My First Man Eating Royal Bengal Tiger

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Major Khan, Dec 3, 2019.

  1. Major Khan

    Major Khan AH Veteran

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    This is my first article on these forums .And l have thus , decided that it should be about the first royal Bengal tiger which l had ever hunted in my life. I will start with a little prologue of sorts and then relate the story , along with photographs in 3 separate posts. If the members of this site enjoy the story , then l will write a few more.
    I was a professional shikaree from 1961 to 1970 in Nagpur in India , working for the shikar outfitters , Allwyn Cooper Limited . This was the oldest and the largest of the 26 shikar outfitting companies operating in India until 1972. My good friend , colleague and fellow member of this site , Sargeant Kawshik Rahman was a professional shikaree in Darjeeling in India , working for the outfitters, Sundar Raj Shikar Limited.
    This story predates even my professional shikaree career by 1 year , as it is from 1960 .
    In June of 1960 , a man eating royal Bengal tiger was menacing the villagers of Nagpur .
    It had already killed 7 people , including , but not limited to: a maid servant , three children and the driver of a bullock cart. The local government had declared the brute a man eater and what this meant was that a shikaree did not need a license to hunt that royal Bengal tiger down ( as opposed to normal hunting , where each shikaree could legally acquire a permit for only one tiger every season , which was seven months long ) .


    At the time , l had not killed a single animal more dangerous than a wild boar . I was only a 19 year old young lad at the time . In the out skirts of Nagpur , l used to hunt cheetal deer , sambhur deer , hog deer , ducks , cranes , geese , rabbits and various land birds , such as grouse , chukar , pigeons , quails and the grey Indian partridge . Frequently , l would often shoot a wild boar too , and my Christian and Hindoo friends would always welcome some fresh pork to their supper table .
    I should add here what firearm(s) , l would use . It was a double barreled side by side shot gun of 12 calibre made in Liege , Belgium and marked “ Mercury “ . It was meant to make any cartridge up to 3 inches in length and the barrels were little more than 27 inches in length . The left barrel was a full choke and the right barrel was a modified choke . I had the excellent fortune to purchase this fine weapon from an English gentleman , who used to own a tea garden. Before this gentleman was returning to England in 1959 , he sold many of his possessions which he would be leaving behind. He offered the shot gun for sale for a mere 35 Rupees . As shot guns ( and infact all firearms ) made by IOF ( Indian Ordinance Factories ) were of ridiculously poor quality , l knew that l could not miss my chance to purchase a shot gun of European manufacture in pristine condition, especially for a bargain as attractive as the paltry sum of 35 Rupees. I immediately purchased the shot gun as well as all of the gentleman's cartridges for an extra 10 Rupees. These were from the English company , Eley Bros .
    That shot gun has been my constant companion since the last 60 years and to it's credit it never let me down , even today . I took everything from a wild pigeon to a water buffalo with that grand old gun and it is truly an inseparable part of me . I will write one article dedicated just to that shot gun on this site , some time in the near future . For now , however , let us stay on the subject of this story .

    Even though there was news of a man eating royal Bengal tiger around Nagpur , l did not ever imagine that the brute would be anywhere near where l was hunting . One Fri day , however , while hunting cheetal deer , l came across a startling sight . With me , was my servant boy, a loyal Hindoo fellow named Ponual Sangma . Even though he was my servant , l always treated dear Ponual more like a brother and a friend . As future stories will relate , he saved my life on more than one occasion . This is what we saw.
    Screenshot_20191201-080207_01_01_01.png
    They were the paw prints of a royal Bengal tiger . My jaws gaped in amazement and fear . I took my camera from Ponual and l took the above photograph to show to my friends . Then , l quickly returned home . When l returned , my Nana ( grandfather ) informed me that the man eating tiger had claimed one more victim . The corpse was found , roughly a kilometer away from where l was hunting . I had no doubt in my mind now , that the paw prints which l had taken a photograph of , belonged to the man eater .
    In the next post , l will relate how l decided to hunt this man eater .
     

  2. Wyatt Smith

    Wyatt Smith AH Enthusiast

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    Excellent reading so far!
     
