The Giant Eland of Central Africa is an outstanding game animal and one of the must have trophies of any African hunter. Because of its habitat, most hunting is by tracking on foot. Once tracks are found, they are followed quickly and often at a trot because the eland are continually on the move. Tracking can take days, in debilitating heat and if the eland become aware of the pursuit, they will bolt, running for miles before slowing down.
Here are the top Central African Giant Eland Entries in the SCI Record Book.
Darryl Hastings holds the number 1 spot with this beauty measuring 143 3/8″. It was taken in 2004 near N’Dele with the help of Phillippe Clero of Club Faune.
Bob Merkley took his number 2 eland near the Kosho River CAR in 2012 with guide Francois Guillet. It measures 141 7/8″.
Lee Lipscomb’s number 5 eland was taken with the help of Franz Coupe’ of Aouk Sangha Safaris in 2000. It measures 137″.
Bernard de la Rochefoucauld took one of the number 6 slots with this beaut taken in 2001 with Mattieu Laboureur of Club Faune. It measures 136 4/8″.
Also at number 6 is Marc Watts and his entry taken with the help of Andre Roux of Dar El Kouti Safaris in 2007. It measures 136 4/8″.
B. Simon holds the number 7 spot with this bull taken near Haut Chinko CAR in 1985. J.M. Latrive guided him and this bull measured 135 7/8″.
Watson T. Yoshimoto holds the number 8 spot with this bull measuring 135 6/8″. It was taken in 1969 guided by Claude Vasselet.
Christopher Kinsey shows off his number 9 eland bull taken in 1991 with the help of Rudy Lubin of Haut Chinko Safari. It measures 135 4/8″.
Olle Bexander comes in at number 11 with this bull taken in 2000 with Fred Duckworth Safaris. It measures 135″.
Richard Gronblom comes in at lucky 13 with this beautiful bull taken in 2004 with the help of Stephanie Cordesse of Safaria. It measures 133 7/8″
“I want to thank my grandparents for bringing us on this trip. I love them so much,” our 14-year-old grandson, Parker Swan, said. He had just shot a beautiful blesbok at Lindenhof Ranch in Namibia and was thanking us for bringing him, his 10-year-old brother, Mason, and his mother and father, Bill III and DeAnn, to Africa with us for a family hunting trip. Jaco, our PH, was running the video camera while saying,
“I think I am going to cry!” Vicki, my wife, and I had tears in our eyes after hearing him say that. His comment made the trip for us.
Vicki and I had been planning this African trip for our family with Cedric and Karin Neiuwoudt at Cape to Cairo since the 2010 SCI Convention in Reno. We selected them because they were an SCI Corporate Sponsor the year prior, and because of that, we became close friends. Cedric and Karin provided a “hassle free” trip that included transfers, three different camps and an overnight at a country club. For our family, it was a trip of a lifetime and one we hoped to cherish forever. Only Vicki and I had ever been to the African Continent, and this would probably be our last trip to Africa since we had other places we wanted to experience.
My son and I have been hunting deer and turkeys with the grandkids since they were the “ripe old age” of six when each of them was able to harvest a whitetail buck. Later, we took them with us on hunting trips to many other places, including Canada, Ohio and Kentucky. Both Parker and Mason have since become avid hunters.
My fondest memory of hunting with Mason was on one very cold morning here in Tennessee when he was eight. Bill III dropped the two of us off at a shooting house overlooking a food plot. Mason climbed the stairs to the house and Bill III handed me Mason’s .243 (or at least he thought) in a zippered case. I grabbed my Kimber .300 WSM and followed Mason into the house. In less than an hour, a nice eight-point whitetail appeared 25 yards in front of the stand. I quickly unzipped the case and instead of Mason’s .243, pulled out my son’s (unloaded) muzzleloader that he mistakenly picked up that morning when leaving the house. I looked at Mason and he was shaking all over with his teeth chattering. “Mason, are you cold?” I asked. He just shook his head no and pointed at my Kimber. Needless to say, I was afraid the recoil might take him for an “unplanned ride.”
For our family, planning the trip and letting the kids pick out which animals to shoot added to the excitement. Parker’s number one animal was a kudu and Mason’s number one was, of all things, an eland since that was the largest plains game animal. For him, bigger is better. Parker had always wanted a kudu, so his choice was easy. I had not planned to hunt, but Cedric talked me into hunting sable, which is an animal Vicki and I had always wanted to adorn our log home. Bill III was hunting with his bow. Several hours were well spent with the kids prior to the trip, having them shoot off sticks to get the feel of what was in store for them. Vicki and DeAnn spent time honing their camera skills and we were ready. Vicki and DeAnn took more than 3,000 photos on the trip.
