Please find the cat in the above photo, and may you be as swift as he surely will be!
If I may digress for a moment or two, the subject of technology must be addressed here and now. It has changed most of the hunting world in so many ways, and eliminated much of the “old” way to do things. Today blinds are a “pop up” affair. Most do not even know what a machan is, and fewer still how to build a proper one. Trail cameras, scopes, and binoculars all with night vision capability provide a definite edge. I realize one cannot stop progress but I feel most of today’s “improvements” are really mis-labeled. I fully realize the cost to hunt certain species have risen to levels that to me are unimaginable, and success is paramount to both hunter and outfitter. Add in the predicament of vastly reduced quotas being implemented across the continent, and the pressure to produce is beyond the pale. However, hunting is still supposed to be hunting, not shooting or purchasing power for the sake of some ill conceived competitive standing with our peers. So I will now put away my well-worn soap box and return to the subject at hand. Thank you.
Now I must admit leopard hunting is not one of my favorite things. The entire process of shooting bait, hanging bait, checking bait for activity, building blinds and then the boredom of sitting in said blinds waiting for the damn leopard to show is, well, a waiting game of frustrating proportions. I humbly view it as general waste of bloody good time in a wonderful place called Africa. Regarding blinds and blind hunting, I do not constrain my opinion only to leopard, anything requiring sitting in a blind, waiting, is simply not my cup of tea, please feel free to substitute your favorite beverage here.
I have sat for cats, sitatunga, crocodile, even whitetail deer, and the only exception of note I enjoy is warthogs during lunch breaks over water.
All that stated, for Mr. Spots, blind hunting is the only game left in most countries. Once upon a time, dogs were used to great success, and even greater sport. Today dogs are mostly banned, but lights after dark, are allowed in various hunting areas.
The blind experience is of a repetitive nature, whether early morning dark until dawn or late afternoon into the night, or frequently both for days on end. Sounds around you are amplified. Footfalls from antelope nearby sound like elephants. A cats soft padding elevates the senses, the sound of claws on the bait tree as he climbs is never forgotten. The tearing of flesh from the bait and the crunching of bone again cause blood pressure and excitement levels to spike.
When you finally react to your PH’s touch, prearranged as the go-ahead signal, it is expected and yet still electric in nature. You move into the gun, pre-set and focus in scant light searching for the cats image, then settle in to make the shot. If all goes well, it is one shot and done. A satisfying thud as the cat hits the ground, and lays unmoving. In a perfect world. In the not so perfect world, the darkness swallows a wounded fleeing cat.
The sound of the shot is now faded. The silence is all encompassing. Everything has gone silent. Your PH and you exchange looks, better left in the dark. After a few minutes of intense listening quiet conversation begins. How did the shot feel? Were you on target? The Q & A goes on as you hear the vehicle approaching. You get out of the blind and more often than not your PH has you get in the car, as he and a tracker or two approach the bait tree. If possible the car follows closely lighting the way. After a thorough examination of the scene a determination is made and ether you wait for daylight or the PH earns his money and tracks the cat. His well trained entourage of trackers, game scouts, and various players he trusts with his life and they theirs with him in tow, shotguns and rifles in hand, and you likely sitting this part of the process out. If you are lucky enough to follow along you recall all you have read and heard about Mr. Spots. Blood is found and followed a short distance and there in the torchlight the cats eyes dully reflect his now still form. Caution still dictates the final touch with a rifle barrel to the eye, and all is smiles and celebration.
Every serious African hunter needs to do a leopard hunt for the experience alone, and hopefully he will be successful. I believe one of the spotted wraiths is plenty, unless you just like the punishment of the process, but to each his own… no judgment here! If you enjoy it, do it while you are able.