Every now and again, evolution gets things right. Between 9 million and 16 million years ago, in the coastal swamps near the Pacific Ocean in the East, the evolutionary parents of the modern crocodile were born, and they haven’t changed much since.
Roaming amongst the monstrosities that inhabited the Earth before Homo Sapiens had a chance to diverge from the Homo Erectus, crocodiles have been cutting their teeth as the toughest animals around for some time now.
They are dinosaurs that have lasted into modernity, and hunters will need all the crocodile hunting tips they can find to have the best chance at taking one of these magnificent reptiles home.
It is easy to understand why some hunters would choose such an animal as their next target. Pitting wits against the crocodile is a challenge, and a glorious trophy awaits those who are willing to put in the work, learn what they can about the animal, and learn the necessities of finding your way onto a hunt.
This article will provide the basic information needed to take the hunter from wishful dreamer to successful crocodile hunter. First, here is what every hunter will need.
- Knowledge of the crocodile. You’ll need to know how it moves, how it works, and where it’s vulnerable.
- Knowledge of the law. One wrong step and a hunter can wind up at the shouting end of many an environmentalist’s wrath. This knowledge is also important for avoiding hefty fines and jail time. Take care to understand the laws surrounding a crocodile hunt, and take care to stay within those laws. Respect the laws: the health and abundance of the species depends on them.
- A guide service. As discussed below, all foreign hunters need a guide service accompanying them on their expedition.
- A weapon, most commonly a gun. Archery is permitted and sometimes implemented, but guns are the most popular method for taking the game.
- Deep pockets. Due to the legal nature surrounding the crocodile, hunters will have to pay for flights, permits, licenses, guide services, and trophy fees. These will add up quickly.
- A hardy attitude. Hunters will be traveling to far-off, remote places to pursue these reptiles. Guide services will take good care of you, but hunters must be ready to hike, wait, and act without fatigue or hesitation.
Step 1: Understanding the crocodile
Crocodiles are apex predators. Every now and again a bold jaguar or some other such predator will drag out a smaller specimen, but crocodiles are as much the top eaters as any of the big cats.
Notorious for eating just about anything (one article from Nat Geo called their diet “indiscriminate”), crocodiles can be dangerous to humans, especially to those humans who have an eye for besting the beast as a hunter.
Despite their lumbering size and their seemingly lethargic demeanor, crocodiles can disappear into the water with a flick of the tail. These creatures need to spend time on land to warm their bodies and regulate their temperature, but they are still capable of surprising bursts of speed when not in the water.
Furthermore, crocodiles have incredible senses of smell and sight. They listen to nearby bird calls to alert them of danger, and they are naturally cautious creatures. Their threatening power and speed makes them dangerous for any would-be hunter, but even getting close to a crocodile is an uphill battle.
Once close enough, hunters will have to defeat the crocodile’s natural system of armor and thick skull. Crocodiles are some of the toughest animals in the kingdom, giving rise to the old African saying, “A croc ain’t dead until the hide is salted and on the wall.” The crocodile’s golf-ball sized brain leaves the hunter a difficult target that requires the finest accuracy.
Step 2: Learning the Laws
Crocodiles can be found in the Americas (spanning most of the Caribbean and covering the southernmost area of coastal Florida), in Africa, in the Indo-Pacific, and in Australia.
Due to laws and international treaties, there are three places where a hunter might look to experience a crocodile encounter up close with eyes for harvesting one: the United States, Africa, and Australia.
Which location is preferable to the hunter will revolve around where it is legal, so an examination of the laws surrounding crocodile hunting is necessary. International treaties govern the import and export of endangered animal products, plus the laws of each particular country make a trap that’s easily fallen into.
Hunting Crocodiles in America
The American crocodile was hunted down and nearly wiped out between the forties and sixties, but the United States saw the danger to the species and implemented protections for the crocs. As a previously near-extinct creature, the American crocodile is heavily protected.
Hunting crocs in Florida is illegal, as well as in the Caribbean or coasts of Central America. In fact, most of the species found in these regions (and in South America, such as the Orinoco Crocodile) are critically endangered and are fighting for their own existence.
Alligators, on the other hand, are fair game as long as the hunter has the proper permits and techniques. In America, hunters are only allowed to hunt alligators. This makes it important to know the difference between the two creatures so the law doesn’t snatch you up for a small mistake.
The first major difference found between the two similar species is the color scheme. Alligators are going to be dark in color, almost black, while crocodiles are going to be a more greyish-green. The snout of the two big lizards will differentiate the species as well, with alligators having a broad, more rounded snout.
Crocodiles will have a more narrow and pointed snout. Lastly, if you look closely at the teeth of the animal, an alligator only shows the teeth from its upper jaw when the mouth is closed. Crocodiles, on the other hand, will have bottom teeth sticking out from the closed mouth. When hunting in America, make sure to learn these differences well before attempting to take your alligator home.
Hunting Crocodiles in Australia
Australia is another country for a crocodile-fueled vacation. Like the Americas, crocodile hunting is illegal in Australia.
Saltwater crocodiles are the largest of the crocodile species, and they were (like their American cousins) almost hunted to extinction. A ban was placed on their hunting in 1971, and ever since their populations have been achieving healthy numbers.
600 permits are handed out to Aboriginal populations every year to harvest problem crocodiles (specimens that are known for killing cattle or people), and only one guide service outside of First Australian populations has a permit to harvest. This guide service is Australia Wide Safaris, operated by Matt Kelman.
Although there were rumors last year that the Australian government was thinking about allowing greater access to crocodile harvesting permits, Kelman seems to think that’s a long way off.
