The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

So you want to hunt an elephant?

So you want to hunt an elephant? That might be a thought that goes through every hunter's mind at one time or another.

Growing up in New York City, this author’s gateway to hunting and shooting was not through walking fields in search of pheasants or forests in search of a deer, but in reading well-worn copies of outdoor and hunting magazines at the local barbershop waiting for a haircut. These were followed by trips to the library to read more about hunting and shooting in Africa and a quote that I remember but cannot completely source was, “If a man is any good, he cries when he kills an elephant.”

If you consider the lion to be King of the Jungle, it's only because there isn't an elephant around to prove him wrong. These huge magnificent and intelligent creatures are the largest of the African big five and present perhaps the ultimate challenge to the hunter. That is if you have the inclination, desire, and financial means for this type of hunt.

Real mounts of elephants are no longer available.

Real mounts of elephants are no longer available.

The cost

It is not as easy to get the permits to hunt an elephant as it is to draw a mule deer tag in the Western United States. Although the African elephant ranges over a large part of the continent, only certain countries allow hunting. In some of these countries, the number of permits is very limited and with that scarcity drives up the cost.

At the 49th Annual Safari Club International (SCI) Hunter’s Convention held in Reno, Nevada, we spoke with a number of firms who coordinate these hunts. While the emphasis is higher these days on other African plains animals, there are still a few outfits that offer the experience.

A few safari outfitters specialize in elephant hunts.

A few safari outfitters specialize in elephant hunts.

The average rate is $750 per day, per hunter and $275 per day for a non-hunter observer. The typical number of days to hunt an elephant is 14. So, without even taking an animal, you are looking at $10,500 as a solo hunter. Should you kill a tusked bull, the additional fee ranges from $18,000 to $21,000; a tuskless elephant will cost you about $4,500. A separate CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) tag adds another $250. Rental of a firearm can range from $25 to $45 per day ($450 to $650 total) depending on the safari firm, and ammunition cost can be as high as $20 per round. Other expenses that add up are taxes on daily rates and accommodations, food, lodging, tips for members of your hunting party (keeping in mind that the only currency typically accepted are brand new US $50 and $100 bills), and the cost of travel to Africa. Even for a bare-bones hunt, you’re at $50,000.

In essence, isn’t this just a glorified trophy hunt?

Not exactly. If you read adventure stories written in the 19th and early 20th centuries, you might recall a reference to an Elephant Graveyard. It was a mysterious and mystical site hidden in a jungle where the old elephants would lumber off to die. Countless adventurers, ivory hunters and poachers lost their lives and fortunes trying to find it.

This myth came to life because non-African hunters and explorers never came across a dead elephant. This is because when an elephant dies of natural causes or at the hands of a human hunter, the entire countryside picks it clean: the meat, the hide, the tusks and bones. Not a scrap goes to waste and the same is true on modern elephant hunts. The hunter feeds the local villagers for weeks with a single kill.

Large tusks or any elephant ivory for that matter can not be imported to the US as of this writing.

Large tusks or any elephant ivory for that matter can not be imported to the US as of this writing.

The fees involved in these hunts go toward conservation and preservation of hunting lands and habitats to ensure the survival of the species. When the local ecology can support 30,000 of these animals and the population is double that; the need for conservation of the land becomes even more important.

As for taking a trophy, about the most you can bring back to the US is a picture of the animal. Elephant ivory, leather and even elephant hair cannot be imported at the time this was written. Some hunting tours companies offer to store parts until the situation changes, but the days of having custom billiard balls carved from the tusks of your elephant are in the past.

There are firms such as Kanati Elite Taxidermy that can create a life-size replica of your animal crafted from manmade materials based on photographs and measurements from your hunt. A head mount with full artificial tusks will set you back about $18,000 and a full life-size mount costs around $59,000.

A life-size replica elephant mount for the low, low price of $59,000. Not including shipping!

A life-size replica elephant mount for the low, low price of $59,000. Not including shipping!

This is obviously not a sport for the average person but if you have the inclination, desire and the money to afford this type of hunt; the options are there.

The paradox of conservation hunting

Some folks think sport hunting of this type is cruel and most of their experiences with pachyderms comes from seeing them at the local zoo or in documentaries on television. The paradox about elephant conservation is that while many African countries are experiencing rapidly declining elephant populations, others have to deal with rising numbers of elephants.

Elephants without Borders, a non-profit conservation group in Africa, director Mike Chase says, “We can have a sustainable [hunting] quota, which will have a negligible impact on the population. But you have to weigh that up and consider the international backlash… and how that may undermine our economy, our jobs, and our reputation for being at the forefront of conservation.”

He nots the range of elephants in countries like Botswana (which has the largest population of elephants in Africa) has expanded dramatically because droughts have forced them to wander farther in search of water, meaning they’re coming into contact with humans more often.

“Sharing their lives with a five-ton animal that threatens their lives, destroys their crops, damages their properties—I share their anguish,” he says. “When you’ve tried all kinds of alternatives…and they’re still dangerous, the animal has to be destroyed. At least the communities should be able to benefit by letting a hunter come in and pay to do it.”

We recommend making use of your local Safari Club chapter and their resources to find an ethical, reputable and safe outfitter should you decide that you want to hunt an elephant.

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