That evening we come back and get set-up by 1630. You never know how long you will have to wait, it could be a long night! I was reading a magazine until it got dark. We had my gun set-up in a tripod and I was going to sit on a small stool to shoot the leopard if it came in to eat. Wayne has his headphones on to listen for noise at the bait, like a veteran he set-up for the long night. I got into my sleeping bag at dark, wondering what was going to happen next. I kept reminding myself don’t rush the shot, pick a spot, hold the gun like a rock or stone and make the shot count. Wayne went over all the shot possibilities with me before the big event. At around 1900, the big leopard came into eat. I got up slowly and got into position to shoot. My heart was racing. I found the leopard but we were not a 100% it was a male. I practiced holding the reticles tight. I whispered to Wayne “I’m ready”. He said, “not yet”. The big leopard didn’t like the light and retreated down the tree. He was hanging vertically, with his head towards the ground. “I’m saying to myself he is going to leap”. The leopard quickly brought his body to the tree and leaped to a rock like 20 feet away and was gone a flash. We didn’t make any noise in the blind, after all this was round 1. A little over an hour later, the leopard was back for round 2. Wayne said the leopard came back and sat in the tree for a long time before deciding this not safe and again leaped off the tree. I was beginning to think this is going to be a long night. I tried to get comfortable in the sleeping bag without snoring. A real challenge for me because I need to sleep on my side to do that and I’m really use to my memory foam mattress at home. I was working through the challenges of holding still. Round 3, Just before 2200 the big leopard came back for the zebra quarters. Wayne said, “this time let me confirm it’s that huge leopard and then you shoot it”. The leopard was listening for every reason to run away but at the same time wanted his zebra quarter. I finally was able to get into shooting position. I did it a little at a time. Wayne confirmed what I already knew, that it was not any small leopard and to shoot when ready. I picked a spot between his front leg and the main tree limb for a lung shot and pulled the trigger. I made damn sure I had a good rest and the correct spot on the leopard. The leopard at the shot leaped from the tree. We both heard a quick scramble and then nothing. Wayne asked, “did you make a good shot”. I replied, “yes”. We got out of the blind. Wayne had his double shotgun with buckshot. I brought my rifle. We got to the base of the tree and found bright red blood. We called the truck in with Sam, Cowboy and Micheck to help find the leopard. Not a lot of blood but there was drip drop trail up the hill to where the leopard was found dead. I stood back and let the experts sort the trail out. Honestly I don’t think the leopard went a 100 yds. It took 4 people to carry it back down through the rocks and brush. Words will never describe the relief and elation of getting a huge leopard down on your first leopard hunt. I know for the last 6 months that is all I thought about in the back of my head was I going to get lucky and get a leopard on the ground. When I was pounding hours at work, all I could think about was remember your goal. Enjoy the journey and adventure but make every moment count. You most likely only have one try to get a leopard! We moved the leopard down the river and took some pictures.
Congrats! Looks like a great cat. I think you made a great decision to go with Wayne. Hunting cats is best done with people that have very good track records. Sounds like bait animals were a bit spooky. Are you getting a full body mount?
@gillettehunter, I’m going to get his full mounted! It’s a trophy of a lifetime! The hard part will be finding a proper place to mount the trophy in my house but I have time to figure it out. I have not even built my trophy room yet.
We got back to the camp and celebrated for a while by the camp fire. It was great just to relax and know we accomplished our main goal of the trip.
We checked the trail camera where that dead calf was by the road and a big leopard hit that bait. Paw prints were on the road. There was nothing left of that bait, so we removed the trail camera. We moved some baits that were not being hit to an open area closer to camp. We thought it would be great for hyena or bushpig. We set a camera up for the area and didn’t hunt it the first night. We checked the other areas. Wayne would set a trail camera up if there was leopard eating and take pictures along with measuring the paw prints. He would also document the GPS coordinates. He trying to track the population so adequate permits are given for leopard permits. There were genets on the baits. The bait we had gotten my leopard had honey badgers in the tree later in the hunt! I decided to pass on the honey badgers, I have 2 full mounts at home. I absolutely love them, but their is no more room at home. Some baits had female leopards eating on the bait.
We didn’t hunt super hard on day 7, because of our success the night before.
