Guiding A Classic Shikar For A Royal Bengal Tiger

Major Khan

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In my previous 2 articles , l had provided my readers and fellow site members with accounts of me hunting in my personal time , and accounts of shikars which did not go very smoothly . Tonight , l have decided to provide my enthusiastic readers with a reminiscence of a shikar which l guided as a professional shikaree and a Shikar which went extremely smoothly . Being the shikaree assigned by my employers in Allwyn Cooper Limited , to guide clients for royal Bengal tigers , this story naturally features a royal Bengal tiger .
I hope that the account proved enjoyable . Our story begins in September, 1962 in Nagpur in the reception of Allwyn Cooper Limited .
Our head shikaree , Rao Naidu had ordered all of us to stand in a line to welcome an American client who was
en route to our office from the air port . At around 3 PM , a familiar Blue Bentley car had stopped outside our office . It was the car of our boss , the owner of Allwyn Cooper Limited . It was Mr. Vidya C. Shukla . Mr. Shukla would always welcome all of our clients personally at the air port . Along with Mr. Shukla , was an American couple , a husband and wife . These were to be our clients . They wanted our classic " Fur and feather " package deal , which cost 5000 American Dollars at the time ( all inclusive ) . This meant that they would like to take some birds and a royal Bengal tiger .
Below , is a photograph l have taken of one of our original advertising ticket cards still in my possession , which used to be provided in every 5 star hotel and rest house in Nagpur at the time . Allwyn Cooper Limited was such a popular shikar outfitter that even our agent ( Klineburger brothers ) in America used to distribute such ticket cards . However , l never interacted with Klineburger brothers at all and only Tobin and Mr. Shukla interacted with them ( since both of them used to visit America frequently ).

I should add here that the word " Bison" on the advertisment was used broadly to cover both gaurs and water buffaloes.
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In the next 3 parts , l will detail the actual shikar and what happened.
 

Major Khan

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I feel that a little fleshing out , is necessary here. There are 29 states in India and naturally hunting regulations were different in each states . In 13 States of India at the time ( including Nagpur , where l was based ) , there was a certain law related to firearms used for shikar by foreign clients ( local shikarees were exempt from this regulation ) . For hunting a royal Bengal tiger , a water buffalo or a gaur , the minimum legally acceptable calibre was the .375 Nitro Express calibre . In the other 16 states , such as Darjeeling ( where my good friend and fellow site member , Sergeant Kawshik Rahman was based ) , there was no such regulation involving any minimal bore size to use , on any species .
( I had mixed feelings about this regulation . However , unless one of my readers asks me to expand on that , l will not delve into the topic here , as it is unrelated ) .
As Kawshik expertly mentioned in his articles time and again , the firearms laws of India for visiting sportsmen were as follows : A client was allowed to bring 2 firearms into India , with a maximum of 250 cartridges for each fire arm . The firearms themselves were duty free , as were the first 100 rounds of ammunition for each fire arm . There were some prohibited calibres which were not allowed into India , by customs . The list comprised of :
.303 British service cartridge , .38 calibre , .410 calibre , .44 caliber and .45 calibre
( However , from 1964 , they began to allow the .458 Winchester magnum calibre rifles through customs ) .

My client ( whom , we would refer to , as " Sahib " ) had brought 1 rifle and 1 shot gun . The rifle was one which ( over the years ) would end up becoming my favorite rifle . It was a Winchester Model 70 bolt rifle made in New Haven with a heavy barrel , burning a 300 grain .375 Holland and Holland magnum cartridge . It had a robust Mauser style extractor . ( All Winchester Model 70 rifles manufactured prior to 1964 used to have this beautiful feature . )
The shot gun was a Winchester pump shot gun of 12 calibre ( a Model 1912 ) . It took a 2.75 inch cartridge and had a modified choke barrel .
For the rifle , he had brought boxes of 300 grain Winchester Silvertip soft nose cartridges ( which would , over the years end up becoming my favorite soft nose cartridge , to use on soft frame animals , such as panthers and royal Bengal tigers ). For the shot gun , he had brought boxes of Winchester cartridges of the shot size no. 3 .
The client's wife ( whom we used to refer to , as " Mem Sahib and who also wished to partake in bird shooting ) had brought along a Browning over under shot gun of 20 calibre with an improved cylinder choke in the lower barrel and a modified choke in the upper barrel . For this weapon , she had brought along boxes of Winchester no. 4 cartridges . We were all assigned to our roles . Tobin and l were to guide the clients to shoot water fowl ( They wanted to shoot teal ducks in particular ) and then organize the royal Bengal tiger shikar a few days after the duck shooting . We gleefully accepted our assignment . Tobin , in particular loved guiding clients who were natives from his own mother land .

