Hunting Tuskless Elephants | Shot Placement and Equipment

Posted On : Mar 31, 2018

Posted By : NM

Tuskless Elephant Shot Placement results

PART II – Hunting Tuskless Elephants: Shot Placement and Equipment

Where should I aim when hunting a tuskless elephant?

Once you’ve closed on the elephant herd and determined that there is a shootable tuskless cow without a calf at heel, you must decide on a brain or heart/lung shot. The span of this article is not sufficient to adequately cover the placement of a brain shot on an elephant. Basically, on a frontal brain shot, you are trying to put the bullet between the zygomatic arches. Frontal brain shots are difficult because the proper point of aim varies depending on the angle the animal’s head is at. You want the bullet between the ear holes, but they are not visible head-on. The zygomatic arches are a good frame of reference as the animal moves its head up and down.

On a side brain shot, you need to put the bullet between the ear hole and the temporal gland (which usually secretes visible fluid) but error on being closer to the ear hole. Do plenty of research before your hunt and your PH will also consult with you so that you know exactly where to aim on a brain shot.

Not only are brain shots, especially frontal brain shots, considered the “classic” shot on an elephants, they are also great because you and your PH can immediately tell if the shot was unsuccessful. If the animal does not immediately drop, you didn’t hit the brain and need to get one in her chest quickly. If the animal drops, your shot may have been put successfully in the brain. I say may because it is possible you have slipped a bullet close enough to her brain to knock her out, but not kill her. This is why an insurance shot or two is a must. Don’t be stupid and get yourself in a dangerous position by trying to take pride in a “one shot kill.” Save that for whitetails back home. Also, any PH with half a brain will insist you put another shot or two in the beast because he knows what a wounded one can do. People have been killed by “dead” elephants while taking kill photos. Peter Capstick, a famous PH and writer, claimed to have killed multiple elephants with their tails already cut off, a tradition hunters follow to claim the “dead” elephant. It is sad because an insurance shot would have solved the problem. It doesn’t make sense to spend thousands on a hunt and spare a four dollar bullet.

The other shot is the heart/lung shot, which is very simple and very effective. Either put the bullet in the shoulder 1/3 up the body for the heart, or on the shoulder line 1/3 up the body for the lungs. Make sure the angle is broadside or quartering-to.

Listen to your PH and don’t question his decision on whether or not to follow up. Remember that you are the hunter, he is the Professional Hunter. His job is to keep you safe. If he follows up it is to avoid a potentially dangerous situation at most, or at the very least, a lost trophy.

How do I take a Follow-Up Shot on an Elephant?

Once you’ve put a bullet into your elephant, put more into her if you can. If the elephant turns to run away, put one at the base of her tail or into one of her hip joints. Remember, a gut shot elephant reacts just like a heart or lung shot elephant. It’s best to put her down any way you can at that point. If you hit her at the base of the tail, she will immediately drop as the spinal cord will be destroyed. If you hit the hip joint, she will take a step or two and then go down. The initial shot will break the bone and then the body weight from the next steps will do the rest. Gravity’s a bitch when you weigh five or six tons.

A Tuskless Elephant trophy down!

Remember that these two shots are only to be used as follow-up shots and never as first shots. Once an animal has been shot, it is the hunter and PH’s job to dispatch the animal as quickly and humanely as possible.

What Rifle Calibers should I use for Tuskless Elephant Hunting?

There has been so much written on this subject it is ridiculous. As long as the .375 is your minimum, use whatever you want, as long as you are using solids. You can’t beat the versatility of a .375 or one of the .416s, but if you have the fire power of the larger calibers, great. Just make sure you can handle the recoil or you’ll look like an idiot at the very least, and possibly wound an elephant if you’re very unfortunate.

