THE LAST WORD IN LION HUNTING. METHODS OF TRAILING, ENSNARING AND OTHERWISE OUTWITTING THE KING OF BEASTS. A CHAPTER OF ADVENTURES
If some one were to start a correspondence course in lion hunting he would give diagrams and instructions showing how to kill a lion in about six different stylesnamely:
This list does not include the Ananias method, formerly popular.
The tree and boma methods are much esteemed by those sportsmen who wish to reduce personal danger to the least common denominatorthe sportsmen who think discretion is the better part of valor and a hunter in a tree is worth two in the bush. The sportsman who confines himself to the tree method is entitled to receive a medal "for conspicuous caution in times of danger," and the loved ones at home need never worry about his safe return. For safe lion hunting the "tree" method would get "first prize," while the "boma" method would receive honorable mention.
The "tall grass" method is less popular in that the lion has some show and often succeeds in getting away to tell about it. It involves danger to all concerned.
The "riding" method is also dangerous, for in it the hunter endeavors to "round up" or "herd" a lion by riding him to a standstill. When the lion is fighting mad he stops and turns upon his persecutors. This is when the obituary columns thrive.
The "lariat" method is not as yet in general vogue, but I understand that "Buffalo" Jones, an American, succeeded in roping a lion as they rope cattle out west. It sounds diverting.
A Dead Lion Is a Sign for Jubilation
A Dethroned King of Beasts
The "spear" method is that employed by natives, who, armed with spear and shield, surround a lion and then kill it with their spears. They invariably succeed, but not until a few of the spear-bearers are more or less Fletcherized by the lion. This method does not appeal to those who wish to get home to tell about it, and need not be considered at length in any correspondence course.
The Tree Method
The tree method is comparatively simple. You build a platform in a tree and place a bait near it. Then you wait through the long, silent watches of the night for Felis Leo to appear. The method has few dangers. The chief one lies in falling asleep and tumbling out of the tree, but this is easily obviated by making the platform large enough for two or three men, two of whom may stretch out and sleep while the other one remains awake and keeps guard.
When I went to Africa I resolved never to climb a tree. Later I resolved to try the tree method in order to get experience in a form of lion hunting that has many advocates among the valiant hunters who want lion skins at no expense to their own.
Of course, there are some perils connected with this method of lion slaying. Mosquitoes may bite you, causing a dreadful fever that may later result in death in some lingering and costly form. Also the biting ants may pursue you up to your aery perch and take small but effective bites in many itchable but unscratchable points. These elements of danger are about the only ones encountered in the tree method of lion hunting, but then who could expect to kill lions without some degree of personal discomfort?
My one and only tree experience was not particularly eventful. A large and commodious platform was built in the forks of a great tree in a district where the questing grunt of lions could be heard each night. The platform was comfortable; it only needed hot and cold running water to be a delightful place to spend a tropic night.
I shot a hartebeest and had it dragged beneath the tree. Then my two native gunbearers and I made a satisfactory ascent to the platform. We had a thermos bottle filled with hot tea, and some odds and ends in the way of solid refreshments. We then stretched out in positions that commanded a view of the hartebeest and waited patiently for an obliging lion to come and be shot.
Night came on and soon the landscape became shadowy and indistinct. Trees and bushes fused into vague black masses and the carcass of the bait could be located only because it seemed a shade more opaque than the opaque gloom around it. The more you looked at it the more elusive and shifting it seemed. The sights of the rifle were invisible, and the only way one could find the sight was by aiming at a star and then carefully lowering the direction of the weapon until it approximately pointed at the carcass.
Of course, we were very still; even the stars were not more silent than we. And little by little the noises of an African night were heard, growing in volume until from all sides came the cries of night birds and the songs of insects and tree-toads. It was the apotheosis of loneliness. And thus we sat, with eyes straining to pierce the gloom that hedged us in. We could see no sign of life, yet all about us in those dark shadows there were thousands of creatures moving about on their nightly hunt.
Suddenly there came the soft crescendo of a hyena's howl some place off in the night. It was answered by another, miles away; then another, far off in a still different direction. The scent of the bait was spreading to the far horizon and the keen-scented carrion-eaters had caught it and were hurrying to the feast.
