Hippo hunting is an adventure! You never know exactly how it's going to go down... and usually, you'll be hunting crocodiles at the same time.
Sometimes while hippo hunting, you’re paddling in a canoe to close the distance or you might be stalking through the grass hunting a solitary old bull. You might even hunt out of a blind…and usually, you’ll be hunting crocodiles at the same time. Hippo hunting can be a fun add-on to your African Safari. The best countries to go to for hippo hunting safaris are Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Botswana. You can go to South Africa however unfortunately it is rather expensive compared to the other places, like hippo hunts in Mozambique.
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Hippo Shot Placement
Hippo’s are almost always found in the water, so most of the time the only option will be a headshot.
The brain is very small, so make sure you’re rifle is “dead nuts” and know where to aim. Use big, solid bullets for hippos. A hippo shot in the water with a good brain shot will just sink out of sight, but the dead animal will float after a few hours due to the vegetation in its stomach producing enough gas to float the carcass. A missed brain shot will usually knock the animal out, and then you will need to take back shots as quickly as possible being careful not to wound another hippo.
- Headshot facing away – The best angle is when the animal is facing directly away from you, exposing the back of it’s head. Draw an imaginary line between the base of the ears, and shoot in the middle.
- Headshot quartering towards – Aim directly at the eye, angling the bullet through the brain. Always keep in mind where the brain is.
- Direct facing head shot – This shot is very difficult because of the heavy bone of the skull, but with a modern caliber of a sufficient size, you should be fine. Look at the aiming charts below.
- When out of the water a body shot can be used with a large caliber and solid bullets.
Field Judging a Hippo Bull
Trophy hippos are determined by the size of their 12 tusks.
The longest canine tusk length is the measurement recorded by the record books. As far as trophy assessment goes we are looking for a mature bull and hope for the best on its tusks. You can make an educated guess on the teeth size by evaluating the ‘pockets’ on the top of the hippos jaw. These can indicate tusks size. If time is available you can wait for it to open his mouth for a visual confirmation.
The fun is in the hunt, it can be equated to pig hunting in that the size of the trophy is not considered to be of the utmost importance. Any mature hippo is going to be a huge animal and a pleasure to hunt on a safari. Hippo are CITES II animals and are allowed to be imported into the USA.
Hippos are Very Dangerous
Hippos kill a lot of people in Africa…possibly more than any other animal except maybe the crocodile.
‘Hippopotamus’ is an ancient Greek word that means ‘river horse‘, but trying to ride one would be ill advised. Hippos are among the most aggressive animals on the planet, killing many people in Africa yearly. Related to whales, hippos spend the day in lakes and rivers, unlike all other large land mammals such as elephants and rhinos. They only require deep enough water for them to completely submerge and a good supply of grass. Hippos will leave the water at dusk to graze, and sometimes travel up to six miles in a night.
They can be very territorial and aggressive, sometimes attacking boats, capsizing them and killing the passengers. When they are at their most dangerous however, is at night when they are out of the water.
They are evil monsters who attack us night and day. Because of them, we haven’t been fishing. I came with another fisherman to pick up the nets I had left when the hippopotamus upended our boat. My friend got away, but it bit into my left leg, then my right. It’s the second time I’ve been attacked.
Africa Safari Gear List
Preparing for your first African Safari can be intimidating, but there’s no need to worry. The truth of the matter is that packing for a hunt in Africa isn’t all that difficult. We have worked together with our P.H.’s on a safari gear list for your upcoming hunt.
- Valid Passport (South Africa requires your passport to be valid for an additional 30 days after your return date to the USA. No exceptions.)
- Airline ticket.
- Proper weapon documentation.
- Email the date and time of arrival to your P.H. for pickup at the airport.
- Inoculation (if needed in the area you are hunting).
- Deposit paid and confirmed.
- Traveler’s checks and enough cash for gifts, tip, etc.
- Travel Insurance.
Keep it simple. Bring a few changes of light hunting clothing (most places will have a daily laundry service). Odds are you will be riding in the back of a truck on a high rack to and from hunting areas, and that can get chilly. So bring a good jacket along. During the day, temperatures should be pleasant.
*When hunting in Mozambique it is important to note that you are allowed to bring realtree type camo but it is against Mozambican law for an ordinary citizen to wear military style camouflage.
- 2 pairs of light hunting pants
- 2-3 hunting shirts
- 2-3 pairs of socks and underwear
- 1 pair of insulated underwear (tops and bottoms) *we recommend Merino wool
- Light jacket for stopping wind
- Wide brim hat or cap
- Good ankle boots/shoes that are very comfortable (you don’t need heavy mountain boots)
- Comfortable shoes for lounging at the lodge
- Light stocking hat and gloves
- Light rain gear
If you are hunting from May to August, be sure to bring some heavier clothing as well as temperatures can occasionally drop below freezing. If you are hunting during this time add the following items:
- 1 pair of insulated hunting pants
- 2 pairs mid-weight socks
- Insulated coat
Get the best optics you can afford. Don’t skimp here.
- Binoculars (Quality 8’s or 10’s)
- Spotting Scope
- Bino Harness
- Phone Skope – Mount your phone to your optics
- Lens Cloth and Cleaning Equipment
Firearms and Ammunition
Clients always ask us what type of rifle and caliber they should bring to Africa. Our advice is always, bring the rifle that you are most comfortable shooting with, shot placement and premium quality bullets are more important than caliber choice. For plains game, we recommend any caliber between 270 and 375. However calibers for dangerous game, the minimum requirement by law is no caliber smaller than 375H&H. We recommend using premium quality soft point ammunition like Swift A-frame, Woodleigh, Norma or Barnes. For elephant and hippo it is advisable to use heavy caliber solid ammunition.
When hunting dangerous game, use a good quality low powered variable scope of 1.5 – 6 x 25 power. We recommend a higher powered scope of between 3 – 9 x 40 magnification for plains game. When transporting your rifle it should be transported on the airline and on any major road in a solid, lockable, hard case. Whilst travelling between hunting areas or on the back of the hunting vehicle we recommend that you bring a soft padded rifle bag.
- Ammo (40-60 shells should be adequate for a typical hunt)
- Gun case with locks
- Soft gun case
- Bow (talk to your Agent or PH about poundage requirements)
- Arrows and good broadheads (2-3 dozen arrows should be adequate for a typical hunt)
- Bow case with locks
- Soft bow case
- Valid Passport
- Airline ticket
- Proper weapon documentation
- Certified copy of your Passport for the taxidermist.
- Tip your P.H.
- Pay trophy fees and final payments for the animals you take on your Safari.
- Make arrangements for your trophies.
The standard tip for a guide is 10% to 20% of the cost of your trip. Remember to tip the cooks and other help in the camp as well. The amount you give reflects your appreciation for your guide’s hard work and effort.