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6000 words
18 pics
Submitted by-
Rob F. Sanderson
81 Scooter lane,
Hicksville, L.I.
LE 9-4523

One Gun Against the Jungle
The struggle for Jungle Survival with a Twenty Gauge Single
Rob F. Sanderson

           As the dugout prow chiseled up the swift-currented jungle river I kept a steady lookout for game. But the tropical intrigue behind the vine meshed shores and along the darkly shaded backwaters could not keep my attention from the slender gun lying across my lap. I was ever careful not to touch the barrel against my bare knees, for the brilliant mid-day sun of equatorial South America had heated the steel tube piping hot.

           I examined again this dozen-year-old weapon with the worn bluing, the flaking stock varnish, and the cylindrically mirrored bore. This gun would be more important to me than any gun I had ever before used; it was my meal ticket for six months of tropical exploration.

           Often in past years I had speculated as to just which gun I should choose as a jungle survival weapon. A .22 rifle? The ammunition is incomparably light and compact. An auto-loading shotgun? Many experts claim this arm is the most versatile and deadly of them all. A heavy rifle? Underloads can be used on small game.

           But now all this speculation same to naught. Fate has done by deciding. The country was in the turmoil of revolution, and though soldiers in the civilized area bristled with carbines and machine guns, only one gun was available to me; a single shot, 20 gauge, break open shot, almost identical with the first shotgun of my schoolboy days. I could fight the jungle with this slender weapon, or not at all. I was thankful for my early familiarity with this simple firearm, for the success of my mineral exploration was utterly dependent upon it.

           If it failed us, or if we lost it overboard in a moment of carelessness, we would be compelled to turn the prow of our dugout downstream toward the Orinoco. The entire fresh meat supply for myself and three men must come, cornucopia fashion, from its round steel maw. Without that fresh meat we could not survive long in the scurvy ridden sweatbox of the green hell ahead. My gun was therefore a survival weapon in the truest sense.

           About four that afternoon it felled its first game. A duck taking off from under the overhanging vines and trees that curtained the steep riverbank dropped dead to a load of sixes fired at medium range. The strange looking fowl floated quietly on its back, turning slowly in the swirls of current. I lifted it by the neck and looked wonderingly at the strange black, white, and peacock colorings. It was a half grown royal duck, already larger than any of our adult domestic ducks.

           Even so, it would not be too much of a meal for a quartet of hungry jungle rats. An hour before sundown when we landed to stretch our hammocks between the palms for the night, I heard a young wild turkey calling from atop a high mahogany tree and brought it thumping to the ground with a careful shot. That night as the driftwood fire flickering our giant shadows on the thick screen of the encircling jungle, we ate well on tender meat.

           My men spiritedly considered their gun and hunter proven, but I knew the two birds in the pot were the very lightest of the game we were soon to encounter. Tigres, the native jaguars, had been known to attack humans without provocation. Dreaded bushmaster snakes grew to eight feet and longer, and there were numerous related poisonous snakes, including the deadly coral. But the snake that preoccupied me most was the giant boa; American workers on the Orinoco told me of a snake that came alongside and out lengthened their seventy-two foot barge. A snake like this could strangle the giant tapir, a powerful hunk of bone and muscle heavier than our elk. All sorts of lesser exotic creatures lived, fought, and died amid the thick green fur of the jungle.

           Could a 20-gauge shotgun be counted upon to stop a tigre in close quarters? Could it possibly kill a giant boa that was capable of swallowing several tigres? And as for tapir, larger than elk - who would hunt elk with a gun so small? Would I be called upon to face any, or all, of these creatures at close range over the sights? Luckily for my piece of mind, I could not know.

           Amid such a welter of thoughts, the cries of the night birds and the roars of the howler monkeys soon faded from my ears as I fell fast asleep in my hammock, knowing that larger game would soon be forthcoming.

           For the next several days we ascended the river we passed through mixed savanna and tropical rain forest. This is the habitat of that very edible rodent, the chiguirri. These amphibious vegetarians, weighing up to a hundred pounds, left distinctive tracks in the soft riverbank sand. Four toes on the front and three on the rear feet, resembling the prints of the giant tapir whose haunts yet lay far ahead, the tracks were unmistakable.

