George Bird Grinnell.

Hunting at high altitudes: the book of the Boone and Crockett club online

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there is for sale a map showing all the post roads
with the distances between stations. If we had
known that there was a post road to Kuldja from
the north, we would have shot in the Altai first.
Secondly, in July and August all the rivers are in
flood, and at that time very apt to delay travel
until a few cloudy days prevent the melting of the
glaciers, thus lowering the streams. Thirdly, that
Kalmuks are better hunters than any other tribe,
and fourthly, that it seems true that the biggest
heads are in the highest mountains.

If I were to take the trip again I should go to
the Altai in the north for argali (Ovis ammon),


Ibex Shooting in the Thian Shan Mountains

then travel to Kuldja by river steamer and tar-
antas to shoot in the Thian Shan from about the
middle of August until October, engaging my men
at Kuldja through the Belgian missionaries there
two most agreeable gentlemen who* have met every
traveler from Littledale in 1882 until the present
time. I should buy all my supplies except cocoa
and condensed milk at Vernie or Jarkand, and in
Kuldja itself. The condensed milk in Russia is to
be found at the apothecaries.

I have made no mention of the great number of
ibex to be found in these mountains. Often we
saw at one time several herds, each with over a
hundred ibex. While the actual hunting of ibex is
the grandest sport that I have ever had, one must
not forget the frequent rainy days or those on
which the clouds were low in the mornings, thus
delaying the start until it was too late to make a
vSuccessful day's hunt. On days such as these, time
hangs very heavy on one's hands, as it does also in
the afternoons on days when we moved camp.
Now that I am home, however, I look back with
great pleasure on the days spent on the mountains,
forgetting the times when we were delayed by bad
weather and high water.

Geo. L. Harrison, Jr.



In the first week of July, 1908, I left England
by the Union Castle liner Kenilworth for a shoot-
ing trip in Northwestern Rhodesia, arriving at
Victoria Falls on the Zambesi just three weeks
from the day I sailed. The seventeen-day voyage,
broken by a day at Madeira, was very pleasant,
the weather being clear and warm, the sea smooth,
the passengers most agreeable. The days passed
quickly, with cricket on deck in the afternoon and
dances gotten up by a lot of young people almost
every evening. A comfortable train meets the
boat on arrival, and I was soon ascending the
mountains back of Cape Town and getting my
first taste of South Africa as, wearing overcoat,
gloves and traveling rug, I shivered in the cold
mountain air, looking at the snow covered peaks
on each side of the track.

Then we came to the Karroo, once teeming with
game a great table-land, stretching north from
the mountains, with its kopjes sharply outlined in


A Shooting Trip in Northwestern Rhodesia

the clear atmosphere ; the same kopjes which caused
so many "regrettable incidents" in the Boer War;
innocent little hills, looking as if they could not
hide a rabbit, but in whose folds had hidden many
a commando.

Kimberly and Mafeking, dusty tin towns on a
barren plain, were passed, the train reaching Bul-
awayo the third morning. Bulawayo is built on
the site of Lo Bengula's old capital, but the great
Matibili chief lies in an unknown grave, having
disappeared badly wounded with a few of his head
men. Several attempts have been made to find his
last resting place, but always without success.
Many stories are still told of the autocratic rule
of this man, whose lightest word was law, and who
kept in touch with every part of his Empire
through messengers, who brought him news of
each event. Although harsh and cruel, he never-
theless made of the Matibili a nation of perfect
physical specimens, brave in warfare and kindly
one to another.

Early the following morning I was up to catch
the first glimpse of the great Victoria Falls, and
while still more than twenty miles away, could see
the rising sun shining on the towering column of
spray, which was taken by early travelers for the
smoke of bush fires.


Hunting at High Altitudes

The railroad crosses the Zambesi a few yards
below the Falls, the train pulling in to Livingstone,
the capital of Northwest Rhodesia, at 9 o'clock.
Here I was met by Finaughty, my hunter, with
word that the wagon would meet us at Kalomo,
ninety miles further on, so we changed into the
train for Broken Hill, stopping only to get my
shooting license.

