Hunting Leopard with Hounds
This is a discussion on Hunting Leopard with Hounds within the Hunting Africa forums, part of the Hunting Forums - Hunting in Africa category; Greetings all, I found this to be a well composed article, thought I would share. Kindly read below or open ...
04-15-2010, 10:22 AM #1
Hunting Leopard with Hounds
I found this to be a well composed article, thought I would share.
Kindly read below or open the attached pdf file to download article Hunting Leopard with Hounds.
Hunting Leopard with Hounds
The Only Sporting Way to Hunt Leopard?
by Mark Butcher
The article by a well liked and respected colleague Charl Grobbelaar in the last African Hunter, was an interesting and balanced review of cat baiting as a method of hunting. However, he did comment that “... I cannot agree with the use of dogs to hunt leopard, unless, perhaps it is to hunt a wounded cat..” Which raised a debate that I have been wanting to initiate for some time in some forum other than one of the Sports Clubs.
Our safari company has conducted a number of successful and unsuccessful Leopard Hunts in Southern Africa with Hounds over the past couple of years, and our activities have been the subject of a number of lively discussions in the Sports Clubs. Basically it is a new thing in Southern Africa, that very few of our fraternity know anything about, and most know nothing about, and worse haven’t bothered to find out about before passing judgement.
We are still on a learning curve on this one that is exponential, our success rate has not been 100%, but we’re definitely getting better at it and aim for it. I can write only of our experiences with it. There are other packs of hounds used and others who have done it. They may have other experiences. I am a Professional Hunter. I am not a person who hunts for sport. The only hunting I do is professionally. My clients are the sportsmen. However, I am a very strong advocate of sport hunting, because I am deeply committed to conservation. I know unequivocally that the revenues from sport hunting are absolutely crucial for wildlife to survive in Africa, particularly in areas where wildlife densities are marginal outside Parks, i.e. the bulk of Africa.
Whenever faced with some issue to do with our Professional hunting which raises issues of “ethics”, I have a few questions I ask myself, and if the answers are yes to all of them, I feel comfortable about it and proceed.
1. Is it legal?
This is straightforward. The law in most cases is clear. For example shooting a lion on the wrong side of a National Park boundary is illegal. Simple.
2. Is it good for the game?
Obviously hunting an animal is not good for that individual, but is for the greater wildlife population and in particular that population of the species being hunted affected negatively overall? Or does it in fact benefit positively? From the wildlife’s point of view - does it serve the common good - “the good of the game”? For example, deliberately shooting young female leopard is probably not good for the game.
This one question I personally rank very high. It’s the reason I can justify my profession to myself and it is the one that is most often forgotten in the current sport hunting ethics debates. As an example for viable safari hunting purposes, trophy quality leopard on most cattle ranches can only be shot at night with a spotlight off a bait (unethical!). Without the revenue from which many farmers in the bad old days poisoned and trapped hundreds indiscriminately. There are vast areas of prime leopard habitat in the lowveld, for example, that have now been consolidated with thriving leopard populations due to employment of this technique. This leopard population would be severely prejudiced if arrogance on the part of some Rupert in the Mathaiga Club stopped us from doing it, as wildlife conservationists we cannot allow this.
3. Is it Humane?
Sport hunting is not really a humane sport - full stop. We inflict pain on animals. However, once we have justified sport hunting per se from other perspectives, we are obligated to be as humane as possible and get the killing done quickly and efficiently. To me this particularly applies to coaching your client’s shooting (where necessary), setting up his shot so it falls within his ability and skill, making sure we’re all using the right weapons and ammo for the task at hand and backing up where necessary. For example, telling a client with poor eyesight and marksmanship to shoot an elephant at 200 yards with his .375 while I’m standing there with my .458, though legal, is not humane.
4. Is it Sporting?
This is best answered by the sportsmen (in our case the clients), but it is such a challenge that it requires above average hunting skills, physical and mental fitness - I think so. If it is also dangerous, even more so. For instance, could a six year old with five minutes coaching do it? For me, potting blesbuck in a fenced off paddock from a truck is not sporting. Anybody could do it.
