Behavior and Habits of the Nile Crocodile

Discussion in 'Hunting Africa' started by rooihond, Mar 25, 2014.

  1. rooihond

    rooihond GOLD SUPPORTER AH Veteran

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    AH members,

    As some of you know, I am looking forward to a croc hunt in May. Conditions at the actual hunt will likely change any preconceived notions that I may have but I would like to strategize for likely contingencies. Answers to my previous post have helped a lot so far. Thank you! What I ask now is for your experience and knowledge of croc behavior. Any information is welcome. Please, also jump in if you have knowledge of the Australian species. I would have included this on the other thread but I wanted to limit the scope to behavior and habits this time around.

    Some questions that come to mind are:

    How do typical May conditions generally affect crocs in Limpopo?

    Will the heavy rains this year change anything?

    Does the cooler May temperature encourage broader basking hours?

    Does the cooler May temperature make them less active and eat less?

    Do crocs typically bask facing a particular direction? Towards the sun, away, or broadside?

    When a croc finds a comfy spot, does it stay there for a while? An hour or several hours? (This will influence the speed of my stalk)

    Does age and size influence behavior?

    What other considerations regularly come into play?

    I plan on making this a bow hunt unless a monster presents himself under conditions that my PH advises a rifle only. I am looking for a minimum size of 9 feet. Otherwise, I will return home croc-less. Either way, rifle and bow hunters chime in at will. It appears that more rifle hunters go for crocs so this forum seemed appropriate.

    I currently plan on a painfully slow stalk and my PH has informed me that I can go alone on the final approach. He has been a great help so far but I would like a range of info and opinions.

    Thanks in advance for what I'm sure will be valuable info!
  2. rooihond

    rooihond GOLD SUPPORTER AH Veteran

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    I have found limited info on the crocs field of vision. So far it looks like they have approximately 270 degrees of vision. That allows about 45 degrees on each side of the crocs 6 o'clock position for me to move without concealment. Can anybody correct or confirm this? Will very slow movement within field of view get by without alarm?
  3. rooihond

    rooihond GOLD SUPPORTER AH Veteran

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    No herpetologists or zoology nerds among us? Any plain observations by the not so reptilian inclined?
  4. bluey

    bluey GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    looking at how high their eyes are on their head ,one would expect ,a wide arc of vision . you certaianly have a job ahead of you .
    can they even close their eyes ?
    or do thiey have a nictating membrane like a shark that only closes for protection when they are attacking .
    if your stalk is in good cover or on a windy day it should help ...
    ive read some where that they feel through vibrations from the ground ,aswell .
    in june when im up north l hope to get a chance to do some ground work ,on this subject , the saties we have down here are protected though .so it will be photo hunting only .
    pault would proberly have forgotten more about crocodile than you or l will ever know .theres plenty up his place , I would bet ....
  5. PaulT

    PaulT AH Fanatic

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    O.K Rooihond i'll give you what I know, which is limited, as we do not hunt crocs as sport Trophies in Australia AND i'm certainly no herpetologist !

    I have a very healthy number of salt-water crocs in my hunting area, including a few which make their home each year in the watercourse directly in front of my camp kitchen giving me great opportunity to observe and learn.

    With regards to their eyesight, if I was hunting them I would start off by assuming that they have eyes in the back of their tail, cause regardless of the periphery ability of their eyesight a crocodile's ability to "feel" ground vibration (footsteps) is phenominal and I would not presume that you are undetected just because you may be approaching from directly behind, and covered from sight of their eyes, they can still "feel" you coming.

    I would not regard their hearing to be any better or more acute than most animals, if not less so, but their eyesight and "sense" of something approaching is better than any other animal that I have attempted to approach.

    If I have noticed any weakness it is their inability to pass up a free meal and despite what you may have seen on documentaries a slightly rotting carcass will still draw crocs in.
    Make sure you secure your bait well or they will simply drag it in and dine elsewhere !

