Guns and Elephants

Here’s the thing, yesterday I met a man who killed an elephant. Adam, my twelve year old son and I were invited to go shoot guns with our friends Jon and Dave and Hank from church. For some crazy reason, perhaps it will be fodder for a book someday, I was really excited about going. So we trekked over to Jon’s and loaded up his truck with six different rifles and a boatload of bullets and off we went to Honeybrook. (It’s near Lancaster, PA). But first we stopped at an Amish farm where I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Yoder. Then we hit the rifle range. Mr. Yoder, an eighty-three year old Amish farmer was already there shooting away—pretty amazing considering he has macular generation. What a sweet, sweet man. I would have taken his picture but the Amish frown on such things. Anyhow, after a safety first lecture, Jon got Adam and me equipped with “ears”. Headphones to block the noise because it sure is loud. Even though we were firing 22s. Relatively small bullets but Jon told me it was the bullet that killed Robert Kennedy—so there you go.

Adam shot first. He’s a natural. It was great to watch Jon instruct him and then watch Adam’s smile grow every time he had a good “grouping.” He did great. I’m very proud of him. Then it was my turn. The rifle was heavier than I thought it would be. But after I got comfortable—it’s all about center of gravity and having your butt in the right place. I loaded the rifle, sighted and fired. And guess what? I did pretty well. I always did have good hand/eye coordination. And I will admit, it was a blast.

Next they let Adam and me shoot the bigger rifles. Holy Cannoli boys and girls. The 22 didn’t really have a kick but the big gun, quite a shock to the shoulder. But it was okay. I could feel the blast in my chest also. Adam thoroughly enjoyed firing the bigger bullets also. Jon said these are guns that take down moose.

But then, this fella Dave showed up. He killed an elephant once. Apparently you only get to kill one elephant in your lifetime—regulations and it costs something like $60,000. I was fascinated with his story. He and his PH (professional hunter) tracked the elephant until they were positive Dave would have a clear shot. You don’t want to nick or miss shooting an elephant. He shot it “across the heart”. Dave said the elephant, the largest land animal, traveled a bit until he finally fell—taking a tree down with him. What happens after the poor thing drops is crazy and amazing. The Botswanian people eat elephant meat and use everything they can from it. And since you can’t exactly carry the beast out of the jungle—Dave said he was over 65 years old and weighed around 13,000 pounds—the villagers come out and butcher the thing on the spot. What a site that must be. It takes an entire village to butcher one elephant. Dave got to keep the ivory which is stamped with a unique serial number and Dave is not allowed to sell it. Now before you get upset about it (like I was at first) here’s the deal, elephant shooting is regulated by the African government. It’s necessary to thin the herd otherwise the elephants will destroy the land needed for the other animals’ habitats, not to mention the people. They only kill the old, bachelor, retired elephants who are no longer breeding.

It was a pretty neat day all around. I bet Adam will the be the only kid in the seventh grade come September to say, “I met a man who killed an elephant on my summer vacation.”

1 comment:

Tracy Krauss said...

Yikes! Not something everyone can say, that's for sure! As you said, we often only see one side of the story - the one the media wants us to see, not the fact that elephant herds might need to be managed in certain areas. Kind of reminds me of the seal hunt. There is lots of misinformation out there about that, too.