The hounds have to totally ignore other game, particularly antelope, or the farmers won’t contract them in.
5. Can I sleep at night?
By this I mean, is this something that is going to eat at me later, or something that I would have a problem standing up in a roomful of my peers and defending? For example, shooting someone’s tame lion in a cage and then accepting the Trophy for Biggest Lion at the awards Ball for it, would worry me.
So, is hunting Leopard with Hounds unsporting or unethical? To evaluate that question using the approach outlined above, we need some background about what it is and how it’s done.
We started using the hounds for three different reasons:
* to be able to sustainably utilise, with some fair chance of success, big highly educated calf-killing leopard, for whom ‘bait and blinds’ hunting have a success rate so low as to make it commercially unviable;
* to be able to utilise areas where cattle breeding is the predominant land use and hence the presence of leopard is financially detrimental to the landowner and hence the leopard are subject to unsustainable persecution;
* as an alternative to traditional ‘baits and blinds’ for safari clients who have taken leopard before and want another, but are not particularly enamoured with the prospect of spending another 100 hours or so, painfully cramped, watching pieces of meat rot.
It is extremely important to understand a little about the hounds that we use. Many of us have, when faced with a gut shot leopard in the ilala thickets, nipped down to the local village and picked up a truckload of Tsholotsho Terriers to help follow and act as early warning. We’ve watched them chase a kudu and hare, cover up difficult spoor, cock their legs on ours, and every now and then solicit a snarl that warns us about the direction of an impending charge.
The specialised pack of hounds we work with are a very different kettle of fish. They have been bred from stock originating in the U.S. and trained on a daily basis in Africa, for over 25 years. Their predecessors were Blue Ticks, Walkers and Treeing Hounds. They were developed originally for controlling Caracal and Jackal on goat and sheep farms in the Eastern Cape. Subsequently they were further developed to operate in areas where game farming has become very important. Our experience is that when we put the lead dogs on a fresh leopard track they stay with it, without exception, and the rest of the pack follows them. I have watched klipspringer, impala, kudu and warthog get out of their way without soliciting so much as a glance from any of the hounds.
However, I have seen a young dog on a couple of occasions get sidetracked by a hot honey badger or civet scent, but both times he quickly realised the error of his ways when he heard the lead dogs up ahead yodelling for backup, and no harm was done.
Hunting with the Hounds These hounds can be worked in broad terms in two different ways:
a) Free ranging:
This is where the hounds are let loose in an area where the quarry is suspected to be, and they get out there and find it. This method works for the jackal in the Eastern Cape, but should in my opinion, under no circumstances whatsoever, be employed on leopard, because it is non- selective. Simply put, the hounds could pick up females this way. There is at least one instance I know of where a pack was brought into this country and used this way for ‘vermin’ control. To any wildlife conservationist this is a serious sin and this method should not be employed.
b) Selective tracking:
This then is the method to be employed when sport hunting leopard with hounds. A fresh track of the intended leopard is located and the lead dog called Red Wing, is started on it on a leash.
When we are comfortable she is following the right scent by visual verification of the spoor, she is then released and as she warms up the number two and three dogs (called Gold and Pine), who are on leashes, are untied to assist. Once the hounds flush up the leopard, which can be heard by the tone of their bugle, the rest of the pack (most of whom who are sons and daughters, not unlike a pack of wild dog or hyena) is released and the chase commences in earnest.
When used intelligently, hunting with these hounds is probably more selective than ‘bait and blinds’ at night. Who, honestly, can tell male from female correctly at night with a red light at 70 metres, ten times out of ten? With the hounds you have the advantage of visually confirming the cat by spoor size all the way in, and then actually eyeballing him in daylight. This is not to say the mistaken shooting of females is not going to happen. It hasn’t happened with us yet, touch wood, but we reckon the number of mistakes will be less than with ‘bait and blinds’ at night on ranches. We carefully avoid male leopards with a female in attendance, to avoid a SNAFU. But, interestingly, in at least two cases after the hunt was completed, we found there had been a female in attendance, but the hounds had stuck with the male. Probably because he smells more and is more inclined to stand and fight than to slip away like females and small males do.
