Quest for Africa’s Big 5 Hunt 1: Day 7

Sponsored by: Victory Archery, Goat Tuff Products, Equalizer Release, Muzzy Broadheads, AZ Rim Country & BowFit Archery

Day 7

At light I could hear the truck approaching. I gathered my things and crawled out of the blind. I felt like I was living a nightmare. I could hear the doors shutting on the truck and people rushing my way excited to see what happened. I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide. I still couldn’t believe I missed my leopard. Here came Sydney with the video camera on waiting for my reaction. I asked her to turn it off for a minute. Lee ran up and asked what happened? I couldn’t even talk! Who misses a 20 yard shot? I can’t remember the last time I was this disappointed in myself. Lee walked over to the bait to join the trackers and Stephan the other Ph. They were staring at the arrow.

Me and one of the Ph’s Stephan.

When I was finally alone with Lee I said, “I honestly don’t know what happened. This isn’t like me. The bow was drilling the target the night before. I don’t get it.”

As soon as we got back to camp I shot the bow. Three arrows touching right in the bullseye! Lee watched the video footage over and over trying to see what could have happened. We know something was drastically wrong because it shot two feet low and two feet to the left. We finally came to the conclusion that the arrow must have hit a limb upon leaving the blind, deflecting it to the left and low. There was no other explanation.

John and I climbed back into the blind at 5:00 that evening. John asked if I could see through my peep sight ok. After cleaning the window of any branches, I drew back. I could see through my peep perfectly. The window was ready. This was it. If the leopard comes back tonight, he is going down. Just like the night before the darkness brought with it an awakening of the animals that prowl at night and their enchanting sounds. The baboons started first, barking and fighting and playing. I could only imagine in my mind what they may be doing as it was pitch black. Then came the hyenas but they were closer than the night before. They were all around us. We could hear the elephants not far off as well. I couldn’t get over how alive the night became. There was never a moment of silence and it was impossible to doze off because of all the action going on right outside the blind.

The sun setting in Africa.

We heard a branch crack not far from the blind. Then the distinct laugh of a hyena on the left. Then one on the right. It sounded like they were running all around. I switched the video camera on to capture the heart pounding sounds and anything else that might happen.

Just then we heard something running fast toward the back of the blind. John reached down and put his hand on his .458. Whatever it was it stopped right outside the blind. I could hear it breathing three feet away from me. We didn’t move. I was sure whatever it was, it could hear my heart pounding. The breathing sounded deep and gruff. The leaves of the blind were moving. Then all of a sudden a bunch of hyenas came running toward the blind. Whatever was right outside the blind ran off. The hyenas moved in. I could hear several all around us sniffing the blind and rustling the leaves of the blind as they investigated what we were. I put my hand around my .375 H & H. They just kept sniffing and running around. After they moved away from the blind I slowly stood up to look out the window. The moon had come up just enough to cast a shadow on the pack of hyenas trying to get the bait. I could see several smaller ones, but there was one really big one ten yards in front of the window. He was light colored and his neck was long, his body looked distorted. They are really hideous looking creatures and they never stopped moving.

It seemed like an eternity that the hyenas were running around the blind howling, laughing and searching for something to eat. They were lured in by the smell of the bait so they knew something was dead very close by. I kept moving the aim of my rifle toward the closest sounds to me. It was unnerving. John touched my shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, they are cowards and will run if we make a sound”. That made me feel a little better but some of the other guys at camp had talked just that day about how a pack of hyenas would attack people. So which was it? What an exhilarating experience. After the hyenas left, John explained to me that they had been chasing the leopard and it was the leopard that stopped outside the blind. He knew this because as soon as it ran from the blind it jumped in the tree and grabbed a bite of the bait then jumped out, as the hyenas were running in.

At 3:50 in the morning the log cracked as the leopard climbed the tree. My heart began to race. I methodically, but silently stood up and grabbed my bow. Here we go. This was it. I drew back and John turned on the red marauder light. The elusive leopard looked over then went back to eating. This time I took more time aiming. He wasn’t going anywhere. I settled the 20 yard pin just behind the shoulder. I held it. I was steady. I told myself, this is an easy shot. Its 20 yards. I’m just aiming at a target. It’s ok. I released. Thwack! No! I didn’t like that familiar sound. Please tell me I did not hit the log. I asked John frantically, “Did I hit him?” John didn’t know. He shined the white light and there was the arrow, buried in the log. No freaking way! This time I was pissed!

How? How did this happen again? I was so mad! This was not happening! I sat back down without saying a word. I sat in silence furious and stewing over what in the heck was going on. About 20 minutes later, I heard something climbing the log to the bait. It couldn’t be the leopard! Unbelievable! The leopard returned to the tree again. I almost didn’t want to try a shot. Something was wrong and I had no idea what! I never dreamed he would come back so I had to grab an arrow and get ready. I drew back hesitantly. John asked, “Are you ok?” I didn’t answer. He turned the red light on. Once again I put the first pin behind the shoulder. Before I released I thought, this is it, if I miss this one, it’s over. I released. No thwack! “Did I hit it?” John thought I had. We shined the light and there was no arrow in the tree! I quickly replayed the footage frame by frame. I couldn’t tell if he was hit. I just couldn’t figure out what was going on. Then I remembered John asking me if I could see through the peep.

A picture of the bait in daylight.

I drew back in the dark like I was setting up for a shot. Then I told John to shine the light behind me. I could immediately see the problem. My head was tipped so that my eye was focusing on the left side and below the peep. I was not looking through the peep! Because John was shining the light behind me, I could see that I needed to adjust my eye to see through the peep. My eye was entirely missing the peep in the blind because it was pitch black in the blind. Before the hunt I spent a lot of time practicing in the dark and I was very accurate. But I just realized that when I was practicing, there was very dim back light from the buildings behind me enabling me to see through the peep. Unbelievable! Something that simple has just cost me a second and possibly third miss at an African leopard.

