I found this amusing story and thought it may be enjoyed by others.
Make the first shot count and don't sweat the back-up shot
"I don't care a damn about these people who can split a pea at 300 yards. What I want to know about a man is how good he is on a charging rhino at six feet." - Philip Percival
I once witnessed a most vehement objection to a back-up shot, which involved a husband and wife who were on safari with me in Botswana back in 1979. They'd previously been on safari 20 years earlier in East Africa when Tanzania was known as Tanganyika. They looked forward to reliving those halcyon days, believing that Botswana offered the Africa that East Africa had shown them on their first safari.
Theirs was a 21-day, full-bag safari and they both took out every game licence available to them. The thought of collecting 2 elephant, 2 lion, 2 leopard, 4 buffalo, not to mention 2 kudu, 2 sable, 2 gemsbok, 2 eland, plus the rest of the plains game species - all in 21 days, presented a daunting task indeed. Oh, and did I mention they also wanted to shoot birds in the afternoons?
The rains had been heavy that year and our first camp was in an Okavango Delta area that was so badly flooded, the airfield near camp was covered by more than two feet of water. The drive to camp from Maun took several hours, the last three splashing through miles of kneedeep water that caused us to arrive in camp well after dark. Still, I wasn't prepared for the shock I received the next morning when I peered out from my tent to witness a huge expanse of water surrounding the camp. It looked as if we were stranded on a small island in the middle of a large lake.
After breakfast, we headed out in the direction from which we'd come the night before because I knew any other direction only meant deeper water. Husband and wife were busy grilling me with questions about the area, the conditions and why weren't we seeing game, while I remained distracted trying to locate some dry ground on which to hunt.
"Where's all the game?" they asked repeatedly. "We saw lots of game in Tanganyika back in '59."
I wish I knew where all the game was because that's where we'd be now, I thought to myself. All I knew was that unless the game had sprouted webbed feet and learned to swim, it was somewhere else. Things looked pretty grim and while pondering our fate, I couldn't shake the sinking (pardon the pun) feeling that this was going to be a long safari.
We finally climbed out of the water a little before noon and began following a dry sandy ridge when Galabone, my number one tracker, leaned down to tell me he'd spotted a lion and lioness mating near the water's edge not far behind us. The male was a big one and had a good mane.
I knew our chances of bagging an older, cagier lion increased dramatically by finding him drunk on love,' consumed by the amorous affections of a lioness. This is when the usually wary male lion drops his guard and offers a quick-acting hunter a chance to make an approach and possibly get off a shot.
I stopped the vehicle and turned to the husband.
"Quick, get your .375 ready! The trackers have spotted a good lion," I said, emphasizing the need to act swiftly.
"A judicious back-up shot might save someone from being clawed, bitten, gored or, at worst, killed. It can also prevent wasted time and money spent following an animal for which, if unrecovered, trophy fees must still be paid in most African countries."
"Is he a good one?" the husband asked, without moving.
"Yes. Hurry! We haven't much time before they move off," I replied.
"What colour is the mane?" he asked, still not moving.
"Blonde or golden, I think. I haven't had a good look yet," I answered.
"Well, I want a black-maned lion," he stated, still motionless.
Oh for God's sake, I mumbled to myself, and then turned to the wife.
"Okay, okay. Get your .30-06," I said to her, my voice cracking with increased urgency.
"Well, why should I?" she replied indignantly. "If the lion isn't good enough for him, it isn't good enough for me."
Oh for God's sake, I repeated to myself. "Because this is a good lion," I pleaded. "We've got to get two lions, plus all the other game you both seek in 21 days. One of you, I don't care who, needs to take this lion."
The wife finally relented and we put the .30-06 into her hands after making sure it was loaded. She crouched down behind me and we sprinted toward a termite mound that put us about 60 yards from the lions that were, thankfully, still preoccupied. Her husband carried his .375 and I had my .458 at the ready. I was on her one side and her husband was on the other. The wife steadied her rifle on the mound and found the lion in her scope, which now offered a beautiful broadside shot. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the husband was also lining up his rifle on the lion from a freehand position.
I brought my full attention back to the lion just before the wife fired. Her shot went off and was immediately followed by a second shot. I thought to myself, how thoughtful of the husband to offer a backup shot on his wife's lion. I also knew by the lion's reaction to the first shot that the husband's shot had not been necessary. But it was all in the family and, it seemed, no harm, no foul.' Boy, was I wrong!
The lion somersaulted a couple of times, ending up in a heap, and was still twitching when the wife turned to look at me with daggers in her eyes.
"Why did you shoot?" She demanded in an accusing tone. "I didn't," I replied flatly.
And, without hesitating, she whipped around to lock a stare on her husband and began berating him in a way I've never heard a woman speak to a man before, or since.
I interrupted her tirade to congratulate her for a fine shot on her excellent lion and to remind the feuding couple that we not only had a dead lion in front of us, but a rather irate lioness who was seriously angry at having just lost her boyfriend. I signalled for the vehicle so we could load the lion and get out of the area before we had to shoot his angry mate.
As we hurriedly loaded the big cat into the back of the hunting vehicle, the husband noticed with a raised eyebrow and a silly, self-congratulatory grin that there was only one hole in the lion's body. When we'd safely driven away from the lioness, I stopped at a scenic spot so we could take some photos of the lady and her lion. As the trackers off-loaded the lion and set him up for photos, the husband pulled me aside to have a word.
"Friend," he said, looking me straight in the eye. "If you want to keep the peace in this family, you better make sure you produce a .30-06 bullet to show my wife, and tell her it came from her lion." "Friend," I replied, returning his stare with equal intensity. "You needn't be concerned, because I assure you, the only bullet in that lion is a .30-06."
When what I told him had sunk in, he became indignant at the suggestion that he had completely missed the lion. But, later, when it was skinned and the carcass was sliced into at the shoulder to dig out the bullet, the husband was right there watching. I wish I'd had a camera to capture the moment when the skinner dropped the little mushroom-shaped projectile into his hand. He stared in disbelief at the expanded .30-06 soft-nosed bullet in the palm of his hand. The look on his face was priceless.
Moral of the story: Make the first shot count and don't sweat the back-up shot.