Dean Owen

5 years ago · 2 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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The Day I Shot a Tiger

The Day I Shot a Tiger

An ethereal calm was broken by the dulcet tone of clapper against brass and a whisper

“Wakey wakey, the Tigers are waiting”

All around the camp a sense of trepidation as the dawning sun ushered in a new day. A heavenly orange glow began to permeate our white canvas tents.

No time for a shower, we scrambled to into our designer khakis and waited for the Indian man in the crisp white Sherwani. A steaming pot of coffee requested the night before had already been delivered to the writing desk outside along with a much-welcomed basket of pastries.

The Day I Shot a Tiger

We reflected on the last couple of days. It was hardly a disappointment. We came to hunt the elusive Royal Bengal tiger, but hope and optimism gave way to awe and wonderment as Ranthambore delighted us with a plethora of wildlife to shoot. No tigers, but there was so much more.

Through the white cotton drapes we could see the man approach us across dewy grass, bell in hand.

“Wakey Wakey, the Tigers are waiting”

At the camp entrance, two beefy open-top jeeps awaited us. The familiar smiling face of our tracker brought a new level of optimism.


Machali, the tigress queen, had been spotted by another group near the Raj Bagh ruins down by the lake the day before. She would be a magnificent prize.

The Day I Shot a Tiger

“Good morning Mr. Owen! Are you ready to shoot a tiger?”

We were ready. We’d been planning this for months. And he was the best tracker on the reserve. He could sniff a tiger trail with his eyes closed. When Bill Clinton visited the park, pressure was on for him to deliver a sighting, and he delivered in spades.

After a quick gear check we headed off. First stop would be the Padam Talao lake to pick up the scent of the mighty Machali. She would make a great trophy to hang above my office desk back home in Tokyo.


As we neared the lake edge, we could see Sambar deer grazing lazily amongst the marshes. On the far side, the majestic Raj Bagh ruins huddled in the jungle at water’s edge. Pictured in my mind, a hungry tiger emerges from the ruins, then as it splashes into the water giving chase, the Sambar disperse in chaotic panic leaving the mighty beast to take stock and wait for the next opportunity. Not today.

We waited silently, breathless at the serenity of the lake.

“Sambar alert!” whispered our tracker.

“Sambar alert!”

The deer were visibly tense, ears pricked up, tails cocked. A tiger was close by, it had to be…

Ranthambore is home to a large variety of animals including sloth bears, leopards, macaques and striped hyenas. Sambar deer live in fear here, and we were about to witness Sunday lunch, or perhaps not….

With no luck, about an hour later our tracker suggested we move on. As we headed into the jungle, his eyes scoured the ground for prints, excretions, broken branches. There was a lot of land to cover, and we knew our chances were slim. Tigers are solitary creatures – one tiger needs about 8 square miles of breathing space.

Then it happened.

Emerging from the jungle barely 10 meters ahead of us, she emerged. Calmly she lied on the track and stared right at us. Almost paralysed with excitement I managed to raise my arm and prepare to shoot. She was oblivious, relaxed, and unperturbed by the dark green mechanical monsters on the path before her.

My hands were calm, but I was shaking inside. I would never get an opportunity like this. It could all be over in less than a minute. I squeezed my finger and rattled of a quick burst of fire.

She yawned.

We gasped as she rose off the ground and walked toward us.

“Keep calm” said the tracker.

She gently rubbed her massive torso against our jeep like a cat at your feet, and then proceeded past us and off into the jungle. Making her mark by unleashing a spray of urine on a nearby tree, she stood on her hind legs with front claws on bark, and she proceeded to pose on two feet as I rattled off shot after shot.

She was Marilyn Monroe, and I, a star struck Phil Stern.

We followed her for about 30 minutes and then parted ways, forever grateful and honoured to have been courted by her presence. I got my shots.

The Day I Shot a Tiger

I think about her almost everyday as I look up from my computer and see her face on my wall. She constantly reminds me that our place as the dominant species is not a right, but a privilege that we must not abuse.

