This hunt took place in a very interesting area known as the Duaars, situated between the independent former Royal State of Cooch Behar to the South, and Bhutan, an independent Hill State lying between Tibet and the Northern boundary of Bengal.
The Duaars was an impenetrable jungle inhabited by every conceivable type of Indian wildlife, including the famous royal Bengal tiger, leopards and various species of deer, while also infested with malarial mosquitoes and other fierce flies and insects deterring the intrusion of mankind. It was occupied by the Mechas, an almost extinct race. Duaars is now a cultivated tea-planting area, having been developed with great hardship mainly by Scottish tea planters. The Duaars is the original habitat of the royal Bengal tiger, a very large animal with a massive head which distinguishes it from the plains-tiger of India. The only other area where the Royal Bengal tiger occurs, I am told, is in the hill tracts of Chikmagalur District in South India.
John Sinclair owned a very large tea estate in the Duaars, inherited from his ancestors who had developed it from dense virgin jungle. John was a very keen shikari (hunter) with extensive experience in hunting the large cats. On a very bright moonlit night, he was sitting up in a bamboo machaan (elevated platform) constructed over the carcass of a large sāmbar stag. John was armed with his .275 Rigby rifle, his most treasured possession given to him by his close friend, the Maharaja of Cooch Behar from his personal armoury. John had been hearing reports of a rogue elephant causing death and destruction in the district, so he also had his Rigby .450 with him. After about a two-hour wait, he heard the sounds of an animal tearing the flesh and crunching the bones of the stag carcass beneath the machaan. In the bright moonlight he identified the animal as a tiger. He nudged his shikari to pass him his well-used .275 rather than his .450.
Taking careful aim at the tiger’s chest, John fired. At the shot, he was certain that his bullet had found its mark, as the tiger somersaulted in the air and then fiercely tore up the ground before limping off into the dense undergrowth. It was now about midnight and John and the shikari deemed it wise to remain in the machaan for the rest of the night, despite attacks by swarms of mosquitoes and other insects. John managed to doze off for some time, but then awoke as he felt a sudden shaking of the tree and the machaan. Still half asleep, he thought the tiger must have climbed the tree and was tugging at the machaan. He grabbed his Rigby .450 from his sleepy-eyed shikari and peered around, but could not locate the tiger. Then, to his astonishment, through the dimming moonlight, he spotted the hind-end of a large elephant beneath the machaan. Fully alert now, John realized that the branch supporting the machaan was within easy reach of the elephant’s trunk; with little effort and just one tug, the huge tusker could bring the machaan crashing to the ground and them with it!
John’s eyes remained glued to the elephant, and the moment its head appeared, he aimed a shot through the top of its skull, which sent the great beast crashing to the ground. With utmost caution, they descended from the machaan with the shikari flashing his bright spotlight all around and John ready with his Rigby, expecting the tiger to charge them at any moment.
Read the full article in the December 2019 issue of Magnum.