We went out to check baits and found another dead calf that was killed by hyenas on the side of the road. Some how the calf got separated from the other cattle and killed. We let the local ranchers know about the calf. We took the calf and moved it up the road to an opening nearby to hunt later that night. It looked like a big spotted hyena had done the damage. Wayne checked the other bait pile where the trail camera was set-up but nothing checked out the bait pile, which seemed odd, we thought something would find that piles of meat. We went back at 1600 and set a blind up near that dead calf. About 2 hours after set-up Sam and I heard a large animal in front of the blind walk by. Poor Wayne didn’t hear it but that was because of all of the hearing losses over the year. Wayne quickly hits the Fox Pro call. The hyena was not far away and barked angrily at us, the next time it called it was even further away and the set-up was done. We could have only gotten that clever hyena maybe if I would have had the gun set up with night vision scope. Darn my luck! Well another evening of watching beautiful stars in the sky. We went back to camp to eat.
We went out in the beautiful sunshine that morning and came up on 3 nice kudu bulls eating. I got my gun up fast but not fast enough before they started to run for higher ground. The one was in the 51 to 52 inch range. We tried to climb up and cut them off but the kudu kept a comfortable distance between us. We were collecting some of the older baits to create another bait pile to draw hyena or bushpig far away from our other bait piles and where hyena tracks are present along the road.
Wayne went to check the other bait pile close to the lodge and spotted a big leopard eating at the bait site at 0915 in the morning. Unbelievable!!! He set a trail camera up there.
As were going back to camp that night I shot a broken horned impala near the road. No brush was in the way so I made a perfect shot and he dropped right there.
We went that night to hunt the new bait site for hyena that we set up earlier in the day. We got the Fox Pro set-up. I thought we would have good action due to the big hyena tracks in the area. But these were no ordinary hyena. These were highly educated hyena living in cattle country. We did hear the hyena and I sensed they checked us out from a distance but never came in to check the bait at a close distance. We called the night at 2345. Wayne was going to get his .338 Win set with a night vision scope.
We checked the trail cameras by the bait pile by camp and it had a ton of action on it during the night. There were 2 brown hyena in the picture. And a male leopard and female leopard in the trail camera pictures with another possible leopard in the background. Wayne was smart to put the trail camera on different angles.
Wayne had the guys in camp cutting new trails to set the next set of hunters up for a great hunts. It will be old areas that were used in the past but just needed clean trails to get the truck through to set up new bait sites. But we saw new leopards move in and take up other areas were leopards were taken this year. There was a lot of great habitat and plenty of food for the leopards.
I started a string of missed shots. Some were too long for my comfort. I forced the shots, I needed a tripod or back pack but I packed light for this trip. I need to find a good shooting range near Milwaukee, WI. I missed two impala and a baboon. The baboon was in brush and the bullet deflected.
We continue to hunt and explore. There are lot relationships to maintain on the property. Micheck was very valuable since he lived out there and knew most of the workers. Matthew and Charles were the main people clearing the old trails up, they also lived in the Marula area.
We checked baits, found more kudu hiding in the brush. A lot of baboons but none were close or clear for shots.
We went out that night to hunt spotted hyena with night vision but didn’t have any luck. Tough country to hunted spotted hyena.
I went out to pond that was seeing a lot of action. We made a blind in the reeds. We had the wind in our favor. We were waiting for on last impala. There were a lot of birds flying overhead. Cattle coming in to drink water. As the day got hotter, we spotted a male impala coming in to drink. I got into position and shot him through both lungs as he came into drink. We wrapped up the hunt with lunch at camp.
We cut the hunt short and went back to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I let the guys spend time with their family before the next hunt. Wayne is usually dropping off one hunter and picking the next hunter up for the next hunt. I had a very successful hunt. I could catch up on some of things I missed while I was gone by being in the city. I have a super heavy load of work lined up for me when I get back. I really want to hit the ground running full speed.
Nyamazana Safaris offered me an excellent hunt to fulfill my dream of getting a leopard. Wayne and his staff are ready to fulfill anyone’s dream of hunting in Zimbabwe.
The hunter before me shot a leopard that scored 17 1/8. They measure the width and length of the skull on the leopard and add it up. Mine measured 17. I’m not even into the numbers game or record book but those are big skulls from mature leopards. Every hunter there this year was a first time leopard hunter and we were all successful, that speaks to the quality of the operation Wayne runs in Zimbabwe.
Congrats Eric and Wayne on a great leopard! Eric, it is so great to see your success and see you on the receiving end. You are always so nice to everyone on AH when they get animals so it is a pleasure to congratulate you this time. I know you will never forget your leopard hunt. Well done!