There is a factor to this kind of hunt that I was previously unfamiliar with, which is hard to explain, but which anybody who has hunted with good dogs will understand well. This is the plain, simple joy of watching some well trained, highly skilled hunting dogs at work. People who have hunted birds with a pair of good Pointers will often tell you that it is as much fun just watching the dogs work and hunt, as actually shooting the birds. The same is definitely the case with these hounds. They are fantastic to watch and enhance the thrill of the sport.
I have had eyebrows raised by colleagues because of ‘the poor bloody dogs’. In actual fact once you’ve seen these hounds hunt, it can be very easily construed that to not let them hunt is the more cruel option. They love to hunt. We’ve all seen our favourite Lab’s reaction when we pickup the shotgun and whistle for him to get in the truck. These hounds make that Lab look miserable. They are exceptionally fit, strong and quick, at close quarters they know intimately a leopard’s “reach”.
After a typical hunt the hounds usually only have a couple of scratches between them. Indeed none have ever needed veterinary attention, certainly while I’ve been there. The pack we hunt with has had only one fatality and no cases requiring veterinary attention. Indeed the houndsmen, many of us have seen Buck Rogers’ video, have received a more serious mauling than any of the dogs.
The one fatality was where a dog was killed on one of our hunts. The hounds have a couple of Jack Russells that run with them in South Africa, trained to get in the holes to flush out the jackal that go down them. Last year, working with the problem of leopard holing up in caves, we tried out a couple of the Jack Russells. The one was a young, over enthusiastic male called Fly, sadly he was killed on his very first encounter with a leopard. The houndsmen, were quite clearly extremely distressed, actually one of them nearly got mauled trying to rescue Fly. To me, as a dog owner whose dogs sleep on our bed, they quite clearly love their dogs and they are not cruel to them in any way. Interestingly, the other Jack Russell, a bitch called Holy, is now an experienced ace. She has perfected the technique of going into the caves over the top of Leopard and then working them from behind. She drives a cat 20 times her size out of the cave like a champagne cork. When you hear Holy yapping in the cave, take your safety catch off.
In my mind the areas best suited to using these hounds for Leopard are commercial farming areas where leopard occur, but traditional Leopard/Plains game safari packages are marginal or don’t work. Usually because the leopard are too educated to make ‘bait and blind’ hunting successful enough to be commercially viable, and also plains game is too scarce because of intensive cattle ranching and poor wildlife management.
By using the hound hunts in these areas, we are adding a new revenue stream for the landowners to improve their viability and promote wildlife (particularly Leopard) conservation - CAMPFIRE for commercial farmers. Usually these areas are managed predominantly for cattle ranching, where breeding and hence calves and calf killing are a significant factor.
The successful hunting of a big male leopard with hounds hinges on finding his very fresh track very early in the morning.
The competition between cats and dogs is as old as hunting. We know that leopard and lion (cats) have co- evolved in fierce and often deadly competition with hyena (dogs) since the Pleistocene. Anybody who has spent time watching the hassling that leopard receive from hyena, often very aggressive and even deadly for young cats, knows that this is just part of what a leopard learns to handle.
In the farms where we operate most of the herdsmen are actually allowed dogs by the landowner specifically to do just this, hassle the leopard whenever he kills a calf. While I’m sure this is distressing, it is a very routine annoyance to a leopard who has been around for a few years. I get the impression on a hunt that a big male leopard realises the hounds can’t kill him, he merely has to cover his tail and keep them at arms length, until he can figure out how to escape.
The big male leopard in these sort of areas are usually habitual calf- killers and hence promote a very strong case, from the cattle farmers’ perspective, for persecution of the species as a whole. The big plus is that these calf-killers are usually big and hence are in demand by our safari hunting clientele as excellent trophies.
The successful hunting of a big male leopard with hounds hinges on finding his very fresh track very early in the morning. This is often easier said than done, as you have only about two/three hours. Bear in mind, this is usually also in areas where leopard densities are low, even though the population overall may be large. To make this happen involves a huge amount of plain old hard work in scouting the area and learning the leopard territories.
