HUNTING Leopard

whollis

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In some countries you need a .375 or bigger. In Zimbabwe, 7mm on up is legal.
 

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Hello - leopard hunting is one of my favorite hunts to conduct and I would like to share some thoughts on the topic. Talking about leopard hunting never get old to me! I thought I would share the basic around how we prefer to dispatch our leopard.

I have included a couple self-made diagrams that I used at a recent presentation at SCI. I didn’t master the latest in computer graphics to make these diagrams – keep in mind I’m just a PH that has ‘mouse-paint’ on his laptop! I also have listed a few of the main topics that I personally like to go over with my hunters on ‘the shot’.

Topics on the shot:

- The vitals are NOT pushed far forward like african plains game - think more along the lines of your whitetail deer shot placement.

- We are aiming for the kill shot with the largest margin for error. If you try for the heart and go low…big problem; if you aim for the shoulder and shoot high…problem; if you think double lung and wiggle to the rear…really big problem. Give yourself the best chance at a clean kill and aim at the spot on the diagrams!

- cats are to be shot when standing, no shooting while reaching for the meat or lying down, or at strong angles or anything else...wait for the right shot.

- relax, if he is in the tree then he is ok with the situation and has the confidence to feed; have the confidence to relax and wait for the right shot.

- divide the cat into sections. find the top line, find the bottom line, find the mid line. Shoot just below the middle on the crease of the leg.

- pick a spot, literally... and squeeeeze.

We have a .375 load that works great for cats and makes it easy on the clients with using one gun in Africa. We find the .375 H&H to be the best all around for Africa. Most hunters can handle shooting it accurately (most important factor), ammunition is easy to find, it is a 200+ yard gun (seldom needed but once on safari it seems to come in handy for collecting a great trophy that you just cant get closer to), it is suitable for hunting buffalo cats and all PG on the same safari (bring one gun and knowing how to use it simplifies the process all around).

The load is a 260 grain Nosler Accubond traveling 2,900 fps out of a .375 H&H. It has a lot of hydrostatic shock and kills the cats instantly. This is great as the client can use the same gun and .375's tend to handle about any ammunition accurately. We sight the gun dead on at the exact distance of the individual bait, with this bullet and we test fire right before heading to the blind (confidence is key and the shot right before sets everyone’s mind at ease).I usually have the client view the cat through the scope once it starts to feed. He can enjoy the moment while getting over the 'adrenaline shakes'. Then I have him back off and calm down. Then when I put him on the gun again the cat is in the right position and the hunter now has the green light to shoot (this is also very effective as the second time he looks at the cat through the scope he is ready for business and has seen the sight picture before, simple brain training!).

Note that:

We hunt our cats in daylight hours and these cats are more relaxed in TZ than I have seen anywhere else in Africa.
We always have a shooting rest in the blind.
We are positioned well and little movement is needed for anything.
We have the gun set, so all the hunter does is lean into it, no shifting around in the seat or moving the gun into position.
We repeated go through the motions and signals that will take place in the blind (as many of you well know there is plenty of time on the vehicle for discussion while waiting for a cat to feed).

This is the way I have found it to work the best – not right for all leopard hunts and situations but it works great for us in our areas.





Now...there are always exceptions! Here is a video when we called the shot in a sitting position. Even though this cats rear is high and his back almost level so finding the vitals was easy and no angle to really take into consideration. This client was a very good shot and experienced hunter - as you will notice when the bullet strikes.


Thanks.
 

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johnnyblues

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Great article and very useful info. I hope to put this information to good use this September.
 

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Leopard in the tree...

I thought long and hard if its a good idea or not to post this video...
Like all of us, (I hope), I hate wounding and losing an animal. Let alone the fact that a lost dangerous game animal may kill someone down the line, we all strive to let the animal suffer as little as possible.
With this in mind, I thought it a good opportunity to show the video so that prospective leopard hunters (and possibly others), does not make the same mistakes.

Background:
The video shows what happens when you are in a hurry to shoot. The cat came in on schedule, less than 60 yards away and instead of waiting for it to feed and become relaxed, the hunter took a shot at it where it was sitting in a fork to the right and lower than the bait. The fact that he was shooting from a Caldwell rest (that holds the rifle's fore end as well as the pistol grip), that he had to force/ "drive" to shoot to different position than what we set the rest up for, did not help.
The bullet clearly strikes the tree first, and after following the cat for 4 hours, with very little blood loss, we lost the tracks and had to abandon this magnificent creature.
What we can learn from this:
Wait till the cat is relaxed, in the anticipated position, and preferable feeding. Enjoy the moment, it is not often that we see these mostly nocturnal critters in such broad daylight, and maybe get yourself a bit more relaxed. Do not "force" these kinds of rests to a different aiming point.
Hope this helps someone!

Just for info. the client is actually a pretty good shot, was just the combination of above factors that led to this unfortunate event.

