An Exciting Leopard Shikar From The Back Of An Elephant

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Kawshik Rahman, Oct 3, 2019.

  1. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Based on how seven members of this magnificent forum have been requesting me to provide an account of a certain topic for quite some time , it is my privilege to oblige. Today , l shall provide an account of hunting leopards from an elephant macchan . If any of my respected forum members is wondering what a macchan is , then let me elaborate . A macchan is a large box built on top of a high structure from which Shikaris would hunt dangerous animals. The elephant macchan is such a box which used to be placed on the back of a domesticated elephant for hunting leopards and tigers in the days gone by . I myself have been fortunate to be party to two such Shikars in my life. While one went by completely uneventfully , it is the other incident , which l shall relate here , today. Thus , Let us begin.

    Screenshot_20191002-203359_01_01.png
    Photograph taken by professional photographer brought by the Captain.
    Karim is next to the client . I am on the third elephant seen on the right side.


    It was the year 1965 , three months before my poor colleague Rongon was executed by the Nilgiri Wild Life Association’s orders for failing to save a client from a Royal Bengal tiger . Times were still positive and all the Shikaris in Sundar Raj Shikar were busy guiding various clients in pursuit of Royal Bengal tiger, leopard , , Gaur , boar , Asian Honey Bear , Nilgai , deer and fowl.

    I had just come back from a fishing trip in the Buri Ganga river , and had gone to Sundar Raj’s office , to see what new clients had come. Indeed , there were clients . But let us focus on the client whom Karim and l would be guiding. He was a retired British Military or Naval Captain who had served in the Second World War and was an extremely rich client. He was a man of lavish taste and had brought eight guests along , including his young American mistress.

    Screenshot_20191002-204846_01.png
    A hunter l am for ever, however fishing was ( and still is ) a most peaceful past time. With me is my old cook , Yasin Miah


    What this gentleman had his mind set on , was a little bit of goose shooting and a large male leopard. Simple enough demands and certainly one which Sundar Raj was capable of accommodating. However , his request came with a twist. The client wanted the Shikar to be conducted from the back of an elephant , just like he had seen when he was a resident in India in the 1930s decade. This was a complicated wish , because the Nilgiri Wild Life Association required a great deal of paper work to be submitted to authorize a Shikar from an elephant macchan. And the client ( for the sake of brevity , let us call him Captain ) did not want one elephant. He wanted three. He wanted his guests to accompany him as well. Fortunately , money speaks , and Sundar Raj knew his way with the Nilgiri Wild Life Association ( It is my firm belief that he could have actually saved Rongon from getting hanged , if he gave a bit more effort. However , that is another matter and l do not wish to speak ill of my late former employer ).

    The Shikar was authorized. Karim and l would serve as the professional Shikari guides for this luxurious hunt. Karim was very excited , as an elephant macchan back in those days was the equivalent of a roller coaster ride in an amusement park for the young fellow of the 21st Century.

    I must confess , with embarrassment, that l was initially terrified of elephants as a child. My mother used to terrify me with stories of how elephants would crush people to death and make them disappear . I suppose it followed me into adulthood. While initially reluctant to ride on the elephant macchan , l eventually obliged. After all , Client is King and Sundar Raj sir had given me a direct order. Karim also convinced me that it was time to grow out of childhood fears.

    I had the good fortune to examine the Captain’s armaments . And what armaments they were. One was a double barrel shot-gun of 12 bore made by the excellent English gun maker , William Wellington Greener. It had 32 inch long fully choked muzzles and took the 70 millimeter paper cartridges. This gun was called an Empire model , according to the Captain. The Captain’s other fire arm was a beautiful and ornate double barrel rifle made by the English firm , Westley Richards calibrated for my personal favorite cartridge , the unrivaled magnum .375 from Holland and Holland. His 12 bore cartridges came in boxes from the English Firm , Eley and the magnum .375 cartridges came in boxes from ICI Kynoch. The boxes for the rifle cartridges , however , looked rather worn and l speculated that the captain had them in his possession for a few years.