Rifles for dangerous game is one of the most hotly debated topics with regards to African hunting. I chose a 375 H&H. It is a lovely round, extremely versatile, and adequate for the largest of game, elephants. It is also inexpensive as far as large caliber rifles go. However, I will also add a tidbit to that from my own experience. When I finally closed on a huge tuskless cow on the edge of a herd at 12 yards in the thick jess of the Zambezi Valley, I wished I had brought something much bigger, like a .500NE or possible a grenade launcher. But, one shot through the lungs and she ran 100 yards and died, just like the great Karamojo Bell said she would.

It really comes down to what you want. Consider your budget and what else you will use your rifle for. If you want to only bring one rifle on the safari and plains game is on the menu as well, a .375 or one of the .416s is a good choice. If you will be taking multiple rifles or are only hunting elephant, a bigger rifle is not a bad thing as long as you can effectively shoot it.

What Ammunition should I use for Tuskless Elephants?

Use high quality solids. If you are going to be hunting buffalo on the safari as well and are only using one rifle, it is nice to be able to find a good soft and solid combination that group together as you may use both on Cape buffalo. Otherwise, there are many good solids out there. I happened to use Norma solids which worked well for me. I have only heard good things about them, which is not the case for all other brands. Woodleigh solids also have a very good reputation among hunters and PHs.

Should I use a scope when hunting Tuskless Elephants?

Cape buffalo and plains game were also animals I wanted to pursue on my elephant hunt. I elected to use open sights for the elephant, and a detachable 1x4 power scope for the rest. Not only was this functional (I am much faster with open sights than I am with a scope) but it was also nostalgic. It just seemed the proper way to hunt an elephant. Of course this is only an opinion and using a low powered scope is perfectly fine for elephants. Also, depending on your vision, a scope might be your best option. If you use a scope, use a low power scope, like a 1x4 power. Otherwise, when the time comes to shoot you’ll just see a wall of gray and that is a bad situation to be in when you’re close to cow elephants.

Bow Hunting for Tuskless Elephants

I must put in a personal remark on this one. Yes, it is possible. The killing power of the bow on elephants in indisputable. Plug one through its lungs and it is dead. However, specifically targeting tuskless cow elephants with archery equipment is foolish and reckless. Hunting them with a rifle is tricky enough. Hunting cow elephants, as stated, involves bluff and sometimes real charges, running from elephants, the thickest of brush and the constant, unrelenting fact that at any given second you could be shooting to save your life.

A tuskless elephant foot

In the event of a charge, archery equipment is absolutely useless. You may as well throw peanuts at her.

Hunting bull elephants with a bow is a different story. Bulls aren’t nearly as volatile as cows and this is a more reasonable pursuit. If you are so inclined to hunt either bulls or cow elephants with archery equipment, specialty gear is a must. You should be pulling at least 80 pounds on a modern compound bow. Two-bladed, single bevel broadheads need to be used. These are not only significantly stronger than a three blade broadhead, but have better penetration due to the physics of less resistance. There are some great broadheads made by Dr. Ashby. They are expensive, but so are lost elephants. Your setup should be flinging an arrow of adequate spine weighing anywhere between 900-1100 grains with a high weight forward of center ratio.

How can I Book a Tuskless Elephant Hunt?

To find the best deal on a tuskless elephant hunt I suggest that you contact an African hunt broker like John Martins at Discount African Hunts.  That way you will receive the benefit of the broker’s multiple contacts in the country that you are seeking to book your hunt in.

Hunting opportunities for dangerous game animals are diminishing. If hunting an elephant has been on the wish list, the time to go is now. If getting a pair of tusks is important, then by all means try to find an exportable bull hunt. Another option is to hunt a non-exportable bull and get replicas made of the tusks. While this is also a great experience and option, I still think tuskless hunting is the best bang for your buck. In terms of heart pounding excitement, true challenge and real danger, you cannot beat a hunt for a tuskless cow elephant.

“Sneer if you will, but you have only will have half lived your life if you never feel the icy clutch of danger for its own sake.” –Peter Hathaway Capstick