As a result of the ban, Kelman offers his clients the next-best thing. His customers can help set the traps, scout the crocodile basking areas, and harvest the bait animals. The only thing his clients can’t do is pull the trigger on the crocs themselves, but as soon as Kelman takes the crocodile the client can arrange to purchase the skin and the legendarily hard-to-penetrate skull.
Customers can witness all the ins and outs of a crocodile hunt first-hand. Kelman even provides the proper Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) documents to ensure his clients are legal when they export the skulls and skins of his crocodiles.
Hunting Crocodiles in Africa
For those who want to be the one pulling the trigger, Africa is the place to go. Here hunters can chase one of four species of crocodiles, but by far the most popular quarry is the Nile crocodile. Infamous for their aggression and their not-so-seldom taste for human flesh, the Nile crocodile is a might adversary that any hunter would be proud to have bested.
In Africa, every foreign hunter is required to be accompanied by a professional hunter (a PH for short). To be a PH, an individual must go through a ten-day education program and a six-month apprenticeship with an established professional hunter.
These people are trained to aid hunters in the navigation of the laws and to keep the hunters safe in the treacherous African Bush. Luckily, part of the guide service’s job is to partner their clients with a professional hunter in Africa.
Step 3: Find A Guide Service
Guide services all have websites, and getting in touch with them is as easy as sending an e-mail. Guide services vary in what types of comforts they offer, where they will be hunting, and pricing.
A hunter can expect to pay around $400 per day for the guide service, with hunting in the morning and in the afternoon. Lodging and meals are almost always provided in the standard guide services, and they will obtain all the proper licenses and permits.
Most guides also provide the firearms and ammunition for additional fees, as traveling with firearms can be a sticky business. To avoid the forms and trek through customs, many hunters opt to simply use their guide’s weaponry. Guides will also help the hunter arrange travel and properly gear up.
Step 4: The Hunt is On
After wading through the tedium of logistics, a hunter still has to take the crocodile for the trip to be a success. Remembering the crocodile’s keen senses and ability to evade predators, the hunter will have to proceed carefully in order to turn his or her hunt into a success.
Tip # 1: Weapon of Choice
The hunter’s rifle must be supremely accurate and powerful enough to break through the crocodile’s armor.
The level of accuracy required necessitates a scope (no open sights on this trip), and the rifle needs to be at least a .30 caliber. Soft-point ammunition that expands upon impact will further increase the hunter’s chances of bagging a crocodile.
Tip # 2: Find the Crocodile
Hunters are best served by scouting in advance. A thorough search of the watering holes and riverbanks must be conducted, and the target crocodile must be found. Once the hunter has picked his or her target crocodile, the hunter will have to watch to learn the crocodile’s favorite place to bask.
Tip # 3: Hunt on Land
The crocodile must be taken on land when it is basking because once in the water the crocodile can disappear in an instant. Due to the crocodile’s spectacular eyesight and cautious demeanor, the hunter must be careful not to alert the crocodile of his or her presence.
For this, a blind should be used. Once the hunter has located the favorite basking place of the crocodile, a blind should be installed hiding the hunter within the range of the crocodile. Get there early, and be prepared to wait.
If the hunter opts to hunt without the blind, then stalking the crocodile will be the technique. Moving around quietly in the African Bush will not be easy, and crocodiles are known to listen to the birds around them to let them know what is coming.
Stalking will be a challenge, particularly because of the close proximity required to have the best chance at killing the crocodile. Between 50 and 200 yards is considered good shooting range for the crocodile, and the closer, the better.
Tip # 4: Shot Placement
Shot placement when hunting the crocodile is of the utmost importance. Excellent accuracy is required. A crocodile is one of the toughest animals around, and if the first shot doesn’t have an immediate effect on the beast, it will flick its tail and disappear into the water.
Thus, the first shot must anchor the crocodile to the bank and is best placed in one of two locations: through the animals brain (a target the size of a golf ball), or through the animal’s spinal column in the neck.
A shot through the spinal column will immobilize the creature, allowing the hunter to approach the animal without it getting away. Both the brain and the spinal column are small targets, necessitating the pinpoint accuracy and the close range that’s been described above.
Tip # 5: Bowhunting for Crocs
When using a bow, the first change is that the hunter will have to get closer. Accuracy is different with a bow, as is the power of the arrow, and to compensate for these differences the hunter will have to be much closer than the 200-yard outer limit described for rifles.
Second, the shot placement changes. An arrow won’t penetrate the thick skull and will be very difficult to put through the spinal column. Instead, bowhunters are encouraged to aim for the lungs, which can be found near the middle of the crocodile’s body but slightly closer to the head.
When struck through the lungs, the crocodile won’t dash into the water so it won’t drown, making it easy to recover.
Tip # 6: Be prepared to spend money
Between licenses, permits, travel, lodging, meals, hiring a professional hunter and hiring a guide service, the hunter should be prepared to part with his or her hard-earned money. If the hunter takes a crocodile, there will be a trophy fee attached to the carcass, usually somewhere in the ballpark of $7,000. But, if the crocodile is particularly large, the trophy fee could potentially reach $19,000.
Tip # 7: Be prepared to work
Hunters should expect to use up every ounce of hardy attitude he or she has stored. Stalking, waiting and searching through the African Bush is going to be draining, and hunters need to mentally prepare themselves for the tough task in front of them.
For hunters seeking a crocodile trophy, success is never guaranteed. Small mistakes in the stalking process and shots which are mere millimeters off target will result in the loss of the animal. Given the time, money, and effort a crocodile hunt entails, hunters will want to be as prepared as possible to make their chances as close to perfect as possible.
The crocodile, ancient and fearsome, will be a challenge to all hunters. Their size, strength and notoriety make them the ideal prey for hunters who are constantly seeking to push themselves.
Although the experience requires effort and planning, those who find success will be left with a feeling of accomplishment that few others understand.
Good luck, and stay safe.