SHIKAR STORIES: TROPHY MARKINGS ETCHED ON THE BUTT OF COORG GUNS
By C.P. Belliappa
While cleaning and oiling the guns in preparation for Kailpodh, the festival of arms, I noticed something interesting on the butt of one of the oldest guns in the house.
It’s a muzzle-loader, handed down over a couple of generations. Though no longer operational, it is one that is most revered. I wrote an article “My Grandfather’s Gun” based on this muzzle loader, in my book – Tale of A Tiger’s Tail & Other Yarns from Coorg.
Like all of us do, I have been cleaning guns on Kailpodh day, for many decades now. However, these interesting markings on the wooden butt of the gun escaped my notice all these years. There are two rows of vertical marks made with a knife on the butt of the gun. These cuts, I am sure, are ‘trophy markings.’
My grandfather – Muthanna ajja was an avid shikari. During his younger days he used to have his ‘gang’ and they used to disappear for days at a time on their hunting expeditions (bote). They used to camp in the forest and feast on roasted bushmeat. It was washed down with ample bolle-kall (toddy)! Grandmother used to tell us how grandfather used to bring home choice pieces after days of hunt. He would demand it cooked right away!
Coorg was historically well-known for bounteous wild game. For our ancestors, hunting used to be almost throughout the year, but the season soon after Kailpodh was the best time for shikar.
I counted the number of cuts on the gun. The two rows added up to 42! This muzzle loader has seen some serious action. It is very likely that my grandfather inherited it from his father who must have started the trophy markings.
Probably, the first row of markings are game bagged by my great-grandfather – Subedar Thimmayya. Muthanna ajja must have added the more numerous second row.
It was standard practice those days to make these marking to keep count of the big game bagged. I am sure many Kodavas have guns with these markings made by their ancestors.