The wilder and more unsophisticated the jungle-man who has undertaken to point out game is, the better tracker he will probably prove to be. The old type of tracker who would squat in front of one, and after staring hard in silence for some minutes, would ask how old one was, and whether married, and similar questions, is unfortunately dying out. It did not do to miss easy shots in their company, for they never told lies to please one, or pointed to imaginary drops of blood, but grunted out that it was a clean miss, and conveyed plainly enough by their disgusted air what they thought of one's shooting !
There arc several trackers in Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Hambantota districts who may be called professionals. They usually charge high for their services, and think a great deal of themselves, having been spoilt by wTealthy sportsmen who employed them. It is doubtful whether they are a whit better able to find game than ordinary jungle villagers. The art of tracking game, that is following their foot-prints or blood-trail, is little practised now, and when attempted is generally a failure, except in the case of elephants, on account of the dryness and hardness of the ground in the low-country for the greater part of the year. All that a sportsman need hope to get is an intelligent man who knows the country round well, and is able to take him to places where he knows that certain animals are likely to be found, and this is generally enough. It is, however, necessary that the tracker should understand that his employer is a man of experience, for if he suspects him to be a novice, he is, as likely as not,-if, for instance, bear shooting at night is proposed,-to take him to some water-hole where he knows no bear has been for a generation, and snooze comfortably while his victim sits perched on a gridiron of sticks fighting mosquitos all night ! On the other hand, if he has confidence in the sportsman, the latter may find his method of bringing him up to the game sometimes trying to the nerves. To be suddenly brought face to face with some dangerous brute, and for the tracker to drop on his heels, with the casual remark over his shoulder, " There he is,-shoot " is apt to flurry the coolest hand !
Each village tracker is usually possessed of an ancient ingle-barrelled gun, which he is sure to bring to the camp with much pride, and want to take with him while out looking for game, but it is as well to come to an early arrangement with him that it is to be left at home. Natives have a dangerous habit of putting the hammers down on the caps of their loaded guns. The slightest blow or jar is sufficient to explode the charge under these circumstances ; and as these gas-pipe affairs are commonly carried with the muzzle pointing up or down the path, it is most unsafe to be in their vicinity. Moreover, if a tracker is allowed to carry his gun, the chances are that, through excitement or fear, he will fire it off on coming on a dangerous game, and so spoil his employer's sport.
It is a common idea that all natives who shoot are pot-hunters, who kill game solely to make money. It is their primary object no doubt, but there are many villagers for whom hunting has a fascination, and who would continue to shoot in their own way even if not a cent was to be made out of it.
Some village hunters own first-class hunting pariah dogs. It is a pity the employment of these brutes cannot be prevented, as they pull down for their masters many deer, especially half-grown ones and fawns. Sportsmen have, however, been thankful enough sometimes for their services in tracking wounded animals.
A jungle-man's estimate of distance is generally very vague and unreliable. Should one say that some water hole is about two miles from camp, it is safe to calculate on having at least a three miles tramp to it.
A very common practice is to over-pay trackers. A man in the joy of his heart at killing, say a big elephant, is apt to reward the native who lead him up to it too lavishly, quite out of proportion to the trouble and risk the man had. The result is, that the fellow forms an exaggerated idea of his own merits, and, when the next shooting party comes along, expects to be remunerated on the same scale, whether good sport is obtained or not.
Guns,-It is not easy to give advice of any value in regard to guns required for sport in the low-country, as so much depends on what a man can afford to pay for them. If a man is wealthy he will of course provide himself with a complete battery, suitable for the different kinds of game he is likely to meet with ; say a double four smooth-bore for elephants and buffaloes, a .500 or •450 double express for leopards, bears and deer, a single-barrelled magazine small-bore, say •303, rifle accurately sighted for long range deer-stalking in the plains, a double ten-bore for long range wild-fowl shooting, and as a second gun for elephant and buffaloes, a light twenty-bore for snipe-shooting and bird-collecting, and a double twelve bore for general shooting. The vast majority, however, of those for whom this little book is written will have to be content with a couple of guns at most, and it is for their benefit that the following hints are given :-
Almost every man "swears by" some particular gun-maker, and has a preference for some particular make, breech-action, etc, in regard to which, nothing more can be said than that there is little to choose in point of efficiency between guns turned out by different makers of repute, and that every man must suit his own fancy and taste. Nor can any advice be given as to weight, bore, length of barrels, bend of stock, balance, etc, as guns should be fitted to their owners according to their stature and strength. All that can be done is to indicate, in general terms, the kind of country in which shots are usually obtained in the low-country, and to draw some inferences therefrom.