MOZAMBIQUE: His & Her Leopards With Derek Littleton Of Luwire Safaris

Frostbit

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Location: Lusingi Camp, Block L7 Niassa Reserve, Northern Mozambique

Outfitter: Luwire Safaris



PH: Derek Littleton

Booking Agent: Greg Brownlee

Trackers: Sabadi, Bilale

Camp Manager: Paula



Dates: April 22 - May 8 - 2015

Area hunted: Block L7 Niassa Reserve, Lusingi Camp.
Rifles:

Modified 1988 Ruger Model 77 Tang Safety 7 x 57, with Sellier & Bellot 173 grain factory loads.

Borrowed camp rifle - CZ in .416 Rigby



Animals taken: Daylight Leopards x 2, bait - Impala x 6, Common Waterbuck, Lichtenstein Hartebeest

Animals seen: Leopards x 4, Sable, Eland, Zebra, Impala, Hartebeest, Diker, Bushbuck, Elephant, Waterbuck, Hippo, Crocodile, Hyena, Wildebeest, Jackel, Civet, Mongoose, African Wild Cats

Animals heard but not seen: Lion, Buffalo

We have been to the end of the Earth and looked over the edge

The progression of our experiences on the African Continent over the last five years have steadily led us further and deeper into the bush. Looking back I think hunting was our excuse to explore. This is likely the reason we have never returned and hunted in the same area with the same outfit.

In 2012 after an amazingly successful safari in the Kafue of Zambia we decided we wanted to hunt in an area that offered reasonable success for daylight Leopard. Joyce’s evolution as a huntress gave birth to the thought of his & her Leopards. We like challenges and to double up on an elusive cat made perfect sense to us.

Zambia had been shut down giving us the perfect excuse to look into Mozambique. I started researching options and outfitters.

The Niassa Reserve sounded intriguing from a stark wilderness standpoint. After some preliminary research I began to talk with hunters who had been in the Reserve. Derek’s name and Luwire came up as did other outfits. As fate would have it Derek attended SCI in 2013 hosted at the Neal/Brownlee booth. We met and chatted. He seemed genuinely intrigued at the thought of our his & her Leopard proposal. He already had a track record of Father Son teams doubling up on Mr. Spots and he was confident he could put us on two Leopards, in daylight, within a 14 day hunt. He was so confident he recommended we plan extra days into the travel and if not successful in 14 days we could stay on longer free of charge. A hard offer to beat. But what really sold me on Derek was his manner as we talked of past experiences in Africa and life in Alaska. I rely heavily on my gut in making decisions of who to hunt with. It’s easy to find reasons to rule out some outfits, it takes a certain amount of communication to rule in the right choice and meeting face to face helps.

The deal was struck for a 2 on 1 Leopard hunt in Block L7 of the Niassa Reserve with Luwire Safaris and having Derek as our PH. The dates would be for early June of 2014.

Cancer picked the wrong fight

That statement was made by Andrew Baldry and it ended up so true. But Joyce’s battle against cancer made the chosen timing of June 2014 impossible for this Leopard hunt. We made Derek aware and told him we understood that if he could not sell the Leopards we expected him to keep our deposits. His reply was a stern no. Furthermore he recommended we simply push the hunt to a future date of our choosing. He offered a refund of the deposits but also felt keeping the hunt in limbo gave Joyce another incentive to kick cancer’s ass. He kept in close contact over the next year giving her encouragement and being one of her greatest cheerleaders in the fight.

You can’t buy time

We already had the Elephant hunt with Buzz booked for April of 2015 even before we booked the Leopards with Derek. Once Joyce looked more and more like a victor over her Lymphoma we talked with Derek about possibly moving the Leopard hunt to follow the Elephant hunt in 2015 instead of waiting for 2016. This could only happen if I retired since I could not be away from clinic for longer than four weeks. The decision was easy. Joyce and I have been together for 41 years and cancer made me realize you can’t buy time. Working a few more years would not change our financial situation enough to delay that retirement. So it was that Derek agreed we could try and make it into the Reserve mid April. He did warn that any late rains could make the trip impossible and requested we have 21 days available. If travel into the reserve was impossible early on, we would stay in a bungalow on the beach in Pemba while we waited. An incredibly generous offer that could not be turned down.