           Early dawn is the best time to see these tailless, coarsely bristled creatures. Barely after the sky cleared on the third dawn, when we had been under way only a few minutes, I glimpsed my first chiguirri. The critter had seen us first and was in full flight down a sandbar at the water’s edge. Its rapid, urgent gait was that of a terrified domestic pig, which the chiguirri resembles without being related. Plunging into the river, it disappeared before I was within shooting range.

           Before the early yellow sun was fully risen above the green stockades of the jungled riverbank I had another chance. This animal could not see well into the sun toward us and was headed for cover at a nervous trot when I pulled the trigger. The buckshot took him broadside in the center of the pattern. The sixty-pound animal toppled over as if struck by lightning.

           The next several days I shot many chiguirri, the man salting the meat and drying it in the sun atop our cargo as we moved upstream. On land the animals fell immediately to well placed charges of buckshot. Swimming, they were another problem; buckshot patterns were not dense enough to insure a hit on the very small part of the head and nose barely protruding above the surface. The consistent effect of BB loads, which I later used exclusively on this type of shooting, was because of the uniformly dense shot distribution. If killed outright, the chiguirris sank immediately, but within a half hour they floated to the surface and were easily retrieved.

           Increasing rapids warned us we were fast climbing out of the chiguirri country into the closely jungled “monte”, or dense tropic bush. This country is the habitat of the giant tapir. These heavy bodied animals weigh up to seven hundred pounds and resemble a rhinoceros- hybrid. The head is long with a gradually curved nose. A selective diet keeps their meat sweet, red, and extremely fine flavored. Because of its great strength and natural amphibious habits, it is not easily killed.

           While we waited on luck with a tapir, our dried meat supply expired and I turned to alligators for our daily supply of food. The river was full of “baba”, small gators up to five feet long. The heavily fleshed tails were excellent eating. When we spotted a fat specimen sunning on the shore we cruised upstream a discreet distance, cut the motor gradually, and floated down close along the shore hoping for a close-in surprise shot. Usually I was rewarded.

           Because of the many stories concerning alligator indestructibility, I first tried head shots with solid slugs. However the boat was always moving unsteadily in the current, the miners sitting behind me of ten shifted their weight during the critical moment of aim, and impulsive winds nudged the bow.

           Soon I despaired of accurate shooting with slugs and switched to the ever-practical buckshot. The ranges were often thirty feet or less. Few ‘gators reached the water after being well clobbered about the head with a well-placed pattern of buckshot. At night, when shots at very short distances were common, sometimes the creatures would start to roll in the water when shot and keeping rolling on the surface until we could snare them with a line and pull them in.

           For buckshot as well as slugs I standardized on an open board skeet tube. Experiments with the variable choke fitted to my gun showed that the closer chokes threw a wider pattern with coarse shot than did the open tubes. At thirty yards a skeet tube gave me a dandy pattern with medium buckshot. Most shooting was a lesser distance.

           Fine shot was fading out of the picture. I finished off the last of my one box of sixes on teal, which I found in fair numbers on some of the lagoons. I was glad to be rid of the sixes; several times when chambered with them I encountered animals too large for even an attempt shot. By losing such game, the small shot cost me more game by far than it brought in. However, loaded in one barrel of a double, fine shot does have its uses on medium birds and small game. With single barrel, though, I noticed that native hunters seldom loaded with anything finer than the smallest buckshot.

           By the end of three weeks I had killed close to a hundred specimens of various tropical game and was thoroughly accustomed to consider myself as the hunter and all the dwellers of the jungle as the hunted. The only reason I still carried my gun with me at all times was because of the constant unpredictable danger from poisonous snakes. Perhaps I owe my life to those reptiles who inspired me to carry my gun at all times.

