1st of 2 Leopards
1st of 2 Leopards
I'm sitting in the airport at joberg as I write this and I'm bored off my butt so I decided I would write a report about my recent leopard hunt. Lets just say this was the most adrenaline packed hunt I have ever been on. I was almost eaten by a croc, and was charged by two separate leopards. However I will save the rest of my safari story for when I get home but as for now I will post my leopard hunt as it is still fresh on my mind. It started as we arrived in camp at the doddieburn ranch in zimbabwe. I was a little depressed as the blacks have completely decimated the place with cattle and poaching but what did I care as I was only concerned in leopard and croc. Upon further investigation, about a 1 hour scouting trip, we confirmed that there were already 6 females and 5 males in the area. the next day we planned on making a hunt attempt on a cat we have since named bolt. day 1 we were stuck at the lodge as the personell running doddieburn ranch had yet to secure our leopard permits and dog permits. This was strike 2 as strike 1 came when my bows were seized in bulawayo for lack of a bow hunting permit which was suppose to have already been secured. Anyways I had a good ph who stepped up to the plate for me and I knew I would be taken care of. Rob Timcke was the guy looking after me and let me tell you he is one hell of a hunter. Anyways 3 days later were on the track of bolt. I told rob from the get go we were hunting only a giant male or nothing. He looked at me, chuckled to himself, and said "well ok". So here we go after bolt. He was leaving a track the dog handler said was an absolute monster and which I measured at 10.5 cm from from toe to back of pad. Pics of him on cam also showed him to be a large male. as soon as we let the dogs out the lead dog went into a frenzie. I had guessed dog hunting would be this easy and 10 minutes into the hunt we had a leopard in the tree. Did I mention that when we put the dogs on the track bolt was running with a female? well you guessed it the female treed. Now we had to figure out how to get the dogs off the tree without an attack. 4 hours later we had the dogs minus one.
we figured this was good enough and resumed finding where bolt exited. We quickly found a snared kudu the treed femal had killed and shortly after found bolts track still following his female. so now we realize we have another female to deal with once we find bolt. about 20 minutes on his track we follow him back into the road where we quickly find his tracks back over the top of ours. Talk about a slap in the face. For some reason the cat and his girlfriend walked down the road for a mile so you guessed it we jogged in the road chasing the dogs for a mile. Next bolt peels off into the bush. well we slowed to a walk for about 15 minutes then back to another 30 minute job where we covered another 2 miles. next bolt gets into the rocks and we are stalled for quite some time following a track the dogs cant' smell. finally were back on the track and put in another 3 or 4 miles. Finally the dogs are spent and everyone is basically dead. Peter, the dog handler, pulls off the track and says we will catch the bastard tomorrow. Let me make a side. Peter Dreyer is by far the most experienced cat hunter and hunter in general I think I have ever met. The guys work ethic is second to none and all I can say for him is that he is an absolute beast and I doubt anyone has as much knowledge about cats as he does. Hes taken over 150 cats in the last 12 years and he knowledge shows.
Next day we find bolts track again and the marathon starts. This day we instantly start with another 30 minutes jog through the bush. As you guessed we jogged and walked at intervals for the next 6 hours until the dogs are spent. I'm starting to realize that leopard hunting over dogs is anything but easy. I tell the guys that tomorrow we are not going to chase bolt as I want to see how a smaller cat works and at this point I'm realizing any leopard is a good leopard. rob instantly chuckles at me and gives me that, "I told you so" look.
Next day we go to a bait that was hit and there appears to bea good sized cat that fed there. I pull the trail cam and instantly see spots and balls. I showed the pics to peter and he replies with "I will find this cat for you". Well we put the hounds to the ground and I'm thinking "oh god, here we go again". "BARRRRRRRROOOOOOO!" and there goes roxi the lead dog. we chase the pack for about thirty minutes before loosing sent in a massive pack of heyenas that jumped and ran down the trail in front of us. Peter pauses and examines a perfect track he found and comes back and tells us were following a large female and not the male on camera. I told him he was stupid and that he couldn't know the difference. He goes back to the koppie where the bait was hanging and puts roxie to work. Meanwhile I'm back at the truck hanging out with the black guys. were all admiring his russian made ak47 and joking with rob and grahm the zim ph and thinking peter is off his rocker. Peter is circling the mounting for about 15 minutes and next thing we know is roxie is sounding off repeatedly and the other 2 dogs with her are barking a lot. next thing I know is that the parks officer is yelling "LEOPARD!" at me. I run to him and on the rocks at the top of the koppie is this massive looking beast roaring at 3 dogs. I had told my wife when we cut the track that she could shoot the tom as he wasn't big. Well one look at that cat and I lost all my manners. I quickly went and grabbed the gun from terra and told her this is my cat. she just laughed and handed me the gun. next thing I know is that the cat held up in a cave and wouldn't come out. Peter and rob helped me get into position above the cat for a shot. Next thing we know is that the cat bolts out the back door and is gone. I'm trying to run over the nearest rock to chase after the cat all the while peter is yelling at me to get my ass back to him as his dogs are coming back at us. I reluctantly did and next thing we know is that my wife, who was video taping all this from below, is yelling at us that the leopard is running right back at us. next shes yelling the cat is underneath us looking at us. Peter then realizes we are between the cat and his cave and tells me to get ready as hes about to want to go where we are and that we he makes eye contact hes going to charge. Of course I don't believe peter and My nerves are stone cold. Next thing I see is the cat charges over the rock a mere 15 meters in front of us. The cat is running parralell to us and as he comes into view he makes complete eye contact with me and quickly changes course to come to where we are standing. My heart quickly sinks in my chest and I loose my breathe as I sit there and stare at the deafening yellow eyes staring back at me with death in them. I instantly shoulder my wifes gun and slap a shot away at the spots as the cat is on a dead run. I hit the cat through the middle and that was all it took. He instantly lost all fight and peeled off to run up a tree. 10 seconds after the shot the cat lost all energy and was done. I could barely walk at this point much less breathe as I was shaking like a leaf from head to toe. Never in my life had I experienced such raw adrenaline and emotion on one hunt. below are the pictures of the cat that ended up taping out with a 16" head and only weighed in at 60kg. but none the less was my monster cat. once I get back I will write about the cat my wife dropped a mere 7 paces in front of me with once shot. her hunt makes my hunt seem like childs play.