Hunting Trophy Cape Eland
The Cape eland’s territory includes the Kalahari Desert in southern Botswana, the extreme southern part of Mozambique, Namibia (except in the extreme north and the Caprivi Strip), and South Africa. The best places to hunt Cape eland are Botswana’s Kalahari Desert, and the Cape area and the Transvaal of South Africa.
Roland Ward’s Record of Big Game lists the number one trophy having the longest horn at 46-1/2 inches and a circumference of 12-1/4 inches. Tip to tip measurement is 25-1/8 inches. It was taken in Thabazimbi, Limpopo Provence, South Africa in 2005. Safari Club International Book of Trophy Animals shows the highest score as 116-2/8 inches; circumference 12-2/8 inches. Taken 2005; location South Africa, Thabazimbi.
To hunt a trophy eland, the hunter has to know its habits extremely well. Good trackers are a necessity. The Bushmen are the best, but you had better be in good enough condition to follow them for 7-10 miles while walking in loose sand uphill and downhill. Bushman trackers don’t follow the spore with their heads down chasing tracks. The truly great trackers simply follow animals by instinct, knowing the eland, and knowing its habits. Many times they are looking at bushes whose leaves have been nibbled on by the eland as they meander through the bush.
The best time to hunt trophy eland is the early mornings. Eland graze late at night, only moving up out of the warmer valleys when the sun begins to warm the higher land. Around one hour before noon, they will start looking for a cool area to bed up during the hot afternoon. During this time, sometimes the wind will come up which can help disguise your footsteps. If you pick up a fresh bull spoor in the early morning, your chances of catching up to him in the late afternoon are quite good.
When eland bulls walk, their fore legs make a distinct clicking sound. It’s been theorized that this sound is made by a tendon in the leg sliding over a leg bone and making a sound like a guitar string being plucked. If you hear this sound, you will be within 30-40 yards of the bull. The louder the sound, the larger the animal. At times, it can be heard up to 100 yards distant.
Cape Eland Hunting Methods
To actively hunt any large plains game animal like an eland will require a fair amount of knowledge of its habits, activities, and behavior during the different seasons. The Cape eland has a well-developed sense of danger and exhibits exceptional alertness. Part of this is due to its size; part from its lack of speed or athletic ability. The Cape eland does not build speed very rapidly, nor is it as highly maneuverable as smaller antelope species. However, once it has got up a good head of steam, it’s more than capable of putting a lot of miles between itself and perceived danger. Of all the spiral-horned antelope, eland cover the largest range. Females can forage over 70 square miles, while the bulls usually stay within a 25 square mile range.
There are three primary methods of hunting trophy Cape eland, and one, or all, may be employed during the hunt. Local habitat and area will have a lot to do with the type of hunting involved. No matter what methods are employed in stalking and hunting trophy Cape eland, it is imperative that the hunter uses a good set of optics. They will be used whether the hunting/stalking is done from the raised seat of a safari truck, or from eye level as the hunter walks the bush.
If a vehicle is used for searching, it should not be used for hunting. It’s only a method to cover large swaths of country and scout for an animal. Once the quarry is sighted, the hunter and the PH should slide out of the truck and let the vehicle continue on its way so it won’t spook the game by stopping or slowing excessively. Too often, an animal is sighted; the hunter rattles his way to his feet, jumps out of the truck, and only succeeds in driving the game into the next time zone.
Before any serious hunting/tracking is attempted, the hunter should spend some time practicing exiting the safari truck as quietly as possible. Carry only gear that is truly necessary. There are no natural metallic noises in the bush, so any clunking or clanging, or banging the rifle barrel against a fender will surely drive the eland away.
One method of driving and stalking that seems to work well involves first locating the animal, then, at a fair distance, climb onto the tailgate of the truck, and then slowly motor by the eland’s position. When close to the animal, just slide off without having the truck slow down. Once on the ground, a slow stalk can be made. Those of us who have had a knee replaced, or similar, probably should not attempt this. Knee repairs are not inexpensive.
When on the final stalk, it’s best to watch the tracker and PH, and be extremely careful in where you place your feet. Soft soled shoes rather than boots are much quieter. Place your feet in the same tracks as the PH, placing your heel down first, and then put your weight on the front of your foot.
