The party return to cantonments—The bag, though moderate, considered satisfactory—Uncertainty attending the first spear—A hunt-meeting at mess—Discussion regarding rules—Length of spear—Indiscriminate slaughter of sows—Colonel's ire thereat —A few brief suggestions for hunting rules.
On the following morning the hunting-party broke up, and its members, with the exception of Danvers and Vivian, who proceeded to Mandavie, there to take boat for Kurrachee, returned to cantonments.
The number of pig killed had been moderate. But altogether, the sport afforded was deemed quite satisfactory by those concerned; and the bag, indeed, would be generally thought so, except by those gluttons who have been spoiled by shikaring in some one of those districts, and in it alone, where pig are to be found in countless numbers, and on rideable ground. Such favoured spots are, I regret to say, very rare, if, indeed, they anywhere now exist in the Bombay Presidency, though many jungles will afford one or two days' capital sport.
I have, however, not hunted for some years; and possibly some of the crack meets, such as " Arkola" in the Deccan, "Dongwa" in Guzerat, "Aliwan" in Scinde, " Venotree" in Cutch, the neighbourhood of " Oodeypore" in Rajpootana, and numerous other favourite fixtures may have greatly altered, and been superseded by others since then. I have seen good sport at them all, as well as at numerous other places in all the provinces mentioned. The foregoing chronicle will indicate in a great measure where. I sincerely hope that those who have qualified, or are qualifying themselves as spearmen, may have as good or better.
But though good sport may often be anticipated, the spearman should not be downcast if luck does not always follow his exertions. Perseverance, pluck, and determination will, in the end, triumph, and to my mind all sport is improved by some uncertainty, labour, and difficulty in its attainment. The glittering tushes would not be half so prized a trophy were they very easily obtained. Let no tyro, however unsuccessful at first, despair of succeeding. With practice, and patience, and a determination to succeed, his time will come.
Nor must he look to find invariably, or lose heart at several consecutive blank days. I have myself on many occasions, taken several first spears in one day, but I have also wandered for days over the country in search of pig, without getting even a run. Again, at other times, I have seen several killed by others, and assisted in their slaughter, without obtaining a first spear myself.
Norman was as good as his word, and shortly after his arrival in Bhooj summoned a hunt-meeting at the mess-house.
In India, as in other parts where Englishmen assemble for purposes of recreation or discussion, food or drink, or both, seems to form a natural accompaniment to such meeting. Agreeably with this truly British custom, tiffin was the time selected as that most likely to procure a good attendance; and at that pleasant meal, accordingly, a large party sat down a few days after the termination of the hunting tour.
Many subjects connected with the sport of pigsticking, and especially as relating to the object for which they had met, were freely discussed.
Some have been already touched on in the foregoing pages, and it is unnecessary here to repeat them.
The length of spear appeared, however, one on which considerable difference of opinion existed.
Some thought it should be unrestricted and left to the option of the rider, who himself best knew what length he could with convenience manage.*
"Is the length of spear never limited among you Bombay men?" asked Melton. "It seems hardly fair that one man should ride with a stick a couple of feet longer than another."
* Appendix, Note A.
"Every man can do as lie chooses," said Stewart. " If he prefers a long one he can use it."
" Yes ! but then it must be more tiring to carry and more likely to get in the way of others. To a powerful man it may be of no consequence ; but a weaker one may find it necessary to use one shorter."
" That is true," observed Mackenzie. " But you must remember that the powerful man probably labours under the disadvantage of riding much heavier than the other. However, I am not an advocate for long spears. It must necessarily give a better chance in a tussle on the open plain, but then it is more unmanageable in jungle."
" My idea of the maximum length is between eight and nine feet," said Norman. " But this is a point of course on which there may be various opinions. It would be a pity, too, to cut away from a stick, where the balance and joints just suited, merely because it was a few inches over that length. But nine feet appears to me ample for all purposes in action. I rarely ride with one so long myself."
" Quite right, Norman," said the Colonel, approvingly. Indeed, as the younger man had taken his first and many subsequent lessons in hog-hunting under the guidance of his superior, and was a sort of sporting protege, he not unnaturally had imbibed some of his ideas, or as some may deem them prejudices.
" Nine feet," the old hunter continued, "is more than enough for anybody. Prodding a pig at the distance of some dozen feet or more is not my idea of sport. Close with your boar, sir, and fight him fairly, and don t prick and puncture the unfortunate beast at the distance of a couple of lengths. After the first spear is taken, the aim should be to kill as quickly as possible. This is better effected with a shorter spear at close quarters than with a longer one at distant. The spear is kept steadier ; the aim is truer ; and the blow is more certain. I don't like to see men pottering about round a pig and never fairly grappling it. Such are my opinions on the subject, and I have seen a little hunting in my day."
" A little hunting," was the modest remark of the old shikaree. But a member of the old Deccan " Deal-table Club"—a man who had hunted in the palmiest days of the "Nuggur Hunt," and had broken more bones of his body over the Deccan hills than a whole field of more modern hunters might with justice lay claim to have seen something more than "a little hunting." In those favoured times pig were so plentiful, and sportsmen so keen and bold, that during a single meet of a few days, as many pig would be killed as it would take a year to account for in these degenerate days of boar scarcity, and alas! not unfre-quently, hunter scarcity also.