Sir,—In your issue of July 9 I notice a letter by " Canities Adest " entitled 41 Long Shots at Stags." I have also seen other letters on the same subject, one by Mr. Dunbar-Brunton referring to some long shots he made at game in North-East Rhodesia. I have had considerable experience of big-game shooting in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia, and I have seldom found it necessary to shoot at a greater range than about 200 yards, and most shots will be taken at 100 or 150 yards.
I do not consider it sportsmanlike for a man to make a practice of shooting at game over 150 yards, and if he cannot get to within that distance he cannot be a good hunter. Even on the big plains (called dambos here) there is usually enough covert to enable one to get a reasonably close shot, and only on a very few occasions have I found it necessary to shoot at game over 200 yards off. Of course, some men might be able to kill a buck better at 300 yards than another man would at 100 yards, and with modern rifles, such as the .280 Ross, .256 Mannlicher, or .275 Mauser, a matter of fifty yards or so may not make so much difference when a man is blessed with good eyesight, and when the game is standing in the open. In the old days in Southern Africa the Boers used to fire at springboks at distances over 500 yards, and often kill them, but I believe that for one buck they killed they missed or wounded many. A springbok is about the size of an impala, and the heart of the latter measures 5m. long by 3§in. broad, so it would need a remarkably good shot to hit it at a distance of over 150 yards. The lungs are larger, but under the ordinary conditions of shooting in this country it is unsportsmanlike, I consider, to shoot at a buck over 150 yards, unless meat is urgently required or the beast has been wounded by a previous shot. Many men who know they could not hit a ift. "bull" at 300 or 400 yards think nothing of pumping a magazine full of cartridges at a buck at that distance, whether it is standing or running.
When a man has been walking for some distance in a hot tropical sun, and is perhaps shaky with fever or exertion, he cannot expect to shoot as well as he would at a gunmaker's range on a cool day at home. It is all very well to say that rifles are so accurate and have such a flat tr ijectory nowadays that it is easy to kill game at 300 and 400 yards; but the question of eyesight comes in. Any good modern rifle with a velocity of 2000ft. per second is capable of killing an animal a mile off; but that is no reason why animals should be shot at when it is impossible to locate their vital organs or to discern the true angle at which they are standing.
The ignorance displayed by some men who ought to know better is amazing. For instance, men will fire at hippos from a river steamer in motion and expect to put a bullet into a circle of about 5in., which is, roughly, the size of a hippo's brain. For one hippo that they kill by a fluke they will wound over twenty. The wounded animals retire into the weeds and attack the first native canoe that passes near, probably drowning the poor native, or, at least, causing him the loss of his canoe and its contents. Some people who go after buck, when asked if they got anything, will say, " No, but I hit several," apparently very proud of the performance. If he had said, " No, but I wounded one, and followed it until I lost the spoor, or darkness came on," he might be called a sportsman, for even the best of hunters will have the bad luck to wound and lose an animal at times.
In the hands of a man who knows what he is doing a magazine rifle is a great advantage, but in the hands of a tyro who loses his head and gets excited it becomes a curse. I really think that the administration of the different protectorates in Africa should make it unlawful for a man who knows nothing of big-game shooting to use a magazine rifle until he is accomplished enough to use it properly. A single loader or double is not only better for him, but for the game. If he had a single loader he would naturally take more trouble to get closer, and fire with greater care. A man once said to me: " I never try to get close, for I have five shots in my magazine, and surely I can hit a beast with five shots! "
He may have hit some of them, but he did not bag many, unless he counted the wounded as "bagged." Men who go in for big-game shooting and are well up in their subject are generally humane and kind-hearted men, and all of them deplore the loss of a wounded animal, for they know the sufferings that it has to undergo, and in hourly terror from carnivorous beasts, which can take it at a disadvantage.
A modern expanding bullet makes a fearful wound, for the diameter increases as the bullet penetrates. In some cases the exit hole in a small antelope will be as large as a saucer. Such a wound in the body of a large antelope like a roan, kudu, sable, or waterbuck will almost invariably cause its death. I have shot a great number of antelopes, and I have seldom found other bullets than my own in the animals, so I presume that nearly all wounded beasts die sooner or later.
I quite agree with " Canities Adest," and his letter applies to Central Africa just as much as it does to deerstalking at home, for the amount of rash - hooting that goes on out here is appalling.
Field, October 8, 1910. D. D. L.
I now give two letters from tne same newspaper about photographing big game and the dangers incurred while doing so, and I have the permission of " Mannlicher " to give his ideas on the same subject.
Sir,—In your issue of January 20 I notice a paragraph entitled " Mr. Kearton's Cinematograph." I quote the last sentence: "Mr. Kearton and his brother, who has helped him, have done wonders, and when we remembe that a photographer has to approach very much nearer to his subject than a sportsman does to his game, we cannot but admire the personal courage that has led them to incur a real risk in the pursuit of science." Now, I quite agree with this, but I would like to point out that animal photographers really take less risk than do men whose desire it is to kill the game they hunt. Most hunters know that few wild animals are really dangerous until they are wounded, and it is usual for them to make a bolt as long as they have the strength to do so.