Oliver Howard] [Wolfe.

Back log and pine knot; a chronicle of the Minnisink hunting and fishing club online

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whirled his horse around, and galloped off toward us, with
the lion close behind him. After a few leaps the lion saw
that it was impossible to catch the horse, so it gave up
the chase and turned around to run away. At the very
same moment Asgar also turned and galloped after the
lion, and these scenes were repeated again and again, until
finally the lion was completely tired out, and was brought
to bay near a half-dried-out stream.

" As we approached the place, Asgar pointed toward
the lion with his whip, but I could only hear loud grunting
from the other side of the little stream. Against the advice
of my gun bearers, but bound on getting the lion at any
cost, I crossed the river bed through the dense bush, to be
faced the next second, to my unspeakable joy, by this mag-
nificent ' king of beasts,' which showed its beautiful head
above a little bush, only some thirty yards away from where
I emerged from the stream. As it caught sight of me,
it advanced up into the bush, exposing entirely its head
and shoulders. Here it stood, majestically, switching its
tail and giving a tremendous roar as a warning signal
for me not to come any nearer.

" Just one look around assured me that my camera
bearer had unfortunately again failed to follow me closely^



and, seeing this, I fired with my excellent 11.2 millimeter
Mauser rifle, hitting the lion square in the chest. It took
three or four big leaps into the dense bush lining the
little stream, and from there we now heard his loud grunt-
ing for a few seconds. My men wanted me to shoot into
the bush at random, thinking I might hit the lion some-
where, but this seemed to me perfectly useless and cow-
ardly, so I advanced cautiously, with the gun ready. Part-
ing the bushes with my left arm, to be able to peer into the
dense thicket, I finally caught sight of the ' fallen mon-
arch,' breathing his last and stretched out on the ground.
Now it was my turn to shout, and in a few seconds the
rest of the men came around congratulating and saying
that they had never before seen a lion with such a big
mane. After having pulled it out from the bush, we found
that it measured nine feet eight inches from the tip of
the nose to the end of the tail, and so proved to be a
large specimen with an unusually long and thick black
mane. . . ."

On the following Tuesday morning we left camp long
before daylight to see if we could find some more lions,
and this day proved to be one of the most successful hunt-
ing days that I have ever had. Having arrived just after
sunrise on a rather high elevation on the plains, from
where we had an excellent view in all directions, I sat
down on a big rock to examine the plains with the field
glasses. To the east I saw six giraffes — three large ones,
evidently a male and two females, and three young ones,
the smallest of which was not much larger than an ordi-
nary calf, except for the length of its neck. Between us
and the giraflfes was a herd of about thirty eland ante-



lopes, calmly grazing. Farther to the north we saw count-
less numbers of zebra and antelopes of different kinds,
and toward the south and west, big herds of wildebeests
and other game. . . .

On the way back to the rock, whither we decided to re-
turn for another survey of the land, after I had bagged a
cheetah and a topi, I saw an unusually large white-bearded
gnu which I also secured, and when we finally arrived on
top of the hill again, I discovered two lions, due south from
us, both resting, and fully stretched out on the ground.
Now followed a still more interesting chase than the one a
couple of days before, as this lion was even more " gamey "
than the other.

'' Repeatedly it turned and charged so suddenly and
quickly at the horse, that it looked as if it would catch
up with Asgar; but a few moments later the tables were
turned and we found Asgar chasing the lion. So it went
on for half a dozen times at least, until we succeeded in
coming so close to the lion that it caught sight of us.

'' Instantly the beast made for me in a bee line. Before
the lion had come even within one hundred yards the
gun bearers begged me to shoot. But, enjoying the looks
of the beautiful oncoming beast with its enormous flut-
tering mane, I let it come, calling out to * his majesty ' in
Ki-Swahili : ' Karibu mzee, karibu,' which means, * Come
on, old man, come on.' And on it came! Oh, had my
camera bearer only been up beside me now, what a mag-
nificent picture I should have obtained!