The weather cooperated

We arrived in Pemba on Monday April 20th. Being met at the airport by Carlos, we learned that Derek and his wife Paula were already in the bush. The plan was to leave at 0400 the next morning with Carlos providing the 10-12 hour drive into Block L7. Being from Portugal and quite the chef, Carlos treated us to a fabulous traditional Octopus meal cooked in his Portuguese style that night. We chatted and learned of life in Portugal and the recent history of Mozambique. Probably the best question we asked that night was about Port. This brought on an impromptu Port tasting as Carlos had quite the private selection.

The road less worse

Not all my fillings hurt but a few are likely loose. The road out of Pemba started as a reasonably flat tar road. We made good time for the first few hours. Then the mine field of pot holes began. They are strategically placed as to be unavoidable. Couple this with Carlos’s penchant for speed and we enjoyed quite a beating. When the road turned gravel it actually improved for a while. Then the holes and washboard returned. At times it seemed you had a couple of choices for which track to choose. We teased Carlos that he consistently made the wrong choice. That’s when he coined the phrase “the road less worse”. At that point the dirt road became one lane wide for close to 70 kilometers. Quite the experience when meeting a truck coming the other way. We managed to make it to the next section of tar road.

That portion of the trip was smooth as glass, the road was new. About 8 hours later we reached the invisible turnoff. I kid you not. Derek and crew keep this turn off uncleared so as to discourage uninvited visitors into the Block. After a distance it becomes a standard bush two track. When I started to see Inselbergs I knew we were getting closer to the end of this drive.

Luxury

The first couple of days we stayed in Lugenda Camp, earmarked for photo safaris. Our tented site included not only a beautiful stone shower and dual sinks, but also a full size deep bathtub. The common dinning area provided wifi. How this could be, I have no clue. The Lusingi River was still too high to cross with a truck. Lusingi Camp was our eventual home while hunting. We hiked across the River after two days at Lugenda, with a cruiser waiting on the other side.

Missing luggage

Two pieces of luggage were AWOL when we arrived in Pemba. One contained the majority of Joyce’s underwear which for some reason upset her. The other had the ammo. When I bought Joyce her treasured 7 x 57 I chose the caliber not only for it’s ballistics and manageable recoil, but also for it’s nostalgic African heritage. I was shocked to learn from Derek that in his 25+ years of guiding this was the first time someone arrived with a rifle in that caliber.

Nonetheless he was able to find a box of ammo at a scout camp and a runner was dispatched to retrieve the box of cartridges. In the meantime we sighted in a camp rifle in .416 Rigby as an option to get some baits in the trees. It took me five shots to get the rifle close to zero’d. Joyce then told Derek she wished to shoot the rifle once off his sticks. Derek looked surprised but Joyce explained that she wanted to make sure she could handle the caliber.
He stood close behind her as she made herself comfortable on the sticks. His body language said he expected to have to catch her from the recoil or perhaps save the rifle from dropping to the ground at the shot. Joyce had no issue, showed perfect form and follow through, hitting the duct tape bull dead center. She handed the rifle back to Derek and said, “I wouldn’t want to shoot it all day but I can handle it”.

I did use the .416 to take the first two Impala but that was the last it was needed. The luggage arrived two days later with all contents intact, including ammo.

Get up George

The game in the Block completely ignore the truck. The reason for this is Derek prevents the game from associating the truck with a kill in any way. We always drove past any intended targets and stalked our way back to them.

The first two Impala I took with the .416. I could have easily shot from 150 yards away but Derek likes to do everything very close. We carefully worked our way from cover to cover, including a crawl, while approaching the Impala herd with multiple males. They knew we were there. We waited and then crawled into a position likely 50 yards away. After a protracted wait they all resumed feeding. I took a careful rest against a tree trunk from a kneeling position as Derek chose a candidate. The .416 dropped the Impala where he stood and we remained motionless. The remaining herd did not flee. They stood in a semi circle around their fallen comrade and beckoned him to rise with a coughing warning call. We waited.

