Big game hunting at the Philadelphia Zoo

Ever since reading The Perfect Shot by Kevin Robertson, I can't visit a zoo without drawing imaginary beads on the big game animals! How hard would it be to take down the elephant with a heavy rifle? Where should one aim at the polar bear? Is that tiger in the brush exposing a vital spot, or would your shot only wound or, worse, enrage it?

In the following photographs, the aim points for easily made, rapidly fatal shots are marked with "O", and riskier shots at smaller, possibly moving, or indistinct vital spots are marked with "X". Finally, where I judge there to be no good shot, the photo is marked with "Don't do it!"

After all, it's no use fighting the hunting instinct: Let's go on safari!

Starting out in the Arctic, our first encounter is with a sleeping polar bear. Unfortunately, the location of its heart and lungs are uncertain, and a brain shot offers only a small target at an odd angle. Don't even think about it!

Since our hunt is imaginary, we can teleport south of the equator for a different kind of bear. This small Andean bear is ideally positioned for a heart/lung shot, but with all that hair disguising the shape of the body, can one really take the shot with confidence?

We fare no better in the Amazon jungle. This lazy jaguar presents the same problems as the polar bear: its heart and lungs are pressed to the ground, any head or neck shot would be very risky.

This is harder than we thought -- those zoo animals are really on guard -- but maybe a trip to Asia will provide better chances. And maybe not. This fine pair of tigers is highly problematic. We can't see their chests, and any higher shot, good or bad, will pass through the first animal and wound, not kill, the second. Just what we don't need: an angry wounded man-eater (or two)!

But, at last, the Subcontinental jungle rewards our patience with an extremely rare (and profoundly stupid) Indian rhino. This beast is perfectly set up for a heart/lung shot, presenting a large target at close range. It's no wonder that the Indian rhino is nearly extinct! Bang!!

Now that we have gained some confidence, it's off to the Dark Continent for the biggest of big game! This glaring African elephant cow has exposed itself to a classic frontal brain shot. It's too bad that the ivory is so thin!

A big hippo in the water "is not even a sporting target" in the words of a famous professional hunter. It's easy to see why: the brain is highly vulnerable to a well placed shot from even a light rifle. But on land, the hippo is more dangerous!

Moving from lumbering giants to the fastest of all animals, this idle cheetah is an easy mark. It better get moving, or it's toast!

This hungry leopard is a bit more challenging! I might prefer a shotgun to a rifle in this situation.

At last, we have the king of beasts in our sights. This magnificent lion should fall to a brain shot, but if he should lower his head just slightly at the wrong time, then we might have our hands full with an angry cat!

Our final opportunity is provided by this zebra, that is "well positioned" for the infamous "Texas heart shot". I think that I'll pass!