That afternoon we left the train at Kalomo
Station, and trekking through the old capital, now
deserted, as it was very unhealthy in the rains,
camped near a little river at sunset; the fiery ball of
the sun disappearing soon after making camp. The
little river was only a river in the rainy season, and
I did not imagine that we were going to drink the
water the servants brought from the pool nearby,
as it was quite muddy and had a decidedly grassy
taste. However, one soon became accustomed to
it, and when it was boiled, it was not so bad. Be-
sides, we had a water barrel on the wagon, which
we filled whenever we found extra good water. It
is only fair to say that 1908 was an exceptionally
dry year. The wagon trekked on at 2 o'clock in the
morning, while we cantered on for breakfast, hav-
ing kept a couple of "boys" with us to carry our
beds. I should say that in this part of the world any
native servant is a "boy," while any native is a


(See page 314.)

A Shooting Trip in Northwestern Rhodesia

"Kaffir." As I was sitting down to the meal, a
couple of Lichtenstein hartebeests walked out a
couple of hundred yards away, both of which I
dropped, thus furnishing plenty of meat for our
men and putting every one in a good humor. It
was just twenty-two days since I had left Waterloo
station, London.

A word as to my men and outfit may be of
interest, although I am afraid the present-day
motorist would find our progress rather slow. I
had rented the outfit complete through an agent at
Livingstone, who engaged for me the men and had
stocked the wagon with the supplies I had chosen.
First, there was the wagon, a ponderous affair of
the old Cape pattern, capable of carrying a load
of three tons. This was drawn by sixteen oxen
yoked in pairs, the lead oxen led by a Kaffir and
the team driven by Finaughty's brother Harry.
Each ox knew his name, and would respond when
called on, but woe to the ox that shirked his work,
for he would have the double thong of the great
whip about his ribs at once. William Finaughty
and I each had two ponies for hunting, while a
couple of black boys as servant and cook, together
with four others for hunting, completed the outfit.

The Finaughtys had been born in the country,
being sons of William Finaughty, one of the old-


Hunting at High Altitudes

time elephant hunters, whom Selous mentions as
having stopped hunting in 1872 because the game
was then getting scarce. Both were excellent men,
speaking Dutch and Matibili fluently, kind to
both animals and natives, but not to be imposed
upon, as our men occasionally found to their cost,
when the double thong would wind around their
ribs for some flagrant piece of laziness. For the
next three days we traveled on through sandy
ridges, interspersed with little vleys open spaces
that are marshes in the rains or, more correctly,
I should say nights, as the wagon always left camp
at sundown, traveling until ten or eleven o'clock,
when the oxen were outspanned for a rest of three
hours, and then went forward until sunrise. We
usually slept until morning, then having a cup of
cocoa with a biscuit, and cantering in to breakfast,
or more generally taking a loop in search of game,
usually getting a reed buck or oribi.

On the third morning we found the wagon
drawn up under an enormous fig tree near some
native kraals or villages, whose inhabitants were
soon flocking about camp, and from them we
learned that eland, roan antelope and hartebeest
were to be found in the vicinity. On the open plain
back of camp were to be seen many oribi, a little
antelope about twenty-five inches high with jet


A Shooting Trip in Northwestern Rhodesia

black horns five inches long, not big game, but
nevertheless affording very good sport as well as
good rifle practice. Next morning we rode out
from camp in the cold, raw dawn, accompanied by
a dozen or more men from the nearby kraals eager
to show us game, which we soon saw in the shape
of a solitary bull hartebeest, a wary old fellow,
which took some stalking to get and then only after
a long time, as the first shot hit him too far back,
so that it was midday before he was accounted for.
There was much eland spoor about, so after
a bite of lunch we went on, to be rewarded
by seeing a little herd of these huge antelopes
standing and lying under some mimosa trees in the
center of quite a large plain. The absence of cover
rendered an approach to within shot impossible,
but the more I looked through my glasses at the
great slate-colored bull with his bushy frontlet of
black hair, the more I wanted his head, and I
quickly agreed to Finaughty's suggestion that we
should try running them down. Bending low in
the saddle, we walked our ponies, one back of the
other, directly toward them, in this way getting
to within four hundred yards, when the eland
began to move off. Then, after them we went as
fast as our ponies could gallop, but for the first
mile the eland held their own, the fox-colored cows


Hunting at High Altitudes

going easily and jumping over the bushes in a
manner surprising for such large animals. I had
to ride to one side on account of the clouds of dust
which hid the holes of ant-bears and the cracks in
the ground; but at last, as they neared the edge of
the timber, for which they had been making, the
big bull was evidently done, and I was able to race
alongside him as he lumbered on.

