Crocodiles have always been the low man-eater on the African safari pole. Massive, deadly, but something short of exciting. Floating languidly with only snouts showing. Basking in lethargy on sandbanks. Ho hum.
The cold-blooded reality of a croc stands at odds with its deceptive appearance. These leviathans can live up to 100 years, grow to 20 feet, and weigh 1,650 pounds. They are ambush predators that kill by lunging, grabbing a victim, and biting down on it with a force of 5,000 pounds per square foot. They swim as fast as 22 miles per hour underwater, run nearly 9 miles per hour on land, spring nearly the length of their bodies off the ground, attack as many as 750 people a year (probably under-reported), and kill about 200.
I didn’t want to be one of them.
“You might not want to lollygag too long at the edge of the river,” PH Dries Bronner warned. In an instant I realized what he meant: This was Africa. This was the Chobe River. This was Nile crocodile hunting territory.
We saw snouts as we slowly boated the river. As the days warmed we spotted the reptiles sunning on the banks and beaches, but we never found the dragon monsters you see on videos, the giants that attack wildebeests in the Masai Mara.
“Too many villagers and tourists around here,” Dries conjectured, waving toward two anglers casting for tigerfish from a guide’s small boat. “They don’t like to keep giant crocs in the neighborhood.”
The locals fear for more than their lives. They fear for their livelihoods, for the hundreds of cattle they herd in the drying floodplains of the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers here at the eastern tip of Namibia’s Caprivi Strip. A ten-foot croc isn’t much of a threat to a full-grown cow, but larger ones can be. Safari hunters pay handsomely for the chance to keep the ten-footers from enlarging to become cattle-killers.
“A ten-footer can still take out a full-grown man or woman,” Dries explained. “Even a smaller one is nothing to fool with.”
After several days of hunting the banks, river, and backwaters, we floated round a bend to catch a good croc sunning atop crushed reeds on a riverbank. The boat glided to a stop against a sandbar. I was surprised to find the scope reticle rock steady on the croc’s neck, a bigger target than the golf-ball-sized brain.
“Take him if you feel good about the shot,” Dries whispered.
I did, so I did, and the reptile did just what we wanted—nothing. It did not leap into the water. It did not thrash and fall into the current, where it would have sunk. The 300-grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw sent 80 yards downrange by my .375 H&H Kimber Caprivi rifle had broken its neck. The perfect conclusion to a crocodile hunt.
This story originally appeared on the Daily in 2013. For more from Ron Spomer, check out his website, ronspomeroutdoors.com, and be sure to subscribe to Sporting Classics for his rifles column and features.