    Could more beautiful guns ever be seen ? I think not.
    And so our Shikar would begin after two days , as the second part of this four part account will relate
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 3, 2019
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  2. MAdcox

    MAdcox GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    They hung a Professional Hunter because his client got tangled up with a tiger! That adds a whole new level to dangerous game hunting.
     

  3. jasyblood

    jasyblood BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Looking forward to this story! Is that a golden mahseer your cook is holding?
     
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  4. mark-hunter

    mark-hunter AH Fanatic

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    Mr. Rahman, Sir,

    You must be reading my mind, because it was the elephant machan shikar that I wanted to ask you about, when having time to to write story.

    If anything in my imagination brings me to Indian shikar, it would be the great royal hunts, carried out on elephants back!
    Thank you for writing about this.
     
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  5. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    And so , on the very first day , it was decided that we were going to pursue water fowl near the kuakata stream. This stream ran into the Buri Ganga river and a large quantity of geese , crane , teals and assorted species of ducks could be seen inhibiting this area. It was the bird shooters paradise. The client , and three of his guests ( including his mistress’s brother ) would commence their shooting here. The guns were loaded. The client loaded his William Wellington Greener 12 bore Empire shot-gun with large 76 millimeter BB cartridges . Karim was to serve as his loader . Karim carried a large bucket full of bright red paper cartridges and stood near Captain.
    The Captain was a good shooter . With 18 cartridges , he completely laid low ten geese in a matter of fifteen minutes .
    However , this paled in comparison to what the mistress madame’s brother accomplished. In less than five minutes ( l was wearing a wrist watch ) , he had blown a dozen geese out of the sky with fourteen cartridges. I was naturally intrigued as to what shot-gun , he was using. It looked like any other 12 bore double barrel shot-gun . It took 76 millimeter plastic cartridges of number 1 size. I asked the gentleman ( for whom l was holding a bucket of cartridges , similar to how Karim was holding a bucket for the Captain ) , “ Shahib , what special gun is this ? It shoots very good. “
    The gentleman replied “ This is a piece of good , old American ingenuity . This , my good man , is the Winchester model 21 duck .” . It was from that day , that my respect for the American model 21 from Winchester was born. While l have an exceedingly soft corner in my heart for the English bird shot-guns from the excellent firms , Holland and Holland and William Wellington Greener and similar , that robust American fire arm was a different type of beauty.

    The excellent results of a 12 bore Model 21 from Winchester with 70 millimeter cartridge loaded with number 1 shot.




    Bird shooting in India was luxurious. You did not not have many restrictions on quantities in those days as long as the number was no more than twenty geese per client. I am most fond of crane shooting and during those days , l would blast away at cranes near the water with my shot-gun loaded with AAA cartridges ( a shot size which l still use for crane in Bangladesh today ). However , l regret my actions very much now , as an old man , as l was using a shot-gun with no choke. This meant that the patterns were most wide and those 44 pellets would fly everywhere . While l did succeed in getting large quantities of cranes , a considerable number of wounded birds escaped to die a lingering death , because of my careless and inhumane actions. An ethical bird shooter should always , in my humble opinion use at least a quarter choke in his shot-gun for birds. I know that my past actions will probably anger and sicken many ethical forum members. I myself am not proud of what l have done and l am most apologetic , but it must be remembered that l was a young man not even 25 years of age who had only one gun and was not fully mature in his choices.
    But enough of the geese shooting . Let us go to the exciting part . The leopard Shikar from an Elephant macchan
     
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  6. IvW

    IvW AH Elite

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    Wow great stories and thank you for sharing times gone by never to be repeated...
     
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  7. Ridge Runner

    Ridge Runner AH Enthusiast

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    Fascinating recount of a by gone era. Thank you for sharing these accounts.
    Please continue...
     
