Siriska, 24 February 1893

After the first night without rain, there was hope that a tiger will be confirmed with certainty. The business of confirmation is very well understood by the local shikaris; they sit day and night on mountain tops, ridges and other high points where they have a good overview on all spots tigers love to stay, enjoy and namely  the places where buffalo calves are roped to attract tigers. If a tiger kills a calf, it usually rests there for some time after it has cut a piece. If it is staying in a location surrounded by observers, a valley gorge or a jungle, this is swiftly reported to the camp which soon becomes very active in quick final preparations for the hunt and the departure of the elephant caravan for the location of the hunt. After the reception of such messages we usually send our hunters out with the elephants and follow up on horseback even though riding the badly trained and fidgety Indian horses is no pleasure.

Today events took place just as described above. Towards 9 o’clock in the morning the report came that two tigers had killed in a thickly covered valley and had been confirmed. The chief professional hunter rode ahead on his elephant with the shikaris and the drivers to prepare the hunt. We followed an hour later, first crossed the plain and rode then in a narrow thickly covered valley for about 3 km until we came to a spot where the mighty hunter was expecting us with the welcome news that the tigers were still there and in fact close to the spot where they had killed a buffalo calf at dawn. The horses were now switched with hunting elephants. I took my position on the favorite animal of the deceased maharaja who used to always hunt with this animal.

The head shikari now ordered me to advance alone and arrive on the spot where the tiger had killed the buffalo or they must be nearby. In the case of failing to meet them, a drive would be made. My mahaut was advised to calmly advance in order not to attract the attention of the tigers prematurely. I prepared myself in the hauda as well as I could and placed two loaded Springer rifles beside me with the intention to send the first greeting to the tiger with my old 500 rifle which had served me well at home on bagging more than a thousand pieces of game. Janaczek and the shikari who had confirmed the tiger sat behind me. Thus I advanced perched on my intelligent elephant, noiseless if possible, evading trees and branches across the bottom of the valley while the shikaris followed on the ridges of the hill to observe the movement of the tigers. High yellow grass alternate with trees and thorny bushes and any moment I believed to see the head of a tiger appear somewhere.

Soon we arrived at the killing ground where the torn calf was laying fought over by vultures and jackals. But no trace of the tiger. I continued for some time and wanted to go back on the advice of the shikari when an observant shikari on the ridge shouted „Bagh, Bagh“ (tiger) to me. In the same moment I saw the tiger in full flight coming from the ridge through the bushes to the valley but also disappearing into the thick jungle. I was on the verge of giving up hope but I ordered the mahaut to pursue the tiger in the direction it took as fast as we could. Fortunately  Colonel Fraser, an experienced tiger hunter who stood further back in the valley, had observed the maneuver of the tiger and shot a few meters in front of it to force it to turn around. The attempt succeeded. The tiger turned and came in full flight through the bushes up to 60 paces from me. I just had enough time to shout »Teiro« (halt) to the mahaut, the shot rang out — and tumbling like a hare the mighty animal lies in front of me.

My joy about my first tiger whom I killed I can not describe. Only a hunter is able to measure the feeling I had in that moment. My hunters had to shout a hearty „Juchezer“ whereas all the gentlemen approached to congratulate me.

But there was no time to inspect the tiger more closely. After only a few minutes, observers posted on the upper ridges and the drivers closing off the valley shouted that another tiger was in the valley and we should set up position near a gorge at the edge. I did not consider it probable that a second tiger would be around after all the shots and the noise and especially considering the width of the gorge of only 200 paces. The drivers had advanced to the edge of the gorge with much shouting. But later the situation became clear. The drivers were right. A second tiger was in the most wooden part of the gorge and was now trying to escape but was blocked by the line of drivers so that it turned back into the jungle.