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  3. Major Khan

    Major Khan AH Veteran

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    As an useful piece of information , there is a very easy way to identify if a tiger is a man eater or merely attacked a human being instinctively . One must look at the corpse of one of the brute's miserable victims . A man eater will always consume the flesh from the buttocks . Always , and without exception . It may or may not consume flesh from the other parts of the victim's body . However , a man eater will always consume flesh from the buttocks of it's victim .
    A tiger who instinctively attacked a human being and killed them , will invariably bite chunks off it's victim from the front side only but the buttocks will be left alone .

    The man eating royal Bengal tiger had claimed it's eighth victim : a Hindoo priest meditating in that part of the forest .
    By now , the local authorities were offering a reward of 700 Rupees for the destruction of the man eater. Now , 700 Rupees was a good deal of money in those days . The temptation was too much for me and l resolved to see if something could be done about killing the man eater . I knew that l would need help.
    However , if my Nana knew that l was planning to go to the forest , not to hunt a simple deer , but to hunt a dangerous tiger ( and a man eating one at that ) , he would certainly forbid me from executing my plan of action ( although , he had shot a few tigers himself too , but that is the subject of another story ) . So , l enlisted Ponual's help . I proposed that if Ponual helped me to hunt down that man eater , l would give him 200 Rupees . In retrospect , l deeply regret this . If l could go back in time now , l would have given him an equal half of the reward money ( 350 Rupees ) as he certainly deserved it . But at the time , l thought that 200 Rupees were a good amount for a servant boy and Ponual seemed extremely eager at the sound of earning 200 Rupees.

    We resolved to start tracking the royal Bengal tiger. In deed , l consider myself extremely lucky to be the grandson of my Nana , for he would always fill my ears with stories of hunting from the tender age of 3. Fortunately , these stories also included stories of how to hunt royal Bengal tigers and l already had some basic knowledge of how to hunt these brutes . Just like my dear friend and member of this site , Sergeant Kawshik Rahman , l was ( and still am ) a massive admirer of the English actor Stewart Granger and his excellent shikar films , such as " Harry Black and the tiger " .
    ( Years later , Kawshik would introduce me to Mr. Granger's other excellent shikar film " King Solomon's Mines " and another called " Last Safari " ) .

    Ponual began to gather information from locals about the areas where the royal Bengal tiger was attacking it's victims. Judging by the locations of the corpses of the 8 victims , it was evident that the animal was operating around the area where l would regularly hunt cheetal deer . This , while unnerving , was also a decided advantage for me , because l knew that area very well . What was better , was that there was already a macchan there , which l would often use for hunting cheetal deer . I had taken a photograph of the macchan , which l have provided below.
    Screenshot_20191201-062515_01_01_01.png

    I took my 12 calibre shot gun and a supply of cartridges for the task . I should add here what cartridges l would use , in those days for most mammals . These were 2.5 inch Eley Grand Prix cartridges , loaded with a spherical lead ball of 16 calibre. The reason why the 12 calibre cartridges were loaded with a 16 calibre ball was because of this : A 16 calibre ball will easily pass through the barrels of a fully choked 12 calibre shot gun without causing any damage to the choke of a shot gun . They were excellent cartridges , provided the shooter knew his limitations .
    Below , is a photograph from the internet of an Eley Grand Prix spherical ball cartridge of 12 calibre , for reference.
    Screenshot_20191129-224431_01.png
    The one in the photograph is a relatively recent plastic cartridge example. However , l would not have access to this type of spherical ball cartridge until the 1970s . During the 1960s , all of these were paper cartridges .

    I decided that we also needed some sort of bait ( l did not have access to beaters until l became a professional shikaree) . Here , we had a problem . As Kawshik wrote in one of his articles , a dedicated man eating royal Bengal tiger will not touch an animal and is even willing to swim through water to find human beings . What we needed was a human corpse . But where to find one ?
    It took us two days , before a macabre solution could be found .
    What l am about to write , delves more into the territory of a horror story rather than a shikar story . And l know that what we did , was extremely selfish and unethical . However , l must be honest . I sent Ponual to go look for a suitable human corpse to use. It had to be a fresh human corpse of which , putrefaction had not yet begun . Ponual was an extremely resourceful person and a highly cunning one ( l mean it as the greatest compliment ) . It is a known fact that Hindoos cremate the corpses of their dead relatives . It so happened that a young man of the lowest caste had infact died , as a result of an accident in a factory . He had no family members and so , his corpse was going to be donated to medical college students to use as a cadaver for their studies . What Ponual did , was promise one of the dead lad's co workers 50 Rupees , if the corpse was given to us , instead . In those days , 50 Rupees could have fed a factory worker fifty meals. Understandably , the factory worker obliged .
    In the next part of this story , l will describe the actual encounter with the animal .
     