They eventually returned to feeding and I dropped a second. The scene repeated itself and the herd remained while resuming their warning. Again they returned to feeding. Fairly obvious this game does not see much hunting pressure.

With back straps and livers removed the two Impala were our first baits hung the next morning.

The art of perfectionist tree choice

Derek is very much into the up close and personal hunting of Leopard. I’ve read “Into the Thorns” and expected a leopard blind to be well over 50 yards from the bait. Not when hunting with Derek Littleton. He has taken Leopard as close as 9 yards with an archer.

The Leopards in Block L7 are not heavily persecuted as in other areas of southern Africa. There are no Cattle, Goats, or Dogs (other than wild dogs) in the portion of the Niassa. They can not survive the tsetses. Actually there are no human settlements of any type visible to the horizon in any direction from Lusingi.

The bait tree is chosen on three criteria that I noticed though I’m sure there’s more. The presence of male leopard spoor, a tree that provides cover and concealment at the base for the Leopard’s approach with a branch located upwind from the future blind site that will be skylined without a forested backdrop. This gives a clear view of the cat even in low light or substantial moonlight if needed.

Artificial lighting is legal until 1900 but we told Derek we would not use lights regardless. We did have the advantage of a moon phase increasing to a full moon during our hunting time. This too would not be needed for our success.

First up

There was never a doubt who would have the first crack at a Leopard. Our first hit on a bait occurred on the morning of the fifth day of having multiple baits hanging. It happened to be the closest bait to camp as well, which made building a blind and returning to sit that evening very convenient.

Derek requested we stay in camp while he and the trackers built the blind. He wanted the area as undisturbed as possible. When we arrived that evening a couple hours before sunset I was shocked how close the blind site was to the bait. My rangefinder reading taken later revealed us to be 17 yards from the hanging Impala.

That first evening in the blind we drove the truck right up to the blind site, no sneaking in. The truck was left idling and we entered to find three chairs waiting. Joyce positioned herself with her 7 x 57 in the center blind hole, I sat to the right , Derek to the left. Once we were settled and silent, the truck drove away.

We had discussed blind etiquette ahead of time. Joyce and I had demonstrated our ability to sit motionless and quiet while hunting Hyena over the Elephant gearbox in Zimbabwe. Derek later admitted he was pleased with our ability to remain stealthy.

A short time after the truck pulled away the bush returned to normal. Birds calling, the occasional rustle of leaves from a light breeze, the delightful odor of partially rotting meat all awaken your senses. A very short time later, measured by Joyce in Kindle pages of two, the unmistakable sound of cat claws in the tree erased all other sounds. A slow move of the head to see through the blind hole revealed a Leopard pulling at the bait attempting to free it from its anchor to the branch.

The cat appeared mature in size with the head of a male but was feeding at an angle that did not allow for observation of a Nad Sack. We watched patiently for 20 minutes and then he jumped from the branch and slowly departed into cover. Two hours later shooting light disappeared without any further appearances.

I had my point & shoot camera set up and filmed the encounter. After the truck retrieved us and we returned to camp I loaded the video to the computer. With very careful review of stop frame footage as he jumped from the branch he did appear to be male. A plan was made…

We awoke and had a minimal breakfast at 4 AM followed by the short 20 minute ride to the blind. Again the truck pulled straight in and the headlights provided ample light to enter the blind and take our positions. With the truck’s departure we waited with ears straining for any sound. There was none. Ninety minutes later as the first ray of light brought silhouettes to my straining eyes I heard the awakening of the flies. The buzzing slowly increased as did the light. The Doves soothing call increased as well.

To my left I slowly saw Joyce and Derek both move to open their Kindles. Being Kindleless I happily occupied myself by sneaking peaks out of the blind at the rest of Africa in view. The most astonishing object in the view was the Leopard silently standing in broad daylight at the base of the tree gazing about at his domain never once looking at the blind.

