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Bofari

by Cliff Huntington

I’m familiar with most out of print archery books, so you may understand my surprise and interest when a book dealer friend from New York calls one evening offering me a book titled "Bofari!," one I know nothing of. It’s a little pricey, but what the heck, I purchase the book. When the book arrives, I spend the first evening devouring its contents, an interesting account of bowhunting big game in the Belgian Congo during the fifties. What intrigues me most about the entire episode is that the main character on the hunt, a well known archer from Milwaukee, is only referred to as Frank, not once is his last name mentioned, creating a mystery that will haunt me for the better part of 18 months.

Jack Horn, the author, and Frank begin their Bofari (Hunt) on the 10th of August, 1958, when their plane touches down in Stanleyville, Belgian Congo. After a short delay clearing Customs they board another plane for a two hour flight to Bunia where they are met by a representative of the Semliki Safari Company. Another day is spent acquiring hunting licenses and necessary items for the hunt. Their licenses are expensive at $300 and stamped "arc de fleche" indicating that they are to hunt with bow and arrow. Frank has 74# bows and a gross of arrows, Jack carries a 54# bow and several dozen arrows, all provided by American Archery Co.. Jack is to film the hunt with his Bell and Howell 16mm camera. From all indication they carry no special tackle for Frank’s eventual attempt at elephant instead relying entirely upon the bows and arrows provided them, which by today’s standards would be considered more appropriate for deer than large dangerous African game.

Upon completion of their affairs in Bunia, Jack and Frank are transported to the Semliki Guest House compound about 40 miles distant, where the hunt will begin in earnest. Soon after arriving, Jack notices a man laboring over a typewriter in the lounge. The gentleman introduces himself as the press agent for the Lowell Thomas group which is also staying at the lodge. They are headquartered at the lodge while making a picture for Lowell Thomas’ show "High Adventure." Lowell Thomas will arrive a few days later on Sunday, which happens to be Frank’s 41st birthday and play a large part in an impromptu birthday party for Frank, one of the high points of his stay at the compound.

On the third day of hunting from this camp, Frank and his tracker encounter a male kob with an unusually nice set of horns. After a challenging stalk in shoulder high grass, Frank is able to deliver a killing arrow and experiences his first success in the Dark Continent. The kob is a tasty antelope and would become a regular featured entree on the camp menu. Frank will have repeated opportunities to take other kob, waterbuck, wart hog and elephant, along with several close encounters with dangerous game, snakes and other critters.

The hunt passes much too quickly and with one day left before his scheduled flight back to Stanleyville, Frank still hasn’t loosed an arrow at an elephant. The final day begins early and Frank, Jack, two professional hunters and their trackers arrive well before daylight in the forest, hoping to spot a legal elephant. At first light one of the trackers whispers "mume, mume," alerting them to a large dark object moving slowly toward them. All get down on their knees and watch the elephant’s progress. Frank nocks an arrow and the two professional hunters check and double check their rifles as the elephant continues to close, relaxed, enormous and unaware of any danger. With the elephant just out of range, a sudden reversal in wind alerts him and he is gone in a flash to the safety of the forest.

A disappointment for sure, but the white hunters and their trackers quickly set about in search of another elephant and an hour later their persistence is rewarded when one of the trackers whispers, "Tembo, tembo, moja, mume (one male elephant)." The tracker has spotted a legal bull elephant feeding peacefully under an acacia tree a quarter mile distant. Conditions are excellent for a stalk and soon Frank and his tracker are within thirty yards of the beast. The tracker wants Frank to shoot, but instead he attempts to approach closer and is spotted by the elephant. As the elephant whirls to run, Frank shoots three arrows into him, but the hits are too low and too far back. One of the white hunters immediately dispatches the elephant with a well placed shot from his heavy rifle. A climatic end for Frank, Jack Horn and their Bofari.

After reading "Bofari!" I contact Joe St. Charles at the Pope and Young Museum in Seattle, Washington to enlist his aid in identifying Frank. I was hoping Joe would have the answer, and was I ever surprised when he acknowledges not even being aware of the book! A year and some later my success in uncovering Frank’s identity takes a turn for the better when I pose the same question to Gene Hopkins (Bownut). Gene doesn’t have the answer but contacts old friend Larry Wiffen, Jr. in Milwaukee. Larry remembers something about an African hunt and contacts long time friend, Frank J. Liska, Jr., also of Milwaukee. Frank, Jr. has the answer and provides Gene with the information that identifies the Frank in "Bofari!" as the late Frank J. Liska of Milwaukee. We now can add Frank J. Liska to that short list of folks who have challenged the mighty elephant with "Stick and String."

 

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Hunting with the Bow - Will Thompson
The Clout Shoot
Horace Ford - Britains Greatest Archer
The Glory Years
Bill Sweetland
Thoughts on...
Bofari
The Three Merry Bowmen
Ben Pearson
Sasha Siemel - "Tiger Man"
The Trinity
The history of Roving
Maurice Thompson, The Early Years
Maurice Thompson - The War Years
Maurice Thompson - The Sylvan Years
Maurice Thompson, - The Final Years
Howard Hill
Dr. Saxton Pope
Art Young
Will Compton

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