We were lucky enough to secure a tag on a property in the northern part of Limpopo Province, South Africa, a beautiful, picturesque area with scattered boulders and granite outcrops – a leopard’s paradise. Our animal was taken near the town of Mussina.
I had been hunting this particular old male for four years, following his movements and habits on trail camera, trying to discern his habits. He was an Educated Super Cat! I dubbed him the “Sperm Male” due to a sperm-shaped marking behind his shoulder.
I had a client from the Philippines who wanted to take a large male leopard – so “sperm male” was our target.
The hunt started with the typical baiting and scouting for tracks and other signs. I had a handful of regular places that I baited for this particular tom. I had also established that he only fed in the pre-dawn hours, and seldom, if ever, returned to a bait the following night.
For 11 nights we slept in blinds over baits where I expected him to show, when finally we found fresh sign, close to a bait site. By then he had already hit a bait, briefly, where we sat, but before we could get ready to take a shot he had left again, obviously suspecting danger.
The site where I expected him to hit was a good set-up, except for a few pitfalls. The wind would change during the night to the exact opposite, meaning that I would have to build the blind on the “wrong” side of the bait, hoping that it would be right by 5 a.m. the following morning. Also, the only spot I could build a blind, was slap-bang in the middle of a path that the leopard regularly used when approaching the bait.
We built the blind about 85 yards away, and then we packed a wall of branches about 50 m long diagonally across the path of his normal approach, forcing him to change course and approach the bait through our shooting lane, but upwind from us.
This worked, and the leopard was on the bait at around 5.30 a.m. after a very long and cold night for us. My client was also quite noisy when lying down, so I had him in a chair, sitting upright for 12 hours! When the time came, I nudged him, and he got into a shooting position. When the light went on he could not see the leopard lying on the branch, but it slipped off into the shadows. My mood dropped into my shoes, but not five minutes later the tom was on the branch again and side on, and brilliantly exposed to our view.
The shot rang, and a feeling of elation and relief overcame both of us. That feeling cannot be described, and only someone who has endured and worked the same way for such a great trophy would understand.
Both the hunter and I were exhausted and full of aches and pains – but it felt great!