Bongo hunting, under conditions of great physical discomfort in African rainforests, done by dedicated hunters, may bring home a truly prized trophy.
"For the bongo is Africa's rarest antelope. He is the giant antelope of the virgin forests, the hermit of impenetrable jungles, the unrealised ambition of countless hunters, the white blackbird of African trophy-collectors." Count Zsigmond Szechenyi, 1935
Bongo Trophy Minimums
Tragelaphus eurycerus eurycerus (Western Bongo)
RW Measurement Method
SCI Measurement Method
Where To Hunt Bongo
There are 2 bongo subspecies...
The western or lowland bongoTragelaphus eurycerus eurycerus, which is found in the forests of Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is a also a population of western bongo in the far west of Africa in Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Togo.
The eastern or mountain bongo, Tragelaphus eurycerus isaaci, which is only found in the mountains of central Kenya. The eastern bongo is classified as Critically Endangered, so cannot be hunted.
Cameroon has the most bongo hunting operations and is the most popular destination for hunters who want a bongo trophy.
When you are looking to hunt a bongo in Cameroon, you will need to look at the forest hunts on offer and decide if you just want a bongo or want to go for a bongo 'combo' hunt.
Bongo is a Group A animal and you are allowed to select 2 animals from this group, so in the forest, you could opt to hunt a dwarf forest buffalo or a forest elephant and 4 from Group B or C. Remember, if you are a US hunter, you will not be able to import a forest elephant trophy. Read more on Cameroon hunting licence groups...
When comparing bongo hunt prices, you will find some outfitters and agents price both the hunt rate and trophy in US$, others have the hunt rate in US$ and the trophy fees in Euros and yet others price the whole hunt in Euros.
A basic bongo hunt is usually about 13 days and is in the range of US$40,000 with the bongo trophy fee around US$3500. Add more days for more animals (as per the hunting licence groups) and the hunt price may rise to around US$56,000, plus trophy fees.
There are a few bongo package hunt deals available where the bongo trophy fee is included. These are in the US$40,500 price range.
For the more intrepid hunters there are self-guided hunts or chasse libre hunts available for bongo in Cameroon. They are generally 15 day hunts with a much lower hunt rate but similar bongo trophy fee.
Central African Republic (CAR) bongo hunts are mostly priced in Euros. A basic bongo only hunt of 12 days will be about 27,500 Euros, plus 3500 Euros bongo trophy fee.
In the Republic of Congo, a bongo hunt will be about US$32,500, plus US$6500 bongo trophy fee.
Bongo Hunting Methods
Unless you get a clear sighting of your bongo before shooting, there is a risk you could shoot a female as both sexes have horns. The tracks should show that you are on a heavier and bigger bull bongo, but you never know. In Cameroon it is not illegal to shoot females of any animal BUT you will be charged double the trophy fee. There are several methods for hunting bongo...
Working with expert pygmy trackers, you can track bongo on foot. Usually you would drive the logging roads until you find tracks which are big enough to be practically sure it is a bongo bull. This is easier after a downpour of rain when the bongo tracks are clearly visible and of course, they need to be fresh tracks. You will need to be fit and determined in the enervating rainforest conditions to follow the nimble trackers who easily glide through and under the vegetation. You will also need to be good at shooting quickly when tracking bongo. If you see a bongo, or part of one, there won't be much time before he vanishes into thin air.
Alternatively, many hunting outfits offer bongo hunts with dogs. When you find fresh bongo tracks you follow the pygmy trackers and their dogs through the forest, sometimes for hours, until the dogs start barking, which is a sure sign the dogs are on to something. Once you've caught up with the dogs, you may see a patch of red bongo in the thick vegetation, as the dogs bring him to bay. Then it is up to you to shoot.
If you are not up to chasing fleet-of-foot pygmy trackers a through the stifling rainforest heat, you could opt to hunt a bongo from a high blind or machan, overlooking an large open area with a salt lick. There you just wait until a bongo bull comes in - they cannot resist a salt lick.
A very lucky bongo encounter may occur actually on a logging road or in a forest opening. They occasionally come out of the thick forest to dry off after a downpour.
A Good Bongo Trophy
In truth, any mature bongo bull trophy is a great achievement.
Horns around 27" in length are good, around 31"+ will be a great trophy.
Horns that have a good lyre shape and flare out with ivory tips indicate an old bull.
The bongo is primarily a rainforest antelope, preferring dense cover and the gallery forests along rivers. During the rainy season the bongo will venture into the savannah areas bordering the forests.
They browse on leaves, bark, flowers, fruits and roots and are never far away from mineral salt licks.
Bongo Social Structure
A bongo is gregarious and non territorial animal. Mixed herds consist of 5 to 25 animals, usually with one mature bull and one or two younger bulls, females and young. Old bongo bulls tend to be solitary.
Bongo are most active at dusk and at night and are always shy and cautious like all spiral horned antelope.
They have a short, sharp bark alarm call.
Bongo Gestation Period
After a gestation period of around 9 months, one offspring is usually born.
Bongo Gender Identification
The bongo is the only species of spiral-horned antelope in which both sexes have horns.
The bongo bull is much bigger than the female, has a very much thicker neck and longer horns with thicker bases.
Both sexes have lyre shaped spiral horns and a reddish orange coat which darkens with age. There are 11 to 14 white stripes on the body, a white mark on the chest, white chevron on the nose and white spots on the cheek.
Click images to enlarge
Bongo Trophy Permits (2015)
Tragelaphus eurycerus eurycerus (Western Bongo)
Bongo Trophy Taxidermy
Bongo are such magnificent antelope with spectacular rich body colour and markings that nothing short of a full mount display will do.
Don't forget to tell your taxidermist not to blacken and polish the horns, if you want the horns to look natural.
Search For The Spiral Horn by Craig Boddington (2002) who is one of the few hunters who has successfully hunted each of the major varieties and most of the subspecies of the nine spiral-horned antelope of Africa.
Spiral Horn Dreams by Terry Wieland (1995) is about a subject that arouses as much excitement and emotion as any big game. Kudu, bongo, Lord Derby eland, sitatunga, mountain nyala and bushbuck. These animals cause any big game hunter both pain and joy - sometimes simultaneously. If you're not 'mad keen' about hunting these animals before reading this book, you will be afterwards.
Buffalo, Elephant And Bongo: Alone In The Savannas And Rain Forests Of The Cameroon by Reinald von Meurers (1989) is an account of many hunting trips into the interior of Cameroon in search of elephant, bongo, buffalo, sitatunga, giant forest hog, bushpig and dwarf buffalo. The author organises his own safaris and carries them out only in the company of local helpers. Includes a chapter on organising your own hunting trip, as well as much incidental useful advice.
Big Game And Pygmies by Cuthbert Christy (1924). The author travelled extensively in the region over a 25 year period and describes the Ituri Forest of the Congo in detail in this work with much on the Ituri Pygmies, the Okapi, elephants, rhinoceros, buffalo, the forest hog, chimpanzee, the bongo, the aardvark and ant-eaters.
Bongo Hunting Recommended Viewing
Bongo & Sitatunga With The Pygmies
Hunts for western bongo, western sitatunga and the duikers of the rain forest with hired hunters of the Pandjele Pygmy tribe as trackers. 60 mins.
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