He was nicknamed ‘Jim’, after Jim Corbett (famous for hunting a large number of man-eating tigers and leopards), because he was the proud owner of a heavy-calibre American Remington rifle similar to the one used by Corbett. It was powerful enough to bring down a full-grown tusker with a single bullet. However, there ends the comparison.
Being my distant relative, this Jim often dropped by to regale me with his never-ending stories of exploits in the dense jungles surrounding Shivamogga district. In those days there was no restriction on game-hunting, making the jungle’s teeming wildlife available for all hunters.
This was about 60 years ago, when I too loved going on hunting sprees with him, with my 12-Bore double-barrel shot gun during summer holidays. The District Forest Officer (DFO), also interested in hunting, was a close friend.
He was pretty impressed by the narratives of our Jim’s so-called adventures in bringing down many wild animals with his much-publicised weapon. But I enjoyed his stories even more than the DFO since I knew the real facts behind them, which acquired more colour with each chota peg that he downed.
See, I accompanied him on most of those exploits. The awfully bad shot that he was, our Jim was at best successful in hitting the tails of a couple of wild beasts that we had chanced upon.
It was at this juncture that the DFO informed us about a huge leopard that was creating havoc in the nearby villages of Sirigere forest area, feeding itself on their livestock and having a special appetite for their dogs.
Jim at once jumped at this opportunity of getting a befitting trophy for his famed weapon, and we set off, fully geared toward the villages. Since all the stray dogs there had been devoured by the leopard, we managed to convince the sarpanch to spare his pet dog, Kempa, to be used as a bait.
Jim also assured the sarpanch about the dog’s safety because the leopard was destined to fall prey to his weapon.
Accompanied by the DFO and seated on an elephant’s back, we reached the spot frequented by the leopard. Strategically tying Kempa to the root of a huge Banyan tree, we perched on the machan built across its strong branches, waiting for the unsuspecting leopard. Around midnight, we sensed its presence by the restless movements of Kempa.
The experienced DFO switched on his powerful flashlight, and lo! there stood the brightly-spotted wild beauty, the giant-sized leopard, fully poised to pounce upon the scared bait. ‘Boom’ went our Jim’s rifle the next instant, the deafening report of the deadly weapon shattering the serenity of the jungle.
At this momentous juncture, we were all ears to hear the last blood-curdling roar of the leopard; but, to our horror, we heard the agonising last cry of poor Kempa who had been hit by our “master” shooter. In a flash, the leopard vanished into the safety of the thick forest, leaving us utterly dumbstruck.
That was the last time our Jim set his foot in that area, because he learnt that the sarpanch swore to break his limbs if he was ever seen there again.