Since we’re talking about safaris, there’s a facet of this most wonderful of hunts that’s not often written about, and which I call Going In After It. GIAI happens because things don’t always go as planned out there in the bundu, and once in a while some dangerous animal will be shot badly (or shot fatally, but decide there’s still time for payback) and vanish into the woods where the PH and his trackers will have to go in and “put paid to him,” as the British phrase it.

At this point, the PH has two options. He is obliged to let you finish what you started, but at the same time he is obliged not to get you killed, and to come out of the scrape alive himself. He has been watching you the whole safari, gauging the proficiency of your shooting and gun handling and the content of your character. And now he will say either of two things:

“Well, bwana, shall we go sort him out?”, or

“Bwana, you stay here with Shemu, (or Tlaki, or Ubusuku,) and I’ll send someone back when it’s over.”

If it’s the first, you have just been paid the highest compliment you’ve ever been paid, or ever will be paid. It means that your shooting, and your guts, have been judged to be of a high enough order that a professional is willing to put part of the burden on your shoulders. A second heavy gun, and someone who will use it correctly, is a good thing to have along.

If it’s the second, take no offense. A great many hunters are not invited. Either their shooting is not up to snuff, or they’re rattled on this particular day, or they’re rattled by the whole business generally. The PH is paid to wade into the bush and kill something that is already planning his murder; he has been doing it for years, and does it all the time. Clients do not.

The first two Cape buffalo I killed went down in their tracks, and I thought I had a pretty good handle on hunting Cape buffalo. The third one, which I thought I had shot perfectly, went off on a mad gallop and we followed him for hours on what turned out to be the longest, hottest, thirstiest stalk I’ve ever made. We lost his trail finally and returned to where I’d shot him, and there he was, dead. He had circled back, knowing that we would be coming this way, planning one last charge from so close that there would be no way to kill him in time.

But time, and life, ran out on him first. If you are invited to attend the final act of an animal with that kind of courage, you have been extended a great privilege.

Appreciate it.