As I galloped behind the herd, I could dis-
tinctly smell the sweet odor associated with these
animals, and which comes, I believe, from the
fragrant bushes they browse on; the blood, even
when dry on the hands, has a pleasant perfume.
The ponies we were riding had just arrived from
Cape Colony, and had never been used as hunting
ponies. The reason for this was that almost all
horses in this part of Africa die of horse sickness
during the rains the few which survive being
known as "salted" horses, and are worth eight or
ten times as much as an unsalted horse. Even these
high-priced animals are not immune from the tsetse
fly, whose bite is fatal to domestic animals, so that
it is more economical on a short trip to use horses
brought in from the Cape, when all risks, such as
losing them having them killed by lions or "fly"
are considered.

I had never fired from the saddle, and as far as

A Shooting Trip in Northwestern Rhodesia

I knew my pony had never heard a shot at close
quarters, so it was with great misgivings that I
rested my rifle across the pummel of the saddle and
pulled trigger, with the lucky result that the great
bull rolled over with a shot through the heart. I
think that everyone who has shot a fair amount of
game feels a reaction at the end of the stalk, when
the animal youhave been striving so hard to get lies
at your feet; and in this case the reaction was in-
tensified by the excitement of the gallop I had had.
It was some time before the natives came up, and
as it was late in the day, we cut off the head, ^ send-
ing it into camp by two men, leaving the others
with our water bottles to spend the night there,
which they gladly did, to feast on the meat until
morning. The next morning the women of the
kraals brought in all the meat, which we traded
for grain for our men and ponies, while I spent a
lazy day about camp superintending the skinning
of the heads, and getting a couple of good oribi
in the afternoon.

At this camp I got another hartebeest, a couple
more reedbuck and a very good roan antelope,
which I shot as he lay asleep under a tree the
bullet breaking his neck. Here we left the so-
called road a mere wagon track in the veldt
striking across country to a place where the natives


Hunting at High Altitudes

said there were a few sable antelopes. This
meant traveling by day, and the oxen suffered
from the heat, as they were very weak from feed-
ing on the young grass which was springing up
after the old grass was burned. As usual, we were
out early next morning, and soon found an old
roan bull standing on the open plain, which
stretched, with only a few bushes, from here to
the Kafue River. Luckily, some large ant hills
gave us the means of getting within range, when
a well-placed shot dropped him where he stood.
Leaving a boy to keep off the vultures, we sent
another into camp with the head, telling him to
send out for the meat, while we rode on to look
for more game.

A couple of eland cows soon showed up, and as
one had a, very good head, I galloped after her,
only to find it a very different matter from riding
into a heavy bull. The chase had been in a large
semicircle, and by the time I came to terms with
her she was heading for the place I had killed the
roan, and I let her gallop on for a mile or so, drop-
ping her within a few hundred yards of the first
animal, much to the surprise and delight of the
boy on guard. Taking only the head, we gave the
carcass to the people of the kraal near which we
were camped, and that evening Finaughty called


A Shooting Trip in Northwestern Rhodesia

my attention to the long line of women, some with
babies on their backs, bringing in the meat. All
were singing, and everybody was carrying at least
three times as much as when with groans they
carried meat in for us.

Another trek took us into the sable country, but
unfortunately the cold wind of the past few days,
combined with the hot sun, brought on a fever, so
it was a week before I was about. At last I could
stand camp no longer, and although rather shaky,
we decided to spend the day among some big trees
which we saw on a ridge about six miles* away.
Just before we reached them, however, a sable
bull got up not one hundred yards away, standing
broadside until I rolled off my pony and took a
shot. Down he went, but getting up again, went
away very sick. As I was still weak, I gave my
rifle to Finaughty, telling him to finish him, which
he did in a short time, as he found him too badly
wounded to get up. He was a magnificent animal,
the upper parts jet black with pure white beneath,
and better still, a really good set of horns 46^
inches in length.

