Written by Lou Hallamore and Bruce Woods (Trophy Room Books, 2011, 238 pages.) Review by Ken Bailey
With few exceptions, African literature has generally been intended to allow the reader to live vicariously through the words and experiences of the author. As readers we’re inspired by thrilling tales of hunting adventure, and often it’s those stories that compel us to visit Africa for the first time. Once we go there, of course, we’re hooked, and African hunting literature helps quell our thirst for Africa until we can return.
Chui!: A Guide to Hunting the African Leopard is not like most African literature, but then, leopards are not like any other African game animal. There is a science to hunting leopards that is unrivalled by that of any other species. Leopard hunting is not a tracker’s game, as is the case for elephant, Cape buffalo, lion (often) and most of the antelope species. Certainly, finding and identifying tracks is part of the leopard hunting experience, but once you’ve identified a prospective leopard to hunt, it becomes a tactician’s game. A chess match of the man against beast variety. And there is arguably no better tactician hunting leopard today than Zimbabwe’s Lou Hallamore.
Leopard hunting is characterized by interminably long, often fruitless, waits over bait. It’s a game of patience, and for those accustomed to shooting two or three species a day, it can be an agonizing experience. In part, that’s because, as visiting hunters, most often with little or no previous leopard hunting experience, we really don’t understand the complexities of the strategies at play. And leopard hunting, as with almost any other activity, is a whole lot more interesting and enjoyable when you know what the hell is going on. In this regard, Chui! serves as a textbook and reference source that will help you understand the many nuances that are part of a leopard hunting game plan. That understanding, in turn, will help make leopard hunting infinitely more rewarding.
Hallamore has been hunting leopards for more than 40 years. That adds up to a lot of lessons, many, if not most, learned the hard way. In Chui! he reveals all the tricks, tactics and secrets he’s accumulated on the trail of leopards across those decades. For readers, and wannabe leopard hunters, this book offers a detailed education as to what you can expect when pursuing your leopard and, more importantly, why your PH is doing what he’s doing to help you go home with that cherished rug.
Individual chapters are dedicated to the importance of selecting the right bait, hanging it, locating and building a blind, blind techniques and equipment, PhD-level tactics for problem cats, dealing with wounded leopards, and how to handle the hide to ensure your trophy arrives home as you imagined it would. Nowhere else is this level of leopard hunting know-how found within the covers of one book, and reading it, and knowing it, will go a long way toward helping you become more than just the trigger man in the grand scheme. Becoming more engaged in the whole process goes a long way in getting through those inevitably long hours in the blind, and help you come to grips with what went wrong on those too-frequent occasions when leopard hunts aren’t successful.
Of course, no leopard book would be complete without at least a few harrowing tales of man-eating leopards and hunts gone wrong, and Hallamore and Woods include some decidedly hair-raising accounts. Chui! is also liberally illustrated with images and sketches that enhance the reading and learning experience.
If you’re interested in hunting Africa, undoubtedly a leopard is on your “must do” list of game. I can think of no better preparation for that experience than reading Chui! from cover to cover. And then reading it again. There will be test one day, and you’d best be prepared!