Going After Indian Bears With An American Client Braver Than A Lion

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Kawshik Rahman, Oct 2, 2019.

  1. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Considering the fondness the some of the honorable forum members have shown over my last three articles , and their request that l give an account of hunting the great Indian bears , it is my privilege to oblige. In one of my previous articles , l had given an account of an incident with a client which was not so enviable , so today l decided that l would write about one of my favorite hill bear Shikars with a client . Let us begin.
    It was 1965 . The morale among Sundar Raj’s Shikaris was low . A month prior to this , our senior Shikari at Sundar Raj Shikar , the late Rongon Daas had been hung by the neck , until dead , by the police as per the orders of the Nilgiri Wild Life Association. He was unable to save a client , who was killed by a Royal Bengal tiger , after the client wounded it with a Winchester bolt operation rifle of the calibre .220 Swift . My best friend and Shikar Partner , Karim and l were getting increasingly demoralized , as many of our professional Shikari colleagues had quit Sundar Raj Shikaris after this incident out of fear for their lives in case any client accidentally got harmed during a Shikar .

    Karim had decided to go on a trip to the United States of America with his family for a month and l was all alone. But it did not matter , as l could spend time with my late girl friend , Antora , who used to be a student at Buet University and would come to Darjeeling once every two weeks during the weekend , as her parents lived here. Her parents would let her stay outside until 7 PM and l used to drive her back home in my Ford car , a model T. One day , after dropping her outside her house , l went to Sundar Raj’s office , as l had been told that l would meet a new client. Sundar Raj Introduced me to the client . He was a gentleman from South Carolina , in the United States of America . He was a white man , his skin was sun burnt . Just by looking at him , l knew that this gentleman spent a great deal of time out doors. He had an interesting tattoo on the underside of his arm. It was a red rectangle with a dark blue X running across it. There were white stars on the X . At the time , l did not know what the tattoo meant.
    This gentleman smiled and shook my hand. He had acquired license to shoot two animals : A Nilgai and an Indian bear. His two fire arms were lying over the counter . One was an under lever rifle made by the American firm Savage. It was of the calibre .243 Winchester. The other was a Mauser mechanism bolt operation rifle calibrated for magnum .300 Winchester. The name of the maker of this firm , was , as my client said , an American firm called Griffen and How. Just by looking at the rifles , l knew that this was a client who hunted very well. His rifles were very clean and well maintained , but also showed signs of being well used. For guiding this gentleman , l would get Rupees 2000 . I agreed . We were to set off towards the Kudai hills the next morning with our coolies.
    And so we did , as the next post will relate...


    Screenshot_20191002-203359_01_01_01.png
    Our loyal coolie , Rishi holding the respectable client's Savage under lever rifle. This brave fellow was of Nepalese descent and a Gurkha . Their kind is , in my opinion the bravest in the entire world.
     
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  2. Bullthrower338

    Bullthrower338 AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    I’m in. Great tales that you have been telling Sir.
     

  3. Dirtdart

    Dirtdart SILVER SUPPORTER AH Enthusiast

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    I will second that!
     
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  4. GA Hunter

    GA Hunter AH Fanatic

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    Agree 100%. I’ve greatly enjoyed your stories. Thank you for sharing.
     
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  5. Trogon

    Trogon SILVER SUPPORTER AH Senior Member

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    I'll be having to take some "breaks" from desk work on reports this afternoon, I think :rolleyes:. All have been excellent stories!
     
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  6. Mort Hill

    Mort Hill GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    What a great way to spend a working lunch, heading out on safari with you in India in 1965. Keep it coming please!
     