 

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When most attempt to kill game that they have never even seen before the wise listen to their pH who has experience in such endeavors.

I have shot leopards in the past and have found that the biggest I've ever shot couldn't have been any more than 120 pounds, it just isn't an animal that gives up easily.

The problem is that most of these kitties are shot with a bullet that is to tough with a velocity that is too slow for them to tear up an animal that is less than a foot thick with slinky lightweight bones.

Now think to yourself what would happen to a leopard if he was hit in the chest with a lighter weight 45 caliber rifle slug that was traveling 2700 fps? It immediately ends all thoughts of eating lawers from NYC wearing funny bwanna bonets and carrying too many cameras around their necks.it explodes a hole on exit ejects a quard of blood and shredded organs that when done you can throw a football through the exit.

But don't take my word for it. Make up some loads and lung punch a deer or two and see what happens..

Best of luck.
 

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We have a .375 load that works great for cats and makes it easy on the clients with using one gun in Africa.
Outstanding advice I've printed out your post and will read it on the plane and again every time I'm waiting to go to the leopard blind.

My leopard load is 300 grain Nosler Accubond traveling 2,600 fps out of a .375 Ruger. I've found out of my gun the 100 yard zero for the 300gr. Swift A-Frame is identical to the 300 grain Nosler Accubond. So I can hunt heavy bait animals and Mr. Chui without moving my scope.
 

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Outstanding advice I've printed out your post and will read it on the plane and again every time I'm waiting to go to the leopard blind.

My leopard load is 300 grain Nosler Accubond traveling 2,600 fps out of a .375 Ruger. I've found out of my gun the 100 yard zero for the 300gr. Swift A-Frame is identical to the 300 grain Nosler Accubond. So I can hunt heavy bait animals and Mr. Chui without moving my scope.
Great bullet choice for the target animal! Good luck
 

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When most attempt to kill game that they have never even seen before the wise listen to their pH who has experience in such endeavors.

I have shot leopards in the past and have found that the biggest I've ever shot couldn't have been any more than 120 pounds, it just isn't an animal that gives up easily.

The problem is that most of these kitties are shot with a bullet that is to tough with a velocity that is too slow for them to tear up an animal that is less than a foot thick with slinky lightweight bones.

Now think to yourself what would happen to a leopard if he was hit in the chest with a lighter weight 45 caliber rifle slug that was traveling 2700 fps? It immediately ends all thoughts of eating lawers from NYC wearing funny bwanna bonets and carrying too many cameras around their necks.it explodes a hole on exit ejects a quard of blood and shredded organs that when done you can throw a football through the exit.

But don't take my word for it. Make up some loads and lung punch a deer or two and see what happens..

Best of luck.
We have a .375 load that works great for cats and makes it easy on the clients with using one gun in Africa. We find the .375 H&H to be the best all around for Africa. Most hunters can handle shooting it accurately (most important factor), ammunition is easy to find, it is a 200+ yard gun (seldom needed but once on safari it seems to come in handy for collecting a great trophy that you just cant get closer to), it is suitable for hunting buffalo cats and all PG on the same safari (bring one gun and knowing how to use it simplifies the process all around). For all PG and Buffalo I recommend the use of Swift A-frame or Barnes in a .300 grain.

The leopard load is a 260 grain Nosler Accubond traveling 2,900 fps out of a .375 H&H (do not use this on any other African animal - it is not a good bullet or load for anything else IMO). It has a lot of hydrostatic shock and kills the cats instantly. This is great as the client can use the same gun and .375's tend to handle about any ammunition accurately. We sight the gun dead on at the exact distance of the individual bait, with this bullet and we test fire right before heading to the blind (confidence is key and the shot right before sets everyone’s mind at ease).
 

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Leopard Hunting is a facinating subject and it is not that easy to give a definitive answer on exactly where to shoot. Most authorities observe that the heart/lung area lies further back than for most game and a broadside shot should be sighted well beind the shoulder and on the mid-line of the body. Sadly, Leopards rarely stand obligingly in a broadside position.

When I shot a Leopard this year in Zimbabwe, I was intending to follow the common guidance of picking a rosette well behind the leg upon which to focus and aim. However, my PH (the excellent Gordon Duncan) felt this was the wrong approach and explained the "stretchiness" of a Leopard, whereby their muscle structure allows a considerable latitude of movement of the outer body over the inner organs. For example, it is quite common to see a Leopard standing broadside on a branch although with the front legs stretched well forward to hold onto the bait: this has the effect of "moving" the heart/lung area well forward.

When the Leopard is in this position, the advice I received was to "shoot through" the body, focussing and aiming for the centre of the opposite leg.
I did this - the Leopard was dead 10 metres from the tree. An examination showed that the entry wound was much further back than I otherwise would have aimed had I chosen the rosette approach.

