One of my very favorite books is Ernest Hemingway’s Green Hills of Africa, a story in which Hemingway chronicles a hunting safari in Africa and uses the story to illustrate his love of, and opinions about, hunting, nature, writing and life in general. Big game hunting is of another realm in outdoor pursuits, and while I’m perfectly content chasing whitetail deer in the heart of America, stories of hunting things like lions in places like the Kalahari Desert in South Africa do get my blood pumping.
While looking at hunting stories over the weekend, I ran across an Outdoor Life story, “Bowhunting Africa's Killer Cats,” that blew me away.
In it, the author is hunting lion in Africa, with a bow. I read a lot of hunting stories, and hunting big cats with a bow borders on insanity.
To summarize, the author is using a pack of dogs, which chase and apparently bother the lion. According to the story, the lion will initially run from a pack of dogs, until it has had enough. When that encounter takes place, the lion is so distracted by the pack of dogs, the hunter is able to get in bow range.
In this case, which is a fascinating story, the author sinks an arrow into the lion’s heart from 10 yards, but the lion doesn’t immediately die. It turned on him and as it approached, one of the dogs, a Jack Russell-hound mix named Speck, lunged and momentarily occupied the lion – in a courageous and honorable, yet fatal, way – giving the hunter enough time to notch a second arrow and send it into the lion’s vitals.
The author then goes on to talk about a few others of his big cat hunting experiences. To help you avoid confusion, the “Following the Hounds” section is repeated in the Outdoor Life online version.
I can’t imagine hunting in this way. I know it’s incredibly expensive, but it would be a true test. Your aim would have to be true and your nerves steady.
My sophomore year of college, while writing the recreation beat of The University Daily Kansan (the University of Kansas’ student newspaper), I came upon a story of a student who had bowhunted black bear in Idaho. I thought that was remarkable; there is something to be said for hunting an animal that presents a threat to you. Hunting whitetails out of a tree, the challenge isn’t so much about survival as it’s about mastering techniques that allow you to overcome far superior senses and instinct that deer possess.
But cats are a different thing all-together. The speed and tenacity they would attack with, especially in a situation where it’s wounded and confronted, is unmatched compared with other wildlife. And to not have one of the guides holding a rifle, standing behind you – this author and his group had nothing – that’s asking for it (the test), alright. This guy did something I admire but could not do at this point in my life. He asked for it.