  7. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    The client , me , the trackers and the coolies went off to the kudai hills. We took a tent with us , as well , because the entire Shikar would take two days in the hills . Perhaps three. I carried my Ishapore 12 bore side by side shot-gun , along with a healthy amount of SG cartridges. I had also brought a good amount of number 6 cartridges for shooting jungle fowl for the pot ( my personal favorite being chukar which my mother would roast over an open flame ). Our cookie , Rishi carried carried the .243 Winchester calibre under lever rifle by Savage , which belonged to our client. In our client’s hands was his magnum . 300 Winchester calibre mauser mechanism rifle. This gentleman was different from many other clients. When a coolie had asked him if he should load the client’s rifles , the client politely declined and loaded all the cartridges himself. His cartridges too were not from a paper box with any firm name on it. They were stored in a rosewood box which looked very similar to the wooden box which Sundar Raj would keep in his office for storing cigarettes. We decided that we would make an attempt for the Nilgai first. Our Garo trackers got to work and soon we were on the trail of Nilgai.
    After two grueling hours in the hot , Indian sun , my client looked none the worse for wear. This amused me in a pleasant way. We were Indians and desensitized to the humidity. However , for a foreigner to be in such a pleasant mood , was a pleasant surprise. Our trackers had finally found a large Blue Bull or Nilgai, as we call it. He was a handsome creature with a good coat. However , he was at least a hundred yards away. My client was one cool customer. He took off the safety of his magnum .300 Winchester mauser and raised it to his shoulder . It had a telescope sight and my client operated the bolt. I watched him hold his breath and squeeze the trigger very slowly but steadily. The shot rang out and the Nilgai was hit behind the shoulder . It ran . Now , Nilgai are Swift creatures. They can run very fast and l was worried that it might escape to die of it's wounds , in lingering pain . " Shahib ( sir ) ! " I begged impulsively . " Shoot him again ". My client just smiled and said " Just watch the show , my young friend ". Too concerned with the thought of losing the Nilgai , l gave chase . It was a waste of my energy. At fifty yards , the Nilgai had dropped dead.
    It would make for an amazing dinner and a trophy , as the next post will illustrate.
     

  8. Wyatt Smith

    Wyatt Smith AH Enthusiast

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    Excellent! Looking forward to more
     
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  9. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    The Nilgai was hit in the heart . Upon having the coolies cut the Nilgai open , the unmistakable hole in it's large heart was present. Our client's aim had been very true. He certainly knew how far that Nilgai would run before it's life would give out.
    That night , we were all at camp , as the coolies grilled the best cuts of meat from the Nilgai over a smoky wood fire . My favorite choice cut comes from the short loin of the animal . Nilgai tastes like coarse beef and aside from the short loin , liver and kidneys , the rest of the animal's meat certainly benefits from being aged in controlled , cool conditions for three weeks for maximum enjoyment of it's flavor. While l enjoy a beef steak rare , the Nilgai , on account of it's coarse texture benefits from being cooked to medium doneness and seasoned with fine salt and the juice of two lemons.
    This was served alongside a tin of baked beans from the firm Heinz . Heinz's baked beans were a staple for every family pantry back in those days. I was sitting on one end of the fire eating my meal , not expecting much conversation from my client. The clients are not our friends. They are our charge. However , the client was an extremely friendly gentleman. He asked to see my shot-gun and said that l must have a lot of pain tolerance to be able to fire such a light 12 bore loaded with SG cartridges. He ate with us instead of eating alone in his tent . The coolies were singing among themselves and he really enjoyed it and asked them to sing some more so that he could hear. Realizing that this gentleman was trying to be friendly , l decided that l would ask him a question which l was very eager to ask . " Shahib " l asked . " May l ask you a question ? " . The gentleman smiled and replied " Shoot" . I was initially a little confused as to what the client wanted me to shoot , but l quickly realized that he meant affirmative . I asked him what firm of ammunition he was using , as it did not come from any factory made box of cartridges. His reply was " I load my own. If you love your rifle and know what's good for it , you will always hand load . " I had already been loading some of my SG cartridges by this point , but this was more due to lack of ammunition availability , rather than passion for reloading cartridges . I was intrigued by this gentleman's reply and we had an excellent conversation about reloading cartridges , shot-guns and rifles which will probably bore the readers as it was very long and lasted two hours . By this point , the gentleman was eating a type of biscuit which he had brought with him in a jar from the United States of America. He offered me one and l enjoyed it very much . That would be my very first chocolate chip cookie . I would have my next chocolate chip cookie again 1979 and it would be something which l enjoy every evening with black Turkish coffee. He also talked about an American restaurant which sold cheese burgers named White Castle , which would end up becoming my favorite place to eat burgers during my visits to the United States of America after 1984.
    But , enough of this mundane topics . Let us now focus on the penultimate part of this entry . The bear Shikar and the photographs of a very exciting day.
     