Part of the preparation also involves ensuring, to the best of our abilities, a ‘clean kill’. The killing at the end has to be done efficiently and humanely. The clients we book for these hunts are not first timers and they practise quick, short range free hand shooting.
The question of the right tool for the job is also addressed. A scoped high velocity rifle is not ideal because of reduced visibility from the scope and over-penetration by the bullet, so endangering dogs and us from a ricochet off the rocks. A shotgun is not really ideal either because we don’t want to also hit Red Wing with a pellet or two. On the odd occasion too a shot presents itself at 30-40 yards or so, which is stretching a shotgun for a leopard.
So we arm them with a quick pointing, fast reloading, low velocity, heavy calibre rifle. My preference is a Marlin lever action .45-70, loaded with thin jacketed 400 grain softs doing about 1700 fps, customised with an extended magazine tube, fibreglass stock, peep rear sight and a foresight only slightly smaller than a golf ball. Leopard hit with a couple of shots from this mother are dead very quickly.
This hunt is more exciting than the ‘bait and blind hunting’ by a factor of about ten times. Closing in for a shot with a very angry, about to charge, 80kg leopard in thick stuff when compared to sniping an unsuspecting cat off a tree limb is like goldfish andtigerfish. It has been billed by one American booking agent, Bruce Grant, who has done it, as “...the most exciting hunt on earth today...” I don’t think he’s exaggerating too much either.
When it comes to the actual hunt, we try to get a cat from a fresh track off a bait, a natural kill (usually a calf) or a road down which he has walked in the pre-dawn.
Remember, in the areas in which we operate these hunts, getting a big male on bait and keeping him ‘on’ until the client and hounds arrive is not an option. So to get him off a bait, we have to visit the bait that he ‘hits and runs’, early on the morning he does it.
Typically, before we do our Leopard with Hounds hunt, we spend a week or two intensively scouting the area, figuring out the big males patterns (if there is such a thing). Then we set up a driveable circuit through what we figure to be the most productive areas. Along this route, we will swing up to 30 baits, usually cattle foetuses from one of the local abattoirs, and link them with drags.
Once the safari commences, the daily M.O. then is that just before dawn the P.H., sport hunter, houndsmen and mutts hit the road. They try to visit as many of the baits as possible before the sun heats up, slowly enough to watch the roads for the track of a big cat just out patrolling. If nothing is found, the rest of the day is spent scouting, baiting and dragging, in the old fashioned way.
Once a track is found, preferably off a bait, but often off the road, it is carefully measured to make sure it is a big male (a Madison and half a filter plus), scouted to ensure there are no females with him, then aged - early hours of the morning versus previous evening.
At this point, out comes Red Wing on a leash, if she can smell what we can see, she starts quivering, everybody loads up and we’re off.
Picture a scene just after dawn on a crisp July morning as the kopjes are turning yellow, running along behind these hounds. Watching the lead dogs struggle with a difficult scent from a tricky leopard, who is experienced in eluding hyaena and jackal and is using the rocks to his maximum benefit, while the sun is slowly climbing and conditions are warming unfavourably. Watching the hounds castin circles for a lost spoor, yodel to their buddies when they relocate and then work in pairs and teams to effect maximum ground coverage. Then add to this scene suddenly, a background of roaring and snarling as the leopard comes to bay in thick bush, on a steep sided kopje dotted with cave entrances, and you run in for a shot.
You’d have to be a cold character indeed not to get a pretty significant adrenaline rush from this experience.
So, with this background, now we can evaluate Hunting Leopard with Hounds as an ‘ethical’ and ‘sporting’ method to hunt by answering the questions posed at the beginning.
The hounds really seem to love it, their injuries are negligible and fatalities rare.
1. Is hunting Leopard with hounds legal?
The answer to this is simple. In South Africa, the Act is very clear. It is only illegal (outside of the Parks Estate) if you do not have the landowner’s permission. In the same way as taking your Pointers onto somebody’s farm to shoot some guinea.
Answer - yes.
2. Is hunting Leopard with hounds ‘good for the game’?
Again simple. We are promoting leopard conservation in areas where they are otherwise heavily persecuted. We are not disturbing the other game and it is probably more selective than ‘bait and blind’ hunting.