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  4. kurpfalzjäger

    kurpfalzjäger AH Veteran

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    A good story , but that with the human corpse can shock some people. I also read something like that for the first time , but seems to me a original and daring solution in such extreme cases.
     
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  5. Major Khan

    Major Khan AH Veteran

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    With our corpse laid out , and Ponual and l on the macchan , we waited for night time . I wore a white linen shirt with short sleeves and olive green khaki half pants ( This , l would realize was an unwise decision , but more on that later ) . Kawshik , in his articles mentions using kerosene to treat his clothes , so that a tiger cannot smell the shikaree . He is absolutely correct . The smelling capacity of these brutes is astounding . The standard practice in those days was to soak your clothes in the kerosene used for lighting hurricane lamps for a full hour .
    I had my 12 calibre shot gun , loaded with spherical ball cartridges in the barrels .
    We sat there , eating our dinner on the macchan . We had purchased some roasted mutton sandwiches and two bottles of beer from a local cafe . Even though , Nana did not approve of me drinking alcohol , l would always drink liquor in his absence which l would make Ponual get for me ( He would eventually find out , but readily forgave me ) .
    As night time came , Ponual and l and l were on our toes and extremely alert . It would not be till 1 in the morning , that we started hearing the sound of branches snapping , as something was making it's way towards the corpse. It was something very large and heavy . Ponual held a torch light in his hands and had two spare cells in his pocket . I signalled him that when the tiger got near the corpse , he would immediately turn on the torch light and shine it on the tiger , long enough for me to take a shot at it . I peeked out of the macchan and had my shot gun at the ready . In the darkness , l could make out the outline of the brute nearing the corpse . It began it's sickening chomping . I got on my knees and took aim at the out line , l was almost ready to signal Ponual to turn on the torch light . However , something went very wrong . The tiger was no longer eating the corpse , but was staring directly at the macchan .
    Panicking , l shouted at Ponual " Tu torch ko jalaye ! " ( Turn on the torch light ! ) . Ponual immediately did , as he was told , and l immediately took aim at the brute's heart between his two front legs and l gave him my left barrel at a distance of 20 feet . He roared in pain and turned . I gave him my right barrel , as he disappeared into the thickets .
    I hurriedly opened my shot gun and turned it up side down , so that the empty cartridges fall out ( my shot gun had extractors and not ejectors ) . I quickly reached into my shirt breast pocket and took out two more ball cartridges to load my shot gun . I climbed down the macchan and Ponual followed. We waded into the bushes looking for the wounded tiger . I held the gun and Ponual held the torch . The tiger was clearly hit , because he left a generous trail of blood behind . We took to following him . After roughly 10 minutes of running , we noticed that the blood trail stopped , but there was plenty of sound of branches still snapping . Ponual saw the brute before me . The rascal was making his way towards us . Ponual shined the light at his head and l whipped the gun to my shoulder and fired , at a distance of 5 metres . The 16 calibre lead ball went clean through the bone and into the brain . The brute lay lifeless. In the wee hours of the morning , as villagers gathered around to see the dead man eater , l made Ponual take a photograph of myself with my first royal Bengal tiger . I have provided the photograph below.
    Screenshot_20191201-075830_01_01_01.png

    My Nana found out that l had gone after the royal Bengal tiger and was initially very angry for my foolishness . However , he quickly cooled down and congratulated me for my first royal Bengal tiger . However , he also told me that l had taken some very big risks and he gave me some solid pieces of advice , which l shall relate below.
    In the next and final part of this story , l shall make some reflections on this shikar .
     

  6. kurpfalzjäger

    kurpfalzjäger AH Veteran

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    Nice story , but what happened with the human corpse ?

    Sky burial is allowed in many of your regions in India and Himalaya , but under conditions. Usually the birds , especially the vultures do that , not the tigers.
     