    A well camouflaged hide approached on soft, swept (yes that's right, sweep your approach free of dry leaves and twigs) sand, and arriving early in the morning when it is still relatively cool and they are still in the water, should help you close the distance.

    Be patient and expect to have to wait considerable periods before getting your "shot".

    Several years back a big female laid here eggs on a sand patch not far from where I had set up my tent for the season.
    A few days after I had moved in she would come out of the water at night and sit outside my tent and snarl and growl making all of these frightening noises trying to intimidate me.
    By the second night I had prepped myself with a big blunt stick and planned to surprise her by giving her a good old "what-for" over the nose, hopefully scaring her away.
    She was so attuned to my movements that the minute I shifted my wait in my bed, without making any noise, she would be half-way back to the water.
    To be able to get in to striking distance I had to sleep a couple of nights up-right in a chair with the door to my tent open, saving that movement, and the stick in my hand ready to leap when she came close to my tent.
    I wish there was someway of videoing the look on her face that night (it took nearly a week before I got everything right) when I managed to land the tip of the stick on the side of her flanks as she turned for the water ! One of the best "hunts" I ever had.

    Good luck with your hunt, don't take them for granted, they are one of the most attuned animal I have ever had anything to do with and you will certainly earn your croc.
  6. rooihond

    rooihond GOLD SUPPORTER AH Veteran

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    Thanks, bluey! This should be a challenge alright!

    I wouldn't mind a bit of cover to help me out. There should be some still up when I get there. A light breeze wouldn't be bad either!

    I believe that they have eyelids and nictitating membranes. They seem vary wary and I am concerned about the last portion of the stalk when I have to clear my limbs and draw. Vibration should be minimal as my stalk will be very slow.

    Thanks for the info and be sure to share after your June "hunt". Have fun!
  7. rooihond

    rooihond GOLD SUPPORTER AH Veteran

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    Thanks, Paul! It looks like you know and have observed quite a bit! I intend to go spot and stalk or stalk into position without bait or blind. I asked about feeding habits because I suspect that they need to bask after feeding to aid with digestion. I know, I realize that I may come up empty handed on the croc end of my trip. I will stalk very slowly so vibration will be minimal. Slow as in a few yards per hour(on my stomach) if needed. My PH will probably fall asleep by the time I get in position. Do crocs stay in the same spot to allow this or will I have to pick up the pace? I also don't know if I will get busted when clearing and drawing for the shot. This will also be done very slowly but I will have to get upright if using a bow. This is what makes it tempting to go rifle. I'm holding fast for now and reserving the rifle work for some antelope or zebra.

    Great story! You obviously have a good understanding of their behavior to trust getting that close under those conditions. That or you have a cracked block!
  8. PaulT

    PaulT AH Fanatic

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    If left undisturbed, they will bask in the same spots day after day until a bigger croc moves in to that area.
    If your outfitter does some per-hunt scouting without spooking them, it is not hard, by glassing banks or looking for big slides, to find those basking spots from a distance.

    Get yourself a Gilley suit and expect if you move too quickly you will be busted.
    You must move ultra slow, even when out of sight.
    Make your final (100yds or more) in bare feet, or socks only.
    If you can somehow get the benefit of height, where you are atop an embankment looking down you will have a slight advantage as crocs do not naturally look up for danger.

    I have stalked many to within 60- 80yds which is do-able if you are rifle hunting but as I have said before your Trophy will really be earned when needing to get within bow range.

    I don't know if this is helpful or not but they do NOT prey on White Egrets, no matter how close they get.
    I don't know if this applies in Africa as well but I have watched MANY Egrets within easy reach of Crocs, who are very happy feasting on a variety of other water-birds, and they pay them no attention.

    Perhaps you need a "white Egret" suit ????

    I hope you do well, I actually wish I was going along to help, I admire your commitment to the task.

    Croc with a bow, you should get some sort of award for simply attempting it !