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  8. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    It was three days later that the Shikar was arranged. It was a luxurious affair. There were three elephants . Karim would be on the first elephant macchan with the client and his mistress , I would be on the second elephant macchan with four guests. Another fellow local Catholic Indian Shikari named Clay Quiah would be on the third elephant with four other guests. A large number of Palowans ( Indian for beaters ) were hired .
    However , there are certain complications when organizing a Shikar involving an elephant macchan. You see , there is always a chance that the elephant(s) may go mad due to the gunfire or if clawed or bitten by the leopard . That is why a person from the forest department would always accompany the Shikar party when using an elephant macchan to kill the elephant if it went mad in case of an emergency. Indeed , a young forest department officer named Mohiyuddin was to accompany us ( he would go on to become our close friend after this incident until his unfortunate death during the 1971 war of Liberation). Mohiyuddin carried his issued .303 bore Lee Enfield type rifle made by Birmingham Small Arms , loaded with old British blunt head , metal envelope ammunition .
    The Shikar began at day break. I had my 12 bore Ishapore shot-gun loaded with SG cartridges in each barrel along with a good quantity of spare cartridges Karim similarly took his own shot-gun , loaded with SG cartridges loaded in each barrel .
    Clayton owned an Ishapore Arms Factory .315 bore bolt operation rifle , loaded with 244 grain soft head cartridges.
    The captain had that beautiful Westley Richards magnum .375 double barrel rifle with him . However , this client had a particularly odd choice. He had ordered the coolies to load his rifle with 300 grain metal envelope blunt nose bullets . I humbly told him , " Shahib , may l suggest using soft nose cartridges for leopard ? They will do more good ". The client politely , but assertively told me that he did not trust Kynoch soft head bullets and that he always used solid bullets for everything . I did not think too much of this at the time , as the client was a good shooter ( based on how he had made quick work of all those geese before near kua kata lake ) and l thought that there was no risk of the client getting injured by the leopard , as no leopard could reach the client who would be safe up in the elephant macchan. If only l was more well read at the time.
    Let us now go to the actual Shikar itself . Our Garo trackers had tracked a large leopard to the bushes . He was a large fellow. Our client was ready with his magnum .375 double barrel rifle. The beaters began to do their work to draw out the leopard. All was eerily quiet . Every body was intense. The only sound we were hearing was the sound of the beaters doing their work. Suddenly , the Leopard sprung out. He was a big fellow. With the proficiency of a British pigeon shooter swinging a light 20 bore shot-gun , the Captain fired off a left and a right ( this is a colonial Indian term for double barrel guns. It means that the shooter quickly fired the left barrel , followed by the right barrel ) at the large beast. The first bullet hit him too far in the back , while the second one hit him in the stomach. The leopard was not pleased. These creatures are devilishly swift in their movements and incredibly vengeful . They will single out whom to torment and attack them first, before picking their next target ( my fellow forum member , a professional African Shikari by the name of IvW describes this with utmost grotesque accuracy ). The leopard charged at our client. Our client had two spare cartridges between his fingers and quickly folded the gun open , ejecting the empty cartridges and put in two more. He closed the rifle and took aim at the leopard and pulled one of the two triggers. Nothing happened. The rifle had an automatic safety mechanism and the safety had automatically reactivated . I stared in utter disbelief as the leopard actually began to spring up the elephant macchan to reach the Captain . I certainly did not foresee the resilience of these great cats. But Karim , a level headed Shikari ,with nerves of steel and as quick as lightening tool immediate action . Grabbing the captain by the arm , he pulled him back in the fraction of a second and placed the muzzles of his shot-gun right in front of the leopard by inverting it and pointing it down. At point blank distance from the muzzle , the leopard was reaching . Karim fired his right barrel. Those nine pellets peppered the face of the leopard and it fell to the ground , but in a second or two , it was getting to it's feet again .
    Karim shouted loudly in frustration " Ei kuttar baccha mortei chacche na " ( This son of a bitch just does not want to die ) . Luckily , the client had turned the safety mechanism of his rifle off , by now. Taking expert aim , he shot the leopard in the head and the Shikar was all over .
    The epilogue will follow with the picture all my dear readers long to see.
     