Answer - yes.
3. Is hunting Leopard with hounds ‘humane’?
The answer to this question is a little more complicated: The hounds really seem to love it, their injuries are negligible and fatalities rare.
The leopard definitely doesn’t like it, but is probably also pretty used to the kind of trauma involved, a clean kill is more assured and a wounded and lost result is definitely going to be very rare with this hunt.
The houndsmen too have learnt how not to put their heads into caves already occupied by ‘spotty’.
So, is it humane? If sportsmen can justify bird hunting or catching a fish, this too can definitely be justified. Who amongst us can know the terror of a covey of one-pound francolin when a 70 lb German Shorthair sticks his muzzle in your face while you are trying to hide in a grass tuft. Or the pain a bass feels when you strike a pair of 2/0 steel treble hooks through his palate and jaw as hard as you can and then drag him into your boat.
Are leopard receiving worse treatment?
So the answer to this question - yes.
4. Is it Sporting to hunt Leopard with hounds?
It tests to the maximum our tracking and shooting skills; it requires skill in baiting and knowledge of our quarry. It is physically demanding, requires mental determination (guts?) to go in close for the shot and it’s dangerous (see video).
Answer - yes.
5. Can I sleep at night?
We are sustainably utilising leopard populations that were previously very threatened in areas that used to be unproductive for wildlife in a legal, humane and sporting manner.
Not only can I sleep, but I sleep well.
Answer - yes.
The bottom line, for the unbelievers:- Sporthunting leopard, particularly in areas where they are heavily persecuted, using well trained hounds, is the ONLY way to hunt them.
About The Author
Mark Butcher is a well known Zimbabwean professional hunter and director of Matapula Hunters, one of the bigger Zimbabwean safari outfitters. Mark operates principally in Zimbabwe but also in neighbouring countries. He is an ex- Zimbabwean National Parks officer with a wide knowledge of hunting and considerable practical experience.
04-15-2010, 02:44 PM #2
Thanks Gavin for sharing this wonderful editorial with all of us. Mark Butcher really took the time to be informative and shared his thoughts on the subject very well.
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04-15-2010, 08:07 PM #3
Thanks for sharing the article by Mark, its a sport I am quite intrigued about, wish to take a Leopard someday with dogs must be a very adrenalizing hunt routine.
MonishITS NOT THE RIFLE BUT THE MAN BEHIND THE RIFLE
09-09-2010, 10:01 AM #4
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This subject has poped up on many websites and ivariably it degrades into a shouting match on hunting ethics, useually by people who have never hunted with dogs for anything. I happen to be one of the people who have hunted quite a lot with dogs in the southwest USA for everything from raccoon to black bear and American lion. IMO, the fact that you are useing dogs is certainly not a sure thing. I've had animals give my dogs the slip on more than often times, or the pack, and prey simply out distance the hunter, and gets away leaving the dogs lost for some time. Forever on occasion.
Leopard are smart animals, and are not down just because the dogs corner them in a cave, as Mister Butcher can tell you. They can hurt the hunter or PH just as easy surrounded by a pack of dogs, as they can when wounded and waiting for you to get too close. You hunt leopard the way you want as long as it's legal. Kevin (Doctari) Robertson said it best on the reason leopard are hunted the ways they are, and I quote:
"You hunt elephant with your feet, lion with your heart, buffalo with your guts, and a leopard with your BRAINS"
You use your brain to train the dogs, you use your brain to set bait, properly, you use your brain to follow tracks, and all the brain power in the world will not make leopard hunting a sure thing!DUGABOY1 www.doublerifleshooterssociety.com
"If I die today I have had a life well spent, for I have been to see the elephant, and smelled the smoke of Africa" qt by Damon(mac) McCartney
09-09-2010, 06:56 PM #5
I think that hound hunting is one of the most misunderstood types of hunting. I began hunting with my grandfather as a very young boy. He was a houndsman his entire life and though he hunted deer and upland game a bit, his true love was running hounds. I cannot tell you how many times we caught bear, mountain lion, coons, and bobcats and did not even have a gun with us. For us the excitement was listening to the hounds.
