Hunting Africa: Boiling out of the Bush

I see that most of the regular readers on this blog have not been to Africa, which is at the least regrettable, and at the worst in poor taste, so I’d like to clear up one of the misconceptions held by those who have not been bwana wa safari. Most African animals do not boil out of the bush. African game has had the hell shot out of it for so long that it wants nothing to do with people, and does not come boiling out of anything. There are, however, some exceptions.

Leopards come out of the bush, but they don’t boil. Instead, they come at you like a rock out of an explosion, to use Mackinlay Kantor’s wonderful phrase. Leopards are small (a big one weighs 150 pounds and most are a lot less) and blindingly quick, so in one instant you’re looking at bush and the next you have a face full of leopard breath and a set of hind claws trying to reveal what you had for breakfast.

To aggravate the problem, a good sized leopard can hide behind a potted geranium, not that you’re likely to see a potted geranium in the bundu, but you get the idea. Of the PHs I know who have come afoul of animals, I know only one who was killed (by an elephant) but five who got chewed by chui, which is Swahili for leopard.

Hippos boil out of the bush, but not to stomp you. Hippos come up on land in the evening to feed and fart, and when they’re done feeding and farting they head back for water. They feel very strongly about water, and if anything gets between them and it they will trample the obstruction. If you happen to be on a hippo trail through high grass, you had best get out of the way quickly. Hippos are prone to panic, much like the news staffs of the major networks, and you don’t want to obstruct anything that weighs 6,000 pounds, is farting for all it’s worth, and is in a state of mental turmoil.

Elephants come boiling out of the bush, which is bad enough, but when they really mean business they often get very close before they boil. How anything that weighs 6 tons can become invisible and move as quietly as a serpent when in deep bush is beyond me, but they do. So when you hear that trumpeting scream, it is likely to come from very, very close.

Buffalo don’t boil for the most part. They’re most like large leopards in that they can hide behind practically nothing and move with the quickness and agility of polo ponies. They’re not aggressive, however. You may find a bad-tempered old bull that’s looking for trouble, or a cow with a calf who is worried about lions, but usually when they catch your scent they leave immediately, and if you hunt them your memories will be of you chasing them rather than the other way around.

When carrying their rifles, PHs as a rule don’t worry about animals boiling out of the bush. They’ve spent enough time in the bush to know when trouble is brewing, and their rifles will be off their shoulders and in their hands before it comes, not when.