Hunting elephants in South Africa

Hunting elephants in South Africa

Safari hunting elephants in South Africa with your local elephant hunting specialists. We offer the best African elephant hunting safaris because we walk the extra mile and we keep our prices reasonable.

Hunting elephants the traditional way is our way of making your elephant hunting safari the experience it should be. Our South African elephant hunting safaris are presented in remote areas where the African Big 5 still roam free in hunting areas exceeding 100 000 acres.

Read our recommendations below with regards to calibers we recommend for elephant hunting.

Elephant hunters must have nerves of steel. A trumpeting elephant charging with his ears open can be an extreme intimidating experience.

South African elephant hunting laws stipulate that bow hunting elephants is illegal.

Hunting elephants is legal

Legal elephant hunting only takes place once scientific studies proved a sustainable population of elephants exists in any region. Issuing of government permits to legally hunt elephants is done under strict control of the authorities.

No legal elephant hunt can take place without a pre-issued permit or tag.

Elephant hunting in South Africa is legal subject to strict quotas and tags.

The elephant trophy

Elephant herds consist of a dominant cow, her own offspring, siblings, sub-adults and juveniles. Cow elephants are short on temper and long on remembering. As docile as they seem they must never be underestimated.

Elephants move almost noiseless when in the bush. Many a time hunters are surprised by how close they get to an elephant without seeing it first.

Herd behavior is to feed for most of the day, stopping at intervals to listen and test the air for danger.

Bulls become solitary or form bachelor herds of two to five individuals. These are not permanent herds and bulls come-and-go as they please. Bulls will join family herds and leave after receptive cows were serviced.

It is extremely dangerous to hunt elephants in family herds.

The elephant hunter

Any person wanting to hunt an African elephant needs to be in good physical condition. Many elephant tracks are followed in very hot conditions.  This can become taxing and the hunter needs to be aware such conditions.

Elephant hunters must not be recoil shy. Most of the accepted elephant guns are large caliber rifles that pack a mighty recoil. A hunter must practice with his / her rifle to accurately place a shot at between 20 and 35 yards.

According to South African hunting regulations, a 375 caliber rifle is the minimum entry level caliber to hunt dangerous game with. As can be seen in one of the elephant hunting videos below, a 375 can get the job done effectively. However, in the event of a charge by an angry elephant, we consider 375 as an insufficient charge stopper.

Read our recommendations below with regards to calibers we recommend for elephant hunting.

Elephant hunters must have nerves of steel. A trumpeting elephant charging with his ears open can be an extreme intimidating experience.

Hunting elephants in Africa shot distance
Elephant hunting prices

Elephant hunting prices in South Africa 2020 are determined by the weight of the tusks. Our elephant hunting prices for South Africa start at $ 40 000 all-inclusive.

We do have access to larger elephants up to 70 lbs. If interested, please let us know way in advance as we have to book and secure the prime hunting areas during prime elephant hunting times.

A dark-horse factor we have to take into consideration is the decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Services to prohibit the import of elephant products to the USA of elephants hunted in Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Mozambique. Botswana stopped commercial hunting of elephants. This leaves South Africa and a few select other African countries as the only countries where elephants can be legally hunted and imported to the USA. This may have a negative effect on elephant hunting prices in future.

We are hopeful that the decision of the Botswana government to re-open commercial hunting in that country will assist in stabilizing African elephant hunting prices.


We recommend you only use premium grade ammunition when hunting elephants in South Africa.

Our preferred ammunition manufacturer for hunting elephants in South Africa is Hornady in 500 gr weight. Other premium grade ammunition manufactures you can use would be Federal Premium and others.

The reason we keep hammering on using premium grade ammunition is:

In South Africa if you shoot at an animal and blood is drawn, the animal is considered bought and paid for. If you use cheap ammunition that is inferior and causes blood to be drawn you pay even if we do not find it.

Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) ammunition is the only way to go when hunting pachyderms. Pachyderm is just a fancy word for: thick skinned animal.

We only have two thick-skinned dangerous game animals in South Africa, namely elephants and rhinos (both black- and white rhino).

Gun scope for hunting elephants

A premium 1,5 – 6 X gun scope is recommended for hunting elephants in South Africa due to the expected short average shot distance.

In some cases hunters prefer to hunt elephants with open sights. This is mostly done when they are hunting with double rifles in the old fashion. This happens if your vision is still 20/20 either due to being blessed, or due to age.

