We got up a little later this morning and absorbed the beautiful African sunrise. We sat down for a breakfast of eggs, kudu sausage, toast and juice.
We made our customary rounds looking for new elephant tracks over our freshly raked road. We found some but they were heading right into Hwangi National Park so we couldn’t follow them. We didn’t see any other tracks that were promising so we stopped to take a picture of a sign that I found rather interesting. A sign you would never see in the U.S.
We stopped at the leopard blind we had sat in the night before to check the trail cam. They pointed out fresh leopard tracks immediately. I was already shaking my head in disbelief. The leopard had come in exactly ten minutes after we left last night fed for a minute then left. He returned at almost 4:00 am to feed again. Oh, I was bummed. John and I looked at each other and decided we were moving into the blind for the entire night!
At 5:00 pm, John and I headed for the leopard blind. We packed blankets, pillows, food, a book, drinks, toilet paper, warm clothes and lots of caffeine. What more could you need? A sleepover with the leopard!
We settled into our chairs getting comfortable for the long night ahead. When you’re forced to be that still you notice more details going on around you. We could hear various birds, limbs cracking and leaves rustling. As night approached an entirely new set of noises began. It was almost as if another world came alive in the dark of an African night.
Just after dark the elephants moved in. They were making all kinds of racket, pushing over trees, digging for roots and walking around. They were a little too close for my comfort. After seeing the size of trees they push over I knew our little leopard hut could not survive an elephant foot. I could hear the deep squawk of a red-billed hornbill bird on one side of the blind conversing with another one on the other side of the blind. It was indescribable sitting there listening to all the different sounds. Then hyenas began howling not far from us. It is one of the classic sounds of Africa. Every so often the baboons would bark at each other. I was sitting there thinking how cool is this? Every so often a limb would break around us. Off in the distance we could hear the elephants at camp drinking from the waterhole. We were over a mile away!
My eyes were wide with fascination as it got later and later. There was a train track not far from us so we took advantage of the noise that the train made each time it passed by. We would hurry and put on a coat and hat, adjust how we were sitting and chew on a quick snack. We had to be fast because it didn’t take long for the train to go by. It was getting pretty chilly by 1:00 am. The hyenas could smell the stench of the bait and kept running around not far from the blind. The night was alive with predators searching for food.
At about 4:00 am there was a loud crack on a log that startled me. John touched my leg. The leopard had arrived for dinner. I was wide awake and shocked that I never heard one sound from that leopard coming into the bait. We didn’t know he was there until he climbed into the tree.
This was it; this is what I had been waiting for. I noticed myself start to shake a little from the adrenaline. I slowly and silently stood up and turned the video camera on. My Victory VAP Armor Piercing arrow and 100 grain Muzzy broadhead was already nocked on the bow and ready for me to pick up. John touched me the second time. With precise movement I picked up the bow, switched on the Black Gold sight light and drew back. As with all the animals I hunt, I had replayed this moment in my mind countless times. I had studied the trail cam picture of the leopard and picked out a rosette spot right behind his front shoulder that could only be seen when his leg was forward. It was pitch black and I could see nothing. I could hear his teeth crunching on the bone of the bait. I took a deep breath and aimed in the direction of the bait. John switched on the red light and there he was.
He was breathtakingly beautiful. This was my leopard. He was sitting on the log with his legs forward holding on to the bait while he fed. I set my 20 yard pin right on the spot behind his shoulder. He looked over at us and his eyes were glowing yellow. He immediately went back to eating. I held my breath and squeezed my Equalizer release. I heard a loud thwack before I even relaxed from the shot! I hit him! But something sounded a little different than it should have. John grabbed me and whispered, “Congratulations! You did it!” I was now shaking uncontrollably. What a rush! But again I thought, something didn’t sound quite right. John quickly exchanged the red lens on the marauder light for a white one. He asked me how I felt about the shot. I felt great! I was relaxed and focused exactly in the right spot.
He shined the bright white light toward the bait. My jaw dropped! My arrow was buried right in the log the leopard had been sitting on. That was the unusual sound I heard after the shot. I heard John sigh with disappointment. What happened? I was in shock. I replayed the shot in my mind. It was perfect. I quickly grabbed the video camera and played it. Right before my eyes, there was the leopard then the sound of the shot and the sound of the arrow hitting the log. Then the leopard jumped out of the tree and was gone. I sat back down shaking my head in disbelief. What happened? I was physically ill. I felt John gently pat my leg as if to say, it’s OK. But it wasn’t OK! That was my chance!
Not long after the shot, we heard the leopard growling and almost screaming not far from the blind. My initial thought was that he knew we were there and he was mad and was coming back. We listened to him go on like this for about 10 minutes. We could hear the faint call of another leopard in the distance. She was making almost a barking sound. John mentioned that she was probably calling her young. After a while it sounded like a very serious cat fight, only really scary. We assume it was the male and female leopards crossing paths going to the bait. The sounds they were making were indescribable. It was a mixture of growling and hissing and almost screaming. This went on for what seemed like an eternity.
We only had about an hour before it was light but it was intense. John had previously explained to me that we were hunting in the wild where they had to fight for their food. These leopards were hungry. I had my rifle in my hands ready they entire time. When they leopards finally left we sat in silence till light.
Note: Don’t forget to watch my hunt on Eye of the Hunter airing on Versus, on Thursdays at 2:00 pm EST
- Quest For Africa’s Big 5 Hunt 1: Day 5
- Quest For Africa’s Big 5 Hunt 1: Day 4
- Quest For Africa’s Big 5 Hunt 1: Day 3
- Quest For Africa’s Big 5 Hunt 1: Day 2
- My Quest for the Big 5 in Africa