    I have had A LOT of interaction with them over the years, as things come back to memory in this pea-brain of mine i'll let you know of anything that may give you an edge.
  9. bluey

    bluey GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    thanks paul .
    bloke what wouldn't , l do to hear that nasty pastie ,growling and threatening you through the safety barrier of a tent wall .
    bet the hairs were standing on end ,all the way down your arms .
  10. rooihond

    rooihond GOLD SUPPORTER AH Veteran

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    Wow, thanks. That helps a lot. I was considering the ghillie suit but I was still thinking about it. I am going to Zim after so I would have to cram it into my bow case that is returning with one of my buddies or give it to my PH maybe.

    After a long stalk on my stomach, I may be covered enough in ticks to attract a bunch of egrets!

    You may have a chance to help me with one of those buffalo hunts I see you offering. That and fishing for barramundi and arrowana. My girlfriend and I have been talking about Australia.

    Thanks, I am enjoying the commitment to the task. My girlfriend says I'm stubborn. I prefer, tenacious.

    Please post anything as it comes to mind. It is all valuable and I am staying tuned!
  11. PaulT

    PaulT AH Fanatic

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    "bet the hairs were standing on end ,all the way down your arms"



    Bluey, not much hair left on the top half of the body, gravity seems to have dragged it all down passed the belt !

    No heroics involved, i'm so accustomed to seeing them its no different now-days than seeing a dog walk down the street. Getting a little complacent actually and have to sharpen up a little if I don't want to end up as lunch.
  12. Jaco Strauss

    Jaco Strauss AH Elite

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    rooihond all good questions,

    I am not familiar with the area and conditions you will be hunting crocodile in, but from what I have experienced on Cahorra Bassa the following applies,

    Early season such as May with good rains (as last year, as well as this season) many sand banks are not visible, this higher water level then creates a slight challenge in shot opportunities, the larger crocs will often only lie on the very high water edge with a third and possible only half (height of body as well as length exposed) hence difficulty in shot selection,... for spine shots with a rifle not that much as far as point of aim is concerned, but from a disappearing back into he water perspective and not to be found again a high risk.

    In these areas big bulls often lie like this, some of them even get out and sun bath on top of water grass creating much difficulty.

    During June, July and depending on rains sometimes into August when these crocs breed they tend to move up into the rivers for breeding, bulls will then be out of the water fro short intervals as they are mostly cruising around like submarines herding cows.

    when they do climb out it could be at any angle, they will usually be in a heightened state of alertness initially, note that they do relax after a while and do climb out a bit further and could possible turn, broadside in a certain direction, but often not in the direction of best approach when taking wind into consideration... (a croc can pick up sent at a 100 yards very easily)

    Once they relax and start cooling they will often slowly but surely start opening they're mouths, initially only slightly but little by little more so, this is the best time to try and move on them, they will also periodically open and close they're eyes while doing this, make sure to plan your approach if it picks you up it will disappear, often it will be there and when you look up again it will be gone.. :)

    The bigger they are the smarter, it is incredible.

    As far as eating goes they (on the lake) mostly feed on the fish in fisherman's nets, so we hardly if ever see them feed, being a reptile they're metabolism slows down during winter times so inherently they do feed less.

    They do however not become lethargic like many snakes you would encounter during winter or rather not noticeably so..

    Bulls tend to be quite territorial so once you have identified a spot were a big bull climbs out he should come back to it but like any animal they tend to sometimes surprise us.

    I guess you are not to concerned with taking a bull, but I will add this anyway, sexing is quite fun once you get into it and the more you look at them the better you'll get at it... A large cow will usually be around 12 ' bulls will be considerably larger (large bulls) with,....

    a broader wider muzzle, with a triangular head and much more neck volume, one does get the impression of a "filled out" body as well as a noticeable drop off behind the head when viewed from the side, from the "ear" scales at the top of the head down toward the neck, (I call it a racing fin or spoiler):) :)

    Big crocks will often lie with only they're head partially exposed looking at they're baking spot in front of them, drop back into the water be gone for 4- 5 minutes and then re appear they can do this for a considerable amount of time before they eventually surface and start to climb out...