Caliber for elephant hunting

The best caliber for elephant hunting in South Africa would be a large bore rifle that you can shoot accurately. There is really nothing to debate. There is a legal minimum caliber, then there is a practical experience side.

It is our experience that any caliber from 400 and up just works better.

Here are our recommendations for elephant hunting calibers only using solid ammunition:

375 (because it is a legal requirement).

For 375 you can look at the following ammunition manufactures and velocity of the ammunition:

  • Hornady 300 gr Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) at a muzzle velocity of 2 705 fps
  • Speer 300 gr FMJ at 2 550 fps muzzle velocity
  • Federal 300 gr Sledgehammer at 2 530 fps muzzle velocity and
  • Norma 300 gr Barnes FMJ at 2 493 fps muzzle velocity


416 Rigby.

For 416 Rigby you can look at the following ammunition manufactures and velocity of the ammunition:

  • Norma 400 gr Swift A-Frame FMJ at 2 350 fps muzzle velocity
  • Norma 400 gr Barnes Solid FMJ at 2 297 fps muzzle velocity
  • Federal 400 gr Speer African Grand Slam at 2 370 fps muzzle velocity


458 Lott.

For 458 Lott you can look at the following ammunition manufactures and velocity of the ammunition:

  • Hornady 500 gr FMJ at 2 300 fps muzzle velocity
  • Federal 500 gr FMJ at around 2 335 fps muzzle velocity


470 NE (Nitro Express)

For 470 NE you can look at the following ammunition manufactures and velocity of the ammunition:

  • Norma 500 gr Woodleigh FJ @ 2 165 fps muzzle velocity
  • Federal 500 gr Woodleigh solid at 2 150 fps muzzle velocity


500 Jeffery

For 500 Jeffrey you can look at the following ammunition manufactures and velocity of the ammunition:

  • 535 gr FMJ at 2 400 fps muzzle velocity
Hunting elephants in Africa
Best elephant hunting caliber South Africa

Elephant shot placement diagram

Elephant shot placement diagram
Broadside shot

Shot placement on elephants on a broadside shot is twofold:

  • you can opt for a heart shot, in which case you must aim in line with the front leg, between a quarter and one third of the way up between the bottom of the brisket to the top of the back,  or
  • go for a lung shot – this is by far the safest shot to take. If you have culled more than 100 elephants, you should know where the brain and the heart of an elephant is. We strongly recommend a lung shot if you are planning on hunting less than 10 elephants in your lifetime. Between a heart and a lung shot, go for the lung shot as the size of the lungs are way bigger than the heart.

You will likely be very close to the elephant before you take the shot. In this case your adrenaline will be pumping. Go for the safer shot option.

Quartering away

We strongly recommend you wait for a broadside shot. Penetration is very important.

Quartering to

Rather wait for a broadside shot due to the sheer mass of the animal. The trunk can obscure your intended target area and can possibly deflect a perfectly aimed shot.

Facing on

Only attempt a brain shot if you are an experienced elephant hunter. Brain shots are risky due to the angle of the shot. The angle to the brain changes along with the distance from the rifle muzzle to the brain. The sheer mass of the head and the honeycomb scull material can mislead you on the location of the brain.

Running away

If the elephant runs away after your first shot was taken aim for the spine between the buttocks close to the back of the elephant.

Interesting African elephant facts

When you are finally going to hunt your elephant in South Africa, it will be important to know more on your adversary. Below are a number of interesting elephant facts that might come in handy.

The information is from personal observations over 24 years, but more scientifically from:

Smithers, R.H.N. 1983. Die soogdiere van die Suider-Afrikaanse substreek. Universiteit van Pretoria: 534 – 540

Elephant scientific name

Elephant scientific name

There are two species of elephant on the African continent.

  • the common or savannah elephant with the scientific name of: Loxodonta africana africana, and
  • the forest elephant with the scientific name of: Loxodonta africana cyclotis. Forest elephant are found in the forest regions of central- and North Africa.

Our scientific source states the forest elephant is smaller than the savannah elephant but comparative figures are not supplied. Apart from body size forest elephant have more rounded ears than the savannah elephant.

Elephant average body weight

Elephant average body weight

  • elephant bulls weigh in on average between 12 100 lbs and 13 200 lbs (5 500 kg and 6 000 kg)
  • elephant cows weigh in on average between 7 200 lbs and 7 900 lbs (3 300 kg and 3 600 kg)

The largest elephant tusks recorded to date weighed in at 225,5 lbs (102,3 kg) and 213,8 lbs (97 kg) respectively. Below is a picture of these tusks courtacy of

Largest African elephant tusks ever recorded

Loxodonta africana

African elephant description

Elephants are so commonly used in films and books that most people would be able to recognize them without having seen one in the wild.

