiles will mostly take place on foot. Crocodiles have exceptional hearing, a strong sense of smell, and their eyesight is much better than might be expected. In addition, like elephants, their auditory senses reach into the realm of infra sound —— sound waves below the frequencies heard by humans. Thus, stalking them requires the utmost care and silence. Soft-soled shoes are a must and talking and noises from bumped or creaking equipment much be avoided.
Once a suitable crocodile is located moving into position quietly to take the shot is a must. The spine or the brain must be hit with the first shot or the crocodile will be lost. The brain is only about the size of a kiwi fruit, so an accurate but powerful rifle is a necessity. The rifle should be sighted in for the range at which the crocodile is expected to be encountered. So, sighting the rifle in “2 inches high at 100 yards”, which might be adequate for plains game, will not be adequate for crocodile. A rock steady rest is paramount. Since hitting the brain will destroy the skull (something the hunter will want to preserve), the preferred sighting point is that singular spot where the end of the “smile line” intersects the curving line of the cheek jowl. A hit at this spot will miss the rear edge of the skull but sever the spine. In spite of all the writhing and twitching, death is instant if this spot is hit. Unlike alligator, croc meat has an indescribable and unpleasant taste, greasy texture, and a repellent smell.
Click here to go to the Crocodile Dangerous Game Gallery of the website depicting the respective specimens of this particular species that Bushmans Quiver has harvested.
WHITE RHINOCEROUS (Ceratotherium simum)
Population numbers of black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) are critically depleted across all of Africa. We do not hunt them. Ironically, just as the black rhinoceros is not really “black”, neither is the white rhinoceros anywhere near “white”. The white rhinoceros consists of two sub-species, the northern white rhinoceros, whose population numbers are also low, and the southern white rhinoceros whose population numbers in the wild are believed to be about 19,600 to 21,000. It is the southern white rhino species that we hunt, and we are able to do so, once again, because of the importance of fee-based sport hunting to rhino conservation.
A popular theory about how the white rhino got its name has to do with the shape of its mouth. The black rhino is a browser, so has narrow lips capable of grasping twigs and buds. In contrast the white rhino is a grazer and has a flat wide mouth suitable for plucking grass at low levels to the ground. The Dutch (who settled southern Africa) word for wide is “wijd” which somehow got anglicized into “white”. So, one would presume the proper common name for the white rhino should be “wide-mouth rhino”. However, the name “white rhino” stuck.
Responsible South Africans are proud and protective of their population of white rhinos. As a consequence, at considerable expense to themselves, there are a number of white rhino breeders throughout South Africa who look after and breed rhinos in a wild environment. This keeps overall population levels, as well as genetic diversity, at higher levels than they would be if only truly wild populations were the only source of genetic material. Fortunately, captured wild rhinos will readily breed when removed from the environment in which they were captured if provided appropriate amounts of space and food along with the accompaniment of other females of breeding age. Thus, wild rhino can be captured, released into an alternative controlled wild environment where they are looked after, and live, breed, and survive just as they had previously been doing.
White rhinos reach sexual maturity early in life: 6-7 years for females, and 10-12 years for males. They will live to be 40-50 years old but not maintain their ability to breed that long. Thus, older non-breeding males become a liability as they will fight and kill other competing males for access to the females. This becomes a problem in trying to manage population dynamics. As happens with any animal population, at some point both breeding males and females will reach an age when they are past their breeding prime and are reaching what we would term “old age”. The breeder then has the choice of simply watching the animal die of natural causes, butchering the animal for whatever the price of the horn, meat and hide would bring, or selling the hunting opportunity to a willing sportsman. It is these excess animals that we are able to hunt in their natural environment.
A mature white rhino will weigh slightly more, on average, than a hippopotamus. It will have a large head, a short neck and a massive body measuring 6 feet at the shoulder and up to 13 feet in length. A big male will weigh 5000 pounds. Both males and females have horns. The male typically has a shorter horn (about 24 inches) that carries more mass. The females will not have massive horns like the males, but sometimes the length can grow to almost 60 inches. Either sex makes for an excellent trophy.
A rhino will usually drink twice a day. However, if water is in short supply, it can go for as long as 4-5 days without water. It spends about 1/2 a day eating, 1/3 of a day truly resting, and the rest of the day engaged in just loafing around. Hunting techniques involve mostly spooring by investigating water holes and dusty roads looking for footprints. Rhino has three toes and hippo four, so it is easy to make a distinction between the two. Once tracks are found a stalk will begin. Rhinos have notoriously poor eyesight, but this shortcoming should not be taken for granted. They have good hearing: their ears can move independently of one another. But, their sense of smell is their principle defense mechanism. Thus, they must be approached from down-wind. Rhino are typically shot at close range. A good reliable .375 will handle them well enough, but a .416 is a better choice. Due to their body mass, thick skin and heavy bone structure a high quality solid bullet is necessary; no softs. Be instantly ready with a follow-up shot and keep shooting so long as you see movement.
Click here to go to the White Rhino Dangerous Game Gallery of the website depicting the respective specimens of this particular species that Bushmans Quiver has harvested.
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