           Our exploration work was proceeding satisfactorily; my small party was covering a large area as efficiently as time and conditions permitted. We made frequent side excursions up tributaries, and surveys into the intermediate watersheds when the undergrowth was not prohibitively thick. Sometimes when my men returned to camp by canoe in the late afternoon, I would seek my way back afoot with my gun and machete. An outcrop or other valuable mineralogical indication may appear any time or place and I determined to cover as much ground as possible

           Returning to camp in such a manner about four o’ clock one afternoon, I angled unexpectedly onto a jungle game trail. Its direction was within forty-five degrees of the straight route to camp and I decided to follow it. Soon I noticed that the track of a tapir had cut into the trail. As a precaution in chance I encountered the heavy beast, I changed my load from buckshot to solid ball, which turned out to be a very provident change. I had already shot a plump turkey, which hung at my belt, and did not mind if the lack of a shot load in the chamber deprived me of another.

           After silently trailing the fresh tapir track for twenty minutes or more, I felt the call of nature. Hanging my cotton jacket and straw hat on a tree stub along the trail, I meandered into the jungle in search of a fallen log seat and the soft variety of leaf I was accustomed to using. Settled noiselessly on the log, shotgun across my lap, I waited alertly; I shot game before from such a position.

           Barely had a minute ticked by then I was startled by a movement down the trail in the directions I had come from. In the dull evening light of the jungle floor I saw the movement again. Between the foliage I saw a huge spotted cat - a tigre!

           From where I sat he seemed taller than I. His head and neck were level with his back, his tail outstretched, twitching at the end. By short, even advances, with slight waits between, he stalked the scarecrow I had accidentally made with my jacket and hat. Now, as he paused again, without stirring from my position I raised my gun and eased off the safety.

           The tigre seemed to sense something amiss; perhaps wind eddying to him from my side had brought human scent to his acute nose. He sniffed the air currents apprehensively. Any moment he might turn my way and see me. Steadying my sights across his heart as best I could from my awkward position, I held my breath and pulled the trigger. My lucky slug load boomed muffled among the thick vegetation.

           The great cat leaped high into the air. He rolled as he fell, regained his feet, and plunged down the trail toward my coat and hat while I watched spellbound. I was too surprised to recollect whether he lunged at the impeding scarecrow - at any rate my coat went with him down the trail a few feet with his lithe, spasmodic leaps. Increasing them to bounds of great agony, he disappeared down the trail.

           Reloading, I prepared myself and followed cautiously. As I stalked silently forward I collected my hat and a few feet further bent to pick up my jacket. As I leaned over I saw a splotch of blood the size of a catsup slurp. My slug had passed just above the heart, severing a great artery. With each leap the gaping would spurt a half-cup of blood. About fifty meters down the trail I found the beautifully spotted carcass, slumped dead at the end of his last bound.

           Was this stealthy killer of the jungle hunting me? Or did he follow me out of curiosity? I will never know. Perhaps he followed me for the smell of the blood of the wild turkey I was taking back to camp. Whatever the reasons, he certainly didn’t look very impressed when he saw the scarecrow of my coat and hat ahead in the trail.

           In the fading light of late afternoon I made my way among the heavy jungle growth to camp, cautiously examining all shadows and strange shapes since tigres commonly travel in pairs. During the thoughtful half hour of this walk I formulated my rule of never, NEVER run around in the remote jungle alone without both gun and machete.

           Because of this simple rule of life insurance, it is highly advisable to have a short gun equipped with swivels and a carrying sling. With such convenience for portability, the temptation to leave it in camp is less. And believe me, at the time of leaving camp in the morning, you will never have the remotest idea whether or not you will need that gun before dark.

           The most frequently daily pot game was one of the several species of large wild birds in the turkey class. Heavily rounded with flavorsome dark meat, they weigh between five and fifteen pounds, depending upon age and species. They are easily and quickly cooked, either broiled or in the native style stew. The meat is popular because, being just enough for a good meal, jungle travelers never know it as dried or salted meat, as is inevitable with larger game.

           Number two shot seemed a properly effective pellet for these birds, although small buckshot seemed to work well on the largest sized varieties. As it is impossible to forecast what species of game will next be seen, and number two shot is notedly light for game of any larger size, the hunter without a double barreled gun chambered in one tube with heavy buckshot, runs strong risk of losing heavier game. I hit upon a makeshift solution to this problem; loading a single shell with a combination of shot. My standard load “blend” was nine number three buckshot and a half ounce of number two or BB shot. This load had enough pellets to catch small game solidly in pattern, and enough heavy gravel for medium game. I killed wild pig and deer with this mixture, but would flinch at using it for larger game. For its purpose, it was satisfactory at modest ranges, and on one occasion may have saved my life.