After the commotion had subsided a little, we advanced in line on our elephants towards that gorge, a task that was not simple as some among us, me included, had trouble in climbing a steep rocky ridge. Here I had again the opportunity to observe the skill and power of my elephant that pushed  and broke off a tree with a diameter of 30 to 40 cm out of the way with the pressure of its head.

On the steeply inclined ridge at the edge of the cone shaped gorge we positioned ourselves in a semi-circle in the following order: at the top stood Clam, followed by Stockinger, me, Wurmbrand, Prónay and Kinsky, at the bottom of the valley the head shikari joined the defensive line with a couple of elephants; on the opposite side of the ridge Colonel Fraser and Fairholme had taken up position. This post had actually been intended for me but my mahaut had in his excitement led me to the ridge on the left.

The drivers advanced carefully, step by step, rolling stones down into the valley. After a few minutes of excited expectation, my hunter tapped me on the shoulder and pointed at the bottom of the valley where I could see a capital tiger advance slowly across a small clearing towards the position of Fraser and Fairholme — a gorgeous view like a big cat, constrained from all sides, sneaking cautiously, hardly touching the branches of the bushes, seeking a way out. For a long time I had not experienced the feeling of hunting fever. In this moment it caught me so hard as when I was a boy becoming a disciple of St. Hubertus and undertook my first attempts at the noble art of hunting.

Fairholme fired at the tiger but missed so that it returned into the jungle to escape by the way of the bottom of the valley where it was however driven back by the skillful defence of the chief professional hunter to hide itself in the thickest of bushes. I watched these movements with great excitement and impatiently could hardly await the moment until Colonel Fraser gave the signal to advance against the tiger. When this finally happened I pushed my mahaut to move quickly and climbed down the ridge on my elephant where I was joined by Kinsky and Prónay Thus we entered into a true labyrinth of trees and bushes. I had hardly advanced 50 paces when I saw a yellow spot amidst two bamboo shafts which I could identify as a tiger as I inspected it a bit closer. The tiger returned my glance. Quickly I give the mahaut the sign to halt but the tiger notices it and turns away. I fire and see the tiger stumble after the shot and hear it loudly fall over a small ridge about 30 paces distant from my elephant. In the thick jungle I lose sight of the animal but soon find it again as it was about to attack my elephant. But the tiger can only perform a single jump then its force is spent and it collapses. At the same time, Wurmbrand works his way through the trees and branches from another side and fires a shot into the tiger’s ear. The huge animal lies in front of us without moving.

As the hunters, shikaris and drivers had assembled in the mean time, the wild gorge around the dead tiger turned into one of the most vivid scenes I have witnessed. Above the tiger, 500 drivers who all wanted to have a close look, next to the tiger cheerful shikaris who had come to salute an old acquaintance that had cost them many sleepless  with shouts, cries and ongoing bows in front of me. All elephants around the tiger in a semicircle some of them blowing their trunks and snorting in wild excitement. In the midst of this chaos, throning high up in his hauda, the head shikari who congratulated me and — like Jupiter tonans — shouted and loudly gave orders.

This day with two tigers as prize of not even a half an hour is the most beautiful hunting memory of my life and I offer warm thanks to Saint Hubertus for such a successful hunt.

The two tigers were strong fully grown specimen with extremely beautiful and faultless skin and five years old according to the estimate of the chief professional hunter. Hodek had taken along his photographic apparatus and conserved the trio for eternity on the spot, namely, the tiger, »Tisza« and me. With a bottle of champaign the catch of the tiger was celebrated and the caravan returned to camp cheerfully. In the front, the two tigers bound on elephants, then we partly on horses partly on elephants, behind us the corps of shikaris and drivers. After the arrival in the camp the whole neighborhood, old and young, turned out to admire the tiger. Then they were handed over into the hands of Hodek who prepared them the same evening for my collection. The female tiger had four young ones the size of a rat inside of her.

Links

  • Ort:  Sariska, India
  • ANNO – on 24.02.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater plays a comedy „Der Erbförster“, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater presents Verdi’s „Troubadour“.

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