Pachyderm is a fancy description of an animal with a very thick skin. The skin is at the thickest by the feet, forehead, trunk and back with a thickness of between 1″ and 2″. On the other hand, the thinnest portion of the skin is situated behind the massive ears.

Elephants have five hooves per side on the front feet, and four per side on the back feet. Front feet are much larger than the back feet due to the additional weight of the head, trunk and tusks.

Elephant reproduction

African elephant reproduction

Elephant calves can be born any time of year, however, a peak of births usually occurs during October and November.

An elephant cow in oestrus can mate with multiple bulls during the course of her being receptive to reproduction.

Gestation period is 22 months (this should settle the squabble between 22 or 23 months gestation period as 22 months has been scientifically noted).

Average weight of a newborn elephant calf is about 265 lbs (120 kg) with an approximate shoulder height of 35″ (90 cm).

Elephant habitat

Elephant habitat

Elephants have a tremendous spectrum of tolerance to a variety of habitat. They adapt from the edge of the Namib desert coast in the West, to the Sudanese savannah on the border with the Sahara desert.

A reliable water source is essential for their survival. Additional to water they require some form of shade to rest up in during the heat of the day.

Plenty of fodder is required in the form of leafy branches and a variety of grass species.

Tips for hunting elephants South Africa

Elephant bull in musth

Elephant bulls in musth should be avoided as far as possible. Excessive doses of testosterone makes them grumpier than a constipated grizzly bear.

Consistent urine dripping wets the insides of the back legs indicating the sexual status of the particular animal.

Stay as far away as possible from these animals unless you intend hunting a specific individual.

Hunting elephants in South Africa general information

The danger of hunting a Cape buffalo often gets more hunters smiling than any of the other members of the Big 5. We can say without doubt that hunting elephants gets the adrenaline pumping and puts your sweat glands in overdrive.

Average body weight of elephants (bulls) is between 12 100 lbs and 13 200 lbs (5 500 kg and 6 000 kg) while the average body weight of elephant cows weigh in at about two thirds the weight of elephant bulls.

It is not uncommon to be tracking an elephant in Mopane brush (Colophospermum mopane)  and not knowing where such a huge animal is within seconds. Having a tracker climb the closest tall tree to see if he can spot the animal is not uncommon.

Hunting elephants in South Africa in their natural environment is a challenge bar none. Even though elephants are vocal and extremely noisy when breaking branches while feeding, they stop feeding momentarily at irregular intervals. They do this to listen and smell for any possible danger.

Elephant hunting is extremely dangerous. They are almost fearless and extremely vocal if challenged. Do not be make sudden movements when challenged by an irritated elephant bull. Soon as he musters enough confidence he will charge.

Enjoy your hunt. Be sure. Be safe.


Tips when hunting elephants in South Africa

Larger elephant herds are more difficult to stalk for obvious reasons. Solitary bulls become extremely wily and are hard to hunt and move unbelievably quiet. When feeding larger herds create a lot of noise that usually muffles other sounds to a degree. It is common practice not to hunt an elephant bull in a breeding herd.

Use caution on the final stalk. Sudden movements will attract the attention of almost every elephant. Elephant cows with dependent offspring wake up with a bad temper that grows worse as the day wears on.

A botched stalk will have a bull walk away from you within minutes. Fortunately, you will have lots of time to think about great excuses on the long walk of shame back to the hunting vehicle.

This is a very dangerous animal to hunt.


Best time of year for hunting elephants in South Africa

From June to August the bush starts to recede rather quickly and during September and October the daily temperatures start rising while the bush recedes to a minimum.

The best time of year to hunt elephants in South Africa is from late August to mid November when the bush has receded most. This is just prior to the start of the rain season.

October onward it starts getting very hot in southern Africa.

We can and do hunt elephants from January to December.


Elephant hunting average shot distance

The average expected shooting distance when hunting elephants in South Africa is 15 to 35 yards depending on the terrain you are hunting in.

Two more considerations to take into account:

  • what time of the year you decide to hunt elephants due to the bush being dense or not, and
  • if you are shooting open sights or with a gun scope
Below is two of our elephant hunting videos.

Elephant trophy hunting pictures from the past

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