  9. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    The leopard weighed a good 217 pounds as measured by Clayton and myself . He was a big , mature leopard. He had taken three metal envelope bullets from a magnum .375 and a point blank distance discharge of 12 bore SG shot. The first magnum .375 bullet had passed through the leopard without hitting the heart , although a single hole was found in one of it's lungs . The second bullet had also passed through it after rupturing the stomach. The nine SG pellets did not penetrate into it's brain , but it had been blinded in one eye and a few pellets had reached it's nose cavity.

    Karim , Clayton and l with our happy client, the Captain outside Darjeeling Circuit House. The leopard was brought here and is about to have it's skin removed. Karim holds Clayton's Ishapore Arms Factory .315 bore bolt operation rifle.


    I had once warned all my readers never to use a double barrel rifle against dangerous animals which had an automatic safety mechanism. Today , you all know what incident had influenced me to reach this conclusion.
    The client was very happy. Me , Karim and Clayton were paid Rupees 4000 each and all of us very tipped heavily .
    For his valiant actions in saving him , The Captain gave Karim a special gift. This gift would be taken to the Shikar field by Karim every day for the rest of our career until 1970 . After he passed away in 2003 , his wife gave it to me and it sits on my desk now after those fifty years. It was a type of knife used by Gurkha warriors in Nepal and it was called a kukri.
    IMG_20191004_001602.jpg
    From the Captain to Karim . And from Karim to me. If only knives could talk , l imagine the stories that it could tell.
     
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  10. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    MAdcox
    Unfortunately , it is true. Rongon Daas had a client who tried to kill a Royal Bengal tiger with a .220 Swift bolt operation rifle from Winchester. The client believed in a theory involving light , fast velocity bullets . Unfortunately , his attempt to prove this theory cost the client his life. The Nilgiri Wildlife Association had a law which stipulated that Shikaris could even be sentenced to death for letting their foreign client die .
    Unfortunately , the client's actions not only cost him his own life , but indirectly caused Rongon's death , as well. He was hung by the neck until dead
     

  11. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Jasyblood
    Why yes. Do you enjoy fishing as well ?
     
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  12. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Mark Hunter
    Thank you so much for your kind words
     

  13. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    IvW
    I am the past and my days of hunting dangerous animals are over at the age of 77 years of age . I lament never being able to shoot an elephant and l envy you in a healthy manner.
    You are the professional Shikari of the 21st century and l enjoy your articles very much . Your and my assessments on leopards ( and maybe other animals as well ) are quite similar , which leads me to believe that not too much has changed in fifty years.
     
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  14. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Ridge Runner
    Thank you so much for your appreciation
     

  15. Trogon

    Trogon SILVER SUPPORTER AH Senior Member

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    Mr. Rahman, your stories just keep getting more enjoyable and exciting from one to the next, this one was spectacular to read. I look forward to reading your future stories!
     
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  16. jasyblood

    jasyblood BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Yes sir! Almost as much as I love hunting. Mahseer is on my "Fish List"....one day I'll make it over there to fish for one....
     
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  17. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Jasyblood ,
    Yes. Hunting comes first. After the war , l only begun to find my peace again after l restarted hunting.
     
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  18. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Trogon
    Thank you so much for your kind words
     
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  19. Wyatt Smith

    Wyatt Smith AH Enthusiast

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    Great story! I’m glad you got to keep your friends knife, what a way to remember that day.
     
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  20. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Wyatt Smith
    Thank you so much for your support.
    I know that my view is old , but l do not like stainless steel knives. I like knives made from normal steel . I find that they are much easier to sharpen on a simple flat stone and they keep a keen edge longer . The pocket knife which l carry is from the firm , Schrade and it has a non stainless steel blade as well. It originally used to belong to a Gurkha Nepalese soldier in the second world war , l am told.
     

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