" Again the men begged me to shoot, but as I was sure
of my aim and my gun, I let the lion come on until within
thirty yards or less, when I fired, the bullet hitting squarely



between its shoulders, and down the Hon went in an in-
stant. I sprang forward, shouting for joy, when, to my
utter surprise, the Hon got up and, with a never-to-be-
forgotten roar, rushed for me, now less than twenty
yards off! Then the second bullet sent it to the ground
again, never more to move ! An examination of the trophy
revealed to our great delight that this lion was even
larger than the one killed before, measuring ten feet
two inches from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail,
and having a much larger and almost black mane. Every-
body that saw this skin, including a government official
who has examined over two hundred lion skins, seemed
to think it one of the largest and rriost beautiful lions ever
killed in British East Africa. . . ."

When big plains are traversed by rivers, or even dried-
out water courses, where always a great many large trees
and high grasses grow, one may be reasonably sure of
finding lions or leopards, unless they have often been dis-
turbed by hunters. In such places it is a good scheme to
go in among the trees, up wind, to some point where one
can see across the whole belt of bush, then screen one's
self as well as possible, and send the men to beat the
bush for a mile or so above. The lion will then generally
run away from the beaters, down wind, but, fearing to
be detected on the open plains, it will, as a rule, keep
running between the trees and the bushes along the river
or in the dry river bed. Then it is easily shot, as it passes
the place where the hunter stands. If the lion, under
such circumstances, is only wounded, it will almost in-
variably charge, and woe to the hunter who then fails to
receive it with steady nerve and ready gun !



The lion seems to hate the heat of the noonday sun,
for it loves then to lie down in the thick bush, or in a
cool swamp among the high papyrus, even often partly
down in the water itself. It also loves to retreat into
caves, well protected from the rays of the sun. In the
hot lowlands and lower plateaus of East Africa the manes
of the lions are exceedingly poor, a good many having
practically no manes at all, while others have a short,
tawny-colored mane — a poor trophy indeed. In the cooler
regions, however, the manes are sometimes perfectly mag-
nificent, covering the neck, more than half of the back,
away down over the shoulders, and are dark brown to al-
most black in shade. Tne " black-maned " lion is regarded
as the finest trophy, and comparatively few sportsmen are
lucky enough to shoot such a one. People have even
suggested that there are dififerent species of lions accord-
ing to their manes, but as lions with all sorts of manes,
but otherwise perfectly alike, inhabit the same localities,
this is entirely untenable.

It is when the lion gets too old to be able to catch game
that it takes to " man-eating " and so becomes the terror
of the natives in its district. In January, 1910, I met a
government official, whom I had visited on my previous trip
to Kenia, and who told me of some terrible experiences
he had had with a man-eater since then. But before re-
lating these, I must tell of an incident which happened on
the way to this official's house.

We had just crossed a river, where we saw fresh
lion tracks. As we emerged from the bank of the river,
we found a great many Kikuyu beads, often worn by the
men of the tribe, strewn on the ground. Not thinking of



the fresh Hon tracks, that we had seen below, my gun
bearer jokingly remarked to me that perhaps two Kikuyu
men had been fighting here, having torn off each other's
beads. When I suggested that a lion might have killed
a man here, he stoically said: " Labda, Bwana " ("Per-
haps, sir) ? " No sooner had we reached the little govern-
ment forestry station, than we heard that the very even-
ing before a man-eating lion had killed a Kikuyu on this
very spot. But owing to heavy rains during the night,
the blood marks and other possible signs of the struggle
had been washed away.

This government official told me that it very probably
was the same man-eater, an old lioness, which had killed
a number of people in the district, finally growing so bold
that it would come up to within a few yards of his own
house to try to slay some of his workmen. One dark even-
ing four of his men wanted to go to a spring about a
hundred yards from his house to get some additional water.
They were warned not to go by their employer, but said
they would all take spears and torches, so that there would
be no danger. They subsequently went, but none of them
ever returned! The ferocious lioness succeeded in killing
all of them, and dragged the bodies of two away into the
dense bush, where a few days later their crushed skulls
and a few bones were all that was left! In vain the of-
ficial tried to shoot or trap the lioness, for fear of which
his wife and baby for days never dared to leave the house.
But finally one moonlight night, when a goat was tied
close to the house and the bloodthirsty brute was in the
very act of springing on its easy prey, it was killed by
two well-aimed shots, fired from the open window, and



so the district was ridded of a man-eater, which had slain
over twenty people in a few weeks !

