I consider myself a well-seasoned hunter, who began hunting at the age of eight, starting on squirrels, grouse and rabbits. I moved on to larger game, such as deer, moose and elk, by the time I was fifteen. From the age of fifteen and up, I dreamed of one day hunting in Africa.
This is a story of fulfilling that dream – a story of an amazing leopard hunt in South Africa with my good friend, Ewert Vorster of Sadaka Safaris, in my fiftieth year.
I first met Ewert and his lovely wife, Karen, in Houston, Texas at an African Safari show. I stopped at their booth and chatted with them, immediately liking them. I told them about my dream of hunting in Africa.
One year later, in January 2013, I phoned Ewert, who was at a Safari show in Dallas, and booked a hunt. I informed him that I would be bringing along my twin boys, who were twelve at the time.
We arrived in Africa and, exactly on my fifteeth birthday, we began hunting. We hunted for ten days and had the most amazing experience and the most successful hunt one could imagine. I was fortunate to harvest a very large kudu and a beautiful gemsbuck.
Klayton, the younger of my twins, bagged an impressive impala and a large male baboon. Kyle was very fortunate to harvest a blesbuck and he also landed a massive caracal that ranked fifth in the Rowland Ward World Record book.
I had indeed fulfilled my 35-year-long dream of hunting in Africa, and I did it with my two young boys. It just could not get any better – or could it?
I stayed in close touch with Ewert and we both attended an African Safari show in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in January 2014. I booked my leopard hunt for May of that year. Time dragged by slowly until the beginning of another amazing adventure.
I landed in Johannesburg on 24 May at 9 p.m. and was met by Ewert, who was going to be my professional hunter (PH). We drove to the lodge, which was about a three-hour drive. I had decided to bring my own scope to use on Ewert’s Christensen arms .300 Win Mag. It was a 20 x 50 mm Vortec Trijicon scope, renowned for gathering the best light in low-light conditions.
The next morning we fitted the rifle with my scope and mounts, and began shooting. We ran off approximately 10 to 15 rounds and could not group the shots at all. Something was wrong with the scope mounts. We decided to drive to Pretoria, a two-hour drive, to a gunsmith to have it fixed. This meant sacrificing a precious day of hunting.
With the proper mounts in place and the rifle bore sighted, we were ready to go.
26 May: we began the day by checking one of the baits that Ewert had put out. We checked the camera and saw that a mature male leopard had been coming in on a regular basis and had up till then consumed about eight impalas.
Studying the pictures, we determined the leopard to weigh approximately 150 pounds, and decided to build a blind. I recall telling Ewert that I wished the leopard had been a little bigger. However, it was a good representation of the species, so the hunt was on.
The men built the blind that day and we decided that we would begin hunting the next night, allowing the cat to get accustomed to the new blind.
The next morning at the breakfast table, Ewert informed me that we were going on a drive to the adjacent property to look for tracks and then be back in the afternoon to sit in the blind where the cat was expected. It took us about one and a half hours to get to the adjacent property, and we arrived there at about 11 o’clock.
We had only driven about 20 minutes after going through the gate when we came upon drag signs across the road. There were also signs of blood. We stopped and, having found a large set of tracks in the dirt, determined it was the drag of a leopard.