At this camp we got a day's good bushbuck
shooting in the bed of a river, now almost dry,
with water every mile or so in pools. Putting a
few boys in the bed of the stream, which was at


Hunting at High Altitudes

least twelve feet below the surrounding country,
we walked quietly along about one hundred yards
in front of the beaters, Finaughty on one bank,
myself on the other, firing at the buck as they
raced up the river bed or left the stream to cut
across a bend to another part higher up. Our
bag was five bucks we could have killed many
more if we had wished most of which fell to
Finaughty, who, armed with my little double 303,
made splendid practice of those fast-moving ani-
mals. The bushbuck, to my mind, is by far the
most sporting of the smaller antelope, carrying a
great deal of lead and charging when cornered,
while their sharp horns are not to be despised.
The native women would not eat the meat for fear
of becoming barren.

One day while at this camp we tried to gallop
up to a herd of roan, which were feeding with
some zebra on a large open plain, and getting as
near them as we could, we let the ponies gallop
after them at almost top speed. At the start the
zebra and roan kept together, but before a mile
was past the zebra were done, letting me gallop
through them without much trouble; but it was a
different matter with the roan. Although I got
within twenty yards of the largest bull, I could not
get alongside him as he galloped with open mouth,


A Shooting Trip in Northwestern Rhodesia

and I was afraid to shoot over my pony's head, as
he had a nasty way of ducking to the shot, most
unpleasant in a country full of holes. For three
miles we kept this position, and just when I thought
the roan was done my pony gave out after blunder-
ing over the earth of an ant wolf, while the roan
stopped a quarter of a mile further on. The
ponies we had were in good condition, being corn
fed, but were not by any means fast.

A couple of days' trek from here took us well on
to the Kafue Flats broad, open plains flooded
at certain seasons and covered with the roots of
the grass which had recently been, burnt off. As
far as the eye could reach, the flats extended in
every direction, covered with immense herds of
zebra, letchwi and wildebeest, while the ground
itself was most excellent for galloping over, as
there were no holes or cracks of any kind.

Camp was made near the only tree for many
miles, and in the afternoon I was lucky enough to
drop a good wildebeest at long range. The coun-
try being perfectly level, stalking was impossible,
as was also riding down the game, for as the
animal pursued at once made for other herds, we
soon had about 5,000 head of zebras, letchwi and
wildebeest kicking up such a cloud of ashes from
the burnt grass, that I could not see twenty yards.


Hunting at High Altitudes

The letchwi, however, were easy enough to get,
for as soon as they were frightened they would
string out in a long line, crossing in front of the
horse at almost right angles, so we would gallop
at the leader, jump off and shoot. This habit
comes from the Mashukulumbi driving them at
certain times into a circle, and as this has been
going on for years, the buck break out to one side
as soon as anyone gets near them. The zebra
would have been easy enough to kill, and I wanted
a couple of skins, but foolishly kept putting shoot-
ing off until we were almost finished the trip, and
then of course did not see any more.

On the flats we could shoot only in the early
morning and late afternoon, on account of the
mirage, which surpassed anything I have ever seen.
At noon not only was there game on earth, but
great herds of it floating into the air, seemingly
close at hand. One day I jumped off my pony to
shoot a letchwi, when a troop of zebra galloping
by, the pony joined them, leaving me afoot. Fin-
aughty, who luckily was near at hand, gave chase,
and in a couple of hours I saw him come gallop-
ing back, leading the pony. He seemed so close
that I thought he saw me, and it was not until he
seemed to be passing us at a couple of hundred
yards that my boy, who had come up, called to


*A Shooting Trip in Northzvestern Rhodesia

him, while I fired a couple of shots. For three
hours he galloped around us, sometimes on the
ground, more often in the air, but all the time so
plain that I could see each pony rise and fall in
his stride, and knew that Finaughty had changed
on to my pony. At last he found us, and getting on
our ponies, we gave them their heads for camp, an
experiment I had often tried before. So well did
they know where the wagon was, although we had
only been there two days, that the big tree ap-
peared exactly between my pony's ears, and this
after he had been galloped back and forth all

After I had shot four good letchwi heads, we
traveled for a couple of days up the Kafue River,
making camp under some big fig trees on a high
bank, while the plain behind us was covered with
the largest ant hills I have ever seen, many of
them over twelve feet high. On the way, we
stopped over a day near a large native village,
where I shot several duikers, a small buck weigh-
ing about thirty pounds ; and I may say here that I
took a very unfair advantage of them. The bush
around the village swarmed with duikers, which
were hunted a good deal by natives armed with
spears, and I suppose the little buck preferred
this to being hunted by the cat tribe further away.


