The eland is a large species of antelope that inhabits much of south and east Africa. Keep reading to find out everything about eland hunting in Africa.
Though it is not quite as well known as kudu or zebra, the eland is still a relatively common and popular African animal. Their tremendous size and absolutely delicious meat make them, along with impala, and warthog, a "must-have" species for most African plains game hunts.
SEE ALSO: African Animal of the Week: Warthog
Scientific Name: Taurotragus oryx
The eland is the largest antelope in the world. There are two recognized species of eland that are hunted today: the giant eland (Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, & the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and the common eland (Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia). The two species are quite similar in appearance, with the giant eland (below) being slightly larger in the body, sporting larger horns, and slightly darker in color than the common eland.
Both species are incredibly large animals, with a mature bull (male) standing nearly six feet tall at the shoulder and weighing in excess of 2,200 pounds. Cows (females) are slightly smaller, but can still weigh over 1,300 pounds.
Elands have a smooth coat of fur that ranges in color from tan to dark brown, depending on the age, gender, and species of the eland. Bulls ususally have darker coats, which get progressively darker as they get older. Bulls also have a dewlap on their neck and have a patch of thick fur on their foreheads.
They thrive in semi-arid areas and will be found in grasslands or lightly wooded areas. Though eland are mainly browsing animals, they will eat grass at certain times of the year. They do not need to drink water daily, but will drink if there is a good source of water nearby.
Eland Sex Determination
Though bull and cow eland may appear to be similar at first glance, they usually aren't extremely difficult to tell apart. Bulls and cows both have horns, but cows (left) usually have longer and thinner horns than bulls (facing camera). Mature bulls also have extremely thick necks and a patch of fur on their heads. Depending on the angle, you might also be able to distinguish the sex of an eland by looking for the presence of a penis, which cows obviously lack.
Recommended Calibers for Eland Hunting
Eland are not particularly tough animals, but they are extremely large and must therefore be hunted with an cartridge of appropriate power. Because of their massive size, I consider the .30-06 Springfield (when using 180-220-grain bullets) to be the minimum acceptable cartridge for hunting eland.
However, as long as you can shoot it accurately, using a larger cartridge, such as the .338 Winchester Magnum, .375 H&H Magnum, or even the .416 Rigby are great choices for hunting eland. When using a premium quality bullet, such as the Swift A-Frame or Nosler Partition, these larger bore cartridges provide plenty of knockdown power and cause surprisingly little damage to the meat or cape of the animal.
If you want to bowhunt eland, you should use an arrow weighing at least 600 grains and shoot it from a bow with at least a 75-pound draw weight.
Eland Hunting Methods
Most of eland are hunted via walk and stalk. In the early morning, it pays to walk or drive roads and look for where a herd of eland crossed during the night. After finding suitable tracks, you simply follow the tracks until you hopefully catch the eland that is making them. Since they are so large, eland are capable of quickly covering a lot of ground, so you must be in pretty good shape to hunt them in this manner.
Eland are also sometimes hunted from a blind overlooking a water hole, like in the video below. This is great for hunting in the afternoon and for bowhunters. As a side note, check out how big that eland is compared to the kudu cow (which is not a small animal) sharing the water hole.
Eland Shot Placement
As stated earlier, eland are not particularly tough animals. If they are hit properly, they will not run far at all (like the eland in the video above). When the animal is standing broadside, aim at the center of the shoulder, approximately one third of the way up the body (this goes for both rifle and bow hunters). Since they are so large, it is easy to misjudge the aiming point and hit an eland too high in the chest, resulting in a shot that misses the lungs (or only nicks the top of them). This can make for a very long day of tracking, so be careful not to aim too high.
Remember to adjust your aiming point if the animal is quartering towards or away from you. Aim slightly forward of the shoulder and aim slightly to the rear if it is quartering away. A bowhunter should be very cautious about taking a shot on an eland that standing quartering towards you. However, a quartering away shot is an almost ideal shot with a bow. I highly recommend waiting until the animal is stationary before taking a shot though.
Cost to Hunt Eland
Demand for eland is relatively high among hunters in Africa. Luckily, common eland are relatively numerous in eastern and southern Africa. While the price of an eland hunt varies from country to country, the trophy fee for an eland will range from $1,500-$3,000, with an average of around $2,200 for common eland.
The giant eland is a whole different deal entirely. Since their range is much smaller, there are only a handful of outfitters that offer hunting for giant eland. The small supply of good giant eland hunts significantly drives up the price. Due to this, a giant eland hunt in Central Africa can cost upwards of $20,000!
Ready to start planning that eland hunting trip?
All images, unless specified, courtesy of Big Game Hunting Adventures
Like what you see here? You can read more great hunting articles by John McAdams at The Big Game Hunting Blog. Follow him on Twitter @TheBigGameHunt.