The day after our departure and being in airports and planes for more than 24 hours, we arrived very tired and very excited at the Windhok, Namibia, airport. There, Jaco and Janse, our PHs, grabbed our luggage and we were quickly on the way to the lodge. Parker, Mason, Bill III and DeAnn were like revolving doors trying to see all the sights and animals en route. After an early supper, we all became pumpkins and fell asleep, dreaming of what was to come.
Dawn came cool and crisp, and it was hard to tell who was looking forward to the first day the most. Parker was using my Kimber .325 WSM that I would be carrying on my lion hunt after they flew home, and Mason was shooting
his older brother’s Howa 7mm-08 with Hornady 139-grain bullets. With airlines so strict on luggage requirements and South Africa’s cumbersome gun clearance and everyone in sight wanting a tip to help, we decided that we could survive bringing two rifles. Our only concern was Mason shooting a 2,000-pound eland with such a small bullet.
We decided Vicki and I would hunt with Parker the first morning, and Bill III and DeAnn would go with Mason. Parker performed flawlessly, making a perfect 160-yard one-shot kill on a springbok while I filmed the action. The first thing he did before picking up his animal was to give Vicki and me a hug and thank us for this trip. Upon returning with Parker’s springbok, we found that Mason had made a “one shot” kill on a black wildebeest; however, he got confused and shot the wrong one. Jaco, being the gentleman and great PH that he is, called it a cull and let Mason take a second wildebeest.
On day two, Vicki and I went with Mason in hopes of finding a trophy eland. Two hours later, we spotted a small group of eland. We left the truck for an hour-long stalk that had Jaco and Mason crawling about 50 yards to get into position for a shot. (At 68 years old, crawling is not the same for me as when I was less than a year old. There were thorns everywhere and they gravitated to my knees, so I choose to find a close tree and began filming.) Watching though the viewfinder, I could easily see Jaco placing the shooting sticks in position while Mason rose slowly and placed his rifle in position for the 150-yard shot. At the sound of the shot, Jaco grabbed the sticks and walked about 10 feet to his right with Mason in tow. The rifle was on the rest for the next shot when Mason began giving Jaco high fives. For the next two minutes the young hunter danced around like a Mexican jumping bean doing what he called the “eland dance” that he had been practicing at home for this moment. I have little doubt he added a few new moves.
It was at that point when Vicki and I felt we had gotten more than our money’s worth from this trip, but it only got better. As we approached the giant eland, Jaco said, “Mason, do you realize what you have gotten?” Of course, he had no idea, as this was the first time he had seen one of these animals up-close. Jaco then proceeded to tell him that this was by far the largest eland ever taken off this ranch. We could not believe it! One shot with the tiny rifle had taken out both lungs and finished
it within 25 yards of where it was hit.
The next day, Bill III, hunting over a waterhole with Jaco, shot a very nice oryx with his bow, while Mason got an afternoon double of a warthog and red hartebeest. Parker got a really nice blue wildebeest. The next days went by way too fast. We wanted the trip to be enjoyed slowly like a fine wine, but life is not like that.
While hunting and filming with Parker, we spotted a kudu bull worthy of gracing the wall of his room. It was a two-hour game of cat and mouse, spotting and stalking through the thick brush. Parker would place my Kimber on the rest only to see the gray ghost of Africa appear and disappear. Finally, he was able to make a quick shot and the animal of his dreams was lying at his feet. What a magnificent animal a kudu is. And, what a great time we had going through the thorns and brush chasing the bull. That evening, Parker’s brother had taken a beautiful red hartebeest and warthog (before leaving home he said he did not want to hunt a warthog, but this is Africa).
Cedric made arrangements for us to take a Safari Care (SCIF) bag to a local school adjoining a “squatter’s town.” According to Parker, that was his favorite part of the trip. Both Parker and Mason got to give out the contents of the bag in each classroom. The teachers were very excited to get the six soccer balls that were in the bag since they had a soccer tournament coming up in two weeks. At each class, the kids would sing and dance. Cedric told us the words to the song were “thank you and welcome.” It was really sad to see the living conditions, but it was uplifting to see the children in class hoping for a better life.
