Tiger-Shooting in Central India.
IT has been said that sailors go round the world without seeing it. This is so far true that we sailors seldom have the opportunity of visiting the interior of countries where we may be stationed, and even then we have little chance of sport except through the kindness of influential friends who are able and willing to make the necessary arrangements. It can therefore be imagined with what delight I accepted the invitation of my kind friend Colonel H. Vincent, then resident at Rampur, to join in a tiger-hunt. The month of April is perhaps the best for big-game shooting in India, although it is the hottest time of year. At this season the dry grass has been burnt, and the chance of meeting with tigers is the best. In April 1893 1 had my first experience of this fascinating sport, so often described by abler pens than mine - men who can count their tigers by the score, and who have been familiar with Indian shikar from their boyhood, while I am but a novice at the trade. I trust, however, that I shall not be thought presumptuous in relating my experience in the jungle, small though it be, and contemptible compared with that of many
good sportsmen with far more knowledge of the subject. Behold, then, my trusty flag-lieutenant and self, my coxswain thirsting for blood, and two native servants, comfortably established in a saloon carriage en route for Rampur, N.W.P. The heat in India at this season is terrific and the dust awful, notwithstanding the precaution of wet " tattles " and other luxuries, so well managed in Indian railways. For two days and two nights we traversed the plains, stopping for meals at stated times. The scenery en route is monotonous and depressing, and the eye wearies of the everlasting dried-up plain, with a few trees interspersed ; half-starved natives tilling the soil, and emaciated cattle endeavouring to eke out a living from the scant and withered herbage along the route. But all things have an end, and on the morning of the third day we were welcomed on the platform of the Rampur station by our genial host. We remained at his comfortable bungalow that day, sending on our servants and baggage the same evening, and the following morning we started in a carriage and pair on a long drive of fifty miles to the first camp. With several relays of horses we reached the rendezvous about noon, and here a most welcome and picturesque sight awaited us. Our tents were pitched under the shade of wide-spreading trees ; some twenty elephants were tethered hard by, swinging their trunks to and fro, whilst their mahouts were busy feeding and watering them; a number of camels, bullocks, carts, and camp-followers were scattered about eating or cooking food, and otherwise employed. Each sportsman had a tent to himself, with bathroom attached, and large mess-tent, where we all assembled to partake of sumptuous
TIGER-SHOOTING IN CENTRAL INDIA.
fare. Never had I seen such luxury, my recollection of camp life taking me back to the barrens of Newfoundland, where we had to be content with one tent, or tilt, and the plainest fare, washed down with water, and perhaps "a wee drop of the craythur." Here we revelled in iced whisky-pegs and soda-water ad lib., and the best of cooking.
We found, to our disgust, that a party of Tommy Atkins from Calcutta were camped on the ground, and had been shooting deer in the neighbourhood for some weeks, disturbing the game for miles round, so it was necessary for us to move on. We had a small shoot that afternoon, and bagged a few para, or hog-deer, and a couple of pig, but every other class of game had been shot or driven off into other jungles; so next morning we struck our camp, the baggage was packed on camels and sent on ahead to the next camp, and we started off on elephants after breakfast to shoot our way to the rendezvous. This being my first experience on an elephant proved how very difficult it is for a beginner to shoot off the back of one of these animals in motion, especially with a rifle. Another thing which impressed me greatly was the extraordinary sagacity of the beast. I should not have mentioned this, supposing it to be well known, had it not been that I have heard that a high official, and an authority on Indian elephants, has stated in a book on sport in India that the elephant is a stupid beast. Such was not my experience. After ten days on the back of one, I came to the conclusion that he was very much the reverse, and that he is superior in intelligence to most of the higher class of animals, and often to the man who is mounted on his neck. In fact, I
THE WISDOM OF THE ELEPHANT
was much disgusted to see the mahouts digging their pointed iron spikes into the poor beasts' heads until the blood and matter spouted out. I was told it was necessary to keep the animals in subjection; but I do not believe in the necessity for such brutality, and expressed myself strongly to that effect, the result being that my mahout, at all events, abstained from using his spike whilst I was there. Whilst travelling through the forest this man kept up a running conversation with the elephant, all of which the huge beast seemed to understand. Sometimes it was to step over a fallen tree, or to knock down a smaller one standing in the way. If anything fell off the howdah, the intelligent creature carefully picked it up and handed it to his master. Each elephant plucked a branch of green leaves to fan himself and brush off the flies, which torment them greatly. I cannot see where the stupidity comes in; it certainly is not with the elephant. Savage, I have no doubt, they occasionally are, especially when badly treated, and at certain times : so also are horses, bulls, and deer.
