The brown hyena (sometimes called a strandwolf) is found in Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa. It inhabits open desert and woodland savannahs. At times it will encroach on human habitat to the point where it can be seen wandering town outskirts. It can survive in inhabited areas because it gets most of its food through scavenging, or supplementing its diet with small rodents, animals, eggs, or fruit. It is not a good hunter and chiefly relies on other predator’s kills as opposed to live prey.
In South Africa, the brown hyena is found in the central and northern part of the country. This includes all of the Free State, the Kalahari Desert, the Northwest Province, Gauteng and Mpumalanga. A small part of the Northern Cape’s north west coastline also has a small population.
Unlike other hyenas, brown hyenas have a long shaggy coat and pointed ears. Adults have a cream colored fur ruff around their necks. There isn’t really much difference in size between the sexes, although males can be slightly larger than females. This can make determining their sex somewhat difficult while hunting the brown hyena in South Africa. An average animal will stand 17-32 inches at the shoulder, and the males weigh between 87-95 pounds with the females being up to 10 % smaller. The brown hyena has incredibly strong jaws. A week old cub can crack the leg bone of a medium-sized antelope.
Brown hyenas are solitary feeders. They are known to roam for food. They can, and do travel as much as 20 miles during their nightly hunts. Their exceptional sense of smell lets them locate carrion as far as two miles away. Brown hyenas have incredibly strong jaws and teeth that enable them to crush bones to get at the rich marrow inside. The brown hyena isn’t very fast, and could be called clumsy, so it doesn’t do well hunting live animals. It can live quite well on the half-rotted carcasses left over from other predator’s hunts. Brown hyenas living near the ocean will search the beach for a dead shark or other dead fish thrown up on the sand.
The brown hyena is often a victim of myths and general bad press. They are said to threaten livestock, but this has turned out to be false. But this doesn’t stop the farmers from killing the hyena at every opportunity. Also, the animal is a source for some of the ingredients in traditional medicines. Despite being persecuted, the brown hyena’s future is becoming a bit brighter. Farmers in South Africa are slowly changing their attitudes toward the hyena. This change, coupled with an educational program and removal of problem animals will help conserve the species.
Only Safari Club International includes hyena records which are judged the same way as the big cats – by the sum of their skull measurements. The Safari Club International brown hyena record is 18 14/16 inches.
The Limpopo Province of South Africa is the world’s premier destination for hunting the brown hyena. Hunting can take place any month of the year. Trophy classification depends on age of the animal, and the condition and size of its mane.
South Africa requires that the hunter has a Threatened Or Protected Species (TOPS) hunting permit in their possession at all times while hunting brown hyena. The hunter must notify the outfitter that he wants to hunt a brown hyena, so that a permit can be obtained before the hunt. The permit shows the area to be hunted and the duration of the hunt, along with the hunter’s personal information. If the hunt is successful, the signed permit will be used to get an export permit. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the brown hyena cannot be imported into the USA due to CITIES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) restrictions. Acording to the USF&W, in order to import a brown hyena, a hunter would need to obtain an endangered species import permit which may not be possible to get.
Usually, brown hyena hunts happen while on a hunt for different species. If the opportunity presents itself, the shot will be quick, and the hunter must be prepared to get off a good, accurate shot with little, or no, advance notice. The normal hunting methods for hunting a brown hyena in South Africa include: spotting from a safari vehicle, or while on foot walking the spoor and then taking the shot. Sometimes a blind that has been set up near animal offal from a hunt or butchered bones and carcasses will yield good results.
The best rifle for hunting a brown hyena is the one you take with you on your plains game hunt. For a minimum caliber, the 7mm is a good choice. Use a good bullet in the 140-160 grain range in a 7mm Remington Magnum, 270 Winchester, or 280 Remington. It’s completely possible to anchor a brown hyena with a lighter bullet like a 257 Roberts, or a 240 Weatherby Magnum, but because the shot could be quick, you want to hit the hyena with a good sized bullet.
To add a little more horsepower, move up to one of the 30 caliber cartridges. Any one of the 30s like the 308 Winchester, or the 30-06 Springfield shooting a 180 grain bullet will make for a clean, quick kill if the shot hits a vital area.
If your hunt is for the larger plains game animals, and your rifle of choice is a .375, then you would be well served by any of them like the venerable .375 H&H Magnum, or .375 Ruger. Either one has more than ample push to get the job done – and there’s no such thing as overkill.
Always use premium ammunition. A $47.00 box of Federal Premium Vital-Shok is a cheap investment. Also, it’s recommended to train with at least one box of the same ammo that you will be taking on safari.
The scope debate has been going on for over a century, so rather than add fuel to a raging fire, I’d say use what you normally would for plains game hunting. Shooting range usually is in the 60-80 yard range, so a lot of power isn’t necessary. Keep the power turned down low so you can quickly target the hyena. Any good scope with excellent light-gathering properties for those shots near the end of shooting light will work just fine.