Hunting Ivory to Kill Time (Page 3)

The year was 1948 and the author's future looked somewhat bleak, until he embarked on a 30-day safari that would change his life forever.


During the next few days we walked many miles, unable to find a bull elephant track worth following. We were obliged to hurriedly distance ourselves from several cantankerous rhinos, and we began to think that old East African adage, "a hundred miles on average is walked for every really good elephant taken," was about to prove itself true. We were seriously considering moving to another area.

We did enjoy seeing several beautiful lesser kudu males, goodly numbers of Beisa oryx, Grevy's zebra and Grant's gazelle, a few reticulated giraffe and many gerenuk and dik dik. Hundreds of thousands of sand grouse arrived like a blizzard to drink at precisely the same time each morning. I'd never seen such numbers. They formed a swirling cloud of wings above the exposed water whilst the entire area resounded with their calls.

On the fourth morning we came across a good elephant bull track, and it was fresh. We followed hot-foot and eventually got a good look at him as he crossed the lugga ahead of us, and what we saw was enough. He was a good bull-at least a 75-pounder with both tusks unbroken.

We crossed the lugga hoping to intercept him, but the wind was treacherous and he must have gotten our scent. Head and tail held high, he took off through a patch of scrubby bush in front of us. Tony and I gave him a bullet before he reached another thick patch. We waited to hear the anticipated crash of him falling, but that did not come.

We maneuvered around the bush into which the bull had disappeared, and found that he had not passed through-he was still in there. Most unusual behavior for a wounded elephant-either they run until they collapse or keep going right out of the area. We cautiously crept into the thick stuff following his tracks, and finally were able to make out a front leg, but his body was completely hidden.

We had a problem. We both felt reasonably good about our shots, and if we waited he might collapse. However, if our shots were not right he might take off and never be seen again. The density of the foliage made it impossible to get in a coup de grace.

Both of us had heard that an elephant shot in the knee is incapable of moving, so we decided to try it. One of us put a .470 bullet into his front knee and he stumbled but regained himself. However, he appeared to be anchored to the spot.
Finally, we crept very close and were able to put in a finishing brain shot. The bull probably would have collapsed had we waited. Clearing the bush away to get the tusks out was almost as arduous a job as removing them, but with a good axe we had them out in good time.

Our very enjoyable and profitable little recce safari was now over and we returned to Nairobi-Tony to start another safari in a few days and I to collect from the auto-body builder my new hunting car, which would be finished by then and ready for my next, and its first, safari.

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