Then, after moments of waiting, the howls came from so near that they startled us. There seemed to be dozens of hyenasa regular class reunion of themyet not one could be seen in the "murky gloom." And then, a moment later, we heard the crunching of teeth and the slither of rending flesh, and we knew that a supper party of hyenas was gathered about the festal board below us. I was afraid that they would eat up the carcass and thus keep away the lions, so I fired a shot to scare them away. There was a quick rush of feetthen that dense, expectant silence once more. Soon some little jackals came and were shooed away. Then more hyenas came, were given their congé, and hurried off to the tall grass. And yet no lion. It was quite disappointing.
At midnight, far off to the north, came the grunting voice of a lion. I waited eagerly for the next sound which would indicate whether the lure of the bait was beckoning him on. And soon the sound came, this time much nearer, and after a long silence there was a sharp, snarling grunt of a lion, followed by the panic-stricken rush of a hundred heavy hoofs. The conjunction of sounds told the story as definitely as if the whole scene lay bared to view. The lion had leaped upon a hartebeest, probably instantly breaking its neck, while the rest of the herd had galloped away in terror. And it had all happened within two or three hundred yards of the treeyet nothing could be seen.
At two o'clock the grunt of a lion was again heard far off to the south. It came steadily toward us, and at last there was no doubt about its destination. It was coming to the bait. How my eyes strained to pierce the darkness and how breathlessly I waited with rifle in readiness! But the lion only paused at the bait, and as I waited for it to settle down to its feast it went grunting away and the chance was gone. Perhaps it had already fed, or perhaps it was an unusually fastidious lion which desired to do its own killing.
An hour or two later, both gunbearers asleep and one snoring peacefully, I became aware of a large animal feeding at the bait. Although no sound had preceded its coming, I thought it might be a lion, but feared that it was a hyena. I fired at the dark, shifting, black shadow and the roar of the big rifle shattered the silence like a clap of unexpected thunder. Then there was such a dense silence that it seemed to ring in one's ears.
Had I hit or missed? That could not be decided until daybreak, for it is the height of folly to climb down from a tree to feel the pulse of a wounded lion.
When daybreak came we made an investigation. Only the mangled remains of the carcass lay below. Later in the day some members of our party came across the dead body of a hyena lying about a hundred yards from the tree, partly hidden by a little clump of bushes. Its backbone was shattered by a .475 bullet.
Thus ended my first and only adventure in the "tree method."
The boma method is slightly more dangerous and much more exciting. A lot of thorn branches are twisted together in a little circle, within which the hunter sits and waits for his lion. As in the tree method, a bait is placed near the boma, twelve or fifteen yards away, and a little loophole is arranged in the tangle of thorn branches through which the rifle may be trained upon the bait.
The Boma Method
The lion can not get into the boma unless he jumps up and comes in from the top. It is the function of the hunter to prevent this strategic manuver by killing the lion before he gets in. If he does not, he is likely to find himself engaged in a spirited hand-to-hand fight with an unfriendly lion in a space about as big as the upper berth of a sleeping-car.
My first boma was a meshwork of thorns piled and interwoven together with the architectural simplicity of an Eskimo igloo. When it was finished there didn't seem to be the ghost of a chance of a lion getting in; but at night, as I looked out, it seemed frail indeed. Some dry grass was piled inside, with blankets spread over it to prevent rustling; and when night came we three, myself and two gunbearers, wormed our way in and then pulled some pieces of brush into the opening after us. The rifles were sighted on the bait while it was still daylight and at a spot where the expected lion might appear. Then we waited.
The customary nocturne by birds, beasts and insects began before long, and several times hyenas and jackals came to the bait, but no lions. The boma was on the edge of a great swamp, miles in extent and a great rendezvous for game of many kinds. Theoretically, there couldn't be a better place to expect lions, but nary a lion appeared that night.
Upon a later occasionChristmas night, it wasI watched from a boma near an elephant we had killed, but except for the distant grunting of lions, there was nothing important to chronicle.
