An Unprovoked Elephant Attack
A Personal Account by PH Nigel Archer
It was approx 16:00 hours when I spotted a trophy puku approximately 500 meters from my position. After checking the wind and ascertaining that there was a good chance of a successful hunt I explained to the client the situation, and it was decided to try and hunt the puku.
As is normal when hunting an antelope, I led the stalk with the client behind me and the gun bearer, who was carrying my gun, and the tracker following closely behind the client. Due to the fact that lion were often seen in the area, I chose to use a soft as my first round rather than a solid. The reasons for this are self explanatory; unless a precision shot is made on a charging lion, solids are useless as they provide very little stopping power.
The first part of the stalk took us down a gentle slope, through some open miombo woodland to an anthill. Once we got to the anthill, which we were using for cover, I glassed the area extensively looking for any dangerous obstacles, and also to locate the puku. The puku was amongst a number of other puku and various other species of game that were grazing on the open glade below.
After eventually pointing out the correct puku to the client, which was a task in itself as the client could not speak English, the client after looking at the puku through his scope decided that he would like us to try and get closer. Approximately 40 meters in front of the anthill was a band of elephant grass approximately 7 to 10 meters thick that surrounded the open glade to the east. To the south and southwest of the glade there are literally tens of thousands of acres of elephant grass.
We slowly made our way down to the band of elephant grass and walked through it, leaving a few feet of the elephant grass between ourselves and the puku to act as cover. Again with great difficulty due to the language barrier, I eventually explained to the client which was the correct puku. The client shot and missed. The client then proceeded to shoot another two times without any success. After the third shot I heard the gun bearer, Kiondo, shouting "Tembo, tembo." ("Elephant, elephant.") To my total and utter dismay, I saw Kiondo and the tracker about 40 meters away running down the gently sloping hill from the anthill. Leading the stalk, I had not noticed that they were not directly behind us. After stepping into the open I took the clients gun, as Kiondo had mine, and together with the client ran along the edge of the elephant grass trying to locate as to where Kiondo was going to break through the elephant grass. At this stage, due to the height of the elephant grass, I had still not seen the whereabouts of the elephant.
Suddenly, Kiondo broke through the elephant grass. I handed the client back his gun, took mine from Kiondo and upon looking up saw the charging elephant literally 10 meters in front of me blasting out of the elephant grass. The elephant was in full charge, totally silent, head forward, trunk twisted up and ears stuck firmly to the side of her head. These are all signs of a full-on charge, i.e do not hesitate to shoot.
I literally only had time to shoulder my gun and fire. The shot looked good; however, obviously on an elephant frontal head shot, using a Hornady soft, I did not get the penetration required in order to hit the brain. Before I knew it, the elephant knocked me flying, presumably with her trunk. My gun went one way and I went the other.
I managed to get up, tried to dodge the oncoming elephant, lost my footing in a hole and fell over. The elephant then immediately dropped onto her knees and tried to crush me into the ground with the bone on the top of her trunk. I put my legs up to try and push myself away and prevent my upper body from going under her massive head. While I was on my back with my legs pushing against her head one of her tusks pierced the top of my thigh and consequently went deep into my left buttock. I instantly lost all strength in this leg, and it got trapped and crushed under the elephant's head.
From the side of the elephant's head I could see the client, gun bearer and tracker, who had exploded from the scene, standing approximately 150 meters away. I shouted to the client to shoot and could see him fiddling around with his gun. After shouting for about a third time, an ineffective shot was fired. The elephant eventually released my leg. I rolled over and over very quickly, got up and staggered about 10 meters. The elephant then got up and ran away into the elephant grass.
My leg was bleeding profusely, and we used the client's belt as a tourniquet, which the client put on, and it actually worked very well. Thanks to Miombo's fantastic organization, I was flown out to Dar es Salaam and transferred to the hospital where I underwent immediate provisional surgery.
Just to put the record straight, it was miraculous that I am still here to tell the tale. I still do have my leg, and I am looking forwards to being active in the hunting world in the not-too-distant future.