  10. Witold Krzyżanowski

    Witold Krzyżanowski AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    A very good article. Thanks for sharing.
     
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  11. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    The next day , our Garo trackers were doing what they had been blessed by Divine Providence to do : Track beasts. Bear tracks were found at the east of the Kudai hills , but Goutam ( our head tracker ) warned us that the tracks belonged , not to one , but to a pair of very large bears. This was of little consequence to us and we gave chase . Unlike many clients , what impressed me about this client was that he was highly alert. While Rishi carried his Savage under lever rifle , the client always had that Magnum .300 Winchester mauser in his hands ready for action. Half way after following the tracks , two of our coolies suddenly became fearful and wanted to go back. Our curious client merely stared at me , as if asking for an explanation. I knew what what wrong. The superstitious coolies were afraid of ghosts , because there was a Chita nearby. For those of my readers wondering what a Chita is , l will tell you , but if you do not like graphical violence against innocent human beings , then please skip this section. A Chita was a large room which looked like a cone , standing on it's base. The Hindus used to burn widows to death after their husbands had died , so that the " wife may serve the husband even after his death , in the after life " . During the British colonial era , this barbaric practice was banned , however after the British left , this barbaric practice was re started in many places , including some of the villages near Darjeeling . The Hindu coolies were terrified that the ghosts of the widows who were burnt alive , would harm anyone who came to this area. Not wanting to disappoint the client , and knowing that those bears were nearby , l guided the client forward , with Rishi following us , carrying the client's Savage under lever rifle. Rishi , being a Gurkha , did not fear ghosts at all. As for myself , l knew for a fact that in this world, it was man who killed man. Never ghosts who killed man.
    I told the coolies to wait at the lower end of the hills as we went forward. Forty minutes passed until we found our quarry . They were a massive brace of bears. One was a male and one was a female. Here , there was a problem. Our client only had a license to shoot one bear , but the female bear was simply not leaving her mate. My client had his magnum .300 Winchester mauser in his hands , ready for action. He removed the safety catch and operated the bolt. We were at fifty yards . " Shahib , " l instructed . " Wait till the female moves away ". My client was most obedient. Indeed the female bear was moving away from the male bear. Now , the bear is an odd creature . If anyone has ever seen the skull of a bear , they will know that it is virtually impossible to shoot a bear in the head and kill it instantly. A bullet cannot be relied upon to find the brain of a bear , as the brain of a bear is very small. That is why , for bear , shots to the body , in either the heart or the lungs are advisable. My client took aim . " Shahib , aim behind the shoulder . " I said . " Trust me. " said he. And the rifle spoke one loud crack. The bear dropped on the spot to the shot. My client had somehow managed to hit the brain of the bear. We can attribute it to luck. We can attribute it to some Godly level of sheer skill which l am not aware of even to this date. We can attribute it to whatever he loaded those cartridges with. But he had taken that bear with a single cartridge and a shot to the head. However , there was no time for celebration. The female bear had reacted to the shot and seen her mate drop to the ground. What was worse was that she was charging at us. My client did not lose his calm demeanor. He operated the bolt of his rifle to remove the empty magnum .300 Winchester cartridge and raised the rifle to his shoulder to fire. However , l did not want him to get into problems for exceeding his license , which would lead to problems with the Nilgiri Wildlife Association. I shouted at him to hold his fire . As the bear came within 7 yards , l fired my right barrel at her head. Those 12 pellets of SG certainly did some damage to her. Indeed , one of her eyes was knocked out of her skull and she staggered , but dead , she was not. No matter. That is what the second barrel is for , no ? I fired the second barrel into her head at a distance of four yards , at this killed her. The epilogue will follow.
     
