A few years ago a Mr. Crosby was killed on the western border of North-Eastern Rhodesia by a bull buffalo which he had wounded and followed. I was told that he knew his •303 rifle was in bad order and sometimes missed fire, and yet he had the temerity to follow one of the most dangerous beasts in Africa with such a weapon. He came on the buffalo suddenly on rounding an anthill, and it charged at once, knocked him down, and practically disembowelled him, as well as smashing his head to pieces. He had never shot a buffalo before, and doubtless did not exercise due care in following such a dangerous animal. Most experienced hunters, instead of approaching the anthill, would have given it a wide berth to one side, so as to see behind it, though, of course, it is an easy matter to talk or write of an incident that one does not know the exact details of. However, the mere fact that he knew his rifle was out of order ought to have made him exceptionally cautious in following such an animal.
In such circumstances a man should spare a thought for his relatives when he is engaged on such a business, for the pain of his own death may not be so great as the indirect suffering it may cause to others, and, besides, as I have remarked before, no man goes after game with the object of being killed.
The intense and thrilling excitement of following a dangerous wounded animal, when undergone on many occasions, has usually one of two effects on the human nerves. It either makes a man all the keener to experience this excitement whenever the opportunity offers, or it has the opposite effect of shattering his nerve and making him shoot badly.
Some men feel more excitement before they see the animal they are following than they do when they get to close quarters, as they then quieten down and act coolly, and forget all about the excitement in the effort to put a good shot in and end the matter. This is the way with myself; and although I have hardly had any experience with lions or leopards, I have shot a few elephant, rhino, and buffalo, and I find I am much more excited when tracking one of these creatures than I am when I get close enough for my shot. Personally, I have had much more narrow escapes from snakes than I have had from any wild animal, and not long ago I was nearly struck by lightning, which raised a small cloud of steam from the wet earth not very far from where I was standing. Although I felt a slight tingling sensation in my feet and hands, I did not feel excited in any way, probably because I knew the danger was over when the flash had reached the ground.
Doubtless some men retain an even temperament from start to finish, and it is beyond them to feel excitement in any way, as they probably were born with little sensitiveness in body or mind.
Most of us have heard of the famous general who was a proud possessor of the Victoria Cross, which he won in the Indian Mutiny. He passed through dreadful scenes of human slaughter, and yet he admitted that he sometimes fainted at the sight of a cut finger or a spot or two of blood. Yet his mental strength subordinated his actions, so that he could face the thing his instinct loathed. So it is with all risks, and if a man possesses a strong enough mind he can subdue all sense of fear. Of course, when a thing is done many times, the mind and body become accustomed to the matter.
Some boys may be afraid to sleep in the dark, and yet may accustom themselves to do so; and many girls may be in a terror when they see a mouse or a rat, and get over it if they have to live where such vermin are plentiful.
Centuries back, when the ancestors of Britons lived in caves and huts, what terror must have been theirs at times—at least, so some people believe; although I do not. For I imagine their nerves were dull and blunt like the nerves of— the blacks of Africa, and they did not feel terror unti danger was actually present.
African natives seldom dread peril until it is on them, as their minds are not sensitive, neither are their nerves so highly strung as those of the more civilised whites. Certainly the superstition that enwrapped the minds of early Britons must have always been a menace to them, just as the natives of Africa and other countries suffer to day. Unseen and imaginary fears often envelop them, and take away all power of reason or logical thought.
One of the saddest accidents to a white sportsman that has occurred for many years was that which befell the late Mr. George Grey, who was killed in British East Africa by a lion he had wounded. It charged, and he failed to stop it with a .256 Magnum rifle, although I believe it was hit several times.
I certainly believe that had he been using a stronger rifle, such as .350 or .450, with heavy, blunt, expanding bullets, that he would not have been killed. Even a 7.9 mm. Mauser would have been an infinitely better rifle than the .256, with its tremendous velocity and sharp, light bullet, which is most likely to fly to bits on striking hard substances. Further, at such a short distance the bullet is all the more liable to break up, and these modern ultra high-velocity rifles, with their light bullets, are simply a repetition of the old Express .450's, with their useless projectiles.
Mr. George Grey was known and liked all over Africa and in the Matabele Rebellion he did some splendid work. I think his action of going round by himself and warning the Colonists of danger from the natives was one of the finest deeds in African history.
Then he raised a corps which was named after him as " Grey's Scouts," and this band took a prominent place in quelling the rebellion, under the leadership of Mr. Grey, and other fine officers, among whom was Mr. Crewe, a most gallant fellow.
After that Mr. Grey took over the managership of the Tanganyika Concessions, a company which owns large copper properties in the Congo, and I have heard from many men who knew him of his fine work there. He thought nothing of starting off by himself with a blanket and a rifle, and riding a bicycle along bush paths for hundreds of miles, when he was engaged on urgent business. He was full of energy, and it seems a lasting pity that such a fine specimen of a Britisher should meet with a premature end in the way he did, and simply because he was using an inferior type of weapon. Because these .256's and .280's are splendid military or target rifles is no reason that they are the best for sporting purposes.