Being charged by a dangerous wild animal – wounded or not – needn’t end in tra- gedy. To survive, the hunter needs to learn certain skills, use the right equipment, know about animal behaviour and have the right mind-set. While any wounded or threatened animal can be dangerous, the context of this article concerns those generally described as ‘dangerous game’ i.e. the ‘Big Four’ plus hippo. Black rhino are pretty much out of the picture now, and white rhino seldom pose a danger.
During my decades of hunting dangerous game professionally, I learned that animals are generally reluctant to attack humans (habitual man-eaters aside, of course). When they do so, it is usually because they have been wounded or injured – recently or earlier – or repeatedly approached or harassed. It is also a fact that if you show fear, the animal is more likely to display aggression. Occasionally, animals charge for no apparent reason, but fortunately such incidents are rare.
In my experience, the unwounded animals most likely to attack are elephant cows with small calves, lionesses with cubs and buffalo cows with new-born calves. This is a natural reaction to protect their young.
I found that a freshly-wounded animal is more inclined to turn tail and run. One that is repeatedly pursued and approached will likely charge, presenting a potentially very dangerous situation, as the hunter often cannot tell where the animal is waiting in ambush, nor can uninvolved locals traversing the area know that a wounded animal is lurking.
In my opinion, all else being equal, the lion is the most dangerous because he can hide in short grass, is immensely strong and fast, and is easily capable of killing a puny human. A lion normally gives some warning by growling and thrashing its tail before the charge, but mostly it’s so fast it allows you only one shot. Were it the same size, a leopard would be more dangerous than a lion, because it waits until you are very close, often gives no warning, and is extremely fast. However, people attacked by leopard, or even lion, usually survive if within reasonable reach of professional medical care, because the big cats are inclined to maul humans fiercely but briefly before abandoning the attack.
Many hunters fear the buffalo most, but I don’t agree that he’s the deadliest. Buffalo are huge animals and cannot hide as well as the cats, nor are they as fast. They usually give you time for a couple of shots – unless in long, thick grass or reed-beds. However, once charging, a buffalo seldom deviates, particularly if close, and you must put it down or it will get you. They are very tenacious, and when wounded and angry, are extremely determined, but if you shoot them in the right place, they die like any other big animal.
Read the full article in the September 2018 issue of Magnum.