SI Vault
March 28, 1955
The nabob of a princely Indian state waits out a village cattle raider and makes a classic kill
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March 28, 1955

The Maharaja Of Mysore Takes Si On A Tiger Hunt

The nabob of a princely Indian state waits out a village cattle raider and makes a classic kill

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The tiger had been living on village cattle. He was big and fat and crafty; twice he had escaped drives. Forty animals had been set out from time to time to bait him. He had devoured them all. To native trackers his pug marks were the prints of a wanted marauder, and when the tiger crossed the sand strip purposely surrounding an 80-acre forest "block" the beast was quickly detected. Word was telegraphed to the palace where the Maharaja of Mysore, a crack shot who had already bagged 102 Indian tigers, gave the order that alerted a small army of natives practiced in the art of driving a tiger toward a machan, a tree hut wherein watchful, silent hunters wait.

Later the maharaja proceeded by Rolls Royce to the forest block, accompanied by an aide and SI Photographer Ylla. Leaving the car parked incongruously in the jungle, they walked along a trail to the camouflaged machan and climbed up. Benches at the rear had been filled with relatives and guests of the maharaja on the two previous hunts, which had failed because of slight stirrings within the hut. But this day the back benches were empty. The maharaja and his aide checked their double-barreled .470 rifles and stared ahead. Silence fell upon the machan.

Now men who had been standing behind the machan to prevent premature escape of the tiger moved forward and climbed trees, fanning out in a giant V, with the machan at its apex. If the tiger approached either of these hidden lines, the "stops" would throw a stone or two to divert it toward the hunters. At the other end of the forest block dozens of beaters entered the jungle at a signal and advanced upon the tiger, which was sleeping after killing and eating part of a bait animal.

The maharaja sat like a stone, watching a dry stream bed. If the tiger did not elude the beaters by lying still and letting them pass, and if the stops succeeded in turning the animal should it stray toward them, then it could be expected to cross from 40 to 80 yards in front of the machan. It might come in great bounding leaps, exposing itself for only a few seconds. Or it might come belly to the ground, using every bit of cover. Whatever happened, the shot would have to be a quick one.

As the yelling and tree walloping of the beaters grew louder, tension began to build in the machan. Suddenly the maharaja stiffened, brought up his rifle smoothly and shot. He had seen a patch of yellow and black in the undergrowth. Said the maharaja when it was finally determined that he had shot the huge tiger through the heart, not merely wounding it (which would have jeopardized his advancing beaters): "I am so relieved."

Plan of hunt shows where the tiger was revealed by its track when it crossed the sand strip to kill a tethered bait animal and then paused to eat part of it, drank at the water hole and lay down to sleep. Noisemaking beaters, advancing in inverted-U formation, roused tiger, drove it toward the concealed guns.

The hunt starts as the beaters advance across the sand strip into the jungle block, yelling and whacking trees with their sticks. Sometimes a tiger will spring right among them and escape.

Jeweled hands of maharaja carefully load his rifle as he and his aide prepare for their silent wait in the machan. The aide will shoot only if maharaja misses (which he very rarely does).

Great paw of the jungle cat, examined by a beater, left its huge, telltale pug marks on a sand strip when it passed and thereby identified itself instantly to the local trackers.

Heavy trophy, weighing over 500 pounds (the average Indian tiger weighs only 400 pounds), is dragged into the clear by happy beaters, revealing for the first time the tiger's enormous size.

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