In spite of such not infrequent occurrences, and nu-
merous accidents to Hon hunters, it seems to me that the
dangers of Hon hunting are generally overestimated, for
few African beasts are as easily killed as the lion, if hit
either in head, neck, or chest. But, of course, the follow-
ing up of a wounded lion or lioness in dense bush, or high
grass, is a very dangerous undertaking, just as it would
be to pursue wounded buffaloes, rhinos, leopards, and par-
ticularly elephants. With ordinary precautions, however,
a man with a good magazine gun and steady nerve, and
perhaps with a reserve gun of some bigger bore close at
hand, runs very little risk of being killed or wounded by
lions, unless he should attack a large number at the
same time, or else lose his head and fail to make his shots

A good many have been mauled or killed when hunting
lions on horseback, as the movements of the more or less
frightened horse make a steady aim and a good shot almost
impossible. It was in this way a young settler, a Mr.
Smith, in the Sotik country was very nearly killed, while
I was out there in 1909. He had gone lion shooting on
horseback with a friend of his, both being good shots and
fearless men. They had succeeded in bagging a couple
of lions, and as they were returning to Mr. Smith's farm
in the evening, they came upon a lioness, which they
wounded, but which they did not want to follow into the
dense jungle, as the sun was just about setting.

The next morning, however, they rode out again to
secure the wounded lioness, but before they anticipated



any charge at all, she sprang upon Mr. Smith's friend,
trying to tear him down from his saddle. Young Smith
then fired at the lion, wounding it in the back. Instantly
the lion let go his comrade, and made for Mr. Smith in
mighty leaps. From his saddle he fired five times at the
oncoming beast, yet without hitting any of its vital spots,
and before his comrade had a chance to come to his res-
cue, the lioness tore him down from his saddle and horri-
bly mauled him. Just as he had given up all hope, and the
lioness was burying its terrible fangs in his leg, his badly
wounded comrade succeeded in killing it by a well-aimed
shot through the head at a few yards' distance. ]

As lions often go in pairs and groups of from eight to
twelve, or sometimes even more, it may be very dangerous
for a single man to attack such a large number of these
powerful beasts. But, on the other hand, if the hunter
is not far ofif and able to make every shot tell, and first
kills the grown females, he will probably be able to master
the situation. The well-known German traveler and ex-
plorer. Dr. Carl Peters, the founder of German East Af-
rica, told me that he once, on one of his trips there, came
upon a group of twenty-two lions, most of which were
full-grown males and females. Being an absolutely fear-
less man and a good shot, he was able to kill five, the others
running for cover in the bushes. Another sportsman, an
American, killed six lions in less than two hours during
the fall of 1909. An Australian hunter and settler told
me last December that he went out in the fall of 1909 to
shoot a lion which the night before had killed one of his
oxen. But being confronted with eleven of these big fe-
lines, he quickly retreated without molesting the lions,



some of which had already observed him, although they
did not seem to mind him in the least.

According to my own limited experience with lions,
having in all killed but six, and perhaps only seen seven
or eight more, I must say that I do not admire their
courage, unless they are both wounded and cornered. Five
full-grown lions, which I once saw lying on some flat
rocks, unfortunately jumped down and disappeared into
the high grass before it was possible for me to fire. I then
shot a few times into the moving grass in the hope that by
possibly wounding one of them it might charge down on
me, and so give me the chance of a shot at close quarters,
but, alas ! nothing of the kind happened.

Much has been said and written about the roaring of
the lion, some holding the view that the lion only roars
after it has killed its prey, and when wounded or cornered,
and when prepared to charge. Others again affirm that
the lion also often roars before it kills its prey. In locali-
ties where it has not been much disturbed by hunters
the lion's roar may be heard at all times of the day. Per-
sonally, I am inclined to join the latter's opinion, for I
have at least twice heard lions roar just after sunset,
and in both cases I was in the position of knowing that
they had not yet killed their prey. Lions often hunt in
company with each other, and are then evidently roaring
to confuse the game, and thus drive it in a certain desired
direction, where other " quiet " lions lie in wait.