Let me take you on a hunt;
My grandfather would pick me up Friday after school and we would quickly head to his house load our camp gear and dogs. My grandmother would have a sack of sandwiches and a couple of thermoses of coffee ready and away we would go. It was an hour or so up to where we would begin hunting and I always loved the way the temperature would drop and the smell of the pines would begin to fill my nostrils.
Sometimes we would simply drive the dirt roads and look for fresh tracks, and other times we would put a couple of dogs out and follow them. For years we had an old blue tick named blue (of course) that had a very cold nose that would start a track that the other dogs couldn’t follow. Once blue got it lined out and warmed enough we would start adding others to the race. We usually had four to six hounds in those days.
We would use what roads were in the area to try to keep close enough to hear the dogs running. When the dogs treed the game we would try and get as close as possible with the truck and then start off to them on foot. In this case we were hunting an area called Jose Basin and the dogs treed about two miles up the side of a very steep mountain. Because it was cold when we started I had on a sweatshirt and a coat. As we struggled up the mountain I began to sweat and by the time we got to the tree I was soaked and exhausted.
When we arrived at the tree it was about 3:00 AM and as I cooled off I got cold and began to shiver. We could only see the bear’s eyes shining in the top of the tree and could not see his body so we decided to stay until daylight so we could see him. By this time I was shivering uncontrollably so my grandfather scooped a hole in the pine needles and had me lay in it and then covered me with more needles. It seemed like forever until it got light enough to see.
The bear was a brown color phase and probably weighed about 250 pounds. We leashed up the dogs and headed off the mountain. It sure was a lot easier coming down than it was going up. When we got back to the truck we ate a sandwich and drank some lukewarm coffee. We tossed our sleeping bags out in the shade and took a nice long nap.
I was about ten years old when this hunt took place but there were many many others that like this one that ended with the bear alive and well. Just in the time that I hunted with my grandfather we caught well over 100 bears and I don’t think we killed over ten of them. I personally only shot two and I can only remember my grandfather shooting a couple. We hunted because we loved to hear the hounds, and we loved the freedom of chasing the dogs through the mountains.
I realize this was not Africa and we were not hunting leopard, but hunting with hounds really gets in your blood. My grandfather and old Blue have long since passed to the other side and I pray that God has a special place for both of them where the wind blows through the pines and the game is never scarce.
09-09-2010, 09:43 PM #6
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jaustin . . . what a great story. I very much enjoyed reading about your grand dad, his hounds and that one experience you shared with him. I'm sure he was a great guy that you'll never forget. I'll never forget my grand dad and the experiences I shared with him either.There is only one degree of dead . . . there are many degrees of wounded
09-09-2010, 10:03 PM #7
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09-11-2010, 03:32 AM #9
09-12-2010, 01:39 PM #10
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09-13-2010, 05:49 AM #11
What a pity Karl.
Well, for what it is worth, you are welcome to tag along on a hound hunt in Botswana, Zimbabwe or Mozambique if ever you have the spare time and desire.
Thanks for taking the time to answer.
Karl, you are absolutely right and I will emphasize the misuse of the system.
I remember clients who came to Namibia 7 or 8 times and in total spend months sitting in blinds before they had success. This started changing about 10 years ago in Namibia too.
At that time another PH told me that we can hunt Leopards with hounds and I just laughed, but soon after I experienced it and got hooked on it myself.
In the beginning there was one pack working alone in Namibia for a while.
Clients that wanted to give up hunting Leopard could now have a better chance on success. That was pure and proper hunting on big Toms with well trained hounds.
Obviously people that never dreamed of taking a Leopard, now also got interrested and with the Leopard population Namibia had to offer, it just spread like a big fire.
Suddenly there were all kinds of packs working in Namibia, trained on wild pigs, jackal or caracal, did not matter much.
The system had a grey area on this, so if the amount of money was right, no matter if the client could not walk or shoot straight, a Leopard is a Leopard, female or small, it could be provided and by any means possible with the help of the dogs.
This is in my opinion what ruined Leopard hunting for us in this country, not to mention the fine art of hunting Leopard with hounds.