That evening at dinner as we enjoyed the eland tenderloin cooked over an open fire (which we agreed is the best meat we have eaten), Jaco informed us that we had set a camp record of 17 animals in three days for three hunters. He did count my sable, but the trip was about family and not about an animal for me. With the exception of Mason’s second black wildebeest, every animal was taken with only one shot. That was not too bad shooting for a 10- and 14-year-old, especially since I needed two shots for the sable, and many animals I took on my first trip to Africa required more than one.
After Lindenhof Ranch, our next destination was Erindi Ranch in Northern Namibia for a photographic safari. We spent the three days there reliving our cherished time on the
family hunting trip and enjoying evening rides into the bush, taking pictures of the African game. We even had a little excitement when a bull elephant actually ran at us and bumped the back of our Land Rover.
It seemed as though we had just arrived when Vicki and I tearfully had to say goodbye to Bill III, DeAnn and the kids at the South Africa airport. They had a flight home, and we had a charter flight for my lion hunt. This was a trip we wish could have lasted forever because it was not just a trip — it was an experience for the family. We will never forget Parker saying, “I love my grandparents so much.” We were all “bitten by the safari bug” and cannot wait to return.–Bill Swan
When hunting Giant Eland in Central Africa the indigenous people have a unique respect and reverence for this majestic animal. It’s called yamoussa in Fulfulde (northern Cameroon – southern Chad), bosobo in Sango (Central African Republic), Éland de Derby for francophones–the giant or Lord Derby eland–was named after its discoverer, a 19th century British naturalist. It is in no way to be compared with his distant cousins, the Cape eland (southern Africa) or the Livingstone eland (eastern Africa), whose habits and behavior are quite different. The Cape eland easily bear captivity–even domestication. Some have been seen harnessed to plows, something totally inconceivable for the shy and untameable giant eland!
Though present in the old days in Senegal and Nigeria, the western variety unfortunately survives nowadays in very few reserves such as the one at Niokolo-Koba, Senegal. Important populations of this magnificent antelope still survive in Central Africa where they once took up vast territories: south of Chad, west of Sudan, north of Congo, Central African Republic, North-Cameroon, especially in the northern regions of the CAR and Cameroon, between the 7th and 9th parallels.
The giant eland belong to the family of African antelope I consider to be the most prestigious: the Tragelaphinae, which includes the common nyala, mythical mountain nyala, greater kudu, lesser kudu, sitatunga, various bushbucks, and the prince of the rain forest, bongo. This dream of all big game enthusiasts is by far the most impressive of all African antelope. Adult males can easily weigh up to one ton. Several years ago, I took one such specimen largely exceeding that weight. That enormous male had only one horn, the other having been broken maybe in a fight with another male opponent. The one horn had meant for him some kind of life insurance, as no hunter (except myself!) wished to show such a trophy in his trophy room.
It is most moving for me to come across a huge herd of these mysterious animals, often after grueling, seemingly endless hikes. Some groups can be up to a hundred head strong, moving apparently aimlessly on the vast Central African half-barren plateaus.
Surrounded most of the time by the old cows of his security guard, the leading bull, majestic with his long charcoal-dark neck and his heavy white-flecked dewlap, moves serenely, seldom leaving the center of his protecting group. His impressive, massive, twisted trophy sticks out from the forest of the cows’ spindly horns.
Their large size and extremely peaceful temper could have been a deadly liability for this specie’s survival hadn’t Mother Nature granted these heavyweights the keenest senses: very sharp eyesight, highly developed sense of smell, and particularly fine hearing.
More than all other creatures in the African savannah, the giant eland is fitted with all necessary assets to get away from its predators, among whom man and his never meat-replete tribes are the most dangerous. The giant eland’s only weak point is its proportionally small hoofs that leave, even on firm grounds, deeper footmarks than those from other animals, (buffalo for instance). That distinction smoothes the way for trackers on their trace, trying to capture them.
Its assets, combined with an unlimited capacity for fast moves over long distances, make the giant eland fantastic game, unrivalled on the continent apart from elephant. They’re always on the move all over the wooded savannah in search of tree species such as isoberlinia, annona, or terminalia, their most favoured food. Using powerful twisted horns as pincers, they can break tree trunks the size of a man’s arm and more than seven feet above the ground with a disconcerting easiness. Quite choosy, they only eat the tender young leaves at the stem tips. In the very early morning silence, a few hundred yards away from the animals we were after, I often heard the sharp cracks caused by that activity.
