With fourteen days ahead of us Clanton Lindsay and I
sat in camp and discussed how we were going to keep ourselves
occupied for the remainder of his safari. Clanton had arrived in the
Kazuma Forest Area near Victoria Falls two days previously to begin
a 15 day elephant bull hunt. As things turned out we were fortunate
enough to be back in camp by the afternoon of the first day with a
60lb bull already in the salt.
In addition to his elephant, Clanton was keen on
securing a good sable but as this area was renowned for its quality
trophies, I did not anticipate hunting for too long before finding a
Clanton had hunted a variety of animals with me in
2007 and we began to look at the remaining animals still on quota in
Kazuma to see if there was anything left that he had not already
taken. As it turned out there was still one leopard as well as a
couple of hyena still available for 2011. Clanton had already taken
a leopard in the Chiredzi River Conservancy but it was not very
large and here was an opportunity to look for a bigger animal.
We agreed that we would only start baiting if we
found tracks of a big tom so as to not waste time. The heat at that
time of the year was going to make baiting difficult and I suggested
that we wait until we were certain of a big male feeding before we
shot a zebra and hung it out. My guess was that the meat would only
last 3 or 4 days before we had to throw it away and we only had one
zebra to shoot as bait – we had to get it right! Also keen on a
hyena, we started out the next morning by hanging a few elephant
bones to get the ball rolling.
the Matetsi Safari Area that bordered onto Kazuma, we had the luxury
of being able to use a light at night to hunt predators and it
wasn’t long before we had secured our first hyena. Then, on the
third day of the hunt we picked up tracks of a big male leopard
coming in from Botswana, drinking at a local waterhole, before
crossing back into Botswana again. As this was the only water in the
vicinity I was convinced that he would make an appearance again
soon, so we decided to check the waterhole every morning.
Sure enough the following day we picked up his
tracks walking along the boundary road heading towards the Kazuma
Pan National Park. Following these tracks, we soon established that
he had crossed out of our area and into the Park. This Park is
actually a huge depression about 15 kms wide and consisting mainly
of short grass. Because of the lack of suitable cover, I didn’t
think the leopard would stay in this area for very long and I was
convinced that he would cross back into the hunting area the
The race was on to find a zebra and put baits up
along the boundary road as soon as possible. Fortunately due to good
luck, which was now firmly on our side, and some excellent shooting
on Clanton’s part, we were able to secure a big stallion that same
morning. That afternoon we carefully choose two elephant trails that
the leopard was most likely to return on and left two big chunks of
fresh meat to entice him to feed.
The following morning there was an air of
anticipation as we made our way up towards the two baits. The first
one was untouched but as we approached the second one I noticed
footprints on the path leading towards the bait. Sure enough there
they were. The big cat had come in exactly where we had hoped he
would and wondered down the path towards the bait tree. It was when
we approached the tree however, that it looked like our luck had
finally run out. Our friend had walked up to the tree, jumped up
onto the branch below the bait and for whatever reason ignored the
meat, jumped back down and carried on walking along the path away
from the bait.
Having hunted these animals for 25 years as a PH,
this was not the first time I had encountered this behaviour but I
wanted to try and get an idea of whether he was still in the area or
had moved out altogether. From where we were, the nearest road in
that direction was the same road that we had encountered Clanton’s
elephant bull on, so we quickly drove around to try and establish
the cat’s movements. Sure enough to our disappointment, we found he
had visited the site where we had shot the elephant, crossed the
road and carried on moving away from the bait, by now a good 3 kms
again it looked like our luck had deserted us, but I was determined
to at least give it a try and see if he would return that evening.
We then carried on down that same road to circle back to the bait
when suddenly his tracks were back on the road again! This time he
appeared to be walking back towards the bait although he was by now
at least 4 kms away.
It was time to stop trying to second guess this
leopard and get back and build a blind as quickly as possible.
Having a well made pop-up blind makes all the difference under these
circumstances and we had the blind up and were out of the area
within a few hours. That afternoon we were back in the blind by
4.30pm. Sunset was at 6.15pm and the chances were that if he was
going to return in this heat, he would only come in after dark, but
I have learnt never to take anything for granted with these animals
and I wanted to make sure we were waiting for him.
As dusk began to fall I heard leaves rustling off to
the left of the blind – something was approaching. Previously when
Clanton had hunted with us in Chiredzi, we had spent countless hours
with a spotlight at night looking for a decent civet, but
unfortunately came away empty handed. Now as we sat waiting, a large
male civet stepped out into the clearing under the bait tree.
