« PreviousContinue »
66 THE ELK, OR SAMBER DEER." and of course their weight is proportionate, that of a buck in condition being about 400 pounds when gralloched. I have killed them much heavier than this on the mountains, but I have given about the average weight.
The habits of this animal are purely nocturnal. He commences his wanderings at sunset, and retires to the forest at break of day. He is seldom found in greater numbers than two or three together, and is generally alone. When brought to bay he fights to the last, and charges man and hound indiscriminately, a choice hound killed being often the price of victory.
The country in which he is hunted is in the mountainous districts of Ceylon. Situated at an elevation of 6300 feet above the sea is Newera Ellia, the sanatorium of the island. Here I have kept a pack and hunted elk for some years, the delightful coolness of the temperature (seldom above 66° Fahr.) rendering the sport doubly enjoyable. The principal features of this country being a series of wild marshy plains, forests, torrents, mountains, and precipices, a peculiar hound is required for the sport.
A pack of thorough-bred fox hounds would never answer. They would pick up a cold scent
and open upon it before they were within a mile of their game. Roused from his morning nap, the buck would snuff the breeze, and to the distant music give an attentive ear, then shake the dew from his rough hide, and away over rocks and torrents, down the steep mountain sides, through pathless forests; and woe then to the pack of thorough-breds whose persevering notes would soon be echoed by the rocky steeps, far, far away from any chance of return, lost in the trackless jungles and ravines many miles from kennel, a prey to leopards and starvation! I have proved this by experience, having brought a pack of splendid hounds from England, only one of which survived a few months' hunting.
The hound required for elk-hunting is a cross between the fox-hound and blood-hound, of great size and courage, with as powerful a voice as possible. He should be trained to this sport from a puppy, and his natural sagacity soon teaches him not to open unless upon a hot scent, or about two hundred yards from his game; thus the elk is not disturbed until the hound is at full speed upon his scent, and he seldom gets a long start. Fifteen couple of such hounds in full cry put him
at his best pace, which is always tried to the uttermost by a couple or two of fast and pitiless lurchers who run ahead of the pack, the object being to press him at first starting, so as to blow him at the very commencement: this is easily effected, as he is full of food, and it is his nature always to take off straight up the hill when first disturbed. When blown, he strikes down hill, and makes at great speed for the largest and deepest stream; in this he turns to bay, and
tries the mettle of the finest hounds.
The great enemy to a pack is the leopard. He pounces from the branch of a tree upon a stray hound, and soon finishes him, unless of great size and courage, in which case the cowardly brute is soon beaten off. This forms another reason for the choice of large hounds.
The next sport is the "Deer Coursing." This is one of the most delightful kinds of sport in Ceylon. The game is the Axis or spotted deer, and the open plains in many parts of the low country afford splendid ground for both greyhound and horse.
The buck is about 250 lbs. live weight, of wonderful speed and great courage, armed with long and graceful antlers as sharp as needles.
He will suddenly turn to bay upon the hard ground, and charge his pursuers, and is more dangerous to the greyhounds than the elk, from his wonderful activity, and from the fact that he is coursed by only a pair of greyhounds, instead of being hunted by a pack.
Pure greyhounds of great size and courage are best adapted for this sport. They cannot afford to lose speed by a cross with slower hounds.
NEWERA ELLIA. — THE TURN-OUT FOR ELK-HUNTING.
WHERE shall I begin? This is a momentous question, when, upon glancing back upon past years, a thousand incidents jostle each other for precedence. How shall I describe them? This, again, is easier asked than answered. A journal is a dry method of description, mingling the uninteresting with the brightest moments of sport. No, I will not write a journal, it would be endless and boring. I shall begin with the present as it is, and call up the past as I think
Here, then, I am in my private sanctum, my rifles all arranged in their respective stands above the chimney-piece, the stag's horns round walls hung with horn-cases, powder-flasks, and the various weapons of the chase. Even as I write, the hounds are yelling in the kennel.
The thermometer is at 62° Fahr., and it is mid