Hunting at High Altitudes

Anyhow they had worked out the range of a spear
so exactly that when started from a clump of bushes
or a patch of long grass, they would run for a
hundred yards, and then walk quietly away, giving
plenty of time to look at their horns through a
glass, as well as for a shot. Near the camp were
several small herds of puku, a kob or waterbuck,
about the size of a whitetail deer. Living on the
open plain without any cover, over which the wind
blew with great force, raising blinding clouds of
dust and ashes from the burnt grass, they were
wild and hard to approach. Each buck had a herd
of about thirty does with him, thus adding greatly
to the difficulty of getting a shot, as he was gen-
erally in their midst, and I must confess to a couple
of amazing flukes when I got a couple of good
heads with a shot each through the heart at over
three hundred yards in a gale of wind. I mention
this to show that sometimes the thousand-to-one
chance comes off.

One evening a native came to camp with the
report that he could show us buffalo- within a long
day's march, and in a country where we could use
horses. This sounded too good to be true, and I
was careful to impress on him that we would ad-
here strictly to the agreement which we always
made in such cases, namely, a handsome present if


A Shooting Trip in Northwestern Rhodesia

we were shown the game or recent spoor, and a
present of twenty-five lashes with the ox whip in
case it was all a fake. Natives would often come
to camp offering to show us certain kinds of game,
either in order that they might get a present in
advance, or that we might be persuaded to shoot
them some common variety of buck when we could
not get what we were after. This particular native
did not bolt in the night when we explained our
terms, as usually happened, so next morning we
took some boys to carry our beds and food, and
the rising sun saw us under way. Until noon we
traveled under a blazing sun over a parched plain,
the wind from which was like blasts from a fur-
nace then a rest, and on again at one in the ter-
rific heat, until, just as the sun was setting, we came
to a little knoll, the only landmark in sight, where
our guide said he had found water a week before.
There was no sign of it now.

Nine o'clock found us still traveling, with no
sign of water, but soon afterward we came to a de-
pression, where we dug a little well, getting a cup
of liquid mud each, with every prospect of an
uncomfortable night, as we were now suffering as
much with the cold as we had previously done with
the heat, our boys having fallen far behind with
the food and blankets. With difficulty we man-


Hunting at High Altitudes

aged to collect a little dry grass to make a momen-
tary blaze, which, together with a few shots,
brought the men up by midnight, very tired and

The next morning we saw far off the tops of a
small clump of trees on a rise of ground, where our
guide assured us he had seen buffalo a week be-
fore, and these we reached about noon, the tired
porters not getting in until late. Luckily, there
was water, but absolutely no sign of buffalo, and
the guide became very impertinent ; but as the tired
porters staggered in one by one, he changed his
manner on my threatening to turn him over to
their tender mercies. At last he confessed that he
had not seen buffalo for three years. I gave him
his choice of being turned over to our men, taking
a whipping or carrying a load back to* camp, which
latter he chose, and I need not say that the load
the men made up for him was far from light, and
that a very chastened native arrived at the wagon
late the next evening, and as soon as he had
deposited his burden, started for his kraal.

Upon our return, we found a native awaiting
us, who offered to show us buffalo in another direc-
tion, so after a day's rest we went with him. He
told us that we would have to make a dry camp
the first night, but would reach a pan or pool the


A Shooting Trip in Northwestern Rhodesia

next morning. The mere fact of knowing water
is scarce makes one thirsty, and I could have done
with more that evening, but did not worry, as we
expected to reach water early the next day. I
should say that the reason we did not go on to the
water the first day was because we hoped to run
into buffalo grazing near the pan in the morning.

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Online LibraryGeorge Bird GrinnellHunting at high altitudes: the book of the Boone and Crockett club → online text (page 19 of 27)