           Bird hunting is normally done in the “little morning” or the “little afternoon”, the time of day when light is weakest and the creatures least wild. When they are calling from tall trees, a careful hunter can approach underneath them and maneuver for a shot. So tall are the trees and so thick the foliage that I have spent over fifteen minutes below a bird without being able to see it. Finally the light became so weak I knew the bird had take a roost for the night; I came back at dawn and succeeded in shooting it then.

           One afternoon very late I was returning to camp with one of my men after a successful hunt; I had shot a large turkey as it flushed from the bushes and another one later from a tall tree. We were walking rapidly down an old game trail in order to reach camp before sundown. Since I was carrying the gun, the machete was the tool of my companion, and he walked first to clear the trail where it was locally closed by a fallen limb or simple encroachment of undergrowth. We were passing over a low rocky hill outcropped by quartzite boulders when suddenly my companion sprang backward like a kangaroo in reverse. He bumped me, my foot caught among the spaghetti-like roots that crossed the trail, and I fell over backwards.

           “Snake!” he screamed. “Snake! Snake!”

           Fortunately I hung onto my gun; unfortunately I could not see the reptile, which lurked in the dim light around me. My first instinct was not to move until I located my unseen enemy. So for the moment I merely shifted slightly to be in shooting position. My companion now calmed slightly and sensed my position.

           “Above you and ahead to the left, Senor!” he cautioned me from a comfortable distance arrears. “On the large rock. He’s big! And bad!”

           Gradually my eyes became accustomed to the weak light and what had appeared to be a giant root contorted on the high boulder, plainly appeared to be the snake. He was less than his length away from me and could have struck down at me easily. I sighted down, or rather up, the barrel at my challenger.

           The large brass bead wobbled uncertainly as I tried to align the bore truly from my awkward position. I drew in and held my breath several times, having to breathe again before I could fire with certainty. The time seemed like minutes. My one shot must go true. At last I fired.

           At the report the reptile tumbled off the rock onto the trail and I felt the spasm of the lashing coils about my feet. My hair stiffened to steel wires as I bounded to my feet, tripped again amid the roots and was hauled backwards by the man who had knocked me down earlier.

           The movement ceased. Cutting a pole with a machete, my helper prodded the inert coils while I covered with the gun. It was dead. The head was almost shot off at the neck. I examined the mouth; the fangs were half as long as a cigarette. The snake itself was twice and a half my gun length.

           “Es grande,” I said.

           “Si, senor. But there are great snakes in the jungle. To them, this is but a worm.”

           Well, Pancho, I thought to myself, the way you jumped back and knocked me over when you saw it, it must have looked like a pretty big worm.

           The seventh week, we capsized our canoe. It was all done very simply and on a small river; we knew we were over loaded and took no chances on larger water.

           We had ascended the river in the course of prospecting the country. It was a pleasant trip; mineralogical indications were favorable, the climate was dry and rainless, fish were abundant, and I had shot a small deer the day before. Everyone was in good spirits, and particularly so because the swift rapids we had lined and poled coming up, could be quickly and easily shot on the descent.

           In one of these rapids, less perilous than dozens of others, we were descending swiftly in no more than three feet of water. The current in the wink of an eye grounded us sidewise on an underwater rock. The tipped canoe leaned into the current, pivoted on the rock, and water poured over my gunwale in the prow. The man in the stern jumped out to lighten the load, but raising the stern merely lowered the bow and the craft capsized two seconds later.

           The water was only up to my waist but the swift current overpowered me instantly and swept me downstream into water over my head. Part of our cargo floated with me, part sunk to be carried along the swift bottom current. At the next bend the river shallowed and we dragged ashore all the floating remnants of our cargo. On shore we built large fires of driftwood to dry our supplies; we poured our wet rice into the fine diamond screens and the wet beans into the coarse diamond screens, and dried them as best we could. Many of our supplies were lost or irretrievably damaged.