Note: Don’t forget to watch my hunt on Eye of the Hunter airing on Versus, on Thursdays at 2:00 pm EST

Next: Day 8

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8 Responses to "Quest for Africa’s Big 5 Hunt 1: Day 7"

  1. John McGuire   2011/05/23 at 1:47 pm

    Sounds like you are having a great hunt in Africa. Hope you work out the peep and get a leopard.

  2. Al Quackenbush   2011/05/23 at 4:18 pm

    Rebecca, congrats on your perseverance! What an exciting hunt! What determination and great storytelling. I feel like we are all there with you.

    As far as the ignorant folks here bashing, just a bunch of PETA and HSUS supporters who obviously don’t have all of the information. It’s probably one or two people who have nothing better to do than bash people because they are afraid of reality. I commend you for getting out there and aiding in conservation!

    Can you share with us your gear set up? Bow draw weight, etc. I know you mentioned the 720 grain arrow. Awesome! I am super stoked and I am looking forward to Day 8!

    Cheers,
    Al

  3. Rich   2011/05/23 at 4:42 pm

    Hunting is an honorable sport, nothing of the animal goes to waste, the money spent keeps many families fed and clothed and none of the animals ever taken with a bow on this site are on any endangered species list. Also, if you think a leopard is defenseless you are obviously unaware of much that goes on in nature. I would suggest that if you find hunting unpleasant you find another web site to visit.

  4. Bjorn   2011/05/23 at 6:12 pm

    Hello Rebecca. Sorry to see all those ignorant comments on this site! Few seem to know the true fact, that hunting is a way of preserving wildlife. there are lots of studies showing that the money put into the areas by hunters actually are the reason big games even still live in some areas. Hunters provide wildlife with a value that makes the local people see them as a bonus instead of a problem and preserve them instead of poaching them. So keep up the good work and I hope you will continue to be a good roelmodel for many hunters to come!

  5. Brady Miller   2011/05/24 at 3:47 am

    Keep at it!!

  6. Tomi   2011/05/26 at 8:03 am

    What an exciting hunt!! Thank you for sharing it and though I can only imagine the frustration I thank you for the lesson you just shared with all of us. If I may, (& please forgive my inexperience) I know the feeling of having hunted hard with all your heart to miss and to not bring home a harvest as a trophy. After my divorce when I wanted to bow hunt and learn, guys just saw a tall cute girl in camo…no one really took me seriously. As I networked and tried to learn all I could not many ladies were helpful…infact only one…and most of the guys that wanted to help really weren’t truly offering help. Even married friends I’d had for years…none of the wives (friends mind you) wanted a cute, single girl in hunting camp…these were people I knew, who knew me?! My ONLY motivation was to become a better archer, to hunt, to prove to myself and everyone I COULD DO IT. I AM AN ARCHER( & a pretty good waterfowler too, I have filled a string or two with ducks) I outshot most of the “guys” everytime on the 3d course…I knew how and where I would put my arrow everytime. When I didn’t shoot well, I knew it was because of me. I have learned a rythm, of all the things I MUST do to succeddfully place my arrows. Did I do it everytime no, did I learn sometthing everytime I didn’t…eventually lol. What I didn’t know was how to stalk, how all the factors scent, wind, sound, calls, etc would be put together along with weather, the terrain, food source, water source, etc…but I read everything I could, I networked online, I went to seminars…I paid attention to local areas and have always been an outdoorswoman, I come from a ranching/hunting family in Wyo and am an outdoors/wildlife photographer so some things I knew, my family hunted for generations I just hadn’t…until now. Well I guess to come to a point, I found a way to hunt and others who would occasionally take me along…I still have yet to harvest large game (I have bought tags and hunted the last few years for Oregon Blacktail, Roosevelt Elk, coastal black bear, and cougar) though I have hunted hard, with all my heart,every day I could (am a single momma) and came close a couple times but no big tags have I filled. What I did fill were amazing days…with time spent on land I loved (and hated at times…learned real quick about Devil’s Club) learning this sport I know I will have and treasure! For the rest of my life, each season is an amazing gift…the smell of dirt and pine with a sweet layer of dew in the morning as the sun comes up and drips like honey over an old logging ridge..the scent of Elk…when you know they ARE (or were) just here…the excitment of finding a thicket of young alders full of fresh buck rubs (I named buck rub alley)…all these things are gifts. Our time spent hunting isn’t about a thrill kill…like some of the idiots making comments on here think. Its about tradtion, conservation, preservation, responsible wildlife managment in this new industrial world…empowerment, and many other gifts. We are respectful of every single gift Nature gives to us hunting to include respect for the animal, taking the right shot, one that will kill…we do not injure animals, we use everybit or share what we harvest or consume. And another gift for me personally and many other women is I get to model all of the responsible, wonderful, strong, ethical, appreciative qualities with my children. Kall of which now have bows too and we love to shoot together whether arrows or ammo :) and they will learn these GOOD qualities, respect, and traditions now too. I am PROUD of you Rebecca! So chin up buttercup what a gift you share with us all! Your leopard will come and your arrow will be true and what a story that will be, but just so you know I enjoyed this one just as much. Thank you fellow huntress :) xoxo (& btw look perty getting dirty I always say! You look amazing girlio! Git it done :)

  7. Tomi   2011/05/26 at 8:08 am

    Sorry, didn’t intend to write you a novella :) & please forgive the typos and errors and texting from my phone…man my thumbs hurt lol. Good night & good luck!