2X1 LEOPARD HUNT 2012
The bush was still and quiet, with all of the animals and birds ready to settle down for the night. Somewhere in front of us down in the river a rock dassie gave a warning call. That was our signal that there must be a predator nearby. This is the time that makes sitting in the blind special even if you can’t see; all your senses are working overtime. You see and hear what is going on around you and try to make a picture of what is moving in the last light of the day.
Down in the river (80 meters in front of us), hangs the bait. It is a springbuck that was fed on by the leopard two days ago, and now its time to see or we can get a shot at him.
Suddenly, at the right side of the bait, there is something. It’s a leopard! All of my senses were going into overdrive and my heart rate was more than I could handle. I put my hand on the client’s shoulder to push him forward for the shot, when I see that’s not one cat but two cats! The male is on the left side of the bait. I know we have a dream hunt in front of us.
Before I run away with the hunt, let’s start at the beginning. The last six weeks before the clients landed it all began with looking for leopard tracks and for places to position baits. This is a new leopard area to me and it will be my first leopard hunt in the area. But, this is no ordinary hunt; it is a double leopard hunt. It will be 14 days for 2 cats 1 professional hunter (me).
A week before they arrive, the baits are hung in place where leopard tracks were old or new and where cats were spotted. Now, the waiting game starts and if they take the bait we will start the hunt.
It all began when I heard my name called out at the airport by the voice of an old friend, Gunter and his son-in-law Patrice. We shook hands, pick up luggage and the three hour drive to the hunting area flies by with questions and stories of what is to come and what was done to prepare for the hunt.
After having something to eat, we went to check the guns that were still dead on. Now it was time to check the baits. There was no action on the first three, but there were several left to check. Five baits later, two young leopards were on two baits, but not what we looking for. The good news was bait six was broken off and gone. It was a big track, so we started to follow the drag marks. After 800 meters we found the bait under a rock. It was a real bad place to put up a blind, but we gave it a try the next day. We only left a trail camera for the night and got a good picture of the cat. But this one beat us and never returned in the next 14 days.
So we were off on the hunt. We looked around each day and did some trophy hunting on the way, but not much. We shot a real great Black wildebeest and kept on shooting some springbucks for bait to keep the cats busy.
Day 3: We have a new hit again, so we moved the bind, set up the shooting rest inside and positioned everything so we could see the cat when he comes to the bait. We sat down for a night of action. We heard the leopard doing his calls at the waterhole close to us, but never on the bait. The wind shifted, so we went back to camp empty handed.
Day 4: A new hit again, so everything came to a stop and we moved again. People get impatient and say we must stay on. But, I believed we must go where the action is, so we went and started from scratch. With the sunset there was movement 60 meters behind the bait. It’s the leopard! He sat and looked at the bait. Günter could not see him as the bait tree was in the way. So we waited. He stood up, stretched and left as if he knew something was not right there.
So close, but still so far.
Day 5: We moved again and left a camera there where we saw the cat last night. As of sunset of day five we have a cat on the bait, but it is not what we want so we left all in peace to see if the big one wants to return later or the next day.
Day 6: Here we pick up the story again. Now we have spent five evenings in the blind and have seen two cats. Nothing is new to us (or so we think) until I see the male on the left side of the bait.
I must get the message to him without scaring the leopards and that he still can see them to take the shot. The male lay down to feed – not a good time to shoot. So we must wait. It’s maybe just for a minute or shorter, but it feels like a year. Suddenly, the female stands up and moved to one side. The male got up to follow her but it’s too late. The quietness is broken by the sound of a 300 Win mag. He is down but still moving. There is another shot to end it all with a beauty of a cat.
A hunting dream of five years comes to an end. We have hunted all of Namibia’s game animals from the small to the large in four different areas over the country and here we stand in front of the animal that was all the time on our minds and in our dreams.
It’s a beautiful night and everything seems right in the world on the drive back to camp.
For Gunter all hunting pressure is now over and he can enjoy the rest with a smile. But for Patrice it all begins now that he is no longer on the back seat.
But sometimes luck can be on your side, even on a leopard hunt with two clients. We left the next morning to check to see if something has come back or if the female has returned. And to our surprise, most of the bait is gone and a big male have covered the blood of the one we have shot last night. How good can it get? So we rebuild the inside of the blind so the rifle rest can fit Patrice who is left handed. We planned to return later that afternoon.
We came back to hang more bait and settle down for a great time in the blind. At dusk we heard a leopard’s territorial call way down the river and hoped for the best. I have just asked him with a whisper if he heard the leopard, he said “yes there is one on the bait.” What, is the leopard there already? A fast look confirmed it, but it’s the young one we have seen before. So we left it to feed. But it fed fast and nervously. In the meantime, we heard the other leopard calling every couple of minutes and moving closer fast. The young one just left suddenly, so now we get even more still and waited minutes that felt like hours. Without any warning he is there, but he immediately went and lay behind the bait again. Why must they all do that?
We waited and waited. He stood up, moved around and almost went and sat down where the other one sat down last night. Patrice is a good shot and makes no mistake on this one.
We walked closer to see one of the most beautiful leopards that I have seen in along time.
We have just done the impossible. Two leopards on the same bait in 24 hours with two of the best clients
Thanks to Gunter and Patrice that have made this wonderful hunt possible, and the grace from above that have given us the opportunity to hunt these beautiful animals.
Gert van der Walt
Pictures from this hunt are posted at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jims-Hunting-Adventures/195071097212433