Sunset in Komas Hochland
A very good friend and long time client Dan Boldt from San Antonio,TX needed a second leopard for his trophy room. Dan and I have been talking about going on th hunt for quite a while untill we met each other again in Reno Nevada at the SCI convention held there yearly.
After looking around a bit Dan came back and booked the hunt for September 2009 and the hunt will be in the Komas Hochlandin Namibia with dogs. A few months later Dan also decided that he wants the hunt to be filmed and that would be the job for one of my best friends Van Zyl duToit that has also hunted with me and Dan before…. So here we go the three musketeers!
We have hunted a few lion and buffalotogether on Dan’s previous African Safaris so we had a lot of trust between each other in and out of the African bush. Trust is a very important factor when hunting Dangerous game in Africa, especially when there is an angry and hurt animal with two or three loaded guns… Never the less we were all very excited about the hunt and we could not wait for September to arrive so we can start our travels to Namibia. Dan flew into OR Tambo in JHB where he had a connecting flight the next day to Windhoek which is Namibia’s capital, where we in turn picked him up.
Once arrived at the lodge where we will be staying and hunting we cleaned ad checked all the rifles that will be used on the hunt. After checking the guns and having a quick brunch we set off to find some Gemsbuck for bait. While driving around in the hills and valleys of the Komas Hochland we all knew that this is the perfect country for leopard. With deep ravines and high rock phases there was no doubt that we will shoot a nice cat. Dan then shot a gemsbuck and we could start putting out baits, we had about 9 baits out.
After a few days checking baits and only getting hits from either young males or bigger females (the size of the leopard can be told by the size of the track and the amount of bait been eaten every time).
We also decided to go to a nearby cattle farmer that phoned us and told us that he had problems with leopard killing his calf’s. We had about 4baits set up on that ranch.
On the 12th day of the 14 day hunt we still have not had any bait hit by a big male leopard, I started to think that the game was over untill we received a phone call from the cattle farmer. He said that a big calf was killed the previous night and that the tracks at the calf looked like a big males tracks. We all left the rest of the remaining baits that had to be checked and raced over to the cattle farmer. The dogs were about 15minutes in front of us. We were hoping that the tracks will still be fresh enough for the dogs to follow.
Once we got close to where the calf has been caught a tracker came running towards us telling us that the dogs spooked a big leopard about a mile from the calf. We got all our guns loaded and the camera was rolling. We walked at a steady pace for about half an hour. We started hearing the dogs distinctive bark of excitement, and now and then the deep hair raising growling of the leopard fighting with the dogs.
When hunting leopard with dogs a smaller and less experienced leopard would go up a tree really easy. But the older and bigger these males become the more they fight on the ground and they do not stand back for anything pushing them out of their comfort zone.
The dogs barking and leopard’s growling became louder and louder untill we could see some of the dogs running around a vaalbush. At that stage we where probably about 60 to 70yards from the leopard. I immediately noticed the surroundings, there where no trees in sight and the grass was about waste height. That is not good at all!
As we where three professional hunters a client, a dog handler, a camera man and three trackers we were a really big group that intimidated theleopard two or three times and he ran off with the dogs chasing him. Me and the other two ph’s decided that it would be best if we take things much slower.
Again the dogs had the leopard at bay and we moved in circling the dogs trying to get a visual of the leopard in the tall grass. As we realized the leopard was only about 25feet away from us we started retrieving slowly. We managed to give two steps when the horror story that you have heard so many times from different parts of Africa becomes a reality! With the deepest most uncomfortable hair raising growl the leopard leaped from within the Vaalbush.
I immediatly knew what was happening and lowered my gun straight to where the sound came from, by that time the leopard already leaped out of the bush coming straight towards us at the speed of lighting! At about two to three yards I decided its now or never. I pulled the trigger and nothing happens…. just the famous old “click”! Luckily Dan and the other PH shot but they managed only to break the left front leg.
As I looked to my left I only saw the cat flying through the air swatting at Carl who was the other PH with its broken leg going right through the first line of fire. I feared it would come back around to me so I immediately reloaded and turned around. Just then I heard someone screaming as if they were torturing them… By that time a million things went through my mind, maybe its Dan or Van Zyl and also swear at the gun that missed fired at the worst time ever!
I always tell my clients, trackers and cameramen on any lion or leopard hunt, you cannot out run a lion or leopard so stand your ground! It is a cat’s instinct to chase something that is running! But still one of the trackers thought that he will be the first one ever to outrun an angry leopard.
By hearing the loud screaming I started running towards the tracker which by now had the leopard on top of him withthe shooting sticks in the leopards mouth. He then kicked the cat of him, as the cat fell on the ground we shot it. It felt like an eternity but all of this happened in less than 5 seconds.
Except for really shaken nerves noboody got seriously injured. The tracker only had to go for a few stitches. We where really lucky but it is a story and hunt of a lifetime!
The leopard was really old and weighed in at about 170pounds. The reason my gun misfired I still don’t know to this day. The firing pin did hit the primer but the bullet never fired.
I almost payed the price but it is one lesson I will never forget! Even if you have to sit at customs for 5hours. Take your own rifle and ammunition when you go hunt dangerous game in Africa!
Please feel free to comment on the story or if you have any questions feel free to post them!
Hartzview Hunting Safaris
Me and Dan with the leopard