Once I was hunting on the Loita plains, and seeing a
donga " — i. e., a great many trees strung out along some
water course — I decided to go through the same for some
distance with the view of possibly putting up a lion or
5 45


leopard among the bush. Going up wind, with some eight
or ten of my men spread out in chainlike fashion behind
me, I walked slowly and without making any unnecessary
noise, so as not to scare away any beast, before I should
have a chance of shooting. We thus walked along for
about half an hour, only putting up a small cheetah, which
I did not care to fire at for fear of frightening away some
bigger game.

The little, partly dried-out stream was winding its way
in constant turns, so that we often had to cross and recross
the same. I was again just crossing one of these turns,
with one of the gun bearers behind me, and at a place where
all that remained of the stream, so formidable during
the rainy season, was a big, stagnant pool, which, to judge
from the maze of lion, antelope, and zebra tracks, was a
favorite drinking place for all kinds of game. Suddenly,
as I went down into the bottom of the river, and without
a moment's warning, a big lioness, which was hiding in
the bush on an islandlike projection in the bottom of
the river, jumped out. With an angry grunt, and pass-
ing my right shoulder within a yard or two, she tried to
make good her escape into a clump of thick bush which
we had just passed.

Had the lioness jumped right upon me instead, her
sheer weight would have almost crushed me against the
hard river bottom; but as it was, I turned quickly, and
with great rapidity fired at the running feline, the bullet
crushing her pelvis. Before I had time to fire again, she
had disappeared into the dark bush, from where she now
ejected the most awe-inspiring roars. With gun cocked
and ready, I advanced to within six or seven yards of the


The Lioness Which Almost Killed the Author.
Shot on the Sotik, 1909.

A Fine Specimen.


thicket in spite of my men's trying to keep me back. Yet
I could see nothing, so dense was the bush, and so fired
in the direction of the roar. The shot was followed by
still louder roaring, after which I heard a noise that made
me think that the lioness in her fury was crushing the
bush with her teeth. Again I fired into the bush, but this
time the wounded lioness answered with a few short
grunts, at the same time making a desperate effort to get
out of the bush and charge. Now she exposed her chest
and neck, and instantly another bullet silenced her forever.

We all went into the bush to drag the trophy out, and
found, to our amazement, that the lioness in her anger and
pain had crushed one of her own hind legs almost to pieces,
having bitten twelve big holes in it, above and below the
knee ! This lioness was in her prime, with very large and
beautiful teeth. The contents of her stomach showed that
her last meal had consisted of zebra meat.

One of the most remarkable lion stories which I have
ever heard, and which I know to be perfectly true, runs
as follows: Some years ago a man-eating lion had killed
a number of people near one of the stations of the Uganda
Railroad. One day, as the Hindu station master, assisted
by the switchman, was labeling packages on the station
platform, this man-eater charge^ down upon them. The
station master rushed headlong through the window into
his office, but the switchman, whose retreat was cut off
by the lion, climbed up on a telegraph pole. The station
master, in his despair, now sent on the following telegram
to headquarters at Nairobi : " Big lion patrolling platform.
Switchman on telegraph pole. Send soldiers. My life al-
most gone."



Instantly three sportsmen made themselves ready to
go down by the next train to the station to kill the man-
eater. They arrived there in the evening, and the private
car in which they traveled was switched off at the station.
They all now agreed that during the night they should
take turns, so that one should always be watching, while
the other two slept until the morning broke, when they
expected to go out and look for the lion. That evening
they probably had taken a little too much whisky, for
they all went to sleep, including the unfortunate hunter,
who with his loaded gun had sat down in the open door
of the carriage to keep watch. The one, however, who
did not sleep was the lion. For a little after sunset it
bounded right into the car, snatched the sleeping watch-
man, and jumped out with him through one of the windows
of the car, quickly disappearing with its unfortunate prey
into the jungle.