Aiming at the best big male within a fifty or more head herd is no easy thing. When they realize they are being followed, they become highly cautious. Closely grouped giant eland move along rapidly, led by the constantly watchful old cows who, at the slightest threat, send out strange guttural warning sounds, causing the whole herd to run away immediately with an indescribable racket of broken branches and clanking rocks. In most cases, it will be impossible to catch up with them due to their capacity to vanish into nature–the reason why Anglo-Saxons nicknamed eland “the ghost!”
In spite of all odds against it, lengthy efforts and a piece of luck will finally help with catching up to eland again one day or another when they stop for a few moments to drink or to allow the youngest to recover some strength. But it’s no use trying too soon to come close to the herd, as well-positioned sentries will spot you immediately.
The best course is maintaining a goodly distance, downwind, and patiently observing. Often I take advantage of such forced stops to have something to eat, and to take a nap on a hastily prepared leaves bed, leaving it up to the trackers to keep an eye on the sequence of events.
After some time–rarely more than two hours–the animals start stirring. One after another, those that had been lying in the dry grass slowly stand up on their long legs, preparing to get in line to resume their endless peregrinations. At that moment, when among the herd there is some wavering, some scattering–sometimes over several hundred yards—and some hesitation as to which direction to go, is the right moment for the seasoned hunter to take his chance and shoot–even from a considerable distance–at one of these finally unconcealed lords.
The giant eland is an easy target. He rapidly surrenders when hit. This superb machine is so sophisticated that it doesn’t bear the least damage. If he is wounded, he will quickly get away from the herd and wait for death with dignity and resignation, not showing any aggressiveness towards those who just hit him fatally.
The eyes are said to be the mirror of the soul. I often noticed that the bravest animals, when dying or even in death, continue to stare at you as if to make you feel guilty. I had it hard sometimes to withstand that stare while getting ready to give the coup de grace. It is a custom among the CAR trackers to throw some earth into the eyes of a dying eland. They explained to me that they do it so the bosobo does not recognize them when they meet him “on the other side of the world”–the hereafter!
I witnessed three or four times that when a lead bull falls under the hunter’s bullets, the whole group gathers around the body ignoring the deep fear they felt about men a short time earlier. They seem to keep watch over their dead leader for a few minutes before resolving to abandon him on the burned savannah ground before moving again towards a mysterious destination known only to them.
Such unforgettable occurrences explain the legends and superstitions about bosobo spread among the central African tribes. In the CAR, some groups spare the animal. They are convinced that people eating eland meat will suffer from leprosy. Others strongly believe the souls of passed away ancestors travel with the eland throughout their Africa.
Hunting rogue eland is hardly easier, contrary to what one might suppose. Conscious that they can no longer depend on their fellow creatures for protection, they are constantly moving, unpredictable in their shifting, and permanently on the alert. They feed only at night or early in the morning, staying clear from overly busy water holes. It is most difficult to come close to them, and if you are lucky enough, you might often discover that their trophy is a poor, timeworn thing. Out of about twenty eland I have taken, only two or three were rogue.
A giant eland trophy is at its best when the animal is about twelve years old. Later, it slowly wears out. A good trophy must be long, with a thick base. Its “V” shape must be as wide and open as possible. With horns about 47 to 49 inches long measured according to the Safari Club International method by following the horn’s longest spiral, such a trophy would be considered excellent and would be granted a silver medal.
Apart from man, the only big danger threatening the giant eland was Rind rinderpest to which he is much more susceptible than the other large antelope. He paid a heavy toll about thirty years ago, and it took two decades for the giant eland to recover a satisfying population level. Lion and hyena only attack youngsters or sick adults. They are no menace for the species.
Giant eland flesh is the best ever as he eats only the upper tender shrub leaves. He is not plagued by any parasites, and the flesh has a very nice light red, tantalising color. It is very tasty, and not strong like the buffalo’s, for example. Africans are crazy about it. The way they carve out this mountain of flesh by the rules of their ancestral practice is an astonishing show. They never leave anything for the lions, hyenas or vultures!
Back in camp, the Africans burst with ardour into the victory chant they saved for special occasions. And the death of the yamoussa is such an occasion for these hunters from the first days of the world.– Edouard-Pierre Decoster