Eland Hunting in CAR
by Bill Morgan
The tale of an Eland hunt in the CAR.
The big eland was walking up through the brush at about 50 yards away. It was taking an eternity for him to come out in the open. First a cow came into the small opening and we were crouched down behind a bush, hoping she wouldn’t see or smell us since she was so close. Then another cow and calf came up, and then finally the bull walked across an opening and we could see how big he was, but he was only in the opening for a moment stepping behind some bushes. My PH Erik said “he is very good. I am sure his over 50” I think you should take him.
Suddenly the bull stepped into the small clearing about 50 yards away. I lined the crosshairs on his shoulder and my 375 H&H bellowed. The eland lurched and started moving toward the brush and I hit him again. This time he stiffened up and fell over.
As we walked up to him he was still trying to get up so Erik said to finish him and I did with a third shot. Finally it was over and the whole event lasted no more than 10 seconds. After that there was plenty of hollering, congratulating, handshaking and smiling. From the trackers, my wife and Erik. Erik was happily surprised to see that the Eland was bigger than his original guess; especially his bases were very heavy.
I was amazed by his overall body size. This animal was immense and majestic.
The author with his Giant Eland
But, I’ve gotten way to far ahead of myself. This all started at the SCI Convention a little over a year ago. I was looking to go on a Lord Derby Eland hunt along with my wife, Lucia and my friend Sterling. Me and my friend had hunted together the year before in Cameroon for Bongo and Forest Situtunga and had been very successful.
I was walking down the aisles when a friend of mine, Jean-Pierre Bernon who I had hunted with in Tanzania about 10 years before. He told me he was booking hunts in the Central African Republic for Lord Derby Eland and he commenced to tell me about it and show us some pictures. After listening to him, I went and got my friend Sterling and brought him over to talk with Jean-Pierre. After listening for about another half hour we agreed to go on the safari the following year.
Time came and we arrived in Paris to transfer to the flight to Bangui, CAR. Here I spotted a friend of mine standing heads above everyone else and went over to talk with him. It was Jim Shockey and he was on his way to Bangui also to hunt Giant Eland.
We all boarded the airplane and arrived in Bangui the next morning. Upon arrival a young blond haired girl came up and asked if we were the Morgan’s. It was Charlotte Mararv from Central African Wildlife Adventures (CAWA). Charlotte helped us collect our luggage, clear immigration and finalize gun permits all while waiting in 100 degree plus heat. We headed for the Oubangui hotel on the Oubangui River. A beautiful spot but the hotel was severely lacking for amenities but it is the best there is at present.
Charlotte took us to lunch at a lovely outdoor French restaurant then shopping in the local artisan craft shops and she knew everyone. She can speak English, French, Swedish and the native tongue of Sango, all fluently and interchangeably. She was such a delight. Later on we went to the airport to catch our flight to camp but the plane was late coming back from it’s previous trip, flying out hunters to the bush.
When it arrived we loaded, refueled and took off. We had only flown for about 15 minutes when the pilot turned the plane around and headed back. We all thought maybe there was something wrong with the plane but after landing the pilot told us the start was too late and that he didn’t think he could make it to the camp before dark. As it was a dirt strip in the middle of nowhere it would be quite essential to have good light. We all agreed that it may be a smart idea to wait until morning, Charlotte was called, she had just arrived home and had to return to collect all our luggage and us. Back to the Oubangui hotel and then on to dinner. Ice cream being the main dish, what a treat!
The next morning we left the ground at daylight and arrived in camp 2.5 hours later. Erik, Anton and their staff were there at the airstrip to meet and transport us to camp. We arrived at camp after about a 40-minute ride on a jeep trail the camp was beautiful with several private huts and a dining area with fully stocked bar, all overlooking the intersection of the Kocho and Siriri River.
Our sleeping quarters had concrete floors; double bed with mosquito nets a separate bath with flush toilet, walk-in shower and a sink looking out at the river. They were just perfect and welcoming. Our home away from home!
While traveling to camp Erik explained the hunting to us, how our hunt would proceed and the general routine for the next twenty-one days. After a delightful lunch with two French trained cooks in camp, I can see already we won’t suffer for lack of great food. We unpacked our gear and went for a short evening hunt. We hunted with Erik and we saw several duikers and guineas. Sterling shot a bush duiker with his PH Anton.
Dinner was prepared by Erik’s wife Emelie and the chefs. While we waited for dinner, cocktails and appetizers were served on the rocks situated in the confluence of the rivers with a bridge across from the dining area. A fire had been built in the middle of the rock area with seating. We sat there and listened to the river, the frogs and the cicadas serenading with the moon rising. It was the setting of fairy tales and was absolutely beautiful.
We were off the next morning at 5 AM in earnest on the hunt. We saw duikers, waterbucks and birds but no tracks worth following. On the evening hunt Sterling shot a buffalo but it ran off into the riverine forest and darkness fell too quickly to follow it up. The next morning we had both PH and all trackers out looking for the wounded buffalo. After a couple of hours and no good blood trail to follow we gave up and moved on to our own hunts. We saw a few tracks and followed them for a while but they were too old and it was becoming very warm.
