Equipment for a Hunting Trip - In Chase of a Herd of Buffaloes - Hard Work - Close Quarters - Six Feet from the Muzzle - A Black with a Devil.
There is one thing necessary to the enjoyment of sport in Ceylon, and without which no amount of game can afford thorough pleasure; this is personal comfort. Unlike a temperate climate, where mere attendance becomes a luxury, the pursuit of game in a tropical country is attended with immense fatigue and exhaustion. The intense heat of the sun, the dense and suffocating exhalations from swampy districts, the constant and irritating attacks from insects, all form drawbacks to sport that can only be lessened by excellent servants and by the most perfect arrangements for shelter and supplies. I have tried all methods of travelling, and I generally manage to combine good sport with every comfort and convenience.
A good tent, perfectly waterproof, and of so light a construction as to travel with only two bearers, is absolutely indispensable. My tent is on the principle of an umbrella, fifteen feet in diameter, and will house three persons comfortably. A circular table fits in two halves round the tent-pole; three folding chairs have ample space; three beds can be arranged round the tent walls; the boxes of clothes, etc., stow under the beds; and a dressing-table and gun-rack complete the furniture.
Next in importance to the tent is a good canteen. Mine is made of japanned block tin, and contains in close-fitting compartments an entire dinner and breakfast service for three persons, including everything that can be required in an ordinary establishment. This is slung upon a bamboo, carried by two coolies.
Clothes must always be packed in tin boxes, or the whole case will most likely be devoured by white ants.
Cooking utensils must be carried in abundance, together with a lantern, axe, bill-hook, tinder-box, matches, candles, oil, tea, coffee, sugar, biscuits, wine, brandy, sauces, etc., a few hams, some tins of preserved meats and soups, and a few bottles of curacea, a glass of which, in the early dawn, after a cup of hot coffee and a biscuit, is a fine preparation for a day's work.
I once tried the rough system of travelling, and started off with nothing but my guns, clothes, a box of biscuits, and a few bottles of brandy - no bed, no pillow, no tent nor chairs or table, but, as my distressed servant said, 'no nothing.' This was many years ago, when the excitement of wild sports was sufficient to laugh at discomfort. I literally depended upon my gun for food, and my cooking utensils consisted of one saucepan and a gridiron, a 'stew' and a 'fry' being all that I looked forward to in the way of gourmandism. Sleeping on the bare ground in native huts, dining cross-legged upon mother earth, with a large leaf as a substitute for a plate, a cocoa-nut shell for a glass, my hunting-knife comprising all my cutlery, I thus passed through a large district of wild country, accompanied by B., and I never had more exciting sport.
It was on this occasion that I had a memorable hunt in the neighbourhood of Narlande, within thirty miles of Kandy. It was our first day's stage, and, upon our arrival, at about 2 P.M., we left our guns at the post-holder's hut, while we proceeded to the river to bathe.
We were hardly dressed before a native came running to tell us that several elephants were devouring his crop of korrakan - a grain something like clover-seed, upon which the people in this part almost entirely subsist.
Without a moment's delay we sent for the guns. The post-holder was a good tracker, and a few minutes of sharp walking through a path bordered on either side by dense thorny bush brought us to a chena jungle ground, or cultivated field. The different watch-houses erected in the large trees were full of people, who were shrieking and yelling at the top of their voices, having just succeeded in scaring the elephants into the jungle.
The whole of the country in this neighbourhood has, in successive ages, been cleared and cultivated: the forest has been felled. The poverty of the soil yields only one crop, and the lately cleared field is again restored to nature. Dense thorny jungle immediately springs up, which a man cannot penetrate without being torn to pieces by the briars. This is called chena jungle, and is always the favourite resort of elephants and all wild animals, the impervious character of the bush forming a secure retreat.
From these haunts the elephants commit nocturnal descents upon the crops of the natives. The korrakan is a sweet grass, growing about two feet high, and so partial are the elephants to this food that they will invade the isolated field even during the daytime. Driven out by shouts and by shots fired by the natives from their secure watch-houses, they will retreat to their cover, but in a few minutes they reappear from another part of the jungle and again commence their depredations.
The havoc committed by a large herd of elephants can well be imagined.
In this instance there were only three elephants - a large bull, with a mother and her young one, or what we call a 'poonchy.' On entering the korrakan field we distinctly heard them breaking the boughs at no great distance. We waited for some time to see if they would return to the field; but they apparently were aware of some impending danger, as they did not move from their strong position. This was a cunning family of elephants, as they had retreated 'down wind,' and the jungle being so thick that we could with difficulty follow even upon their track, made it very doubtful whether we should kill them.