Hunting Bongo in Africa
The bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus) is among the largest of the African forest antelope species. Hunting bongo in Africa takes place in different countries depending on subspecies. The western or lowland bongo is hunted in the forests of Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are populations in the Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Niger, Liberia, Mali and Togo.
The other subspecies, the eastern or mountain bongo is only found in the mountains of central Kenya, and is classified as Critically Endangered, so they cannot be hunted. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums in the USA states that less than 100 mountain bongos are left in the wild due to logging and poaching. Out of all these countries, hunting bongo in Africa only takes place in four countries; Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, Congo - Brazzaville and the Central African Republic.
The bongo is found in tropical jungles with dense undergrowth, up to an altitude of 12,000 feet. They favor forests that provide new, low level green vegetation. Both bongo sexes are about the same size. A mature animal can weigh from 480 pounds to 900 pounds, and stand 3.5 to 4.3 feet at the shoulder. Both sexes have heavy spiral horns with the male’s being larger and longer than the female’s. Their horns grow in a shape similar to a lyre and somewhat resemble those of related animals such as bushbuck, nyala, and kudu. The length of the horns can reach forty inches.
Bongos are seldom seen in groups larger than eight. Males tend to be solitary, while females will herd with other females and their young. Males will only seek out females during breeding time. Gestation is between nine and ten months, with a single calf born. Weaning takes six months, and sexual maturity is reached at two years of age, or slightly longer. As the males mature, they leave their maternal herd and tend to stay by themselves. Rarely they will attach to an older male, but mature males tend to avoid each other. If they meet, they often spar with the other male. This tends to be mostly ritualistic combat, as serious fights are few and far between. They prefer to inflate their necks, roll their eyes, and pace in front of their opponent with their head thrown back and their horns on display.
Bongos are most active at dusk and during the night. They tend to be timid and are easily frightened. When in danger, the bongo runs rapidly through the thick jungle, not stopping until it reaches thick cover. It faces away from danger, because its hindquarters is the least conspicuous part of its body. From this position it can run away again if needed. When the bongo flees a predator that is hunting bongo in Africa, the animal emits a bleat. Normal bongo vocalizations include grunts and snorts.
Like similar antelope species, bongos are browsers and feed on leaves, bushes, vines, tree bark, rotting trees, grasses, roots grains and fruits. All bongos require salt, so they tend to stay near natural salt licks. Also, bongo habitats must have a suitable source of permanent water. Being a large animal, the bongo requires large amounts of food. Due to their habitat of dense, heavy jungle cover, bongo populations can be difficult to estimate. Generally, it is thought that around 28,000 bongo antelope exist, of which only about 60% are in protected areas. Bongo populations have been seriously reduced by bush meat hunting, poaching, and trapping. Their main predators include leopard and spotted hyena. Lions don’t share habitat with bongos, so they seldom prey on them. Large snakes, like pythons, can and will eat bongo calves.
The best country for hunting bongo in Africa is Cameroon. This country has the most bongo hunting outfitters and is a good destination for collecting a trophy. To plan a bongo hunt in Cameroon, the hunter will need to decide if the hunt will be for bongo specifically, or will it be a combination bongo and other game hunt, such as forest elephant or dwarf forest buffalo. Sexing a bongo while hunting bongo in Africa can be difficult. Tracks can give an indication as to whether it is male or female, but that’s not always a sure method. It’s not illegal to shoot a female bongo in Cameroon, just expensive, as the trophy fee for shooting a female will be doubled. Normal trophy fees run around $3500, so it’s wise to be sure of what is in the crosshairs when hunting bongo in Africa
Any rifle in the .300 to .375 caliber range will be adequate for hunting bongo in Africa. However, shots can be quick and have to be well placed, so a rifle towards the top of the recommended calibers is highly suggested. You will need to be in excellent condition and capable of dealing with the hot, humid rain forests if you want a trophy. That and good clothing will go a long way towards your sucess when hunting bongo in Africa.