A Cadet goes Shooting
by R.C. Dening
I had been a few months in Africa and was on tour in a new District
where large game was scarce but small stuff fairly plentiful. The Head Messenger had seen
me accidentally shoot a reed-buck the previous Sunday, and so, feeling sick himself, he
considered he could entrust me to a junior.
Thus it was that on the Sunday in question I went out from camp
along the wide riverine plains with Messenger Chisuwa; I carried my .303 with at least six
clips of hard-nosed bullets, Chisuwa had my double barrelled twelve bore loaded with
We had not gone far before we spotted away on the horizon, a
reed-buck feeding at the edge of the plain. We stalked it with the noisy stealth of
novices, and when it was still many hundreds of yards away, I felt, probably quite
correctly, that soon it was bound to see or hear us. I therefore took up a position
behind a fallen tree, laid careful aim and fired.
The gun of course went off and the animal stopped feeding. It paused
for a moment pondering; then because, presumably, it had heard the bullet strike a tree on
the far side, it turned sharply and came galloping straight towards us. We crouched behind
our tree, shaking with excitement. Obviously it could not be allowed to come too near or
we might shoot each other. About ten yards away there was a patch of thick grass and as it
reached this, I fired again.
The reed-buck got the fright of its life. It leapt sideways on and
'froze' in a standing position. With shaking hands I re-loaded and jammed the rifle. I
rectified the jam and fired again, a bit lower this time. To my incredulity, the animal
still stood there, so I fired yet again. Observing no change in the scene in front of me,
I turned to Chisuwa and shouted at him, " Fire man, fire you fat-head!"
"I have already fired both barrels, Bwana", he replied.
"Then it must be dead", I said. But as it still stood there, I fired again, and
Suddenly the animal realised that it was in mortal danger, unfroze,
pricked up its ears and galloped away. I continued to fire at the moving target until it
was in the bush on the other side of the plain, when I too collapsed on the ground in
spasms of uncontrollable laughter. When I came to examine my ammunition, I appeared to
have used 15 rounds.
Even I, who took the major part in the episode, often find it
difficult to believe that it really could have happened. If the good Lord possesses a cine
camera, even the Archangel Gabriel could scarce forbear to smirk!