We reached our second camp before sundown, having met with various kinds of game on the way; such as deer, peafowl, jungle-fowl, and partridges, also many pig; but it seemed a pity to shoot the last, as the natives would not touch them, so they were left to the jackals. To record in detail each day's work would be monotonous. We usually mounted our elephants after breakfast, and were under way by nine o'clock, when the sun was at its hottest, but never oppressive, and we did not mind it. I think the elephants felt it more than we, especially when long without water; whilst we
TIGER-SHOOTING IN CENTRAL INDIA.
had ice always handy, and plenty of baccy. The day's programme was as follows. On arriving at a likely-looking bit of jungle the elephants were formed in line abreast, with a pad elephant between the guns; so in this way we covered a lot of ground. Each sportsman stood in front of his howdah, gun or rifle in hand, and a spare one handy. The orders were to fire at nothing but tiger ; and it was tempting to see sambur, spotted deer, para, pig, and peacock offering splendid chances, and not to shoot. After luncheon general shooting was permitted, and a regular popping along the line ensued, as game of all kinds jumped out of the long grass; but, notwithstanding a considerable expenditure of powder, the bag was generally a light one. I do not know a more difficult object than a para (hog-deer) rushing through the long grass, if one is mounted on an elephant and armed only with a rifle. At one place we managed to make an example of them, and bagged over a dozen in a corner. A few sambur, pig, and spotted deer also fell to the rifles, and peafowl, jungle-fowl, and partridges to the guns. Every night a bullock was tied up, and a report made in the morning as to whether it had been killed during the night; but it was not till we had been out four or five days that a kill was recorded. Immediately all was excitement in camp, and after a hurried breakfast we proceeded to the spot. The wretched cow had been tied up in the middle of a jungle with long grass, surrounded by dense woods. The head shikari said that the tiger was lying up close to the kill, as is their custom if undisturbed; so some guns were sent ahead to command the passes where the beast would be likely to
break, whilst the others formed line and beat up towards the kill. My mahout selected a good position, at the junction of two nullahs, but unfortunately too far back, so that I could not command the open space in front. The tiger was at home, but did not stir till the line of elephants was close upon him, when with a roar he bounded out, and keeping to the left front, where no gun was posted (we were only four or five), escaped, though several shots were fired at him. We then beat up a neighbouring jungle, where another tiger was seen, but missed, owing to the long grass, which was as high as our elephants' backs. Much disgusted, we returned to camp.
However, our luck was soon to change; for a day or two afterwards another kill was reported close to camp, and in a favourable position for getting a shot. On reaching the place we observed a number of vultures sitting on a tree near by, showing that " stripes " was at home. The same tactics were again employed. I was sent on ahead and posted at a corner of the jungle, another rifle close by; the remainder formed line and beat towards us. The grass was from 10 feet to 15 feet high, so that when the elephants entered the jungle they were lost to sight, except the howdahs and their waving trunks. Rockets were now thrown into the jungle, exploding with terrific noise and setting fire to the grass. Presently an elephant trumpeted, and a general chorus was heard along the line as they scented the tiger. The challenge was answered by fearful roars, and the excitement was now intense, the mahouts urging on the unwilling elephants. We could observe the grass moving ahead of them, but it was impossible to see
TIGER-SHOOTING IN CENTRAL INDIA.
where to shoot. The line was closing in to the point where I was placed, when suddenly there was a flash of something yellow, as a tiger, or rather two, dashed out close to my companion, Dr Manifold, who fired right and left, and rolled over a splendid male tiger. The beaters now came out, and we crowded round to admire the magnificent proportions of the noble beast. The second shot had taken effect at the back of the neck, and he was quite dead.