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  12. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    We sent Rishi to go find the coolies. Having heard the news of success from Rishi , the bravery of the coolies suddenly returned . They were all jolly again and came in no time to help us skin the bears.
    On our way back , l asked the client " Shahib , how did you manage to make your bullet reach the brain of the bear ? It is not possible . " . He smiled and replied " Something is only impossible until some one comes along and does it . " I found that very motivating. He later told me that he had been a soldier in the Korean war , but did not go into details. He was certainly telling the truth , as he had the discipline of a military man. He lamented that he had brought the Savage under lever rifle , even though he did not find any use for it ,at all. He wished that he could have brought a shot-gun to enjoy some bird shooting and l assured him that next time , l would guide him , l take him bird shooting. But l never met this gentleman ever again . Sundar Raj had given me a handsome amount of Rupees 2000 ( which was a great amount of money for 1965 ) and l went about with my other Shikars. It would be many years later that l would recognize the tattoo on the gentlman's arm. It was a tattoo of the American Confederate flag , a flag which media today associates with racism and bigotry. However , my client was about as far from a demeaning and condescending person as l had ever met. He was a true gentleman in every definition of the word. But l will never know how he had managed to shoot a bear in it's head.
    I kept the skin of the bear which l had shot and presented it , as a gift to Antora . It would remain in her house until her death and perhaps her family even have it today.
    I would like to dedicate this article to my late Shikari friend , Rongon Daas. While he failed to save his client from the Royal Bengal tiger , l do not believe that he should have been hanged for it or even minorly punished . I am not demeaning Rongon Daas's client . But his choice to shoot a Royal Bengal tiger with a Swift .220 calibre rifle , not only cost him his own life , but it also cost Rongon Daas his life. Rongon was 31 years of age at the time of his hanging.
    I am also very curious from my American fellow forum members as to how an Indian bear compares in size and strength to an American grizzly species. Based on internet pictures , they look very intimidating and much larger.
     
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  13. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Bullthrower338
    Thank you so much for your kind words and enthusiasm.
     
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  14. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Dirt dart
    Thank you so much for your kind words and appreciation.
     

  15. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    GA Hunter
    I am glad that you enjoy my reminiscences
     

  16. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Trogon,
    Thank you so much. It hope you liked it.
     

  17. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Mort Hill,
    Thank you for your kind words. I used to bring Jim Corbett’s books with me to school to read during break time , as a child.
     

  18. Rum Runner

    Rum Runner AH Senior Member

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    A very interesting story of days past...
     
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  19. JPbowhunter

    JPbowhunter AH Fanatic

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    Another great story Mr Rahman, your client is as a client should always be in my view.

    It is also completely unreasonable that your friend be hung for the foolishnes of his client. In fact I had to read that section of your story twice to make sure I had not misread it.
     
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  20. Dragan N.

    Dragan N. AH Enthusiast

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    Kawshik Rahman,
    Fantastic reports on hunting Indian big game in a bygone era. You are truly a testament to a period that is now sadly only found in history books.

    I am curious though why where you so surprised by a head shot killing a bear?? An example below is the head/skull of a 10+ foot polar bear, the weight was probably over a 1000 pounds, that was shot in the head with a .270 instantly dropped dead like a stone. Its not an ideal target on a bear given its small size especially relative to a body shot but a head shot from a mid sized caliber will certainly kill even the biggest of bears...

    pb head shot.jpg
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 2, 2019

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