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December 01, 2008

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Petzal: A Strange, Sad Baboon Story

In the early 1950s the African professional hunter Alexander Lake wrote about an unsettling experience he had with a troop of baboons. Lake had been shooting them for bounty (they are hell on crops and young animals, and ranchers, farmers, and PHs hate them). Lake found himself unarmed in the middle of a troop of the beasts, face to face with the Alpha baboon who, rather than leading the troop in tearing Lake to pieces, stared into his eyes with, as Lake described it, a strange yearning look.

Then Lake heard a weak squawk, and saw a mother baboon nearby, hovering near her baby, which was limp and obviously near death. It had been poisoned by a farmer. Lake had a canteen filled with strong coffee and forced some into the little beast. It puked up whatever it had eaten and began breathing regularly. The momma baboon grabbed her youngster and the troop faded back into the forest. Lake never forgot that strange, beseeching look in the Alpha baboon’s eyes, and he never shot another one.

Last summer, in South Africa, I found out first hand what Lake was writing about. We’ve all watched the eyes of shot animals as they die. One instant they are bright and seeing and in the next instant they are clouded and unfocused and the life has left them. I had never seen anything different until I shot a big male baboon and walked over to him. As he lay there, his eyes locked into mine and I saw something that might have been incomprehension or recognition or accusation or perhaps all three. I will never know.

In any event, I don’t think I will shoot another baboon, either.


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Jim in Mo

That is the 'free giveaway site'.

Duck Creek Dick

A good post, Dave, and thoughtful comments from all of you fellows. You're all welcome at my campfire any time.
Like Tom Fowler, I give thanks and do the sprig of heather thing too.


Went hunting last mon in Oh. had 3 does running full bore at me and my friend who had never deer hunted before. Up shot of it, they winded us, hit the brakes in cover where we couldn;'t see them, then bounded out to the right where we shot and missed at 40-50 yds. I was shooting sabots and w/o thinking shot over them. My friend shot right over them we think as well. Anyways, after the shots, I looked at him and he was shaking just as much as me. I've big game hunted for 30 yrs, guided for deer, bear, elk, mtn lion for 5 yrs, I'm from COLO. Anyways, we laghed and I had to take alot of ribbing from my buddies for missing because i'd have to say I'm a damn fine shot. Anyways, the day that I don't shake after shooting something or feel remorse for killing is the day I quit hunting


I have been in agreement with most of what has been said here, but I diverge when you criticize the "whooping, hollaring and butt-slapping." When dealing with death, much of our behavior could be considered coping. Regardless of the side you're standing on (hunter, hunted, watching the death of a loved one) you are coping. I celebrate when I find a killed game animal. Hand shakes and hugs are par for me, but I don't like the finger pointing at those who choose a more boisterous approach. Ease off the guys that do the Tiger fist pump. Thats just their style, goofy or arrogant as it seems. I'll still drink beer with 'em, though I don't find that behavior necessary for me.

As an aside, the grammar in this room is atrocious. I can't learn from what you have to say if I can't understand it. Take 5 seconds and check your post (this includes me). A written language is one of those things that separates us from the baboons.

Jim in Mo

Lighten up, then go to hell.

I've hunted for 63 yrs, killed all types of small game, up to large animals such as Elk. Too this day, I'm never thrilled at the sight of seeing a animal die. I never run to a animal (can't run now)that I just put down, something about seeing the last breaths taken by any game. I nevetr jump, hoop, holler as thoe TV guys are paid to do. I always give a down animal a few minutes befoe I approach and then kinda feel bad that I took his life. I fully understand the time when men hunted for the food, but now most hunt for the HORNS. My greatest pleasure in hunting is seeing the wonderful county the almighty gave us and enjoy seeing the different animals. I will an do take a nice animal when I feel he is fully grown and maybe on the down side. I've often wondered what a Cop feels when he must take another persons life and see his last struggles of life. I hope the good Lord forgives me for any life I've taken and will replenish that animal. I;ve had my success and not success anumals killed and most of the non-kills were my stupidity in not waiting on a fatal sure shot. So far, best as i can recall, I've never left a wounded animal in the woods to die a slow miserable death, as i feel animals are kinda like humans, want to live. I've had successful years and nt, but even those yeas when I ate the tag did I not have a successful year. I enjoy owning teh firearms I own, the enjoyment of preparing for a hunt and then the hunt itself. To sit atop of a Mtn in the Rockies at l2K feet, such an enjoyment to just look all around you and see what;s there to see. Afer 63 ys of hunting, I yet get the wheebies when-ever I seea animal and wonder if that animal is gonna fill my tag. My hunting days are coming to a close, when ,only God knows, but do hope he will fogive me for any wrongful death I have caused. Think again the next time you pull that trigger, do you really want to end that beautiful animal's life. I have many mounts on my Den wall,and each brings back great memories. I have space for one mount left and hopeful I can fill that space with the animal I would like, that being a Elk for the Mtns of N.C. Tnn or KY. But at 73+ few chances to draw those states or slim and almost none. I suppose my Son of 55 and I have shared more (42 ys) Son-Father time hunting than 99% of Sons and Fathers, for that I feel honored. So have fun, enjoy the outdoors and enjoy your Trophy. Before you do, shoot often and shoot straight: The old worn out GunSlinger down South. O, I made C- in spelling and typing.


Killing those primates was justified becase "they are hell on crops and young animals, and ranchers, farmers". That is good enough for me.

As a combat vet who had ordance passed towards me nightly I do respect wildlife. Having been hunted is very humbling. I beleive in killing for food and protection only, not target shooting or some contest. I beleive God gave man dominion over all creatures, but will ask for an accounting of their life blood.

In regards to the hunters having some orgasmic reaction when taking wildlife, I say get a life. I do not watch those stupid videos of those fools acting like jackasses. If that kind of stupid behavior turns me off, it must really turn of non-hunters. I worked with one of those idiots. I told him (he was not even a military veteran) to join up and participate in human hunting if he enjoyed killing that much. Needless to say the little coward walked away.


FYI, a couple of decades ago either Richard Starnes or Bob Brister authored a F&S article about why he would never shoot another elephant. It is a powerful story.

WA Mtnhunter


Well put. I grew up hunting and hunted all available days every season.

After my tour of duty in SE Asia, I just quit hunting for about 25 years. Something different about shooting at animals who can't shoot back and those that do. I still get the rush of taking a big game animal, if I lose that I'll quit. It's the real hunter who can remain steady, take the good shot, and make a clean follow up without pissing himself.

I hear you. Most of these slap happy "hunters" have never had a covey of 7.62x39 buzz their little sissy a$$es. I have never known a real ground combat vet to act in that manner or really get buck fever to the point of losing awareness of what is going on around them. I have had hunting partners that lost all composure at the appearance of an elk and could do nothing more than stumble around almost in circles.

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