Lion hunting goes by luck. One man may sit in a boma night after night without getting a shot, while another may go out once and bring back a black-mane. I spent two nights in a boma without seeing a lion; Stephenson spent seven nights and saw only a lioness. He held his fire in the expectation that the male was with her and would soon appear. Presently a huge beast appeared, vague in the dark shadows; he thought it was the male lion, shot, and the next morning found a large dead hyena.
Mrs. Akeley went out only once, had a night of thrilling experiences, and killed a large male lion. The lion appeared early in the evening and her first shot just grazed the backbone. An inch higher and it would have missed, but as it was, the mere grazing of the backbone paralyzed the animal, preventing its escape. All night long it crouched helplessly before them, twelve yards away, insane with rage and fury. Its roars were terrifying. A number of times she shot, but in the darkness none of the many hits reached a vital spot. Once in the night two other lions came, but escaped after being fired at.
As soon as daylight appeared and she could see the sights of her rifle she easily killed the lion. It was the largest one of the eleven killed in our hunting trip, and was killed with a little .256 Mannlicher, the same weapon with which she shot her record elephant on Mount Kenia.
In the tall-grass method, native beaters are sent in long skirmish line through swamps and such places as lions like to lay up in during the hours of daylight. The beaters chant a weird and rather musical refrain as they advance and thrash the high reeds with their sticks. Reedbuck, sometimes a bushbuck, frequently hyenas, and many large owls are driven out of nearly every good-sized swamp. The hunters divide, one or more on each side of the swamp and slightly ahead of the line of beaters. As the lion springs out it is up to the hunter nearest to it to meet it with the traditional unerring shot.
The Tree Method of Lion Shooting
Dragged a Zebra to the Boma
The Rifle Was Sighted on the Bait
In our experience we beat dozens of swamps and reed beds. Stephenson would take one side of the swamp, I the other, while Akeley with his moving-picture machine, would take the side best suited to photographic purposes. He got some wonderful results, two of which were records of the death of two lionesses.
Upon the first of these occasions the beaters had worked down a long stretch of swamp and had almost reached the end. Suddenly they showed an agitated interest in something in front of them. They thought it was a lion until an innocent by-stander made an unauthorized guess that it was a hyena. This reassured the beaters and they advanced boldly in the belief that it was a harmless hyena. My valor rose in proportion and for the same reason, and I strolled bravely over to the edge of the reeds where a little opening appeared. It was something of a shock to see two lions stroll suddenly into view. I fired, hitting the last one. Then they both disappeared in the reeds ahead.
It was amazing to note the sudden epidemic of caution upon the part of all concerned. The beaters refused to advance until Stephenson joined them with his big rifle. I moved forward on the side lines and the moving-picture machine reeled off yards of film.
A man has to appear brave when a camera is turned on him, but with two lions a few feet away there was not a tendency to advance with that impetuous dash that one would like to see in a moving picture of oneself. Anyway, I tried to keep up an appearance of advancing without actually covering much territory.
One of my gunbearers suddenly clutched my arm and pointed into the reeds. There, only a few feet away, was the tawny figure of a lion, either lying down or crouching. I fired and nearly blew its head off. It was the one I had wounded a few minutes before.
Photographed in Times of Danger
There was still the other lion in the reeds. So I joined the beaters while Stephenson came out and took a commanding position at the side of the reeds. In a moment or two there was a tawny flash and the lion was seen as it broke from the reeds and sprang away up the hill. It was on the opposite side of the reeds from Stephenson, but his first shot hit it and it stopped and turned angrily. In another instant it would have charged, but a second shot from his rifle killed it instantly. Both of the animals were young lionesses of the same age and nearly full grown.
Sometimes, when a lion is driven to bay in the tall grass at the end of a swamp, the beaters refuse to advance, and it then becomes necessary for the hunter to go in and take the lead. An occasion of this sort was among the most thrilling of my African experiences.