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  7. Major Khan

    Major Khan AH Veteran

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    As my Nana pointed out to me , l made numerous mistakes in my first shikar and indeed , it was through sheer luck that neither Ponual nor l were injured in our pursuit of the brute :
    1. Never wear white clothes when hunting dangerous game at night . Always , wear dark colours like dark green or dark blue or black .
    2. When using a double barreled weapon, always keep 2 extra cartridges with you between your fingers for swift reloading . It will take too much time to take cartridges out of your pocket to reload .
    Also , practice repeatedly how to reload quickly .
    3) Never go after any dangerous animal at night with your assistant holding the only torch light . Always keep an extra torch light , on your person at all times . Had Ponual chosen to abandon me in the bushes ,l when that royal Bengal tiger charged towards us , then l would not have survived as l would have been blind without him.
    4) Practice how to place your shots . This one needs some elaboration.

    Upon flaying the brute's corpse , l found that of my 3 shots at the animal , the second shot ( when he was retreating into the thickets ) had completely missed him . The first bullet was extremely well placed in his chest region , however the 16 calibre ball not penetrate more than 15 centimeters into him . As a result , it failed to reach his heart . The third bullet was placed right between his eyes and it reached his brain , killing him instantly .

    My good friend , Kawshik always preferred his clients to opt for body shots , because they were more likely to hit the tiger , due to a larger target being presented . I am inclined to agree with him. The best shot for a client ( especially a beginner ) on a royal Bengal tiger is a double lung shot from the broadside position , using an expanding bullet from a good centre fire rifle of at least 9.3 calibre . This is of course , assuming that the professional shikaree get the client in a favourable position for such a shot .

    The professional or experienced shikaree , however , can ( if he is confident of his abilities ) , aim for the head of the royal Bengal tiger . The ideal region here , is right between the two eyes of the tiger . The brain can be found by drawing an imaginary line from one eye to the other and making a mental map of where the brain is ( l had the good fortune to have the skull of this man eater cut open and it helped me to understand where the brain is located inside the skull )
    For myself , l personally always preferred the brain shot , due to the instant effects it always had on the royal Bengal tiger . Also , since l was using a smoothbore firing a 16 calibre spherical ball , body shots ( as my very first experience , detailed here showed me ) did not offer sufficient penetration to reliably reach the important organs of a royal Bengal tiger . Therefore , l always opted for the brain shot .
    I would like to add here a word about my friend , Kawshik . While l have killed one dozen royal Bengal tigers in my life and Kawshik killed 4 ( although he killed 32 panthers , while l only killed 20 ) , l consider him in every way , to be the superior shikaree to me. This is because out of those 4 tigers , he killed 2 of them using buck shot cartridges ( not by choice , however ) , which is probably the worst thing one can use for a royal Bengal tiger ( or infact any dangerous animal ) . What is more of a testament to this great man's skill , is that 1 of those 2 tigers had charged him and his client . Further more , l had the privilege of using a Belgian shot gun , while Kawshik was forced to make do with an IOF 12 calibre shot gun which was a weapon notorious for having mis fires . If one does use buck shot ( such as ssg , sg or lg cartridges ) then the procedure is to wait until the royal Bengal tiger has gotten around 4 paces close to you before firing . At this distance , the shot pellets will not spread more than a couple of inches and will deliver more of a blow to the tiger . However , it leaves too much to chance and l consider myself extremely lucky to have always used spherical ball cartridges for hunting royal Bengal tigers .
    I used the knowledge learnt in this shikar for all of my future shikars and it benefitted me greatly in my career as a professional shikaree .
    Also of interest , was that there was an old deformed .315 bore soft nose bullet found in the right hind paw of the brute .
    No doubt , some local hunter had shot at him poorly in the past and it is my strong belief that this is what had turned him into a man eater in the first place.


    Even though l got my college degree in English literature the same year , l did not picture myself teaching " Romeo and Juliet " to children for a living . That one royal Bengal tiger shikar in 1960 had made me want to become a professional shikaree . Even though my Nana was a little upset that l had chosen such a risky profession, he eventually gave me his blessings and support. Why would he not ? Having taken 2 royal Bengal tigers himself and 5 panthers , he certainly understood the appeal of such a life .
    And thus , later that year , l began as an apprentice shikaree in Allwyn Cooper Limited , run by Mr. Vidya C Shukla .

    I hope that this story proved enjoyable . If you all have enjoyed this reminiscence , then l will write a few more . For my next story , l offer you all a choice . I can either write about guiding a client for a royal Bengal tiger shikar , or l can write a story about how my friends and l hunted a gaur bison . I will write the one you all choose.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
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  8. Major Khan

    Major Khan AH Veteran

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    Thank you for reading .
     