           The accident occurred near evening and we waited until the next day to recover the heavier items, which included our mining tools, utensils, my shotgun and ammunition, and my shoulder camera bag with my Leica, Zeiss Ikonta, and all my film. The photographic recordation of the expedition was at an end.

           What interested me most was my ammunition - the gun would dry quickly. I had only fifteen rounds of ammunition in my cartridge belt, which I was wearing at the time of the accident. The others were underwater for sixteen hours before recovery, and moisture had seeped through the wadding and cases. Already they were badly swollen, so that many of them would not even chamber in the gun. My only chance to keep them usable was to unload and dry each shell. This I did and many of them shrank back to their original proportions. Some did not, but I kept them all in the hope of re-using the primers even in the shells that were no longer usable.

           Fortunately I had taken with me a set of field reloading tools and two flasks of black powder, primers, and shot, on the advice of a fellow explorer. These tools proved invaluable and soon I was able to prepare a first class, effective load. Remembering my previous experiences, I loaded only a dozen shells at one time. Another dozen I kept half loaded, with powder and wad only. Thus at a moment’s notice I could put in whatever shot I needed and crimp the end tightly. All my other shells I carried as empties so that a wetting would not swell the powder and wadding, and expand the shell cases to out-size. Every precaution was needed, as at the rate I was shooting my supply would do well to last the duration of the expedition. Particularly after the loss of a quantity of shells in the capsizing, which would not re-size when dried.

           I did not let my men know it, but I was worried. Meanwhile, with part of our staple provisions spoiled by moisture, they expected me to do more hunting than ever. I encouraged fishing as much as possible.

           The king of jungle game animals is the giant tapir. This powerfully muscled, heavily bodied creature is the largest and the best eating of all tropical American game

           By not having a double barrel gun I lost the first tapir I saw. The huge animal was standing up to its neck in water when we rounded the bend of a small jungle river. My gun was chambered with a combination load of buck and fine shot, obviously not the remedy for this huge hunk of meat. As I broke the action to replace the shell with a solid slug load, the click of the action alarmed the poised creature to instant flight. He broke out of water with the speed of a fire truck and disappeared into the thick jungle before I could close the breech and shoot.

           My next tapir I caught swimming in the river. It would swim for thirty or forty yards under water, then surface, and submerge again. The current was swift; my paddlers rocked the boat excitedly. Buckshot was the only logical load; I fired 00 buckshot broadside at fifty feet. It was a true hit. Blood spouted from the tapir’s nose and head as he lurched high into the air and sank with the finality of the Squalus.

           As the bloody bubbles surfaced and broke, I wilted inside. Was this creature to be also lost, to the river instead of to the jungle? I knew that, like the chiguirri, the animal would sooner or later gas and float, but in that current it was hard to tell where. It was mid-morning. About one o’clock we recovered the animal from a currentless hole at a bend of the river about two hundred yards downstream.

           It was on these smaller rivers I had the best hunting. The best hunting of all was yet nearer to the headwaters. Animals of all sorts prefer the smaller rivers and canoes. On one of these tributaries I had my closest brush with a tapir.

           For the past several hours of travel we had seen fresh tracks along the soft banks. After our party had slung hammocks for the night I took one man upstream with me on an evening hunt. We paddled cautiously up the current by fading daylight, rested a half hour, and returned by night. On the down trip I shot a good-sized ‘gator at point blank range under the light of pitch torch in the bow.

           At camp I hung my ever-loaded shotgun from the loops provided on the underside of my jungle hammock, and flopped into my canvas bunk for the night. Alongside me the campfire still hissed and flickered lowly as I dozed off. I was not asleep long.

           A crackling in the nearby jungle startled me to full awakeness. Some large animal was moving in very close, hidden by the jungle and the night. I could follow his progress by the noise of sticks and brush snapping at intervals of seconds. I unzipped the mosquito net and reached below me for my gun.

