On May 25, 1912, I went out with several men carrying the cartridge bag, camera, and an axe, and we went along slowly—for it is useless walking quickly, as one makes too much noise and cannot scan the country for game— and especially on the look out for elands, as a great number of these animals had lately been visiting the native maize gardens in the vicinity of Memeza's village. Every morning their fresh tracks could be seen, and a herd of these large antelopes will do as much damage as an equivalent number of cattle, and in a further chapter I will mention the amount of damage done to the natives' crops by elephants and other game. It is enough to mention here that the natives are not allowed to kill large animals, and they usually only hunt pig and small buck with their pariahlike dogs, and run the animals down by speed of foot and terminate the business with their soft iron spears or knobkerries.
As it was late when I left the village I did not intend to go far, but this was not necessary, for after leaving the maize fields and getting into the bush for less than a mile I saw some large animals about 300 yards off, and knew at the first glance that they were elands. I may mention that seeing game is more a matter of habit and knowing what game looks like than exceptional power of eyesight. A white man can become just as quick as a native in this respect after plentiful experience ; and having shot a great deal of game, and seen much more, I find I usually see it now before the natives who accompany me. Spooring game is a more difficult matter, but the European can learn to do this also if he only makes a proper study of the subject.
On seeing the elands I told the natives to lie down, and I proceeded to stalk them, and after some difficulty I got to within 150 yards, which is near enough to make good shooting at animals of their size.
The game was suspicious, so seeing a good bull that presented a fair shot, I aimed at his shoulder and pressed the trigger. He immediately gave a shiver and raised his forelegs from the ground, as elands often do when hit well forward, and dashed off with most of the herd, but another bull was a bit slow in moving, and I immediately fired at him also. The herd consisted of over thirty animals, and the wounded beasts, were soon lost to sight, so I took the spoor and soon found blood, and after tracking for a short time I found the animal lying dead. This was the second bull fired at, and as I could not find any more blood on the tracks, and it was rapidly getting dark, I covered up the dead eland and went back to the village, deciding to return the next morning to look for the first animal I had hit. After a wash and a good dinner, succeeded by several pipes, I went to bed and was up at cock crow next morning. As I can never eat much early in the morning, two cups of tea and some toast was all I waited to dispose of, and then I started for the dead game, accompanied by over fifty natives. We soon reached the eland and found it had not been interfered with by carnivorous animals during the night, although I noticed fresh hyena spoor in the sand near it. I always hang my pocket handkerchief over game, and this usually serves to keep off lions, leopards, or hyenas.
While I was measuring the horns of the eland and taking a snapshot with my Kodak, a man who had wandered about 200 yards off called out that he had found the other eland lying dead, and so it proved, and on following his tracks backwards I found he had only run about 100 yards from where he was hit and then fallen dead. He did not go off with the herd, but took a line of his own, which was the reason we had failed to notice his spoor in the grey light of the previous evening. This was satisfactory, as I knew that I had not lost a wounded beast, although if he had gone off I would have spent the whole of the day in trying to find him. The worst feature about shooting is wounding and losing a fine animal, as its sufferings must be great. The other herd animals shun it, because, I think, the smell of fresh blood is disliked by them; so it has to lead a solitary existence until it dies from its wound, or death in some other shape or form puts a termination to its sufferings. This eland had been hit through the large arteries leading into the heart, and this is quite as good a shot as the heart one. In some ways it is better, for if the bullet strikes a little back the lungs will probably be punctured. Game shot in the heart, or in the big arteries above that organ, usually give a shiver and draw themselves together, and dash off at a quick pace and fall dead within a short distance.
If struck in the lungs they may go farther and leave a more plentiful blood spoor, and this blood will be light-coloured and frothy. A shot in the kidneys usually kills game pretty quickly, as such a wound has a sickening effect and it causes severe internal haemorrhage. Shots in the brain, centre of neck, and in the spine usually drop game where they stand, and, of course, animals often drop with shots in other parts; but they will probable get up again and run off. If an animal is found lying stretched out on its side it is usually done for, and on the point of death; but if sitting up, it will likely have the strength to get on its legs and bolt. Sometimes a wound seems to paralyse a beast's nervous system, and it is then able to stand several subsequent wounds in deadly parts of its body without showing much distress for some time. It is wonderful how tenacious of life wild animals are, and the small duiker, considering its diminutive size, is an example of this. It is difficult to say what is the toughest species, but the kob family is probably the most tenacious of life; and waterbuck and puku are two of the toughest I have met with, although if properly hit with the first bullet they are as easily killed as anything else.