  9. Major Khan

    Major Khan AH Veteran

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    Dear Kurpfalzjager , the corpse was later properly cremated by the villagers . In Hindoo religion , the lowest castes are not given much priority , and in the case of the corpse we used , the young man was a factory worker who had no family .
    Even to this date , l some times wonder if we did the right thing by using the corpse of a fellow human as bait for the tiger .
    In my religion ( Muslim ) , mutilating corpses is perceived as sinful . Even though , l am very liberal in my religious beliefs , l was always a little unsettled by how we let the man eater mail that young lad's corpse , to bait it. My only justification for my actions , was that by using that human corpse as bait , we successfully stopped a man eater from killing many more innocent ( living ) people and so we probably saved a few lives . Of course , my motivations were selfish . I wanted the 700 Rupees . However , the royal Bengal tiger certainly was not longer a threat to people anymore.
     
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  10. C Gamboa

    C Gamboa New Member

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    What a story
    Amazing
    Unvilievable.
     
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  11. jasyblood

    jasyblood BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Wow, what an interesting story!!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

    Looking forward to hearing more......
     
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  12. thriller

    thriller AH Fanatic

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    Amazing read thank you for sharing. I think you did the right thing in the end by using what you had to to save others from the same fate.
     
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  13. gesch

    gesch AH Enthusiast

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    Thank you Major Khan. You are an excellent writer as I am sure you are an excellent hunter! It is fascinating to hear of the different cultural and religious influences on all aspects of life. I would certainly enjoy sitting down with you and Sargent Rahman for a long time and hear of your life and learn a great deal from you both. Thanks again for your writings and please continue to write as you have time. I will always read them.
     
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  14. Major Khan

    Major Khan AH Veteran

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    Thank you for enjoying . I am glad.
     

  15. Major Khan

    Major Khan AH Veteran

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    Thank you for enjoying . I am glad.
    Please select 1 from the 2 stories l offer for tomorrow night.
     
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  16. Major Khan

    Major Khan AH Veteran

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    Thank you for enjoying . I am glad that you understood my point of view and saw the greater good. I did not get used to human corpses , however , until the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971 .
     

  17. Major Khan

    Major Khan AH Veteran

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    Thank you for appreciating the story , Gesch. Please , you all may call me Poton. No formality . Kawshik is a great gentleman and it was he who influenced me to start contributing on this site . I will write another tomorrow night after work.
     

  18. Ridgewalker

    Ridgewalker AH ENABLER LIFETIME BRONZE BENEFACTOR AH Legend

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    Another wonderful piece of India history! Excellent writing!
    Questions:
    Just how accurately could you shoot those round balls?
    Do you still have the skins from your tigers, or were they confiscated?
    Is a panther also a leopard?
    Thanks and I enjoyed reading these stories from the 1960s (my high school years) of traditional hunting in India!
    JMO, but a body once dead is of little value. I am donating all that’s left of mine. If any organs will help someone out, they are welcome to them. What’s left, the medical schools can butcher to learn from. Of course drinking two glasses of red wine nightly, my liver may not be so good!:LOL::cry:
     
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  19. Major Khan

    Major Khan AH Veteran

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    Thank you , Ridgewalker . I will answer your questions . An Eley Grand Prix cartridge loaded with a spherical ball of 16 calibre , is accurate up to 30 yards but not more . I would shoot all of my quarry at no distance exceeding that range. Infact , in the case of gaurs or water buffaloes and tigers and panthers , the distance was much shorter .
    A panther and a leopard are the same . Kawshik , for example refers to panthers as leopards because he is from west Bengal. As l was from Nagpur and south India , l refer to leopards as panthers . Kawshik's term is more internationally recognized .
    You are a most selfless human being , due to your desire to donate your organs. Most Americans are. It was an American friend of mine ( l will write about him in a future story ) who paid for my facial surgery after l got shot during the war . He spent a great deal of money for me and l will never forget him.

    Yes , the skins of all the royal Bengal tigers and many other animals ever hunted by private citizens , were all confiscated in 1972 by the authorities under the Gandhi regime after the implementation of the so called Wild Life Protection Act . That is why no one ever sells any existing tiger skins ( from tigers shot before 1972 ) today . Because they were all confiscated .
    However , l am surprised that you know this . Do you have any Indian family members ?
     

  20. jeff

    jeff AH Legend

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    Thank you for letting us learn more about India and tigers. Great to hear from someone who actually experienced it!!!! I appreciate you taking the time.
     
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