It is a fact, although almost incredible, that the ill-
fated hunters' comrades were either too frightened or too
drunk, or both, to make any attempt at rescuing their
friend, for they both shut themselves up in the car, and
when they went out the next morning to look for the lion,
they found only the skull and a few bones of their un-
fortunate comrade. This lion was subsequently killed,
a good many glass pieces in its mane and back proving
beyond a question that it had been the guilty one.

I heard this story for the first time while I was trav-
eling on the Uganda Railroad between Mombasa and
Nairobi on my hunting trip in 1906. A German officer
who shared the same compartment had told me this story
most dramatically, and, full of excitement and anticipated



adventures, I shouted: "If I saw a lion here, I think I
would jump out of the train to get it." Imagine my sur-
prise when the German lieutenant, pointing with his hand
to the left of the track, answered : " There is one right
here." Looking in that direction, I actually saw a large
lion lying upon a zebra which he had killed, and whose
hind quarter it was devouring, only some three hundred
yards from the track!

Quicker than I can describe, I picked up my 50 x no
Winchester, which I had near at hand, took a handful of
cartridges out of the bag, and rushed out of the train,
v/hich had almost been brought to a standstill. In big
bounds I made off for the lion, putting the cartridges into
the magazine as I ran. Two English sportsmen thought-
lessly opened fire on the lion right from their car, and I
could plainly hear the bullets whiz by as I was running,
but they, fortunately, hit neither the lion nor me.

As one of their bullets hit the ground a few inches from
the lion's nose, throwing sand and dust upon it, the big
beast turned around as quick as a flash, and with a wild
roar was ready to fling itself upon me. I had then come
up within some twenty-five yards. Before the lion could
spring, I fired at it, the bullet smashing the right shoulder
and penetrating the heart, and with another roar it fell

As this was the first day I ever spent in the interior
of Africa and the first shot I fired on African soil, the
reader can imagine how happy I felt at having secured
such a beautiful trophy. Strange enough, I found out
three months later that the train had not stopped to ac-
commodate me in any way, but that something had gone



wrong with the engine at the very moment we saw the
Hon. The driver simply had to stop the train, and so gave
me this exceptional chance of getting the lion.

One often hears people praise the courage of the na-
tives, hunting the " king of beasts " only with their spears
or bow and arrow, as compared to the white man and his
modern rifles. But it is then generally forgotten that
whereas the white man, as a rule, meets his antagonist
alone, the natives invariably turn out in great number for
this sport. If, for instance, a certain lion has repeatedly
killed cattle or donkeys from a native village or " many-
ata," the warriors of that village will go out in a body to
kill the marauder with their deadly spears, which they use
with great skill and precision. The lion is located, sur-
rounded and cornered, and then a rush is made for it en
masse by the men, who spear it to death, but not often
without a desperate fight, during which generally a few
warriors are badly mauled, and sometimes killed, before
the lion succumbs. An eyewitness of such a fray told me
that when the fight was over, one warrior was dead and
three or four badly wounded, while the body of the lion,
with the spears sticking into it, resembled very much a
huge yellow pin cushion.

Of all big game, I believe the lion is the most uncertain
to secure. A man may for weeks and even months be
in a regular " lion district," where he may hear them roar
every night and see their fresh " kills " time and again,
and yet never be able to sight a single one of these very
wary and cunning beasts. In fact, an English settler not
far from Naivaska told me that he had lived folr over four
years in British East Africa in a district much frequented



by lions. He had often had cattle killed by the big felines,
but never yet had seen a single lion, although he had tried
a good many times to get a shot at one. Finally he suc-
ceeded with the unsportsmanlike method of poisoning some
of them with strychnine.

Some people have killed lions by, for instance, shooting
a zebra or larger antelope, the body of which is then left
as it falls without being touched in any way by human
hands. They then wait on a moonlight night from a
nearby tree, or a temporary shelter, made by thorn bush,
until the lion comes along, or else they return to camp and
revisit the place of the kill before sunrise the following

Online LibraryOliver Howard] [WolfeBack log and pine knot; a chronicle of the Minnisink hunting and fishing club → online text (page 4 of 26)