I was already aware of Jim Corbett's theory about man-eating cats. That the big predators normally eschew human prey unless injury or illness impacts their effectiveness at acquiring their normal quarry and take to the easier to catch human meat. But in this book he reinforces that with examples. That's fascinating of course, but more so is the hints of the extent of Corbett's woodcraft.
It's hard to convey competence afield through the written word. Even in person little important habits and cues would be missed. More so in that you can really only be stealthy alone. So even a witness, there with him at the time, wouldn't get the full effect.
Time and again the hunter is stopped by instinct. Like he could FEEL the Tiger's eyes on him without ever seeing of hearing it. And this gut instinct, this 6th sense, kept him alive. There are many quite close calls. Tigers that eat people are very dangerous. The whole book reminds me of the velociraptor scenes in the Jurassic Park movies, with the big game hunters. Except these are actual creatures, rather than CGI, and creatures that had killed hundreds in just as gruesome a manner as in the movies, and thus were much more frightening.
One section that particularly conveys well is a section where he's tracking a cat on game trails. Of course footprints or 'pug marks' are something I, and you, grok. Tigers also sharpen their claws like a housecat. I'd expect a 15 foot tall outsized upholstered sofa would last barely a week in the jungles of India. Of course, there is no furniture there back then, but tigers made do with tree branches, logs and the like. From the signs of such activity, Jim Corbette could tell:
- whether the cat was male of female
- the direction of travel
- how long since the scratches were made
- the direction and distance to its 'Headquarters'
- the nature of its kills
- whether the animal had eaten human flesh