With the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day fast approaching, we will once again be made aware of the damage we, as a species, are causing. But we mustn’t just stop for Earth Day. Critically endangered species are really critically endangered.

To name a few:

Amur Leopard – 60+

Black Rhino – 5,000+

Javan Rhinos – 60

Cross River Gorilla – less than 300

Sumatran elephant – 2,400-2,800

Sumatran Orangutan – 7,300

(Source: WWF)

Fortunately there is hope. Just last week, the World Wildlife Fund announced an increase in the number of wild tigers for the first time in 100 years. In the early 20th Century, there were estimated close to 100,000 tigers, but as of 2010 the number had shrunk to a critical 3,200. That number has recovered to nearly 4,000.

Thanks to conservation efforts sanctioned by the Indian government, sanctuaries like Ranthambore National Park in Eastern Rajasthan have proved vital to the effort. The park covers an area of over 1,300 sq km and currently is home to close to 60 tigers.


Dean Owen is a Co-Founder of Quimojo, a revolutionary new concept in Global Campus Recruitment


The Day I Shot a Tiger


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Comments

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #28

#34
Yes, it was probably more than 40 years ago. And yes, thankfully policies and attitudes have changed since then, demonstrating that not all change is necessarily for the worse. Cheers!

Dean Owen

5 years ago #27

#33
I'm speechless... That must have been some time ago as it would be extremely difficult, near impossible, for a foreigner to get a hold of a gun and go hunting in Tibet now and if he tried that again, he'd likely end up rotting in a Chinese prison cell. In China now, for example in Carrefour (the French supermarket), you need an ID to even purchase a kitchen knife.

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #26

Dean Owen, someone pretty close to me had an uncle who styled himself a big game hunter. One time he received word that some species of Tibetan mountain goat was scheduled to go on the endangered list in a few days. He dropped everything, hopped a plane, and went to Tibet to shoot one before the deadline. Added the head and horns to his trophy room. What a guy! Made one truly hope that Karma is real.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #25

#31
Thanks Jim, I keep thinking back to the shots of the Trump sons posing with dead elephants and leopards they trophy hunted. Now if they hunted with spears, or better still, their bare hands, perhaps they would deserve a little respect, but as is, and with their father supporting their endeavours, these two prats are just pompous ignorant brats who deserve a kicking in the butt by mother nature (perhaps getting struck by lightning would do the trick).

Jim Murray

5 years ago #24

Great piece Dean. I heard a factoid yesterday that there are now more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild. I keep thinking about how we, meaning mostly despicable humans, feel the need to kill these magnificent animal. It doesn't really prove anything about their manhood, but many of them think it does. All it does is diminish the natural world, which is something we should all be caring about not trying to decimate.

Mamen 🐝 Delgado

5 years ago #23

#27
Hmmm... Older by the skin of a tooth! I was born the 4th day of next year than yours. So we may say, oficcially, you are my older brother. Yeppiiieeee!!!! ;)

Dean Owen

5 years ago #22

#28
Thank you Don Kerr, but this one was easy, I just recounted it exactly as it happened, even the "Wakey wakey, the tigers are waiting!"

don kerr

5 years ago #21

Dean Owen I am green with envy not only due to your experience but also in your impressive talent weaving this wonderful vignette. Thank you sir.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #20

#26
I am the same age as Benecio del Toro and Julia Roberts if that helps! No need to say if you are above or below! :)

Mamen 🐝 Delgado

5 years ago #19

#23
I like the idea!! When I was a little girl I always asked The Three Wise Men for an older brother, so here you are!! Supposing you are older than me!!! Hahahaha... 😂

Mamen 🐝 Delgado

5 years ago #18

#21
Wow Kevin Pashuk!! Wonderful pic!! 👏

Dean Owen

5 years ago #17

#21
Pretty impressive couple of picks Kevin Pashuk. I dare you to get the same pics in SA!