Helgaard van der Vyver (PH)
Last edited by AfricaHunting.com; 03-14-2013 at 11:42 PM.
09-13-2010, 09:29 PM #13
I hear you - the same old money corrupts issue!
The method could have been controlled though.
Laws, rules and regulations could have been implemented to assist with ensuring only acceptable actions are engaged in?
There are corrupt, unethical individuals in all facets and industries in the world, not just the guys with a pack of dogs on their vehicles.
09-16-2010, 10:03 PM #14
I hope you don’t mind if I mention some details about the use of what could be termed as non-single animal specific packs like the Jackal, Bushpig or Caracal as you mentioned in your post.
In contrast to the american hunting laws, we as African citizens have very little right and access to our own game and wildlife resources and generally any local hunter must comparatively absorb large expense to be able to hunt. (unless you are a Bushman or a poacher)
Most is conducted on private property and the vast state land which conservatively accounts for 20 to 30 percent of the total land mass is generally inaccessible to citizens.
In terms of hound hunting we also see specific restriction for employing this method/style/art from recreational hunting other than problem animal control.
Historically Jackal, Caracal, Bushpig and Leopard have been pursued with hounds due to their elusive and/or secretive nature. These species, among others, being regarded as vermin, or more PC - damage causing animals - therefore have received less administative control and it could also be noted that due to their lesser value (meat) have also been of less interest to the general hunter.
Group the above factors togethur and One will understand the development of hounds in Africa.
In the trophy hunting industry a high level of professionalism is justifiably expected, so to have Leopard specific packs would be most suitable.
Unfortunately the system prevents this due to chiefly the inability to legally, regularily hunt leopard outside of CITES supported trophy hunts and problem animal control. (The current preferable methods have sharply steered away from lethal control to non-lethal alternatives)
In the US hunting arena it is permissable to pursue a Mountain Lion for instance with the intent of ‘treeing’ the animal but not harvesting it. I believe One must be in possession of a tag in the event circumstances necessitate a lethal action.
Even if there was a pursuit law available for Leopard the nature of panthera pardus means that One would have to exercise the lethal action sooner than later. The Leopard is less intimidated by the hounds in comparison with the Mountain Lion and in many cases will put up greater resistance. It would also be impossible to regularily approach the tree in which a large Leopard has taken refuge in order to leash the hounds, take some pictures and leave the scene without getting attacked.
Therefore in order to provide a top notch service, a hound pack must hunt other animals which the law makes provision for. The more frequent the hounds are hunted the more proficient at their task they become. Of course consistantly pursuing animals other than Leopard will mean that the pack may ‘stray’ on occasion but it is generally rare and should be controllable both by the dicipline of the hounds to their master, and/or by placing the pack orderly onto the specific scent track of the Leopard. Being a feline, Caracal is the closest match for the Leopard and due to its relative scarcity the chances of bumping a hot Caracal track while cold trailing a Leopard is less than that of bumping a Jackal or Bushpig scent track. (Depending on surrounding habitat/population density)
So again it returns to expertise.
The most hunted pack, stemming from the most suitable breeding, supported by the most dedicated houndsmen, employed most ethically within the parameters of the law, will be the most suitable selection.
It is more about how well the hounds mind their handler – how controllable they are – how trained they are.
Anybody can purchase a rifle, some khaki clothing, enter the veld and be a sucessful hunter?
Anybody can take a group of hounds, load them on a vehicle, drop them off onto a Leopard track and be a houndsman?
Any hounds can be dropped off on a Leopard track and be a successful pack?
All our Professional hunters associations and Government departments subscribe to a system which grades PH’s on their expertise and proficiency.
So why not with professional hound packs?
11-25-2010, 07:48 PM #15
- Hunted Mozambique, Zim, S. Africa
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Excellent article by Mark Butcher. I've known Butcher as a friend and as my PH for years, he and his partner Ellos are superior when it comes to ethical hunting, the only way I was raised to hunt. As for hounds, even though I love the big game of Africa, I grew up and continue to run squirrel dogs in South Louisiana and can say that I have yet to find anything on this side of the world that can come close to the excitement and camaraderie of such. Done properly, well done.
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