I think I have mentioned that the grass fires usually take place in July, August, or September, but it all depends on the duration of the rains, and whether the grass has got dry and yellow enough to burn well.
Game is very fond of going to the dambos and licking up the salt contained in the ashes ; and two or three weeks after the fires the fresh green grass will spring up and be eagerly eaten by the game ; but this grass will likely get withered again until the rains in the early part of December bring it back to life. Then it will continue growing right up to March and April, when the rainy season usually ends.
All game is very fond of ascending hills, and even such large animals as elephants and buffaloes will often climb as high as 8000ft. Many of the ranges in Central Africa have plateaux on the tops, and Mount Chiperoni, in Portuguese East Africa, which is considerably higher than 8000ft. above sea level, used to be, and doubtless still is, a favourite haunt of all the larger game.
Probably animals go to these places to get away from biting flies, and for coolness in very hot weather; and possibly the food has a different taste to that found at lower levels, and may act as a medicine or tonic.
It is certainly hard work following game in some of their wanderings, especially in the rainy season and before the grass is burned. About April and May the grass begins to seed, and some kinds of grass have seeds as long and sharp as needles; these cling to flannel shirts, socks, and other rough clothing, proving a very great nuisance.
At times grass seeds will be driven into the flesh, and as some of them seem to have barbed points, they are difficult to extract. Then there is the buffalo bean (chitaizi or chitedza), which I have mentioned before as being a pod covered with hairy spikes, containing some irritant poison and causing a severe itching, followed by a red rash, which, however, disappears in a day or less, if the blood is in good order.
There are also many different kinds of thorns and stinging nettles, and a painful object to rub against in thick grass is a fine creeper about the size of a leather bootlace, which is covered with sharp spikes. This creeper is difficult to detect, as it is green in the rains and turns yellow with the grass in the dry season, and when shooting in bare legs, as I usually do, I have had the skin badly torn by this vegetable string. It is very strong, so there is no use trying to break it, and one has to retreat a pace and then step over it.
Ticks are often numerous, and in some parts of Africa leeches are bad, but I never saw them so numerous in Africa as I did in parts of Eastern India.
While working at Ekaruni Tea Estate, in Sylhet, both the coolies and myself used to get covered with wire leeches, and it was useless trying to pull them all off, as they generally carry away a piece of skin, and the place is sure to fester, and often form a bad ulcer. I can remember occasions when I got home and applied some salt to them and collected from fifty to one hundred on the mud floor. Then a sprinkle of salt would make them vomit up the blood, and a pool of gore would collect over a foot in circumference. This would not have been so bad if it had been a very occasional event, but when it was repeated day after day, it made one feel like a sucked orange. The reason the leeches were so bad on the garden named was that I went there when the place was virgin jungle, and the land was very wet and swampy. With good drainage the land was dried, and the wet jungle was cut down, so the leeches disappeared in the clearings. I have seldom seen such a deadly place for natives, as many died of cholera, dysentery, ulcers, blood poisoning, and other diseases. It reminded me of a description of Yambuya Camp, where Captain Nelson and his natives were starved and died of disease in the Stanley Emin Pasha Expedition.
Mosquitoes teemed on that place, and they were so bad that I used to sit and dine under a large mosquito net, having a smaller one stretched over my bed. The "boys" used to push the dishes under the large net, and a " boy " inside would put them on the table and remove them in the same way. The only recommendation this fever spot possessed was an abundance of snipe and jungle fowl, and there were a few deer about; but the jungles were so thick that it was almost impossible to see them, and one made such a noise creeping about that the game usually had plenty of notice before it was possible to get a glimpse of them.
I remember the monkeys proved a great bother, as they used to invade the young tea nurseries and eat the freshly planted seed and pull out the small bushes, so I shot a number with a small rook rifle. Baboons in Africa often damage tobacco and other plants, but they can be frightened away by shooting a few and hanging up a carcase or two as scarecrows.
The beginner at big game shooting may like to know the best spot where to hit game. When shooting, he should try to get the sight on a certain spot and not aim at hazard.
The two deadliest shots for game are the heart and the lungs, and, of course, a bullet in the brain or the centre of the neck will drop game at once ; but these are unsatisfactory targets, as a bullet in the head will break the skull and if too high may remove a horn. Unless the animal is large, such as eland or buffalo, the neck is a difficult mark.
To hit the heart is a question dependant on the angle at which the game is standing, but if broadside on, the best spot is fairly low through the shoulder bone. The hearts of all game are lower than a line drawn horizontally across the body, and a buffalo's heart lies right down in the cavity of the chest. If the heart, or large arteries just above it is struck, the animal will usually give a shiver and dash off at a fast pace and then collapse after going forty to sixty yards ; but often game will fall at once and die quickly. Personally, I prefer to see a beast run for a little way before falling, as animals which fall quickly often get up again and bolt. Of course a small buck is often knocked down by the concussion, and I have seen bushbuck and duiker lifted off their legs by the energy of the bullet, and this was particularly noticeable when I used a .318 " Axite " rifle, which has a velocity of 2500ft. sec. and shoots a heavy, blunt point bullet of 25ogrs.