Stalking & Shooting
Stalking & Shooting
by Captain Chauncey Hugh Stigand (1877 - 1919)
It is most important, in order to get close to game, that the sportsman be suitably dressed himself, and see that his men do not wear white, red, or other unsuitable
colours, as they love to do.
As to what colours are suitable we can learn much from animals. Often what would at first sight appear startling is in reality adapted to its surroundings. For instance, zebra's stripes for thickly-grassed country, lion a good all-round colour, especially adapted to deserts and dry country, perhaps the reason that he is more successful at killing game when the grass has withered.
Elephant and buffalo, resembling rocks, and a sable, when standing still, is hard to see in a place where there is much shade and dark stumps.
The more blotchy clothes, however, seem to blend more with varying country.
The coat or shirt should be a neutral tint, either mottled or stained with age. The gloss on new clothes catches the sun, and if of one uniform colour shows up as a whole. For instance, a white or black horse is much more distinct than a piebald in many surroundings, and especially at dusk.
So also the leopard is difficult to see, more especially in shade. Because a colour is startling close at hand it does not follow that it will look so at a distance. We think that the skin of a hyaena, spotted or striped, would be both a good pattern to take for a coat, the former for bush country and the latter for grass. If one finds one's shirts are too light in colour, boiling in red earth and water, coffee, or certain kinds of bark will improve them.
Rough and woolly clothes should not be worn, as they pick up grass seeds, burrs, &c, of which there are an immense variety, besides getting torn with thorns.
Hats should also be neutral coloured.
In stalking, remember to keep in the shade as much as possible, and move very quietly and slowly. Any men with you should be left behind and told not to move till called.
Your best hunter should accompany you, however, just behind, as his knowledge of country and the habits of game is probably better than your own ; he may notice something you have missed, and will help you to spot the bull.
He is also handy to hold your cartridge bag, and the glasses if they are in your way. You should try to locate the position of every animal in the herd, and look repeatedly through your glasses so as not to miss the best bull; but be careful not to let the sun shine on the lens.
It is very difficult to be certain which is the best bull without considerable experience.
Most males are more bulky than females and thicker in the neck.
An old bull eland has an enormous dewlap and is much heavier than a female; he is often nearly hairless, and then looks slaty blue in colour.
The stallion zebra arches his neck more than the mare. The bull hippo is blacker than the cow, and broader across the forehead.
The bull elephant's tusks are much larger and more curved than the cow's. The females of kudu, situtunga, bushbuck, waterbuck, lechwe, puku, reedbuck, impala, duiker, oribi, and klipspringer are hornless.
The wart sow has not such a big mane and has smaller tusks than the hog.
In a herd the biggest bull is generally found bringing up the rear.
With roan and sable grazing in a dambo, the bull is often found feeding apart from the herd.
The females of all buck are the wariest, while the males lie down more often, leaving them to look out.
It is always worth while making a long detour to get really good cover and wind.
If it is necessary to cross above wind of an animal, half-a-mile at least should be allowed, and when exactly to windward the crossing should be made as quickly as possible.
When it is necessary to stalk close to the wind with a strong breeze it would be safe to cut across the wind to within fifty yards, but if it was puffy this could not be done.
When stalking like this it is a good plan to carry flour in a little bag to shake for observing wind, and when the wind is changeable, and a stalk is made to within twenty yards of an elephant, is invaluable, as one cannot be continually stooping to pick up sand. If you are considerably above an animal on the side of a hill your wind may carry over him with a strong breeze.
If possible, when you approach for your shot, the sun should be behind you and shining in the animal's eyes.
In a stalk, sometimes people imagine, like the proverbial ostrich, that when their head is hidden they cannot be seen.
If game seen in the open is not easy to get near, it is often best to sit down and wait till they have grazed on into cover, but when followed be sure that no sentinel has been left behind.
While stalking, one should never go fast, or doubled up more than can be helped, as it puts you out of breath, causing bad shooting.
Having got to a good position it is best to wait a little to get steady.
Animals generally, though not always, feed up wind and almost always bolt in that direction when alarmed by hearing you, but, if they smell you, will bolt down wind. Most animals, after smelling you, will after a bit go upwind again, but buffalo generally keep on down wind until they are quite certain they have shaken you off. It is, of course, useless to follow spoor down wind except only as far as the tracks are galloping (i.e., you know the animals are probably far enough ahead not to get your wind).
It can be taken as a general rule that if an animal gets your wind he will bolt at once, but if he only sees you he will wait to have a look just long enough to enable you to get in a shot.
All buck are very curious, more especially the smaller ones.
In a case like this if aware that you had been noticed it would be best to stand perfectly still, as you may puzzle him, and while he is looking to see what was moving you can bring up your rifle very slowly and take a shot.
Jerking the rifle up would send him off at once.
Of course, one will always take one's shot sitting in preference to standing, and if the grass is too thick, try and get a rest against a tree.
Animals when grazing continually lift their heads to look round, and sometimes stare at any object that may arouse their suspicions for a considerable time. If they continue to graze again, they have not seen you.
In certain lights it is very hard to tell in what direction an animal is looking, and sometimes he seems to be gazing at you, when in reality he is looking in the opposite direction.
With roan and sable the white vertical blaze on each side of the face shows which way the animal is looking.
In the shade it is sometimes very difficult to tell which way he is facing, as, when motionless, the horns look like branches. In this case the twitching of his tail may be looked for. Even when standing quite still, animals continually move their tails to keep off flies.