The shikaris said there were two tigers, and I had distinctly seen the, grass moving beyond where the first lay dead, and had fired in that direction, but without effect, believing it to be the same animal. So the line was formed afresh, the same plan being pursued, and I went forward as before. The second beast had gone into another patch of jungle near by. Crackers were thrown in, and soon the trumpeting of the elephants announced that they had winded the tiger, and again its movements could be traced by the waving grass. There was a narrow jungle path separating one patch of grass from another, and I saw the tigress (for it was a female) cross it, but had no time to shoot; so urging my mahout forward, I took up a good position ahead of the advancing line, when the tigress broke covert to the left close to me. I gave her a shot, which hit her too far back. She immediately disappeared, but was viewed again 100 yards away, going at full gallop over a ridge, and several shots were fired at her. We followed on the line, and after beating about for nearly an hour she was up again, charged an elephant, and in the confusion that ensued retreated back to the jungle she had been in before. The line was re-formed to beat back, and again I saw the
The Tigerís Charge
A HANDSOME PAIR
phantom figure silently cross the path: the rifle was at my shoulder, but I could not shoot, as there was another gun in the line not 100 yards off: The tigress now moved slowly forward, roaring loudly, closely pursued by the elephants, till she came to an open space where the grass was bare, when she faced about and charged in gallant style. In a flash she was on to the head of one of the elephants, which stood its ground bravely, keeping its trunk in the air and trumpeting loudly. It was a most exciting moment. My mahout would not close. After much pressure and abuse I got him to push my elephant up to 5 yards; but I could not shoot for fear of wounding the elephant or the mahout, till the tigress, already crippled by my shot through the loins, fell to the ground, when a volley finished her. I could not help feeling sorry for the poor beast, which had fought so bravely against such odds, as she lay there gasping out her last breath. My coxswain, who was with me in the howdah, now slipped off to take her measure with a tape-line, and, to our great amusement, shout out " 15 feet, sir ! " The actual length of the tigress was 9 feet 5 inches, and of the tiger 9 feet 6 inches - a very handsome pair, in the prime of life.
This was my first and last experience of tiger-shooting, for we had no further luck. Two more were seen subsequently, but not accounted for; and the limited time at my disposal obliged me to return to Bombay. But we had a most enjoyable ten days, and were most hospitably entertained by Colonel Vincent and his friends Mr Wright and Dr Manifold. Appended is the bag : 2 sambur, 4 spotted deer (axis), 22 para (hog-deer), 3 pig, 8 hares, 2 tigers, 5 peafowl,
TIGER-SHOOTING IN CENTRAL INDIA.
5 jungle-fowl, 29 black partridges, 2 snipe, 2 various total, 84 head.
The wonderful yarns on Indian shikar related over the evening pipe or cigar on these shooting expeditions are not the least part of the enjoyment. One famous raconteur related how a tiger had hit him a backhander over the head, rendering him insensible for three weeks. The doctors could make nothing of his case, till at last they tried trepanning, when, lo and behold! the tiger's claws were found embedded in his brain. Upon lifting these the patient speedily came to his senses and recovered.
Another sportsman was charged by a bear, which he knocked over, and whilst standing with one foot on the animal's carcass, believing it to be dead, he was attacked by another bear, which he also rolled over. Whilst this was going on he fancied he felt something tickling his leg, and on looking down he discovered that the first bear had eaten the calf of his leg, leaving only the bone with the shooting-boot attached to it.
A third party declared he was after bison, and was charged by an old bull, which tossed him and his horse over his head, throwing them yards away into the jungle, where he lay whilst the bison hunted around looking for him for fifteen minutes.
There was another yarn of a boa-constrictor which really "took the cake" ; but I forget the particulars, and should fear to be accused of romancing.
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