Dangerous Big Game Hunting in India

By M. A. Rahman

In India we have Asian elephants, rhino, water buffalo, gaur (actually the largest bovine on earth), buntang (an American bison sized wild ox), tiger, lion, leopard, brown bear, black bear and sloth bear. Among these the bears are considered a nuisance, but dangerous when surprised.

The Indian Rhino is larger than the black rhino and only slightly smaller than the white rhino. There is no animal in the New World as large or as ill tempered as a male Indian elephant. There are two huge bull elephants on the Indian-Nepalese border that stand 12 foot at the shoulder and weigh 7 tons!

Tigers are more cunning and far quicker than bears. Their jaws are stronger (shorter and more muscular) than that of any bear. They do not die easily; heart shots do not kill them for about 10 to 20 seconds. Man-eaters are extremely dangerous. The same may be said of leopards. The largest leopards have all been shot in India, as per the Rowland Ward record book.

The Indian water buffalo is as aggressive as his African cousin and is larger. The Gaur may weigh up to 2500 pounds and is about the same size as the water buffalo. (The Australian water buffaloes are feral animals and are much smaller than their wild brethren). The gaur is not as aggressive as the buffalo by nature but when aroused he is difficult to stop.

The American bison has only one pleural cavity and may therefore be killed by lung shots fired from inappropriate American calibers such as the .45-70 and its likes. In India, always use calibers that have stood the test of time. The .375 H&H, .458 Win. Mag., .458 Lott, .465 H&H, .470 NE, .505 Gibbs, 577 NE and 600NE are among the cartridges suitable for hunting dangerous game.

The .378, .416 and .460 Weatherby Magnums are not advisable. High velocity bullets will go through an elephant's skull without knocking him down if one does not strike the brain.

I have deliberately not included the .416 Rigby, .425 Westley Richards and the .404 Jeffrey, as they offer no advantage over the .375 H&H and are not as accurate. The .465 H&H India has perhaps the best balance between velocity and bullet weight of all the specialist big bore rifles. It is superior to the more popular 470 NE.

Unfortunately, all animals except the blue bull (a type of large antelope) and wild boar are now protected by law in India. However, rogue elephants and man-eating tigers may be hunted with a special permit. There were 3 man-eating leopards in Gharwal last year. From time to time rouge elephants have been shot in India by diplomats, most notably Mr. Harald Nestroy, who shot seven rouges in the course of one year.

The gaur has now been protected in India, but you may shoot gaur in Malaysia, where it is called the sledang. The Asiatic lion is now only found in India and there are only about 400 surviving specimens. They are completely protected.

The great one horned Rhino, which was once abundant in India, has now been reduced in numbers to about 1000-odd living in India and in Nepal. The floods this year have probably further reduced that number.

Leopards, on the other hand, have thrived during the past 20 years and are now quite common. There are indeed too many leopards for our dwindling habitat, hence the increase in man-eaters.

The Indian water Buffalo may be hunted in Malaysia, although Malay buffalo are inferior. However, the best Indian bison or gaur trophies have come from Malaysia.

It is a sorry state of affairs in the subcontinent that once offered big game hunting second to none. There is, however, great potential should our old hunting block system be revived for commercial purposes, as has been done in parts of Africa.

There are many who realize the need of the hour: sustainable wild life management. Until then, the blue bull offers good practice, for it is a tough and tenacious animal which has been known to attack when wounded (not in my experience, though). Although it may quite easily be killed by a 30-06, if hit in the liver it may run a couple of miles. A .375 bullet will stop it within 50 yards.

Remember to get close; dangerous game should be shot at a maximum range of around 60 yards. Animals do not stand still and neither does the wind. Hence shots taken at 200 yards and above may quite easily strike a hand span away from the intended mark despite all precautions and care. One need only look at ballistic tables to realize what a crosswind can do. This problem is often evident whilst zeroing a scope equipped rifle at long ranges outdoors, as many readers doubtless have discovered.

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