During the night we had some thundershowers with very intense lightning and rain. Morning found us heading to one of many salt licks that the animals use and there we saw a young eland bull. We watched him for about an half hour. We didn’t want to scare him because if the heard was nearby he would stampede them and we would never see get close to them.
Finally he moved off into the bush and we went out onto the salt lick. There were tracks everywhere. The trackers and Erik looked over the tracks carefully and decided we should try and follow them. There were several good bull tracks in the herd. Finally, George, the head tracker, decided the direction of the main herd and we headed of after them. We followed the tracks for about two hours, when Erik stopped everyone and was examine the tracks and speaking to George in Sango. Erik believed there were two herds, the one we were following, and another passing us and heading back towards the salt lick. We followed the second herd back towards the lick. We followed the tracks for about half an hour when we heard the eland up ahead of us calling and tearing up the brush and that brings me to when we spotted the cows.
After all the celebrating the work began of skinning and cutting up the meat. This took several hours as my eland was over a ton. Upon getting close to camp Erik stopped the truck and had the guys cut some flowers off the trees and had me fire a shot in the air, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. As we approached the river next to camp my trackers started singing and now the whole camp was turning out singing and dancing. Erik drove slowly to camp and the crowd kept getting bigger and louder. The whole camp including Emelie and the cooks were there singing, dancing and celebrating the Eland I had just taken. It was terrific and humbling.
Upon our return to camp and settling down, Erik measured my Eland and it was 51 and ½ inches long with 16” bases. He had a copy of the SCI record book but it was 2002. At that time it would have been in the top ten, not bad for a days hunt. I don’t know yet as I have not received the horns but it will most likely be in the top 25 of the SCI record book.
For the next two weeks we followed tracks almost every day with no avail. I shot a savanna buffalo and a western roan. Lucia shot an oribi, a very good waterbuck and a red flanked duiker. Finally on day 17 we came upon a salt lick and there stood a young eland bull. It was “déja vus”. We waited for him to leave and we looked at all the tracks. George sorted them out and we started the track. After about 1.5 hours, Erik asked one of the trackers and I to stay back about 100 feet, so it would be quieter tracking. After 20 minutes or so one of the trackers spotted an eland cow moving up ahead in the bush. Everyone got down and Erik and Lucia began the sneak. The wind was favorable but as before on many of the tracks the wind could witch and the animals would run. This time the wind cooperated and stayed steady. As they watched from behind a bush, several eland cows moved through a small clearing less than 70 yards ahead. Both watched intensely and suddenly a huge bull stepped into the opening. Lucia was unable to get a shot because he was moving too fast in the small opening. They continued to watch for what seemed like an eternity while different elands came in and out of view and were moving away in the bush. Then another younger bull came into sight, but Erik said: “no, there are better bulls in the herd”. I was getting nervous. The wind could shift at any moment or one of all those eyes could spot the hunters. A band of guineas could jump up or the baboons close by could start to bark and spook the elands.
After about ten minutes, another good bull stepped into view at about 65 yards. It was smaller than the first bull but a good bull. Erik said to take him. As Lucia tried to position herself the bull kept moving so they had to keep moving too. This was really nerve wracking. Finally he stopped to pull down some leaves in an area where she could get a shot. She fired a 7mm Remington Magnum and made a good hit, the bull ran into some brush. They changed position again to where they could see him and she fired again, this time the bull started running. I had a good chance to make a follow up shot but I could see he was heavily hit and I didn’t see the need for me to help. The bull ran about 40 yards and collapsed. We walked up to him and Lucia put a finishing shot in the neck. Then the celebrating began.
Lord Derby Eland
It had been two weeks of hard tracking in the heat, countless miles and countless insects crushed, but she had him and he was an excellent trophy. After skinning and cutting up we headed to fly camp and then back to main camp, three hours away. When we got close Erik had the guys cut the flowers as before and Lucia fired the celebratory shot into the air. Again the crew was singing and I was videoing as we approached the river.
Half of the camp was waiting for us, singing and dancing they welcomed us.
As we pulled up, everybody singing and dancing, I got out of the truck they thought I had shot a second Eland! I told them it wasn’t me but Lucia that had killed him. The celebration got even louder then and they lifted her up in the air, carried her around dancing and singing while I taped it. They had never had a woman hunter in camp before let alone kill an eland.
The celebrating continued on and through dinner with congratulations all around. The next day Erik measured the Eland and it was 51 and ½ inches long with 14’ bases, an excellent trophy. In the SCI record book there is not a woman in the top 50 (2002 SCI book) but this one will probably be in the top 25.
As we finished up our safari I was feeling a little sad but we were all also happy to be going back to the civilized world and home with outstanding memories. When we arrived at the Oubangui hotel we met up with the film crewmembers of Jim Shockey. They came up to see how we had fared and were very impressed. Jim had been hunting the same species as us and had killed and eland about 47” and told us how tough it was. We talked to Jim a while and then went to dinner. While waiting for our flight home (a once per week affair from Bangui), we all compared notes on the hunt, camp, areas and what we liked and didn’t like. I think we did the best of all.
CAWA camp was a terrific place with lots of eland, buffalo and plains game. Kocho is a wonderful camp with a great crew. I loved them all and I hope to see them again soon.
Bill Morgan hunted Kocho March 2008.
Thanks Erik for sharing this wonderful story from one of your clients.