An immense swamp had been beaten out and nothing had developed until the beaters were almost at the end of the swamp. Extending from the end and joining it was a patch of wire-like reeds, eight or ten feet high and covering two or three acres. This high grass was almost impenetrable by a man, and it was only possible to go through it by throwing one's weight forward and crushing down the dense growth. The grass grew from hummocks, between which were deep water channels. An animal could glide through these channels, but a man must batter his way through the stockade of dense grass that spread out above.
It was in this place that the lion was first heard and the beaters refused to follow it in. Guttural grunts and snarls came from that uninviting jungle, and we knew that the only way to force the lion out was to go in and drive it out.
At about this time another lion came out of the swamp behind and loped up the hill. The saises were sent galloping after it to round it up, but they reappeared after a few moments and reported that it had got away in the direction of a huge swamp a mile or so beyond. We began to think we had struck a nest of lions.
Then we went in to drive out that lion in the deep grass. The native beaters, encouraged by seeing armed white men leading the way, came along with renewed enthusiasm. That grass was something terrible. One would hardly care to go through it if he knew that a bag of gold or a fairy princess awaited him beyond; with a lion there, the delight of the job became immeasurably less. We could not see three feet ahead. From time to time we were floundering down into channels of water hidden by the density of the grass. Some of these channels were two feet deep. And with each yard of advance came the realization that we were coming to an inevitable show-down with that lion. Akeley and I were in with the beaters, Stephenson was beyond the patch of grass to intercept the lion should it break forth, from cover.
It was not until we had nearly traversed the entire patch of reeds that the lion was found. It evidently lay silently ahead of us until we were almost upon it. Then, almost beneath my feet, came the angry and ominous growl, and my Somali gunbearer leaped in terror, falling as he did so. I expected to see a long, lean flash of yellow body and to experience the sensation of being mauled by a lion. All was breathlessly silent for a moment. Then a shot from Stephenson's rifle said that the lion had burst from the reeds and into view.
We pushed our way out to see what had happened.
The lion had come out, then turned suddenly back into the cover of reeds, working its way along the front of the beaters. For an instant Stephenson saw it and fired into the grass ahead of it without result.
The track of the lion was followed, but the animal had succeeded in getting around the beaters and back into the swamp. Fires were lighted, but the reeds were too green to burn except in occasional spots.
A few minutes later the saises, posted like sentinels high on the hills that flanked the swamp, saw the lion again and galloped down to head it off. It left the swamp and continued on down the rush-lined banks of a stream, zigzagging its way back and forth. After a pursuit of a couple of miles it was cornered in a small patch of reeds. Further retreat was impossible and it knew that it had to fight.
The moving-picture machine was set up on one side and I was detailed to guard that side. If the lion came out it was to be allowed to charge a certain distance, within forty feet, before I was to fire. If it didn't charge at us, but attempted to escape, it was to be allowed to run across the strip of open ground in front of the camera before I was to shoot.
Stephenson took his place on the other bank, twenty-five or thirty yards from the edge of the reeds. Then the beaters were told to advance, and they moved forward, throwing rocks and sticks into the reeds ahead of them. The lion appeared on Stephenson's side. Like a flash it sprang out. He fired and the lion stopped momentarily under the impact of a heavy ball. Then it sprang a few yards onward, when a second shot laid it out. The last shot was fired at less than twenty yards.
The moving-picture machine recorded the thrilling scene and there was an hour of great rejoicing and jubilation. The animal was an old lioness and the first shot had torn her lower jaw away and had gone into the shoulder. It is amazing that she was not instantly killedbut that's a way lions have. They never know when to quit.
CHAPTER ONE | CHAPTER TWO | CHAPTER THREE | CHAPTER FOUR | CHAPTER FIVE | CHAPTER SIX | CHAPTER SEVEN | CHAPTER EIGHT | CHAPTER NINE| CHAPTER TEN | CHAPTER ELEVEN | CHAPTER TWELVE | CHAPTER THIRTEEN | CHAPTER FOURTEEN | CHAPTER FIFTEEN | CHAPTER SIXTEEN | CHAPTER SEVENTEEN | CHAPTER EIGHTEEN | CHAPTER NINETEEN | CHAPTER TWENTY | CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE | CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO
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