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The Bull Elephant—The Charge of the Elephants-Counting the
YE lovers of true sport, men of nerve and skill, ye who prize a reality and are not
satisfied with a feeble imitation, have you ever attempted to realize the excitement and glory of combating with a herd of lordly elephants, fierce and powerful, and monarchs in their own forests ? Ye, who consider that the only sport is pursuing a fleeing fox over the grass-lands of your own country, can but feebly imagine the effect produced by measuring your skill and daring against the giant strength and cunning of a mighty elephant, who has braved his hundred summers, and has been able to withstand the bullets or spears of a hundred foes; who has won his way among his rivals by fierce and hardly contested battles; and who dreads no enemy, but is ever ready to try conclusions with the most formidable of all, viz. man.. To stand alone and on foot, amidst the tangled luxuriant foliage of an African forest, within a few yards of one of these watchful
monsters, whose foot could crush you as easily as could your foot a mouse or rat, and whose headlong rush through the forest would carry away every obstacle, is a proceeding which causes the blood to course through one's veins like quicksilver. To hide near a troop of these animals, watching their strange movements and taking advantage of favourable opportunities for deadly shots, which are answered by the most savage and unearthly shrieks, is another phase of sport which is spirit-stirring in the extreme. Add to these scenes the most glowing landscape, covered with brilliant flowers, and ornamented with gorgeously-tinted birds, whilst various rare and graceful antelopes are bounding away in all directions to escape the tunult which has disturbed them, and there is an explanation of the mystery of that so-called hunter's fever, which induces those who have once tasted such sport to ever afterwards thirst for it as the parched stag thirsts for water.
Surrounding Hans Sterk there were men who had slain lions and buffaloes, had brought to the earth the lofty carneleopard, and had frequently gathered tusks from their elephants slain in fair fight. Yet with these men the excitement had not worn off; and they, one and all, seemed to be endowed with additional life-power as they recognized with the far-seer' the largest of African game browsing calmly in his native wilderness.
We must not show ourselves,' said Hans, or the alarm will spread. See those ostriches in the “ open;" they suspect us; and though they are two miles off, they
Plans for Attacking the Elephants. 19 can distinguish us among these thorns. Let us lie down, and we will make our plans for attacking those elephants.'
The whole party at once sank the ground, and were thus completely concealed from the keen sight of all except the vultures, which were sailing about overhead: Each of the hunters then took a careful survey of the nature of the ground between his position and the river near which the elephants were browsing.
After an interval of a few minutes, one of the eldest men asked the rest what plan they had made.
*You speak first, Piet,' was the answer of Hans; 'then we will all give our opinions.'
'I think,' said Piet, we should go down to the right, enter that bush, and so keep near the stream till we stalk on to the elephants; for the ground is very good where they are, and they will not move far whilst they can feed there.'
Nearly everyone agreed with this remark except Hans, who, when his opinion was asked, said that he had two reasons why he should prefer another plan. First, the wind would not quite suit, but would blow from them to the elephants when they first entered the thorn-bushes. Then, in front of the elephants, and about a mile off, was a large dense forest. If they enter that,' said Hans,
• we shall not see them again. I should like to go down to the left, get in front of the elephants, and either wait for them to feed up to us, or stalk them up wind. Then when they run, they will go towards our waggons, and
we shall be able to hunt those which are not killed to-day, with the aid of our horses to-morrow.'
After a slight hesitation the hunters decided that this was the better plan, and determined at once to put it into execution. Each man examined the priming of his rifle, put on fresh caps, felt the position of his cartridges, powderflask, and bullets, so as to be certain all was ready for use; and then, following each other in Indian file, the party strode forward in the direction agreed upon.
When hunters are in the neighbourhood of large game, it is an understood rule that a shot is not to be fired at any small animal. Thus, if a party were out in search of elephants, and had separated from each other, a shot from one party would at once bring the others to it, for it would be understood that elephants had been fired at. Thus antelopes of various kinds were allowed to gallop off without a shot being fired at them. A fat eland, whose appearance made the Kaffirs' mouth almost water, was allowed to stand under a tree, and gaze with astonishment at the novel spectacle of a herd of two-legged creatures moving over its domain. For to have fired a shot would have not only disturbed the country, but would have been a reckless destruction of life, a proceeding which every true sportsman abhors. Taking advantage of the slopes of ground, the cover of trees, &c., Hans and his party turned the position of the elephants, and halted about five hundred yards in advance of them, without having caused these watchful, keen-scented animals any suspicion of their presence.
Troop of Elephants.
Each hunter took up a position behind a tree, immediately he came in front of the elephants, and there waited for some signal from the leader before advancing. It was soon evident that the elephants were feeding towards the hunters, and thus if they remained quiet, they would soon have their game within range. Twelve majestic bull elephants were in the herd, each with tusks of large size. Such game being close to them caused each man of the party to feel excited with the anticipation of the coming sport, and to reserve himself for his first shot.
On came the troop, scarcely staying now to feed, for they had by some instinct or power of observation become slightly alarmed. The scent of the hunters, or the screech of some bird had indicated to them that an enemy was near, and thus they ceased feeding. A majestic twelve-foot bull elephant led the party, and seemed well qualified for a leader. He strode forward some dozen yards with trunk erect and ears wide spread, then stopped and drew the air through his trunk with great rapidity, turning from side to side with a quickness which seemed surprising in so vast an animal. That lazy, stupid appearance which those who have seen caged animals only, are disposed to attribute to elephants, was very different from the activity of this leader, as his restless eye watched each bush or tree; and his threatening attitude occasionally indicated that he was ready to charge an enemy. Suddenly, as though a fresh cause for suspicion had arisen, the mighty bull raised his trunk, and gave three sharp, shrill, and powerful trumpet-notes,