           With my left hand I grasped my flashlight and flicked on the feeble beam from batteries weakened by time and dampness. Through a tunnel in the green undergrowth my light caught the fiery glow of a large single eye. I leveled the gun, holding the light along the forearm, and fired one of my few remaining factory loads. At the report, pandemonium broke loose in the jungle not twenty feet away. My startled men floundered from their hammocks and took to the trees.

           I reloaded with a slug and worked cautiously forward. Ahead through the leafy screen of the jungle I could see the giant body of a large tapir threshing about, trying to rub off the pain of my first shot. Not trusting to a headshot in the poor light, I waited several seconds for an opening into the chest and pulled the trigger on the rifled slug. The tapir gave a tremendous lurch in my direction and staggered crashingly ahead through the jungle. I leaped quickly to one side, as he passed not ten feet from me.

           Straight on he staggered, crashing through cover and the jungle hammock I had just abandoned, crushing everything to the ground as he fell first to one side, then to the other. The next shell I fumbled from my pocket proved to be one of my BB-&buckshot mixes, but fired into the ear at close range, it did the job. At my feet, lying on the tip of my broken hammock rope, lay a third of a ton of fresh meat. I called my men from their perches and we worked all night and into the next day cutting the meat into broad strips for salting, smoking, and curing in the sun.

           By now we were a typical tropical subsistence party. Meat and fish provided two thirds of our food. Edible jungle growth and a small remnant of our original provisions provided the balance. We were long tired of meat for our diet and would have welcomed a meatless meal of rice, beans, and minder’s bread; but we had not these provisions to spare. Toward the end our civilized provisions almost ran out entirely. Our fresh vegetable food came from anywhere we could get it, ripe or unripe, and whenever the opportunity allowed we took our machetes and cut down a special type of palm to eat the heart out of the top.

           Our clothes were ventilated by long rents. Very few of us had a hat left, and instead used any sort of rag tied around our foreheads to keep the hair and sweat out of our faces. Cooking utensils became lost or worn out and we substituted cans with wire bails, until finally we had no more wire and then we put holes through opposite sides of the top and ran a hard green stick through to use for a handle.

           What worried me most, however, was the ammunition supply. A given shotgun shell will take four loadings, perhaps five, if humored and not loaded too heavily. Now practically all my shells were so frowzy at the end that the paper would not hold a crimp. How I longed for a box or two of indestructible brass shells! My present problem was how to keep shot from running out of the shell when the gun muzzle was pointed down. Eventually I solved this by cutting a ramrod from a straight sapling. I put the shell in with the muzzle pointed up, then rammed down a wad of loose paper, rag, or leaves until the load would stay in place.

           As a precaution against needless depletion of my ammunition, I concentrated on the larger animals. Deer were a continued favorite, as always. These jungle deer were apparently a small species of whitetail. Ordinarily they were fat for their size, weighing about seventy pounds. The meat was excellent fresh and kept well jerked or smoked. I found buckshot to be very effective; if I could hit the forequarters of deer with three or four buck pellets, I had him

           At last I was down to the misshapen shells I had saved from the ducking at the ill-fated rapids. Their middles were so fat already that only the powder could be put in the chamber. The shot had to be poured down the barrel, and an overshot waddling pounded into place with the ramrod. To all effects it was like shooting a muzzleloader

           Reloading was a slow affair. I had to carry a stack of shot, a shot measure, ample wadding, and a ramrod. Since reloading was so tedious, and to change a load once in the chamber was a very involved operation, I stopped using smaller shot altogether. If the time ever came when I ran out of buckshot, I would make solid slugs by cementing the fine shot together with candle wax. My one fear was that I would encounter a dangerous animal or snake and not be able to reload quickly enough if my first shot missed or failed. If I ever needed a double barrel it was now! Somehow I sensed that the jungle had not finished with me, and that all until now was merely to wear me down

           It happened late of a rainy afternoon, not long before we finished our work and began the trip back to civilization. Myself and two men, wet and hungry, paddled up a small creek on the lookout for the game. Our canoe was very long and awkward to swing around the tight ends of the meandering creek. We had just negotiated a very short bend and the prow of the canoe swung around into the short elbow of yet another bend.