I slowly moved my hand to obstruct Joyce’s view of her Kindle and pointed one finger towards the front of the blind. Derek caught the movement as well and they both ever so slowly closed their electronic literature. The cat at that point jumped onto the trunk of the tree that sloped to the right at almost a 45 degree angle. Verification he was a male took no great observation and Derek gave the thumbs up.

Mr. Spots did not climb onto the branch but was actually trying to pull the bait towards himself while he stayed on the trunk. Joyce moved silently about as fast as the minute hand of a watch. She is good at stealth. As she obtained her weld point to the rifle stock I turned on the camera, already in silent mode, and framed the scene. That camera screen became my new world that revealed a beautiful Leopard happily feeding.

I saw her silently slide the tang safely and knew she entered her zone. The shot immediately followed.

With that, the Leopard leapt 10 feet straight back from the trunk with awkward straight legs hitting the ground on his feet and noisily crashing into the brush behind the tree. The sound disappeared in seconds. We waited.

Derek whispered to Joyce asking if the shot felt good. The answer was a confident “yes”. Derek radioed for the truck and we continued to wait for an eternity of 15 minutes. With that chore complete we exited the blind and approached the base of the tree. Joyce had her 7 x 57, I had the camp .416 Rigby, and Derek his .458 Lott.
No blood!! At first it’s easy enough to rationalize that the cat moved so swiftly you may not expect blood at the tree. The trackers and Derek slowly entered the bush with us behind them. The three of us agreed on the direction of the cat’s exit. Still no blood. I looked at Joyce and she murmured aloud, “It felt good”. Derek reassured her the cat reacted like he was hit proper.

The ever so slow search continued to reveal nothing. No cat, no blood!! After an eternity of self doubt that began to surface on Joyce’s face I called to the group that a dead Leopard lay in front of me.

The cat, after he entered cover, made a 90 degree right hand turn and died 15 yards from the path of his exit line. The only blood visible coated the ground in front of his mouth. He had not a drop on his coat. The reaching position he occupied when Joyce shot caused the skin to slip back over the entry and exit after he rocketed off the tree.

I will never forget the utter look of relief and happiness on my wife’s face.
“Look, I hit it in the exact Rosette I aimed for. I knew it felt good”.

Her only sadness came after I realized I was so intent on watching the scene through the world of the camera lens that I never hit record. I will pay for that foible for a long, long time.

One daylight Leopard down!!

Cinco De Mayo Leopard

With Joyce’s Leopard in the salt I felt this Safari was as much of the success as it needed to be. She told me that night she now felt the battle was over. Cancer tried to take much from her including her life and this Leopard hunt was the last thing disrupted by Lymphoma. The battle was now complete. She won.

The baits had now been in the trees for over five days and were beyond ripe. We needed to hang some new meat. In total for both cats we shot six Impala, a Hartebeest, and a Waterbuck.

The hit on the bait that my cat would ultimately be taken on was the furthest from camp at a little over an hours drive. The route was rough on the vehicle and we set a record for flats and mechanicals. All part of the fun.

Three days after Joyce shot her Leopard that furthest bait was devastated. The spoor revealed what appeared to be a female, a small male, and a very nice large male. We hung a fresh Impala in the late morning and hurriedly built a blind 19 yards from the bait.

The first evening we occupied the blind presented a delight for all senses. The sight was a female leopard feeding for 20 -30 minutes in broad daylight. She left the tree and a young male immediately took her place. My ears did not have to strain to hear the identifiable sawing sound of another leopard approaching from my right.

Having never hunted leopard specifically before this trip the next sound surprised me. A deep guttural growl that was so loud I was sure we had a Lion coming to the bait. The young male immediately exited the tree and noisily ran off to our left out of sight. His path was trackable by sound as we heard the barking warning of Impala and also Sable.

Then came the footfalls from the right. Could this be the large male Leopard that had made the growling warning? The walking sounds grew louder and then passed the rear of the blind down wind. A coughing sound followed and I was sure what ever was walking around had scented us and was leaving.

