by Cliff Huntington
Im 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. Its 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 Franks eventual attempt
at elephant instead relying entirely upon the bows and arrows provided
them, which by todays 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 Franks 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
The hunt passes much too quickly and with one day left before his scheduled
flight back to Stanleyville, Frank still hasnt 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 elephants 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
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 Franks identity takes a turn for the
better when I pose the same question to Gene Hopkins (Bownut). Gene doesnt
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."