From what I understand, there more PH and hunter woundings by Leopard than by any other Dangerous Game, which must in itself mean that an awful lot of people are getting the shot placement wrong.
I can relate to this as my Leopard hunt in Tanzania had a similar outcone...the STRETCHING forward to grab and pull the bait nearer alters the structure, as mentioned, but also AFTER the shot, the skin slides back and covers " the hole so blood loss is minimal and post shot tracking is almost non existent! We found my Leopard by pure chance, lying almost dead in some thick bush about 100m from the bait tree!!! Scary stuff while " looking" for the animal as no blood trail!!
 

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We have a .375 load that works great for cats and makes it easy on the clients with using one gun in Africa. We find the .375 H&H to be the best all around for Africa. Most hunters can handle shooting it accurately (most important factor), ammunition is easy to find, it is a 200+ yard gun (seldom needed but once on safari it seems to come in handy for collecting a great trophy that you just cant get closer to), it is suitable for hunting buffalo cats and all PG on the same safari (bring one gun and knowing how to use it simplifies the process all around). For all PG and Buffalo I recommend the use of Swift A-frame or Barnes in a .300 grain.

The leopard load is a 260 grain Nosler Accubond traveling 2,900 fps out of a .375 H&H (do not use this on any other African animal - it is not a good bullet or load for anything else IMO). It has a lot of hydrostatic shock and kills the cats instantly. This is great as the client can use the same gun and .375's tend to handle about any ammunition accurately. We sight the gun dead on at the exact distance of the individual bait, with this bullet and we test fire right before heading to the blind (confidence is key and the shot right before sets everyone’s mind at ease).

Thank you for the info Nathan. Can you share with us your particular Powder and amount used? Nosler is not close to the 2900 FPS with their load data.

 

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I am going back for leopard in May of this year. I ll bring my 300 WSM shooting 18o grain Barnes tsx ammo factory loaded when Federal was still selling them. Your opinion? I also have 180 grain Nosler partion ammo I can bring and a 375 Ruger with 300 grain swift A frames.
 

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Thank you for the info Nathan. Can you share with us your particular Powder and amount used? Nosler is not close to the 2900 FPS with their load data.
Hello MMAL,
I am only a professional hunter so advice on hunting leopard I am happy to share...I have been fortunate to have a lot of great experience in this area.
Now, reloading information...I am NOT a professional reloader! It would be unsafe for me to give anyone ideas or instruction on reloading of their personal ammunition.

I would leave it to the professionals (even more so in a specialized load):
http://www.doubletapammo.net/index.php?route=product/product&path=303_335&product_id=232

I have seen it work many times on leopard. It is my #1 choice. It is fast at 2,900 fps, it is a large diameter and it expands very rapidly. In general it knocks the shit out of the cat. It does terrible damage even on misguided shots and has saved me several stitches.
Any other good African bullet (Swift or Barnes for instance) is just too hard for a leopard. They zip through the thin skin and light bones of a leopard too quickly. They hardly expand in most cases and the energy is lost.

Please note that I don't like this bullet/load for much else. I've seen the same bullet fail on large Plains Game. This is why this load, along with some 300 grain Swift A-frame, and a hand full of solids out of the same .375 H&H (no need for a Ruger). This rifle with the varied ammo is actually the perfect combination for a hunter on a leopard hunting safari. One rifle does it all and it keeps things simple in the field. This load will impact differently at 65 yards (our standard leopard blind distance) so we always re-sight the gun before we sit for our leopard. This is a needed equipment check on a very precise shot as well as a confidence builder on the way into the blind!

I hope this helps.

Nathan Askew
 

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Is it good for Lions as well?
Hi Fred, I would not use it as my first choice on a lion. It will probably work great on a perfect broadside shot, but I like a little bit harder bullet on a Lion.
With our leopard it is always a broadside shot - I know within inches of where the cats foot will be - I know he will be broadside and still when I call the shot - thus the very fast expanding bullet going real fast.
In lion hunting things have a way of being a little different!

how did your set up work on your leopard?
 

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Nathan, your reputation and expertise in this area is why i asked. I will load up a batch and chono them and get them as hot as I can until I see pressure signs on the cartridge. Thank you
 

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Just clicked on the doubletap ammo. Heck I will just buy a box of those and see what happens.
 

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Nathan, your reputation and expertise in this area is why i asked. I will load up a batch and chono them and get them as hot as I can until I see pressure signs on the cartridge. Thank you
thank you for the interest in my opinion and the complement. we really put a lot of planning and preparation into all aspects of a cat hunt.
when will you hunt your leopard?
 

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Just clicked on the doubletap ammo. Heck I will just buy a box of those and see what happens.
yes sir - I spent some time on the phone with them before I responded to your initial question... I wanted to check all the details were correct.
They have a good product in my opinion and I think you will be happy with it.
 

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Ive pretty much settled on my 300 wsm with 180 gr noslers or 180 accubonds when I get into the blind. I have a 270 wsm the shoots 140 gr accubonds well also. They may come into the blind also one night. I think I am ok with either one.
 
 

 

 

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