2 days later , we were guiding Shahib and Mem Shahib to a very large lake in Nagpur , which was abundant with water fowl in those days . There were ducks of multiple species , geese and even cranes . Our party comprised of myself , Tobin , Ponual , 2 coolies and our American clients . While driving there on Tobin's jeep , Tobin cheerfully chatted away with our American clients . He was an exceptionally friendly person and most people found old Tobin very pleasant to be around .
Tobin carried his Belgian FN .423 Mauser bolt rifle , loaded with 347 grain metal covered bullets .
I carried my Belgian Mercury 12 calibre double barreled shot gun , loaded with Eley Grand Prix spherical ball cartridges
Ponual carried a sack containing my personal effects .
The 2 coolies carried the clients' shot guns and large packets of cartridges for the 2 firearms .

When we reached the lake , it did not take longer than 20 minutes for the action to begin . The shooting was uneventful , but went by very smoothly . Our client was a first class shot with his Winchester Model 1912 . Using 24 cartridges , he had taken 18 ducks and a large grey leg goose . The Mem Shahib used her little 20 calibre Browning over under shot gun with authority and secured 12 ducks with 18 cartridges . She had fired at a few geese as well , which were wounded but had managed to escape the fusillade.
Our coolies stood nearby to the couple , ready to provide them with spare cartridges whenever necessary.

I feel that l need to add a side note , here .
While Allwyn Cooper Limited was a much bigger outfitter than Sundar Raj Shikar ( where Kawshik was based ) , Kawshik's outfitters had a far more ethical ( although , in some cases problematic ) policy than my outfitter. You see , Sundar Raj Shikar practically guaranteed that the client would secure his trophy come what may . If the client wounded a bird or animal and was hesitant to follow the wounded animal , then the professional shikaree would step in and go after the wounded animal to finish it off and recover it .
In Allwyn Cooper Limited , the policy was different . The only time a professional shikaree would ever open fire on an animal , would be if the animal was charging at our client or anyone in our party. A wounded animal escaping , was the client's problem .
While l always made it a point to recover any wounded animal shot by myself , by hook or by crook , l must admit that l was rather indifferent to an escaping animal wounded by our clients . It is not an ethical point of view , but my ( admittedly poor ) justification at the time was that l was not the one who shot at the animal in the first place .

Tobin , however was always somewhat disturbed by wounded animals escaping . He did his best to recover every wounded animal ever shot by our clients ( even though , he was not paid to do this ) .
When l told him once , not to bother with all the gruelling effort to track down an animal shot by some one else , his reply was something that still rings in my ears ,
" Yeah , well , back where l come from , in the states , a real hunter never leaves a critter to die in the bush . We brought those clients here , Poton. We've got a responsibility " . Something about what he said , made me eventually change my views by 1965 and l always accompanied Tobin when he would go into the long grass or thickets to pursue wounded animals , with his rifle . However , l have to be blunt and honest . I did this , more out of my respect for Tobin , rather than any ethics ( even though , l now realize after all those years that we were actually doing the right thing ) . However , let us now get back to the story at hand.

We made Ponual and the 2 coolies recover all the dead birds , while I offered the clients some snacks from the jeep . We had brought some roast beef sandwiches from a local delicatessen and 2 large bottles of orange juice for the clients ( l still consider the juice from Nagpur oranges to be the sweetest in the entire world ) . While the 2 clients ate their lunch , I too decided to eat my own lunch . My servants from home had made me some cold veal lasagna to take along in a tiffin box , for the shikar. While l was eating , l offered Tobin some . However , Tobin was distracted by looking at something else . He was looking at a goose which was struggling to fly over the lake , having been wounded by one of our clients ( l would personally suspect that it was our Mem Shahib who had shot at it , but it is unethical of me to point any fingers without being certain ) .
Tobin asked me " You got any triple A in your bag ? " I replied " Of course , l always bring some for goose or crane shooting " . Tobin then asked Ponual to open the sack and give him a brace of triple A cartridges . Taking my Mercury shot gun , which was resting near a tree , he opened it and took out the spherical ball cartridges . He loaded in the triple A cartridges and closed the shot gun . Taking careful aim at the wounded goose , he fired at it with the modified choke barrel . The goose dropped into the water and he sent a coolie to go recover it .
Our client and his wife were very big hearted people . They presented 2 of the ducks to Tobin and 2 of the ducks to me . Alongside this , Tobin also retained the goose which he had finished off , with my shot gun . Needless to say , we were very pleased . Nothing surpasses a roasted wild duck , stuffed with mashed potatoes .
I did not take any photographs of the duck shooting , because l consider it very mundane ( albeit highly enjoyable ).
However , l do have a photograph of the typical lakes in Nagpur taken by myself , where water fowl could be found by the hundreds , back in those days . I have provided it below.
Screenshot_20191201-082700_01_01.png