Dean Owen

5 years ago #16

#18
You are so lucky Mamen! Yes, do find them when you can, and scan them and make a buzz :) ? You are my sister from another mother (and father!). Like minded in every aspect!

Gert Scholtz

5 years ago #15

Kevin Pashuk Many pics indeed and many more not taken in the heat of some close encounters!

Kevin Pashuk

5 years ago #14

#19
Here's one of a white rhino in the Toronto zoo... It shows you how close I can get without disturbing the animal or nominating myself for a 'Darwin Award'. www.flickr.com/photos/kwpashuk/26813741175

Dean Owen

5 years ago #13

#17
You must have a treasure trove of amazing safari pics Gert Scholtz! (or is it a case of I'm a Londoner but have never visited the Tower of London like me!?)

Dean Owen

5 years ago #12

#16
You mean I have to wait over a year for that buzz Kevin Pashuk. I'm sure it is going to be worth the wait. Shoot that Black Rhino! There are just over 5000 left, and we need to educate ignorant sons of Republican Presidential candidates!

Mamen 🐝 Delgado

5 years ago #11

#15
I have some very nice shots of a rhino at Welhevonden Nature Reserve, in South Africa, few years ago, for New Year Eve. I'll try to find them, they are not on my actual laptop. I can feel the connection with wild animals as clear as I feel life in my veins...

Gert Scholtz

5 years ago #10

Dean Owen Kevin - your son is making an excellent choice! Dean - a beBee trip to SA (with a few Black Rhino's chasing us) - now that sounds like a real buzz! Jokes aside - would love to meet up with you in SA. Beautiful photo of this majestic animal Dean. Enjoyed reading!

Kevin Pashuk

5 years ago #9

#15
Funny you should say that... My wife and I have a photo-safari booked for late 2017 to South Africa. I bought a 150-600mm lens just for this trip and have been out practicing on the local wildlife and the Toronto Zoo. SA has been on our bucket list for some time now, and it's particularly meaningful because we are marrying off our youngest to a SA girl next month. Perhaps we will run into Gert Scholtz when we are over there. A beBee photo expedition would be a great idea... real or virtually. I know Matt Sweetwood has a penchant for photography and already hosts an active hive.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #8

#13
Wouldn't it be great to do a Bee expedition one day, perhaps in Gert Scholtz's neck of the woods, the Black Rhino perhaps?

Dean Owen

5 years ago #7

#12
Thanks Mamen. One of my favourite posts for sure.

Kevin Pashuk

5 years ago #6

Great story, and great shot Dean Owen. I also shoot things to preserve them... That's why a camera is so much better than a gun. To get a great photo it takes the same (if not more) skill than a hunter with a gun. The big difference is that the same tiger is there for someone else to photograph.

Mamen 🐝 Delgado

5 years ago #5

Impressive... No more words by the moment... 💫

Dean Owen

5 years ago #4

#10
Thanks @Zach Thorn. I had no idea of the plight of the Mexican grey wolf, but am hardly surprised. Would love to see your post on the subject, and the challenges/resistance being encountered. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #3

I totally agree @Jahanara, I stopped going to circuses, SeaWorld etc many years ago. It gives me hope to see next generation like you so passionate about the environment. Thanks for taking the time to read. Dean

Dean Owen

5 years ago #2

James McElearney, Glad to read to the end. Seeing these beasts in the wild as opposed to a zoo does hopefully change peoples perceptions. Poaching for parts to be ground up and sold under the guise of health enhancement is an issue, but so is deforestation, drift net fishing (bycatch), climate change. I think it is necessary to change the mindset. Organisations like the WWF need an army of hot digital marketers to spread the word and make it cool to want to protect our world. Thanks for the comment and compliment!

Dean Owen

5 years ago #1

, oops on the title! And no, guns have no place in my world. Yes it sounds cliche, but I don't want to be telling my daughters when they grow up about these gorgeous beasts that used to roam the earth. It would be an inexcusable failure of humankind. Time to put the brakes on "Survival of the fittest". Thanks for reading!

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