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Big Game Hunting

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



AFRICA-Although shooting in Africa has vastly changed since Captain Cornwallis Harris (the forerunner of the great hunters) first entered the present Transvaal country in 1836, and discovered a wilderness teeming with game, where the sound of the rifle had never yet been heard, there is still, if the sports-man will travel far enough, plenty of sport to be got among the great fauna. But the wonderful plenty of what may be called the great game-slaying epoch-1836 to 1890-is not nowadays to be found except in a few remote and difficult places. The sportsman, then, must be prepared to work much harder, and to travel very far before he can find and bag big game. He will discover, as a general rule, that heavy game in Africa is much wilder and more suspicious than of old, and that its pursuit involves much more difficult hunting. Many species of game that forty or fifty years ago grazed quietly in vast legions upon the open plains, and merely stared at the wagons as they plodded slowly across the Veldt, now drink by stealth during the night, feed across the flats at very early morning, and then betake themselves to the bush, where they find sanctuary during the hot hours. The mere pursuit of many of these animals frequently involves long and weary days in the saddle, starting from the wagons before sunrise, and often not coming up with the game until after several hours of steady spooring, which is under-taken by a native hunter or bushman. Perhaps another two hours are occupied in the actual chase, and the operations of skinning and cutting up, after which ensues a long ride of possibly another five or six hours back to the wagons. Not infrequently, after leaving camp at dawn, the hunter does not reach it again until dusk or even darkness has set in. To hunt successfully in South Africa nowadays, therefore; the sportsman should possess patience, endurance, an even temper, and a hardy frame. The actual shooting of the game, in itself not always an easy operation, is by no means the most difficult part of the business of modern South African hunting. The mere fatigue of riding under a burning sun for from eight to ten hours, or even more, day after day, over a rough, and often parched and waterless country,is no light matter. And even with good and willing native servants (not always to be counted upon), the labours of the day are by no means ended when the camp fire is reached. The skinning of specimen heads, and perhaps rare birds, which should never be entrusted to raw natives, cleaning guns, changing camera plates, writing up the diary, seeing that horses and dogs are fed, and many other necessary matters, have to be attended to before the wanderer can settle him-self down by the fire, and enjoy in quiet his pipe and cup of coffee.

If, however, the sportsman is possessed of patience and a determination to succeed, he will find at the end of a week's hunting that his labours are becoming somewhat lightened. Every succeeding day hardens him and puts him in condition. The irksome detail of carrying a heavy rifle in the right hand during a long day while riding, which at first seemed so wearying, becomes a mere trifle as the muscles of the arm grow hardened to the task ; and so with the rest of the labour. In some parts of Africa, where Tse-Tse fly abounds, and horses cannot be used, the fatigue of hunting on foot, no light operation in Africa, has to be faced. In these districts, however, bush and covert are more abundant, the game has been less disturbed, and shots are more easily obtained.

Hunting Grounds and Game-Thanks to the advance of railway communication in South Africa, the traveller can get within hail of his hunting ground, at the present day, with far more ease and at considerably less expenditure of time and money than was the case a few -years back. It is not worth while lingering in Cape Colony, unless it be intended to shoot the smaller antelopes, such as springbok, klipspringer, steinbok, duiker, rhebok, bushbuck and bluebuck, or in the Orange Free State and Transvaal until close on the Limpopo River. If the sportsman is minded to shoot in Khama's Country, Eastern Matabeleland, the North Kalahari, and towards Lake Ngami and the Zambesi, his best plan will be to proceed by rail direct from Cape Town to Mafeking, and fit out there. In another year he will be able to rail direct to Palachwe (Khama's Town), or even to Buluwayo. If he mean to hunt in Mashonaland he will do best to rail to Johannesburg, and there procure his waggon, stores, and equipments ; while for hunting the country between Beira and the Zambesi-on the whole the richest: hunting ground now left to South Africa-he should proceed to Beira by sea from Cape Town or Natal. In this latter country buffalo are extraordinarily plentiful, and roan and sable antelope, eland, blue wildebeest, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, waterbuck, reedbuck, spotted bush-buck, inyala, koodoo, eland, pallah, tsesseby, Burchell's zebra, warthog, bushpig, lion, leopard, and hippos are abundant; while elephant, black rhinoceros, and giraffe may be occasionally encountered. Hunting, however, must be per-formed on foot.

In Mashonaland and parts of Matabeleland-especially towards the Zambesi in the latter country-the big game to be found is almost identical with that just above mentioned. I may, however, except the inyala, which is only found in the bush country fringing the littoral between the Zambesi mouth and Amatongaland. In Khama's Country, Ngamiland, and the districts towards the Zambesi,giraffe, lion, leopard, cheetah, hippo, ostrich, Burchell's zebra, eland, gemsbok, koodoo, roan and sable antelope, waterbuck, lechwe, sitatunga, pookoo, pallah, hartebeest, blue wildebeest, tsesseby, and spotted bushbuck, klipspringer, steinbuck, duiker, and warthog are all to be found. Elephants and rhinoceros are, how-ever, now nearly shot out, plentiful as they were in all these regions not very long since. In the Barotse Country, Upper Zambesi, and the neighbouring regions, buffalo will be found almost as abundantly as in any part of Africa. Many of the water-loving antelopes, such as lechwe and sitatunga, are also extremely plentiful in this region. Beyond the Zambesi, towards Central Africa, elephants will be again encountered. In the North Transvaal, in the bush country near the Limpopo, koodoo, pallah, and reedbuck are still to be found. In South-West Africa some good hunting grounds are still to be met with in the Kaoko Veldt (Damaraland), and in the Ovampo, Okavango River, and Cunene River Countries. Here game of much the same description as in Khama's Country and Ngamiland is to be encountered. Behind Benguella and Mossamedes, in Portuguese South-West Africa, elephant, plenty of buffalo, lion, leopard, zebra, eland, roan and sable antelope, koodoo, and other large antelopes, are to be found. Here, however, bush is prevalent ; the country is most difficult to work in ; native servants are bad and hard to get hold of; and neither horses nor wagons can be reckoned upon.

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