In the next part of this article , l will relate the royal Bengal tiger shikar.
 

Shootist43

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I'm glad that Tobin's ethics re. securing wounded game prevailed upon you in the end. I'm sure that your American clients were of similar mind. We are taught that a hunter must do what ever is possible to limit a wounded animal's suffering.
 

Major Khan

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About 3 days , later , all preparations were made for the royal Bengal tiger shikar . As my wise friend , Sergeant Kawshik Rahman detailled brilliantly in his articles , there are 2 methods of hunting a royal Bengal tiger :
Baiting or beating . As Kawshik detailled both these methods flawlessly in his article on this site " The very first time when l had guided a royal Bengal tiger shikar " l will not waste the time of my readers , by repeating what was described so meticulously .

Baiting was the more economical method and so , it saw much more use in India than the beating method . On our personal time , when Tobin , Kawshik or l were hunting royal Bengal tigers or panthers for their hides , we always used the baiting method , as your only expense would be , to purchase a goat from a rakhaal ( farmer ) which you would need to tie to a tree.
By contrast , a beating method required you to employ 4 to 5 dozen villagers to carry out the beat , blowing musical instruments loudly as they combed through a forested area in an attempt to flush out the tiger or panther towards the shooter . Increased costs aside , getting these 5 dozen villagers to methodically carry out the beat , was a task in and of itself . More often than not , they would start arguing amongst themselves and break the line .

Below is a photograph provided by my good friend , Sergeant Kawshik Rahman of him organizing and supervising some beaters for a royal Bengal tiger shikar .
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However , let us return to the story at hand . As our client had paid for the classic " Fur and feather " package and not the budget " Fur and feather " package , he had the option to choose whether he would like to use baits for his royal Bengal tiger , or if he would like a beat to me arranged . He opted for the latter and thus Tobin and l took to making the necessary arrangements .
Below , is a photograph which l had taken of the beaters whom we had hired for this shikar . As can be seen , this was a great deal of men to keep organized.

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We used our trackers to help us narrow down the forested area where a royal Bengal tiger could be found . These trackers were Shawtaal tribal hill people and extremely competent at tracking down an animal , regardless of size . However , they had 1 serious problem . The amount of liquor which these people could down , was appalling and it would seriously impair their tracking skills , often at the worst of times .
By 1968 , their entire creed had become drunkards and desperately useless . Foreign clients coming to India for shikar were unintentionally responsible for getting these Shawtaal tribal hill people introduced to liquor . They would often bring beer or whiskey ( or other spirits) from their own country and give the extra surplus bottles of liquor to the trackers used by shikar outfitters , before leaving back to their home countries . Their intention was not malicious in the slightest . They genuinely wanted to express their gratitude to the trackers for their services . However , unlike normal drinkers of liquor , these Shawtaal tribal hill people simply did not know when to stop and lay down the bottle . That is why , in 1964 , the Indian government ordered that only those foreign clients who had applied for a liquor license beforehand , could bring liquor into the country , or purchase it locally. However , if the American " Prohibition era " teaches us anything , it is that bans never work and only make the lives of law abiding people more difficult. . The Shawtaals had started to drink Gool ( which was a local palm wine and was being locally manufactured in cheap distilleries . ) At any rate , by 1968 , their loss of competence was beyond any redemption . However , at the time of which l write , our Shawtaal trackers were still extremely competent .
Below , l have provided a photograph which l had taken , of our Shawtaal trackers .
Screenshot_20191201-063825_01_02.png


Once the forested area had been narrowed down , Tobin and l had our coolies construct a macchan among the trees, for our client to wait on , while the beaters did their work .
I had taken a photograph of the macchan when it was finished , and l have provided the photograph below .
Screenshot_20191201-080824_01_01.png

The day for action had finally arrived . Our client stayed on the macchan , holding his Winchester Model 70 , loaded with 300 grain Winchester Silvertip soft nosed cartridges .
Tobin and l anxiously waited , right under the macchan in a hole in the ground . I had my 12 calibre Mercury shot gun , loaded with an Eley Grand Prix spherical ball cartridge in each barrel and kept 2 spare cartridges in between my fingers . Tobin had his FN .423 Mauser bolt rifle , loaded with 347 grain metal covered bullets . His rifle held 4 cartridges , while he kept 4 extra cartridges in the breast pocket of his short sleeve plaid flannel shirt .
The beat had begun . We had sent Ponual to supervise the beaters the best way he knew how and to ensure that no body was breaking the line .