Clanton immediately looked at me and I could see by the look in his
eyes that he was very tempted. I quickly popped his bubble by
shaking my head – we hadn’t done all this work to get second prize!
The civet sniffed around for a few more minutes and then wandered
off. The light was beginning to fade and suddenly - there he was!
The tom had appeared as they often do, no noise, no indication of
his arrival, just materialising at the base of the tree. A quick
nudge, but there was no need, Clanton had seen him and sat waiting
for my signal. We waited for the leopard to climb the tree and start
feeding. It was important not to botch up the proceedings by rushing
Everything had been set up to ensure a clear shot on
the branch above the bait. The cat however had different ideas and
hopped onto the branch on the opposite side. It was getting dark and
the light was fading, but we could still see his silhouette clearly
against the sky. In spite of this I decided to wait and indicated as
much to Clanton. Eventually we heard rather than saw the cat jump
onto the right branch and waited for him to start feeding properly.
I flicked the light on. For a second or two the big cat’s eyes shone
back at us as he glared in our direction, but he soon lost interest
and put his head down again to concentrate on his meal. I tapped
Clanton on the shoulder, an indication to shoot. The .338 Weatherby
shattered the silence, the cat dropped out the tree as if pole axed,
but leapt up and immediately charged off with a deep growl.
There was complete silence as we listened for any
indication of the cat’s whereabouts – nothing. A quick discussion
and Clanton assured me his shot placement had been good. Strapping a
powerful flashlight to the barrel of my rifle, we waited for Steven,
my tracker to arrive. As soon as he did, we walked up to the base of
the tree and quickly picked up the glint of fresh blood in the
light. With Steven crouching down in front of us, he slowly lead us
in the direction the cat had taken. It can be a little nerve racking
following a wounded leopard at night because it is so difficult to
see beyond the beam of light. The one big advantage however, is when
the cat looks at you, his eyes become visible from a long way off
and it was exactly this that alerted us to his presence as we
followed the big tom. I had moved slightly ahead of the tracker,
shining my light in the undergrowth when suddenly two bright green
eyes reflected back at me. I immediately crouched down waiting for
the cat to react to my presence - but there was nothing. After a
short while I cautiously moved forward, but still nothing. The big
old tom had succumbed to a well placed lung shot, but incredibly
still had the strength to run off a 100 yards, turn around and face
us before he died. Clanton had done his bit once again and finally
had a nice big male leopard to add to his trophy room.
hunt continued to produce great results. Another hyena was taken a
few days later followed by a respectable 41" sable. We still had six
days left in Kazuma without much else to hunt so we decided to look
at the possibility of heading down to hunt the Chiredzi River
Conservancy again. Clanton was looking for a hippo and Barry Style
had mentioned that if we had some time on our hands, he would
organise one for us. Once again everything worked like clockwork.
Barry arrived to pick us up in his Cessna 206 from Victoria Falls
airport the next morning and by that afternoon we were hunting
across the other side of the country. Clanton was still very keen to
secure a civet so every day we left camp with a light, staying out
late and spotlighting on the way back. It wasn’t long before his
trophy list began to grow again. One morning we flushed a small herd
of bushpig and it didn’t take Clanton long to put one in the salt.
After finding a suitable bull hippo along the Chiredzi River he was
put to rest with a single brainshot. This was followed the next
morning with a beautiful male bushbuck. The night hunts started to
produce results as well. First an African wildcat was taken followed
by a large male serval and as luck would have it Clanton finally
took a nice big civet. A grysbok, klipspringer and another bushpig
was added to the list and by this time we thought the hunt was all
but over. When luck is on your side however, things often work out
On the last morning of the hunt, Clanton and I were
ambling along a bush track within the conservancy when we bumped
into 3 buffalo dagga boys. Clanton had already taken two good bulls
with us on his previous hunt but one of these bulls was a beauty.
The buffalo however took off and we thought that was the end of it.
Back at camp for lunch, we mentioned the sighting to Barry and he
told us to try and take one if we could as there was one left on
quota and no other hunts booked for 2011. Clanton needed no other
excuse and even though we thought we were pushing this luck business
a little too far, decided to go back and look for them that
afternoon. You guessed it! Although they could have been anywhere,
we found them feeding slowly along the edge of a small stream and
out in the open. A short stalk followed and Clanton rapped up his 15
day elephant/sable hunt with yet another fine trophy.
Many hunters say that with hard work and perseverance, you make
your own luck. I believe this to be true, but in Clanton’s case the
scale was definitely tipped in his favour.