           Directly ahead of me on the crook of the shore lay a huge pile of glistening coils. They were so massive they made a water main look like number three thin spaghetti. From the center a head the size of a melon raised like a demon-eyed periscope and leaned toward me. My paddlers were transfixed, as though hypnotized by those evil eyes.

           They did nothing to alter or reverse the course of the canoe. With every second I glided closer to the great serpent that eyed me so malevolently. It was too late for me to reach back for a paddle. My gun was in my hands and instinctively I know it was my only out. The shell in the chamber was one of my muzzle-loaded specials. I hoped it would not let me down; recently some of my primers had become wet and misfired occasionally.

           “One shot!” I repeated to myself deliberately, to steady my sighting. “One shot!” I would have traded anything I owned for a sound double barrel with good sights.

           Over the aligned gun barrel I could see the great coils glide in a confusion of opposite directions as the reptile readied his position with cold precision. I aimed carefully. He was so large it did not seem I could miss. One thing was in my favor; my petrified paddlers were not making a single move that would rock the boat.

           It seemed I had been holding my breath for minutes. Then the front sight steadied momentarily on the great globe of a head. I squeezed off the ounce of lead that would settle my fate. The shot went true.

           The huge coils shuddered, contracted, and pulsated. I had plastered the head to a pulp but the long neck swayed spastically for several seconds before it collapsed into the coils. After several minutes of watchfulness, I gathered courage to whack the fallen serpent with a paddle. It did not move. By now I was reloaded, and with my muzzleloader cocked and ready I stepped gingerly ashore and tried to lift the tail. It was too heavy.

           The monstrous coils lay motionless at my feet. The back was so thick that where it lay flat I could walk upon it without trouble balancing. All this nonsense about a snake not dying until sunset, I thought, and he pushed off the canoe for hunting further up the stream. It was wet and uncomfortable in the boat and I was ready to settle for small game. When I had shot a gruya, a beautiful turkey-sized bird with delicate hair feathers and the iridescence of a peacock, we returned

           The giant serpent had disappeared without a trace! As we paddled back to camp in the ominous drizzle, no one spoke. It was a day we were glad to have over.

           After six months of scatter gunning survival in the jungle, I returned well satisfied with the shotgun as a survival weapon. For conditions where light is weak and tricky, such as dawn on the jungle bottom, for shooting from a moving canoe, or at night, sometimes at moving game, the rifle would never do as well. And the shotgun has the inestimable advantage of easy and effective reloading with a minimum of field tools. With a good supply of small shot, buckshot, and slugs, the field reloader has no trouble maintaining a versatile ammunition supply suitable for any sort of game

           My choice for my next rip is a sixteen gauge double. Any other sort of repeater has too many interior parts to rust and malfunction, and lacks the selectivity of a different load in each barrel. The twelve gauge packs more load, it’s true; but the sixteen is definitely the “thutty-thutty” of the tropics. At many forlorn jungle-trading outposts, sixteens are the only fodder on the shelf.

           I would have my gun fitted with sights and a sling for carrying. Barrels are best open bored for slug and coarse shot, twenty-six inches if you prefer smokeless powder and thirty inches if you plan to take full advantage of black powder. Black powder is often preferred in the tropics because it is resistant to heat and moisture, uncritical of measure, and will not blow up ancient chambers. For these reasons it is often the only powder available

           The stock and forearm should be thoroughly treated with oil to prevent moisture swelling and warping these parts. A screwdriver capable of reaching into the stock hole and adjusting the pressure of the stock bolt on the receiver shank is an essential. My own stock split down the middle of the neck for lack of such a tool.

           Of course, if double barrel were not around, and I had the whole thing to do again, even knowing what I do now, I’d still make the trip with a reliable little single. The old fashioned break-open, breechloader will do the job - it kept four of us alive for six months.

           Finally for those who want their marksmanship improved, the single shot has at times an effect that is positively inspirational. With a little assistance from a hungry stomach or a pair of snake eyes, the most casual shooter can become surprisingly gifted.

           Provided he survives, this is. For a lower rate of life insurance, take a gun with two tubes. Over a period of time it is bound to make the difference once. And you will never know when in advance. That’s the way of the jungle.

© 2003 Chronicles of Bob