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Roman Knoll
October 24, 2004, 05:00 AM
Gun magazines are repeatedly full of articles titled “best deer cartridges” or “best elk slaying rifles” where authors agonize at length over practically non-existent differences between this or other rifle make and this or other superfluous caliber. Hunters and shooters who subscribe to forums like this do the same. All that is of course lot of fun, but deep down it is also silly. As if previous generations of hunters that did not have all this new stuff were unable to hunt with good results.

Just to give some perspective, I would like tell you about my adventure as poacher in India. I visit this country several times a year and stay there for longer periods. Times of my visits collide often with hunting season at home, so quite naturally I tried to get some hunting locally. It was not easy because all hunting is practically banned in India and it took some time before I met a chap by the name of Rajan.

Rajan is a poacher all right – in legal terms – but I would call him sustenance hunter. He hunts ethically (shoots only male game and eats what he shoots) and is a very good shot. He has to be of course, as ammo for his Harrington-Richardson single barreled shotgun is hard to come. He borrows this gun from local big shot property owner each time he plans some escapade in the jungle.

There is a lot of species in mountainous jungles of southern India where I live. You easily bump into sambar and spotted deer, ibex, mountain goats, wild elephants. Some of species like for example sambar deer and wild boar are abundant. It could be a paradise with regulated trophy hunting, which could contribute to conservation, give poachers a decent PH job and bring some wealth to impoverished mountain villages. Unfortunately, Indians do not see these opportunities yet. Poaching is ripe – farmers have to protect their crops and use barbaric methods like poisoning or electrocuting.

With Rajans ancient shotgun, we hunted birds, rabbits and jackals. We even attempted boar and dear but without much luck since his equally ancient Eley slugs (inherited probably after “Britishers”) would never fire.

One day when I visited Rajan, the landlord was away and gun couldn’t be borrowed. Nevertheless, Rajan suggested excursion to high range maybe to see some Nilgiri Thar. I was not very keen to hunt this endangered species but Rajan insisted. I finally agreed thinking that meeting Thar is very unlikely and hike in the mountain would be fun. Rajan said that we would get another gun from his friend on our way up.

We started our trek in oppressive pre-monsoon heat and after scaling steep slopes arrived at little clearing in the jungle. There, in small hut with coconut leaves covered roof, lived Rajan’s friend with his wife and daughter. Following long palaver in local lingo, our host went out to bring his gun from hideout in the forest. I could not believe my eyes.

It was homemade (by the owner himself) muzzleloader, with crude stock reminding of matchlocks used in Europe in XVI century. The smooth bored barrel about .50 caliber was made of bus steering wheel shaft. The only “modern” thing about this gun was its ignition system. Instead of hammer, the gun was equipped with in-line striker, powered by rusty spring. There was some handle on the side to cock this thing. Trigger pull was of course hideous. I cannot recall today whether the gun had sights or not.

I wanted to see the ammunition. My new friend showed me plastic bag with black powder and another with caps. How this chap got hold of caps in India is still a mystery to me. Black powder is readily available because they use it in temples during festivities.

Asked about bullets, my poacher-cum-gunsmith produced yet another plastic bag filled with lead balls in different sizes. He told me “those small ones I use for birds or rabbits and those big ones for buffalo”. I was flabbergasted. This was a real all-round hunting firearm Indian style.

Offered to have a go and shoot this gun I chickened out and (probably prudently) declined. We decided to go on with our hunt anyway. I was now quite comfortable with the idea – our endangered Thars were quite safe. We spent whole afternoon walking in the mountains but did not see any trace of them that day. I was rewarded though by seeing my first leopard spoor.

I am now sure that Rajan was never serious about this hunt anyway. More likely, this skinny rascal wanted to see whether I would cope with arduous mountain trek. Well, I did but I was half dead when we finally got back to the village.

FirstFreedom
November 11, 2004, 10:30 AM
Very interesting. That is indeed a primitive firearm (cept for the inline striker) I find it odd that the best the rich man has is a single shot longgun - or maybe that's just the best he's willing to loan out. Glad y'all didn't shoot anything endangered.

claude783
November 11, 2004, 12:07 PM
I don't know if I would have been willing to shoot that home made gun or not...maybe with a string and standing 50 feet to the rear, with a stout tree between me and it!

I would suggest you order up the book "Survival Poaching" by Ragnar Benson. In a wilderness area, I would think that traps, etc. might be the way to go!

Benson mentions "snaring" deer using cable, also taking bear, fish, fowl, and other small game...

Roman Knoll
November 14, 2004, 07:28 PM
The issue of poaching always interested me. What actually constitutes poaching? An English peasant who took a deer on some nobleman’s land was hanged if caught. At then same time in other parts of Europe, like for example Sweden, villagers were sustenance hunters and this tradition is still very much alive.

Hunting regulations and allowed methods vary from country to country. It is forbidden to hunt any specie in Sweden during breeding period. If someone does and gets caught, the legal consequences are severe. In other parts of Europe hunting during breeding period is not only allowed but considered as highlights of hunting season. Same applies to hunting at night, which in Sweden is limited to few species only. If I shot a deer during night in this country, which I had done many times in Poland or Germany, I would be treated as poacher.

I don’t suppose that many American hunters would agree that using dogs for hunting game like moose is ethical. It is probably illegal too. In Sweden on the other hand, no one stalks moose in the same way as you do with elk. In some parts we do driven hunts with beaters but the most usual method is to let a dog locate the moose and bay it. Barking informs the dog leader that moose is there, so he can approach stealthily and shoot it.

What’s allowed or disallowed regarding firearms and ammunition is also weird. Shooting roe dear with pellets like we do in Sweden is abomination for Germans hunters, who may use slugs instead, which in turn are not legal here. I’m not sure, but I think that nowhere in Europe it is permitted to take bucks with buckshot.

Anyone would agree that hunting endangered species is generally wrong. But then is it really in every case? Take wolf for example. In Sweden wolf has been protected for a long time and now its population is growing fast. In result of this, the number of moose and dear drops rapidly. In some parts people stopped hunting moose because what they can get is not worth concession fees. On the other hand, wolf is not endangered specie as such even if was almost extinct in Sweden. The huge population of moose we enjoyed for many years was result of extermination of predators at the beginning of the last century. Now predators are coming back.

Well, I want to eat venison and I had no use for wolfs – even if I were allowed to hunt them. In recent year there were infrequent (yet) instances of wolfs being shot in protection of reindeer and domestic stock. Legally, this is poaching of very serious kind. One gets stiff prison term if caught. Most hunters secretly applauded and I think that they wouldn’t have any qualms to kill wolfs if they could get away with it.

Roman