A full hour had passed uneventfully. We only heard the loud beating of drums and flutes playing , getting increasingly louder , which indicated that the beaters were slowly getting closer towards the macchan . That was when we had seen it .
It was a massive royal Bengal tigress partially concealed among the leaves and branches of the thickets . It was fleeing away from the beaters and coming towards our direction . Tobin used his heavy crocodile skin boot to tap loudly on the bamboo of the macchan . This signalled the client that the royal Bengal tigress was nearby . Our client cautiously raised the .375 Holland and Holland magnum Winchester Model 70 to his shoulder and took careful aim. The tiger was getting uncomfortably close to the hole where Tobin and l were lying in wait. I saw Tobin flick off the safety catch of his FN .423 Mauser , nervously. Clearly , we both were wondering if we would be compelled to shoot the tigress. However , right at that moment , our client had fired. The 300 grain Winchester Silvertip soft nosed cartridge had struck the feline , right where the heart was , between the 2 front legs . As the mortally wounded tigress was turning around , our client quickly worked the bolt of his Winchester model 70 and fired another Winchester Silvertip soft nosed cartridge into her lungs from a broadside position . The tigress went less than 40 yards coughing blood from her mouth and nose , before dropping dead and lifeless .

She was a 443 pound cat , which was fairly large , for an adult Royal Bengal tigress .
Below , l have provided a photograph which l had taken , of this large creature , while the coolies were carrying her corpse on a bamboo lathi ( pole ) towards the town for flaying her and removing her hide .
Indeed , she had unblemished skin and made for a beautiful trophy for our client .
Screenshot_20191201-082525_01_01.png


In the next and final part of the article , l will share some reflections of this shikar .
 

Major Khan

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Tobin and me were tipped handsomely by our clients , who were extremely satisfied with the shikar. We each received 1000 Rupees , which was a great deal of money in those days . Tobin used that money to buy his wife , a muslin cotton saree ( Indian dress for females ) , which was one of the most expensive fabrics in India . I had not met my girlfriend yet at the time , and so l used my share to blow away on my various hobbies ,such as eating at gourmet restaurants and cinemas . Sir Sean Connery's excellent 007 James Bond film " Dr. No " would be showing at every cinema hall in India soon .
Upon doing a post mortem on the tigress , we learnt that the first bullet had expanded perfectly inside her heart and that the second bullet was rather unnecessary . However , as they say in English " It is wiser to err on the side of caution " . Our American client was not going to take any chances .

As the years went by and more clients came and went , l fell in love with the Winchester Model 70 bolt rifle . Such a rifle , burning the .375 Holland and Holland magnum cartridge is ( in my old fashioned and obsolete views) the perfect rifle for hunting any game ( dangerous or otherwise ) in India
. If the shooter does his bit , then everything from a petite 4 horned buck , to the beastly gaur can be taken with a .375 Holland and Holland magnum Winchester Model 70 bolt rifle ( using appropriate bullets for each game of course )
My good friend , Kawshik describes the Winchester Model 70 as " The United States of America's greatest contribution to the world of shikar " . And l am very much inclined to agree with my friend .
With the exception of going after wounded panthers in the dense thickets ( where a double barreled rifle with short muzzles , twin triggers and no automatic safety and a bore size of at least 9.3 millimeter is required ) , a shikaree with a Winchester Model 70 , burning a .375 Holland and Holland magnum cartridge can do it all , with authority .

Unfortunately in 1964 , Winchester committed a cardinal sin by removing the much beloved Mauser style extractor from their Model 70 . Why they would tamper with perfection is beyond me . If their goal was to be economical , then they compromised quality and reliability in the field . To be fair , however , the number of times when the " modern " Winchester Model 70 experienced extraction problems was very rare , based on my experiences with my clients. Nevertheless , l have personally seen it happen 5 times in the field and much prefer the Winchester model 70 bolt rifles manufactured prior to 1964 , over their modern counterparts .The extra security afforded by that Mauser style extractor was a godsend . I would highly recommend to my readers that if you ever find a Winchester Model 70 built prior to 1964 , using a .375 Holland and Holland magnum cartridge , snatch it immediately . For all purpose shikar , no finer rifle was ever designed . The versions with the heavy barrel are even better in my views , because they helped to control the recoil of the large calibre rifle .

