It will come as no surprise to those who know me well, or to both of you who have read my articles, that I am an Africana junky who hopes to become an Africa-hunting junky. The latter is still in the future, but this current review reflects the former.
Chosen for ‘Peter Capstick’s Library’ series, After Big Game in Central Africa by Edouard Foà represents a classic of African hunting adventure. To quote Foà himself, this volume reflects a four-year hunting trip on which “I was thus able to devote myself wholly to my ruling passion – the pursuit of big game…”
The complete title of Foà’s work is actually a bit longer, and reflects the length of his trip both in time and space. This was not the author’s first hunting foray into the African continent.
Previous trips included four years traveling the West African Coastal region, four years traveling from the Zambezi (Zimbabwe/Zambia) to the French Congo (Republic of Congo), one year traveling south to north from the Cape region of current South Africa to Zimbabwe/Zambia, and, finally, one year spent in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
It is no wonder that Foà was asked to collect for the National Museum of France during the trip recorded in this book.
So, why did the likes of Peter Capstick choose this book as a key read for his followers? I think there might be several reasons to explain his choice.
- First, as indicated above, Foà was an incredibly well-experienced African hunter. There weren’t too many regions or habitats the author missed during his career. He hunted in true deserts, high mountains and tropical forests. He collected scores of the largest and most dangerous mammals using fair-chase with a rifle rather than snares, nets, pits etc. He also provided specimens of the smaller antelope species for the museum in Paris.
- His extensive hunting experience provided him with the knowledge to propose how another hunter of his time should outfit their own Safari – firearms, equipment, clothing (or no clothing, as chosen sometimes by Foà) and even recipes for such delicacies as Elephant’s foot. If you’re wondering, the preparation for foot-of-elephant involved allowing the flesh to ‘dry’ for two days in the equatorial sun, followed by cooking until it became gelatinous, adding onions, thyme, chili peppers and finally cooking for 20 more hours. No wonder it took Foà four years to cross Africa…
- For a gun- and history-nut like myself, one of the delights of this volume is that Foà hunted during the changeover from the enormous-bored black powder rifles to the Nitro Express calibers used for the largest game animals. So, not only did he take new-fangled .303 and .577 rifles, but he stayed with tradition and carried a double-barreled 8-bore as well. Needless to say, he was very pleased with the power and penetration of the newer innovations, but he did indeed also use his 8-bore when going up against rhinos, elephants etc.
- I wonder if the main reason Peter Capstick may have chosen After Big Game in Central Africa for his ‘Library’ was because it is incredibly well-written, yielding a marvelously exciting book. This is somewhat surprising given that it was translated from French into English. Many translations do not come across in such an easy-to-read format. Furthermore, this text was first published in 1899. The manner in which people wrote in the 19th Century could be very deliberate and thus laborious for the reader. This book suffers from neither bad translation nor unreadable syntax.
I recommend this book with no reservations. By my count, I just finished reading Foà’s After Big Game in Central Africa for the fifth time. Unless something unforeseen occurs, it will not be the last time I pull this volume from my shelf and enjoy the delights of hunting in a bygone era.
Mike Arnold writes about firearms and hunting at his blog Mike Arnold, Outdoor Writer.