The risks of big-game shooting—Causes of accidents—Men handicapped formerly with inferior weapons—Pluck of old hunters—Killing powers of modern weapons—Selous's adventures—Neumann injured by cow elephant—Captain C. h. Stigand's experiences with wild beasts— Sportsmen killed by elephants and buffaloes—Mr. George Grey's death —A large bag of lions made by Mr. l. Tarlton—Mr. George Garden attacked and injured by an elephant—Other deaths mentioned and possible causes of accidents—Buffaloes hard to stop—Native woman killed by lion near Zomba—Lion tragedies—Courage of some natives— Native ideas as to good killing rifles.
Many men have been killed or injured by wild animals, and many more are likely to suffer in the same way so long as they continue taking the risks inseparable from hunting great game.
There is a saying that if only a man keeps it up long enough he is bound, sooner or later, to meet with misfortune ; but if there were no risks, there would be no excitement in it.
Because a man is killed by a wild animal it does not follow that he was inexperienced, as he probably did all that a man could do, and yet suffered. His might be looked on as an exceptional case which helps to prove the rule, if any rule, in such an instance, can be laid down.
An accident is usually due to one or other of the following four causes, which I would put as follows :
(1) Recklessness and contempt of danger.
(2) Uncertain or long shots.
(3) Inferior weapons with insufficient stopping power.
(4) Ignorance of the game and its habits.
Formerly men were very heavily handicapped by having to use inferior weapons, for who can compare a single or double muzzle-loading rifle or smooth bore with the splendid weapons that can be procured at the present day. Imagine standing up to a growling lion or a shrieking elephant with one of these old weapons and having t keep one's wits about one while the powder was first put in, then the bullet rammed home, and, lastly, fumbling in a pouch or pocket for a minute cap to place on the nipple, before the shot could be fired. This all required a nerve that the modern sportsman does not require to display with his double hammerless ejector or quick-loading magazine rifle.
Take the old single 4-bore smooth bore, for instance, which I have handled in Mr. Selous's museum at Worplesdon, and imagine killing a crusty elephant or buffalo with it. The weight was little considering the charge it fired, so it must have kicked like a stubborn mule ; more especially when it was dirty.
After showing me this prehistoric weapon and some of the trophies it and other old weapons had shot, Mr. Selous took me to his library and showed me his .375 cordite rifle. What a difference there was in the two weapons ; and it made me think that not nearly so many men would hunt game at the present day if they had to use these old muzzle-loaders.
The old hunters, such as Oswell, Gordon Cumming, Baldwin, Selous, and many others certainly were men of courage and endurance, or they would not have done what they did.
A modern rifle of .450 or .470 bore has a much more paralysing effect on an elephant, rhino, or buffalo than had a 4-bore or 8-bore rifle, be it a muzzle-loader or a breechloader, and, of course, the former high velocity rifles have the additional advantage of being quickly reloaded after being fired.
Although I have possessed a .450 cordite rifle, I have killed the few elephants I have shot with either a .303 or a 7.9mm. rifle, but there is no doubt that, if a man intends to shoot many elephants, these small bores are dangerous weapons to use continually, as their stopping power is not great enough.
Personally, as a man cannot shoot unlimited elephants nowadays in any British protectorate or colony, I find that I can kill elephants best with the rifle I use continually on smaller game, and that a small bullet in the right place is much better than a large bullet in the wrong place.
A friend who uses a .450 No. 2 bore tells me that when hit well forward an elephant is practically anchored, as the shock to his system seems to take away all power of movement.
The 7.9mm. Mauser rifles with a long, blunt bullet have tremendous penetration, for I once fired a solid at an mbawa (mahogany) tree, quite 2ft. in diameter. The bullet went clean through it, and doubtless had sufficient velocity to kill a man after that. For head shots at elephant and hippo nothing can beat such a rifle, and they are infinitely superior to a weapon firing a light, pointed bullet, which will likely get bent and zigzag all over the place.
For killing soft-skinned game there are many good types of bullets, such as hollow-pointed, soft-nose, " Dum-Dum," and slit. The soft-nose and slit expand more readily than the hollow point and Dum-Dum, and the two latter types are much the best for buffalo and eland.
I will now mention a few incidents and accidents that have occurred to big-game hunters, and I will begin with Mr. F. C. Selous, certainly the most noted of living big-game sportsmen. As I have mentioned, he began his shooting career in Africa by using large 4-bore smooth bores (called by the Dutch "Roers"), and then he mentions using a 10-bore breechloader. One day, being unwell, he followed a herd of elephants with a .461 Gibbs falling block single rifle, using, I think, a solid bullet of 57ogrs. weight.
He killed five elephants and wounded a sixth, which he found a few weeks afterwards. He also mentions in his book "A Hunter's Wanderings in Africa" having killed rhinos, hippos, and lions quite easily with the same rifle, using, for them, a 36ogrs. expanding bullet with a small hollow in the point. Mr F. Vaughan-Kirby has -also used these .461 Metford rifles and speaks very highly of them in his " In Haunts of Wild Game," and in other volumes. There is no doubt that they were most excellent killing weapons, and much ahead of the ordinary black powder Express rifles of .450 and .500 bore that were used about the same period. The .450 Express fired a very light bullet of 27ogrs. with an abnormally large hollow in the point which extended to within a quarter of an inch of the base. Driven by 4drs. to 5drs. of powder, this bullet used often to fly into small splinters on striking the skin of a big antelope, or it would penetrate for an inch or two and then hit a bone and fly to bits.