Around this time , l also developed a fondness for the Winchester Silvertip soft nosed 300 grain cartridge . No cartridge in my time , could ever surpass the Winchester Silvertip , for folding a royal Bengal tiger or a panther , or the various deer varieties or wild boars . It is truly a testament to American first class workmanship .
I hope that the account proved enjoyable . For my next article , l offer you all a choice of story . I can either write about the 7th man eating royal Bengal tiger l had taken which had killed 16 innocent people , or l can write about how Tobin and l were almost overrun by a group of ferocious wild boars in the outskirts of Nagpur . Please choose , and l will value your choice .
 
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Major Khan

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I'm glad that Tobin's ethics re. securing wounded game prevailed upon you in the end. I'm sure that your American clients were of similar mind. We are taught that a hunter must do what ever is possible to limit a wounded animal's suffering.
Indeed it did , Shootist43 . I learnt a great deal from him . In many ways , he made me a better human being . After the war , the support him and his wife showed me was what helped me get by . If not for them , l can openly admit that l probably would have shot myself .
All of my American clients were true sportsmen and gentlemen to boot . Not 1 American client ever told us " Let the wounded tiger get away . I do not feel like following it " . Infact , l am proud to admit that it is only because of Tobin and my American clients that l developed any sort of shikar ethics , whatsoever .
In all fairness to my European and English clients , most of them were very particular about following wounded animals to put them out of their misery .
However , l never met even 1 single client from America who was willing to let the wounded animal escape . Not 1 . As future stories will relate , some even spent up to 7 hours in the thickets , looking for wounded panthers .
 

Major Khan

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Great story! I am a huge fan of the Winchester model 70.
Would a Tiger try to go through a hole in the line during a beat, and how far were the beaters spread out?
Thank you so much , Mr. Smith for liking the story . Each beater is typically 5 metres apart from the other so the chances of trying to get through a gap in the line of the beat , is nil . While panthers can hide in holes in the ground , a royal Bengal tiger ( on account of it's massive size ) seldom does so. They may hide in a cave , however . And this actually happened to us twice .
 
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Kawshik Rahman

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Poton
Another brilliantly written account !
On a related subject , Winchester has re introduced the mauser type extracting claw device on their model 70 bolt operation rifles . I know... I was just as pleasantly surprised as you , when l found out . I was not aware of this fact until l joined this community either.
 

Major Khan

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Poton
Another brilliantly written account !
On a related subject , Winchester has re introduced the mauser type extracting claw device on their model 70 bolt operation rifles . I know... I was just as pleasantly surprised as you , when l found out . I was not aware of this fact until l joined this community either.
Really ? Just like the originals ?
 

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Dear Major Kahn, thank you for another captivating article. Thank you Sargent Rahman for referring Major Kahn to this site. It is a joy to get up in the morning before work and read about old India. Both of you would be great workers at a firearms establishment as I find myself having renewed interest in a Winchester model 70 in 375 H & H! Thanks again for your reports.
 

Major Khan

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Dear Major Kahn, thank you for another captivating article. Thank you Sargent Rahman for referring Major Kahn to this site. It is a joy to get up in the morning before work and read about old India. Both of you would be great workers at a firearms establishment as I find myself having renewed interest in a Winchester model 70 in 375 H & H! Thanks again for your reports.
Thank you , Gesch for being so appreciative . Indeed , l absolutely love the Winchester Model 70 rifles made before 1964 , especially those using the .375 Holland and Holland magnum cartridge . Good , robust , workman's rifles . An excellent piece of New Haven craftsmanship .
 

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Major Khan and Sgt. Rahman,

Your accounts are outstanding. I’ve always felt that I was born 100 years to late and these tales are reinforcing that belief! You should bind up all of these stories in a book. Doing so would be a great service to the hunting fraternity and help us remember and honor these wonderful times and adventures.

As a side note, a number of years ago Winchester realized the error of their ways and returned to a controlled round feed design in the model 70. In my opinion, the new design surpasses the original design. I have had four custom rifles built and chose this action for all of them.

With great respect,

WAB
 

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