Optics are very useful in both vehicle hunting and stalking on foot. When using a vehicle, park where only your head is above the surrounding bush. Don’t fixate on any one area. Scan and shift; avoid target lock-on. Look for movement, but know what you are looking for. All you may see is the tips of the horns, or slight movement of the animal’s ear. If a trophy eland is spotted, don’t move your head, or talk to the PH. Visually mark the terrain where the animal is grazing, then lower down and back away until you are out of the eland’s line of sight. Walking and stalking is somewhat similar. Move slowly, and check your surroundings frequently. Try to locate to a higher elevation where you can observe a large field of view. Don’t be in a hurry. Let the bush settle down after you pick an observation spot, and then scan for movement.
Binoculars come in a wide variety of ranges and powers. For some hunters, only the best Nikon, Swarovski, Leica, or Docter will do. However, if you are an occasional plains game hunter, Leupold, Pentax, Bushnell, or similar will get the job done. This author carries a pair of Simmons 8x42 binoculars that were new when the African Rift formed. They’re somewhat beat up, but do the job. As far as power, the midpoint ranges such as 8x42 or 10x42 will give a good field of view at 100-200 yards. Mini-binoculars in the 6.5x21 range are light, 10 ounces, or less, but don’t have the lowlight capabilities or image quality as do the full-size models.
Another good method of hunting trophy eland is by still-hunting. The idea is to locate a game trail, water hole, or any area where the eland frequents. Find an area where the bush acts as natural camouflage, but still leaves you shooting tunnels. You will need to set up your hunting sticks and rifle where they won’t have to be moved to take a shot. You will need to cover every inch of your skin, right down to your hands to keep the sun from lighting your skin. Movement must be virtually non-existent. You may have to hold your position for hours, so be prepared to use a bottle for urination if the need arises. Animals can smell urine at a great distance, so don’t use the nearest convenient tree. Take time to check your area for rocks and sticks before you settle, as a ¼ ounce rock can turn into Mt. Kilimanjaro if you have to sit on it for three to four hours.
Rifles and Ammunition
In most Southern African countries where plains game are hunted (Namibia, South Africa, etc.), the minimum legal caliber for game is the .284 (7mm), providing the bullet has at least 2,000 ft-lb of muzzle energy. Zimbabwe also requires a .284, or better, but the bullet must have a higher muzzle energy of 3170 ft/lb for larger animals like lion, giraffe, and eland, which limits the .284 and 7mm rounds to 7mm Remington Magnum-sized cartridges, or larger. A lot of Cape eland have been taken with the .284, and smaller, cartridges; however this can be attributed more to where you hit them as opposed to what you hit them with.
No matter what regulations state, the .284/7mm cartridges should be considered too light and too small for shots on a 2,000 lb eland. To anchor an animal of this size requires a bullet with enough weight and energy to reach and blow through the heart/lung area. From a perfect side shot, the smaller calibers can do the job, but the eland won’t always be standing exactly perpendicular to you while waiting for you to get your act together.
When only a front shot presents itself, the heavy dewlap hanging down the bull eland’s chest can present a problem. A lighter bullet can hit this loose collection of skin, and actually bounce back and forth while doing little in regards penetration. Here’s where the larger, heavier bullets come into their own. A .338 caliber cartridge firing a 225-grain, or 250-grain bullet at 2,940 fps, and carrying 4,318 ft/lb of muzzle energy has sufficient power to reach the eland’s vitals from just about any direction. High quality bullets are a requirement, and there are many good bullets available for the .338, including, Swift, Nosler, Hornady, Barnes, and others.
The various .375 caliber rounds with 300-grain bullets such as the .375 H&H, .375 Ruger, or .375 Remington Ultra Magnum have more than sufficient power to quickly anchor an eland. For those of you who think that too much is just enough, there are always the .400 caliber cartridges. Any of them - .416 Remington Magnum, .404 Jeffery, .416 Ruger, and the venerable.416 Rigby kick out a 400-grain bullet at 2,400 fps, and have over 5,000 ft/lb of muzzle energy. Any caliber much bigger than the .416s will get the job done in short order, but recoil becomes rather interesting. Trophy Cape elands have been taken with everything up to, and including, the .505 Gibbs. I agree, there’s no such thing as overkill, but let’s be reasonable, 5,800 ft/lb of muzzle energy out of a half-inch diameter bullet is nowhere near as important as proper shot placement with a smaller cartridge. Use enough gun, place the shot in the right area, and enjoy a very large eland steak.