Safari 2012 Journal Entries: Day 6 – Saturday, July 21st, 2012 (part 2) Leopard Bait

by david on August 21, 2012

The ride to the leopard bait is about 45 minutes and most enjoyable.  It was in one of the more remote areas of the concession.  We eased our way through the veld just enjoying the morning.  I know only what I have read about setting up a leopard bait and, as far as my books were concerned, this was a textbook case of a perfect location.  You want to try and limit the access points so you know where the leopard is most likely coming from and preferably make sure the point is not behind you.  You want a clear backdrop so that, if the leopard is on the bait, he is easily visible.  You want a clear field of view with cover at the end of it for your blind.  This spot has it all.  The bait is hung in a tree beside a dry riverbed.  Directly across the riverbed is a small piece of riverbank and, further on, a sheer face of a koppie.  You could locate your blind on three of the four sides of the bait, depending on which way the wind was blowing.  If you walk up the riverbed, you can do so quickly and quietly.  It is a good set up.  It almost makes me want to hunt leopard. 

            You can tell we are getting close by the smell.  The baits we are replacing are well past their expiration date and the evidence confirming that hung heavily in the air.  We pull up close to the bait, thankfully just up-wind, and prepare the new baits.  The process is simple enough: take some heavy gauge wire, cut off a length of about 3-4 feet, pass it through, between the leg bones of the hind quarter, wrap the ends of the wire (in opposite directions) around the end of the leg portion so the cat can’t pull it loose, and then wire the whole thing securely to the tree.  When the cat comes to eat, he can’t take it with him, requiring him to eat while he is there.  In theory, this allows the hunter time to choose his shot and bag his leopard.  If you notice, I said “in theory”.  There is a very good reason for me saying so.

 No matter how much planning and effort goes into a leopard hunt, there are a lot of reasons why one can go wrong.  Most of the time, it is the hunter’s fault, with movement or noise (guilty as charged) spooking the cat.  The other bad thing known to happen is the African equivalent of buck fever.  “Buck fever” is a condition where after spotting a “Trophy” animal, and your nerves take over.  Any and all conscious thought and action goes completely out the window.  The result is normally a clean miss, but the worst situation is a hit and a wounded cat.  Trailing a wounded cat is not a job I ever want.  Leopard attacks are not normally fatal, but, of the big five dangerous game animals, a leopard is the most likely to get a piece of you.  If you hunt leopard, do not even think about putting your finger on the trigger until you have picked the exact rosette (what gives the leopard his spots) that you want to put the bullet through.  Block out all the rest and put your bullet in the center of this spot.  If you shoot the cat, you may very well miss or wound the animal.  If you shoot the spot, the result is a dead cat under the tree.  This may sound oversimplified, but I know it works.

With the two old baits discarded at a respectable distance, and with my olfactory nerve endings not complaining quite so vehemently, we set upon our second task, swapping out the old trail cameras for the ones I brought over.  The new cameras are equipped with a new infrared system that left no flash, glow, or any other indication they were there.  The old ones had a few LEDs that glowed when a picture is taken.  Johann did not want to take any chances on spooking this cat, especially since it was comfortable enough to feed in the daytime.

Checking out the trail camera

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