Night Hunting For Elephants


Published: June - 1999

Night hunting for elephants is quite exciting and difficult, and more than a little dangerous. Consider this - in addition to the usual hazards of stumbling around the bush in the dark, such as stepping into a hole or tripping on a stump or rock, you also risk getting caught in a poacher's snare or stepping on, or otherwise encountering, some of the country's less friendly species of wildlife, such as puff adders, cobras, Gaboon vipers, black mambas and boomslangs. In the course of two weeks hunting we encountered most of these, having to kill a cobra in camp and running into four puff adders in three nights of hunting. Fortunately, each time it was near a road, so we had a torch on while either entering or leaving a farm field and managed to see them first.

I would not recommend night hunting for elephant unless you have at least a three-quarters moon to spot them. With only starlight to guide us (Matupula does have a pair of night vision goggles, but they were not with our party) we hunted by listening for them. While elephants walk softly, the sounds they make eating, passing gas or stomach rumbling carry fairly far. You walk a bit, listen a bit, and then walk some more (three to five miles a night is common as you go from field to field). When the PH thinks you are near enough he turns on a powerful torch and quickly checks out the ivory. Judging must be done quickly, since even if you flash the light on and off as Gomez did the bright light is likely to panic or confuse the beasts. On one occasion when he switched on the light we found ourselves literally in the middle of the herd. Confused bull elephants began running every which way, including one which came straight at us. My gun bearer slipped my .411 into my hands before I could even ask for it. (Despite his quickness, thereafter I reverted to my previous practice of carrying it myself all the time.) Fortunately, we did not have to fire a shot.........(continued)

 
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