The white circle on a waterbuck's rump can be seen some distance.
When looking from behind cover of any kind raise your head very slowly and sink it again.
Always shoot from the right of cover rather than over it, as less of your body will be visible. Looking over it you might be outlined against the sky. With bushes and grass you would always fire through them if possible.
Be careful that the bullet does not touch a twig or reed, as it might be deflected.
Carefully think out the range before shooting, and the exact spot on the animal you wish to hit with regard to the angle he is standing at.
As it is of great importance to be able to judge distance accurately, it is worth while practising as you are walking along a road or path, pacing supposed distances to see if they are correct.
The common error in Central Africa is to overjudge distance, unlike countries with rarefied air such as Somaliland and South Africa, where distances look less than they really are.
Shooting at long ranges should be avoided, as the head cannot be properly seen, and you wound more than you kill. Many so-called sportsmen who would miss a 1-ft. bull's-eye at 300 yards, with all the advantages of time and position on a range, would think nothing of taking a running shot when out of breath at a galloping buck at that distance. At an unwounded buck we think 200 yards ought to be the limit when the animal is standing, but it is most unfair to shoot him moving at that distance.
If a buck has been badly wounded, it is perhaps permissible to fire at longer ranges, as a lucky shot might kill the animal, saving it from much suffering and probably being worried to death by hyaena and jackal. After your shot do not let your hunter run forward as he will always try to do if the animal falls, but stand still and reload at once, listening for the sound of your hit. There is a very different sound between hitting flesh and bone, as in a hippo's head, and striking earth or trees.
If the animal, after your shot, crumples up and collapses, he has probably been shot dead, whereas if he falls over he almost invariably recovers himself, and is able to move off.
If he lies struggling on the ground one should shoot again, for if he once gets up he will probably get away.
If he draws himself together and starts off at full speed he is presumably hit vitally, and will be found dead a few hundred yards on.
Should game go on after being hit, don't show yourself, but wait until it is out of sight, and on following it will probably be found lying up in the nearest thick cover.
In following after a wounded animal, top all rises carefully, for it may be standing on the other side.
Blood spoor will sometimes not be seen for several hundred yards, and with small bores sometimes not at all.
If the blood is frothy it is a sure indication of a lung shot. A wounded beast generally leaves the herd, so if it goes off with it, on following, look carefully to see if an animal has branched off. It also often doubles on its tracks, so whenever an isolated patch of cover is come to, and you think it is lying up there, if there is any possibility of its getting your wind it would be best to make a ddtour and come in from the other side, noticing if the spoor leaves it, in which case little time would be wasted, and one would follow up at once. One can't take too much pains about coming up to a wounded animal for the first time, as it often does not go far to lie down, but when disturbed, after the first time it will be more wary, and often travels enormous distances before lying down again. Buffalo especially are fond of lying to leeward of their tracks so as to wind anything coming, and it is sometimes best to walk round to the other side, telling your men to try and give the animal their wind, and you may get a shot as he breaks away.
Wounded buffalo drink often and roll in the mud. In coming to a pool, if the mud is stirred up you can tell fairly exactly how recently he has drunk. After leaving the muddy ground very often specks of mud are seen hanging to the grass or dropped on the ground, and this would be especially valuable on rocky ground.
In the same way sand gets into the cracks of the hoofs or sticks on when wet, and is rubbed off on the grass. In the early morning, when the dew is lying in beads on the grass, it will be noticed that the beads of dew have been shaken off, and sometimes in a difficult place, where there are many tracks in the grass, this is the only sign. Sand, when kicked up over the grass, often sticks on, even after the sun has dried up the dew.
The position of the wound can be fairly well located from the blood spoor where branches and grass have been in the way or rubbed against the animal's flanks. Pools of blood are sometimes seen where the animal has stood, and if he has lain down frequently it shows he is badly hit.
It is quicker to follow the blood spoor than the tracks, but the latter should be kept sight of as much as possible, as the blood spoor has a way of suddenly stopping. It is when this happens, and the animal again rejoins the herd, that being able to recognise the spoor of an individual animal is of such use.
Blood spoor is shown on twigs crossing the track long after that on the ground has ceased, so in following the tracks every twig, especially the stiff ones, which cross the track about the height of the wound should be carefully examined so as to verify the tracks.
If hit in the shoulder or hip the animal will probably go short on that side and tread lighter with the foot.
Having once wounded an animal it should never be left as long as there is any possible chance of finding it.
If obliged to leave the spoor at night, the beast may stiffen in the night and be found next day, if it has not been killed by hyaena or jackal.
When vultures are seen they should be watched, as they may be hovering over the wounded or dead animal, marking its position.
If they are seen early in the morning, it is always worth while approaching up wind carefully, as a lion might be seen on a kill.
Wounded buck, especially sable and roan, should be approached warily.
Sometimes when following spoor of elephant, a spot of mucous dropped will show the spoor is fresh. With the head wound at elephant with small bores, meaning 303 to '256, blood is not seen on the spoor.
An elephant, either from the way he holds his head or the insignificance of the hunter, seems blind to his approach, but he has acute hearing and powers of smell. When after bigger game reedbuck should be avoided, as they give the alarm, as also do certain birds.
Native names for the leader of a herd may be of use, and so we append them :
They are generally used to denote the finest male in a herd, but are also used to denote any exceptionally fine male among animals and sometimes birds. Thus a fine male pigeon is called Mpongo.