The walking sounds returned and approached the blind from the left, Derek’s side. All our eyes met. No fear was seen, just smiles. Whatever was out for a stroll laid down next to the blind. We all froze and hoped that Joyce’s stomach would not restart it’s serenade of gastric grumbling.

An eternity later the sound of footfalls returned and faded without a cat entering the tree.

The sun set and we waited an hour before being picked up for the ride to camp.

Over dinner the plan was struck. We decided the late sounds we heard were that of the large tom leopard. We would rise early, shoot another impala to replenish the bait but not sit that evening, letting things settle down a bit.

When we returned to the site it was obvious something had entered the tree after we left. The bait, which hug under the branch when we left had been pulled up onto the branch and wedged in a fork. As Belale hung the new offering of impala, Derek and Sabadi read the tale of the spoor. We still had fresh sign from three separate leopards, the female and two males.

With the Smorgasbord of Waterbuck and Impala replenished we returned to camp ever watchful for Zebra or Wildebeest on the way. Over dinner the newest plan included heading to the blind pre dawn. We had hoped by letting the bait site settle by not sitting the previous evening the larger tom would feel comfortable about entering the tree.

We again experienced the auditory awakening of Africa with the buzzing of the flies and the call of the birds as first light formed. No action!! Not a peep or sighting of a Leopard of any size or sex. A couple hours later we returned to camp for an early lunch and a new plan.

Earlier in the hunt, after listening to tales of hunting and camping in Alaska, Derek asked how we felt about sleeping out in Africa. Of course we were all in for a new adventure. So our new plan now included loading the truck with bedrolls, ground cover, and a simple bush dinner and returning to the blind site to sit in the evening. By making a simple camp a kilometer from the blind we would eliminate the one hour ride back to camp and could more easily reenter the blind predawn.

Once again the truck dropped us at the blind site and we entered and settled in our chairs before the truck departed. Twelve minutes later Joyce opened her Kindle. Two minutes after that I shot a Leopard from the tree. It was the dominate larger male that had eluded us before. Interestingly, the cat made no noise climbing the tree. Both the female and young male, when climbing previously, rustled the thick cover loudly as well as revealing their climbing actions with loud claw sounds on the bark of the tree.

Following the shot the Leopard fell from the branch with a resounding thud but immediately the same loud growl we had heard two days prior returned as he ran past the blind to my right. He then fell silent.

Derek tried to call the truck but no luck. The guys were likely placing the ground cover and bed rolls for our sleep over. We waited five minutes and left the blind to find a dead Leopard laying twenty feet to the right of the blind.

The ridiculous goal of His & Her Daylight Leopards was now achieved.

Derek decided to walk to the camp site and return with the truck since no response came by radio. Joyce and I repositioned the Leopard for the photo shoot. When Derek returned with the truck he and the guys joined us for photos and Derek then proclaimed he had another spot for photos picked out.

We loaded up the Leopard and drove to the unneeded camp site. Joyce and I couldn’t believe it. Ground cover and bedrolls were laid out beneath a shade tree. Chairs were set around a fire and a table held fine whiskey and cigars. We placed the Leopard in the foreground and took our places at the fire, drink in hand, as Derek snapped away. He told us he always wanted to stage this classic safari scene but the opportunity never arose before.



Sadly, after pictures, we packed up the gear for our return to camp in order to get the Leopard in the salt. Just like me to ruin a perfectly good camping trip by killing something. We did plan on later sleeping out for no other reason than to do it but the threat of returning rains prevented it.

Derek Littleton

During the due diligence portion of Safari planning one of the most important things for us is who are we going to hunt with. We don’t book with an outfit and then are told who our PH will be. We choose the PH and that dictates the outfit.

Derek’s reputation certainly preceded him when I started making some inquiries. His early career included time with Parks in his native country of Zimbabwe. He spent ten years in the wildlife service. This included five years with anti-poaching units. Later he operated as PH for two different outfits in Zim.

Fifteen years ago he had the opportunity to team up with a wealthy benefactor and become the caretaker for block L7. He instituted anti-poaching units based on a military model. Many camps are spread out throughout L7 and radio traffic is performed daily to organize foot patrols based on intel gathered. When ever we shot an animal the radio would buzz with reports from the camps of shots heard.

