A morning's hunting in the Charwa hills—A brace of bulls accounted for—A few Indian misnomers—An anecdote in point—A double shot at buck with a single rifle—Another similar incident— Killing a fighting buck—The past, present, and future of pigsticking in Cutch—Lamentations—A singular case of miss and hit—Aim at a bull and hit a cow—The late Guicowar of Baroda as a sportsman—Amusing mistake—Hunting antelope with cheetahs—Rajpoots versus Mahrattas—Sour grapes approved of.
Mackenzie and Hawkes were the two who had determined to try the Charwa hills en route to See-sagud. After losing their way among the hills and jungle, they reached the small tree-surrounded well and shepherds' hut to which their kit had been sent soon after daylight.
They were unsuccessful in finding any neilghye before breakfast; but while eating that meal a man came to them to say that the shikaree had viewed a small herd, which he was then engaged in watching from the top of a hill. The hunters were soon guided to the spot, and found that a herd, some lying down, some feeding, was scattered about over an open piece of ground among low hills. There was no possibility of approaching them any nearer from the spot whence they examined them ; so it became necessary to withdraw and seek some other way of getting within shot.
A small ridge of rocks which surmounted a rising ground in the neighbourhood, seemed to offer a good chance of doing so- undetected. Cautiously retreating, therefore, they made their way round till they brought the ridge between themselves and the herd. Hitherto they had been moving through some scattered patches of jungle, which grew more or less thickly about the hill sides, and frequently filled the little valleys between. These they were now obliged to leave, and trust to creep up behind the ridge without being seen. Rifle in hand, and with then4 attendants carrying other guns behind, they stole up the slope and commenced the stalk.
"When nearing the point which they anticipated would bring them within shot, a couple of calves, hitherto unseen, suddenly jumped up from a hollow in the ground on the same side of the ridge as the hunters, and after taking a deliberate stare at them, ran off in the direction of the herd on the other side. Fortunately, instead of crossing directly over the stony ridge itself, they galloped round to turn it; and this enabled the stalkers to rush up, screened by the rocks above, and get a sight of the rest of the herd just at the moment the appearance of the young ones startled them from their fancied security. Some of the cows had already begun to move ; but the bull, ignorant of the cause of danger or its whereabouts, was standing watching them.
Mackenzie was a little the higher up of the two ; and though both aimed at the bull, was the first to pull his trigger, and the animal dropped to the shot. Hawkes was accordingly obliged to shift his aim, and fired at one of the cows, now galloping away at the peculiar pounding gait natural to an animal with such high withers. Both barrels, however, evidently missed, and the whole herd got away without its losing any further of its number.
The bull never stirred after he dropped, having received the bullet through his neck distant one hundred and twenty yards from the firer.
After examining the animal and talking over the incidents of the stalk, the hunters sent scouts to look out from some of the neighbouring heights, and ere long one of these, on a distant hill, was seen making signals. The hunters quickly responded, and made the best of their way towards him.
He had, he said, seen a neilghye away in a wooded glen between the hill he stood on and a neighbouring spur, but it had now disappeared in the jungle. The party were soon cautiously examining the country about, and while thus employed, a cow suddenly sprang into view, seemingly out of the earth, and dashed away. It was a long shot, but both hunters .were tempted to try it, and both with equal success, for it galloped away untouched. This was probably the animal which the scout had seen; so the sportsmen, after going somewhat further, sent for their ponies which had been left at a convenient spot— with the intention of riding by a circuitous route to the well, examining the intervening country on their way there.
But somehow on this occasion game seemed persistently to obtrude itself on the hunters. The man had not been long gone, when he too appeared on a hill, beckoning to those he had but recently left. Again the hunters got into motion, and on reaching him learnt that he had unexpectedly caught sight of a bull in some thick jungle not far distant, and near to the place whence they had just fired at the cow.
While proceeding to the spot indicated, Hawkes saw the animal looking straight at them out of a well-wooded nullah, and lost no time in acknowledging the attention thus bestowed on them with a bullet. It evidently told, but had not the effect of dropping the bull, who turned and made off up the nullah. Two or three snap shots were fired, one of which it was afterwards found took effect, but still the animal held on and got away over a neighbouring ridge and out of sight.
For some time the hunters were at fault ; they could make nothing of it. Men sent to the tops of the hills in the vicinity failed to discover any signs of the wounded bull; and at last they endeavoured to hit on his trail and pug him. After a few casts up and down, this was struck, and then commenced a difficult piece of tracking.
For some time it led them through jungly nullahs, and among the rough stones which, in many parts, well furnished the hill sides and the passes through them, but the bull yet continued moving and remained unviewed.
At last the trail led over a low ridge which sloped down from a hill of some height, and the puggee— who was of course leading suddenly stopped. He had caught sight of the neilghye, which was standing at the bottom of the hill, apparently very sick from its wounds, and looking up directly at the man. Leaving the shikaree to engage the attention of the poor beast, the two hunters moved rapidly round the hill to the other side, and found the bull still engaged in looking in the direction from which it evidently expected the menaced danger. Mackenzie again was quickest in getting a shot, and planted his bullet well behind the shoulder. Once more the beast galloped off, but only to fall after going a few yards, in the same moment that Hawkes fired at him.