    Your slow stalk is a good option, once again I am not sure if you will be hunting a dam, river or lake so terrain, wind and location of baking spot in relation to water mass will dictate your approach, if possible.

    I might be over cautious but I often try not to approach from the front and or side, try to use as much cover as possible, go painstakingly slow, and take enough time to study and watch your quarry while stalking even if it takes you days..

    I hope that some of your questions have been answered.. :) sorry for he rant but there is so much with crocs its incredible!!!!

    Have fun and I look forward to your pictures and story, you are in for a serious hunting experience!!! :) :)

    My best always
  13. PaulT

    PaulT AH Fanatic

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    Rooihond, I've been reminiscing over some of my "contacts" with crocs to see if there was something amongst them that may give you a little edge and recalled an incident I had when trying to catch a little hatchling for a client to have a closer look.
    As I was about to scoop him up from the water the little blighter let out a very distinctive throaty call, that the young use to communicate with their mother, and before I knew it I was no longer dealing with a foot long snapper but had the 12' mother mere feet away ready to protect her young.

    In Australia the young hatch-out after the end of the wet season and that would be a good time to use a call, imitate their call or perhaps use a recorded tape.
    I do not know what timing your hunt falls in with respects to the breeding season of crocs in Africa, maybe one of the African Ph's here can advise on that, but I would think that the distress call of a youngster would be an interesting way of bringing the mountain to Mohammad !

    Just a thought.
  14. rooihond

    rooihond GOLD SUPPORTER AH Veteran

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    Jaco,

    That gives me a much clearer picture of the possibilities. Thanks!!!
    This info will definitely be considered during the stalk. I was hoping you would kick in with some of your Mozambique croc experience.

    I will be happy to get a shot on and recover any acceptable croc. Nine feet seems a bit on the small side but I am thinking that is a good starting point considering the kind of hunt I want. A large bull would be nice, though.

    I will be patient but I haven't set a cut off time yet. I have ten days of hunting but I want to set some of that aside for plains game. I hope to share pics and a good story. I may be stubborn enough to see this thing through to the end and leave with zero trophies. Although, passing on a kudu (and many other desired species) might be just too much to ask).

    I'm going to read your posts (and everybody elses) several times over to soak it all up. Rant all you want! The info is appreciated.
  15. rooihond

    rooihond GOLD SUPPORTER AH Veteran

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    The timing will be a bit off (I think) for that type of calling. Great idea. I wonder if that response is instinctual for all mature crocs. Maybe it would work any time of year. I wouldn't want to send an arrow on a mother caring for hatchlings but that could make for some great photos! Maybe some hunting with shots from a rangefinder. Those count for something in my book.
  16. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

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    Interesting stuff, I'm enjoying the reading material. It's giving me motivation to do a rifle hunt.
  17. rooihond

    rooihond GOLD SUPPORTER AH Veteran

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    I was hoping this would be interesting and helpful for others as well!
  18. rooihond

    rooihond GOLD SUPPORTER AH Veteran

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    What is the approximate height of a croc? From belly to back of an average 9 foot croc and an average 12 foot croc. This is another question about physical characteristics as opposed to behavior but another thread doesn't seem necessary. Any new info regarding anything croc is welcome. Thanks!
  19. Bos en Dal Safaris

    Bos en Dal Safaris AH Enthusiast

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    Good luck on your hunt! Sound like you have it all planned out!! Hope all the effort pays off and you get an exceptional croc.

    Best regards
  20. rooihond

    rooihond GOLD SUPPORTER AH Veteran

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    Thank you! I need every bit of luck that I can find. I don't know if I have a good plan but it sure will be fun finding out!

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