Every time we drove through a scout camp while out hunting or hanging bait the scouts would be lined up and salute Derek on his arrival. He’s known as “number one” on the radio.

Since taking over the care of L7 fifteen years ago the Lion population has tripled. The plains game also increased proportionately. Elephant though are being hammered. An aerial count showed the majority of the remaining Elephant in the Niassa to be in Derek’s block but nothing prevents them from crossing into adjoining blocks that do little to no anti-poaching. A similar sad reality was heard from Buzz while hunting in Dande.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus

One night at dinner we made a comical reference to Monty Python by imitating a scene from one of their skits. Joyce and I can be a bit goofy. Derek picked up the skit immediately where we left off. About 45 minutes later, with Paula his wife and camp manager looking on in bewilderment, Derek remarked he had never met Americans with such a keen knowledge of the comedy group. Maybe this has little bearing on what constitutes a successful safari but we would return to Block L7 in a heartbeat just to share more time with Derek & Paula in their most wild and beautiful back yard.



 

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Bobpuckett

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Beautiful Leopards! Looking forward to the rest.
 

adgunner

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Thanks for sharing your hunt with us, really enjoyed it, and congrats on the leopards!
 

johnnyblues

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What a wonderful report. Congratulations to you and your wife on two beautiful cats. I leave in September for Namibia for my leopard hunt. Actually my first trip to Africa.
 

stug

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Wow! What an awesome experience for you and your wife. Leopard is my dream hunt, but I think it will stay a dream.
 

Frostbit

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"Last edited by a moderator: 41 minutes ago"

This is my last report ever posted on here. I do not appreciate my writing being edited without my approval. Ridiculous that the mere mention of two initials signifying another forum needed to be removed, especially considering the only reason this report and the CMS Elephant report are even on here is because someone from here reached out to me on that very forum to add my writing here.

You blew it!!
 

dtarin09

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Awesome story, great detail, and kept me wanting more. Congrats to you and her support for beating cancer and achieving a dream. Let nothing stand in your way!

dt
 

PHOENIX PHIL

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Simply outstanding!
 

bluey

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man that's the first hunting yarn in a long time ,that as soon as I finished reading it ,l went straight back up to the top and read it again .
thanks for yet another , brilliant description,of an unique African adventure.....
 

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"Last edited by a moderator: 41 minutes ago"

This is my last report ever posted on here. I do not appreciate my writing being edited without my approval. Ridiculous that the mere mention of two initials signifying another forum needed to be removed, especially considering the only reason this report and the CMS Elephant report are even on here is because someone from here reached out to me on that very forum to add my writing here.

You blew it!!
Sorry to hear that I was truely enjoying them.
 

bluey

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x2
 

BRICKBURN

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Congratulations on your hunt.
Thanks for sharing your story here.
 

huntermn15

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Outstanding hunt and story. Bravo!!!!!!
 

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edward

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one of the best write ups ive ever read!!!!
 

dailordasailor

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amazing story. Your future stories will be missed but understandable.
 

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Namibia, South Africa (East Cape, Guateng and Limpopo)
Thanks for the hunt report and pictures, I really enjoyed it!
 

Frostbit

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amazing story. Your future stories will be missed but understandable.

It may seem like an insignificant act to edit the writing by removing a vague initialed reference to another hunting forum. To me it signifies why the anti's are winning the war against hunting. We as hunters can't seem to band together. The Whitetail Deer/Turkey hunter couldn't care less that ivory imports are banned from Zimbabwe, it doesn't affect them. The fact is that ban is not the last negative move against hunting that they will see. It's only a matter of time that a restriction will occur that does affect them.

By removing the reference to the existence of another forum (which likely everyone on here knows of its existence anyway) a decision was made to limit a resource for all hunters.

I do not wish to be part of that limitation. To me it's no different than calling captive bred Lion hunting "canned shooting". I have no interest in doing it but it's legal and I see no issue with someone else taking part.

The pictures from this trip are loaded elsewhere.

Cheers
Jim
 

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