That six to seven tons of bone, flesh, and muscle should drop to a projectile weighing I58grs. seems something like a miracle, but it has been made possible by the ingenuity of civilised man. More elephants have been shot in Central Africa with 7.9 mm. Mausers than with any other weapon, and the bullet only weighs 225grs.
The largest bags of elephants which I have read of as being made in one day were eighteen shot by Mr. Viljoen in Southern Rhodesia, and that famed elephant-hunter, the late Mr. A. H. Neumann, once bagged sixteen in a day, using a .303 and a 10-bore rifle. But after this wandering from the tracks, I must get back again to the elephant I was after.
The fresh spoor led us into some bad country, bad for puny man, but, of course, nothing to the elephant; and some of the long, half-dry grass towered over our heads, and I hoped when I got into this kind of country that the elephants would stand in more comfortable surroundings for the last round.
In such grass it is often difficult to move, once one leaves the broad tracks of the elephants, and I have found that elephants are much more inclined to be disagreeable in such country than they are in more open timber land. Therefore it is a very sound plan to climb anthills to look round or send men up trees for the same purpose, so as not to get right under the animals before being aware that they are so close.
Not far from this place, and when approaching an elephant which had been blowing red anthill dust all over himself, I once mistook the animal for an anthill, and got so close that I could have touched his stern with the muzzle of my rifle. Luckily the elephant was asleep, and I and the man with me were able to retreat and get to the anthill which I knew was near the elephant.
On crawling to the top of it, he was still asleep and swaying gently backwrards and forwards, and my sight was just on the orifice of his ear when my gunbearer, in his eagerness to see results, cracked a stick or bit of dry reed. At the sound the elephant twisted right round (just like a top being spun), and the bullet that I fervently hoped would have punctured his brain went into his side somewhere, and he went off ; and, although 1 did my best to find him, I failed.
Kamwendo took me along splendidly until, at about 11 a.m., we suddenly saw the three elephants wandering about, feeding. I told the men who were carrying some lunch and water to sit down and wait, and gave Kamwendo the .400 single cordite and took the 7.9 mm. Rigby, and we approached the monsters.
Suddenly the elephants began walking fast in our direction, and, as the grass was long, Kamwendo and I made for a more open part where there was some timber, and when we reached a fairly large-sized tree I stopped.
The game did not seem to be much alarmed, and I thought they would stand every moment. The three beasts, the largest being a splendid bull with long white tusks quite 6olb. each, passed me at a fast walk ; and I have regretted many times since that I did not fire at him then, as I might have got to his heart or lungs. However, as I object to fire risky moving shots at such fine animals, I waited for him to stand. Instead of doing so, the elephants suddenly got the wind of the men I had left behind, and they suddenly put up their tails and started off at full pace, and then got into the thick grass. I had spoilt a fine chance in not taking a snapshot, and lost two splendid tusks, so I was not in a good temper when I sat down to have some food after a most tiring and exciting morning's work. A smoke soon put me into a better frame of mind, and I thought I might see the same elephant again some day ; which was really not much satisfaction, as elephants travel long distances and do not come to be shot. After lunch I took the spoor and followed for about four miles, but the elephants never slowed down, and I knew they would not likely stop for many miles, so I trudged back to camp without the tail which is usually cut off to show that there is an elephant less in Africa.
Every sportsman has to put up with misfortune, and I was no stranger to it ; but I knew the luck would change with some more hard leg work. Elephant spooring is hard work, for the country to be traversed is often very stiff going, and it is this that makes the disappointments in elephant shooting so hard to bear. It is not usual to get up to an elephant without going through dense country, and the prolonged excitement tires one almost as much as the strenuous exercise. If one actually sights the animals, and for some reason cannot get a shot, the remembrance is inclined to be tantalising. However, I had the consolation of knowing that I had not wounded a splendid beast and lost it, which is always the worst remembrance of all.
It was late in the afternoon when I reached my tent, and during the day's walk I had seen eland, kudu, and other game, although I did not fire at any of them, not wishing to frighten any elephants that might be within hearing.
The sun is dreadfully hot in the months of September, October, and November ; and the atmosphere is particularly sultry and oppressive in the latter month, just before the rains break. People at home occasionally experience this oppressiveness just before a thunderstorm ; but it is very much more intensified in Central Africa.
It is usually hotter to sit in camp than tramp about in the sun, as the exercise induces perspiration, and this makes the body feel cooler. This may seem a paradoxical remark, though it is true nevertheless.
On the following day I was out of my camp bed as early as usual, which was at first cockcrow, about half an hour before sunrise. I was feeling slightly feverish with the previous day's work, but it never does much good to lie up, unless one is so bad that movement is impossible; and, besides, I have often noticed that there is nothing so good as a stiff walk to get rid of fever. Kamwendo suggested that we should go in a different direction, to which I was quite agreeable, as I hoped that direction might be easier country than I had been tramping through the day before.