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Zimbabwe Leopard Hunt with Hounds

Dates– June 16 to July 1, 2013

Outfitter –Matupula Safaris and Mapassa Big Game Hounds

Agent – Jeff C. Neal, Inc. – Jeff Neal and Greg Brownlee - http://www.jeffcnealinc.com/

Travel Agent – Falcon Travel – Stacey Gibson – 210-492-6933

PH’s – Mark “Ellos” Ellement, Tim Ellement, Warwick Evans (houndsman), Vaugh Whitehead-Wilson– apprentice, and Greg Michilson

Areas Hunted – Matopos Area west of Bulawayo one hour, Sedenda Camp, built and owned by Matupula in the Zambezi Valley area just east of Hwange National Park

Rifles – Rented rifles –CZ 550 in .375 H&H with a Swarovski Z6 1.7x10 scope and a Sako AV in .375 H&H with a Leupold Vari X III 1.5x5 scope. Both in excellent condition and accurate.

Ammo – Federal Premium Safari .375 H&H TBBC and TBSH (solids).

Game Sought – Super Cats (big leopards)

Game Taken – 2 Super Cats, zebra (2x), Blue Wildebeast, Common Reedbuck

Animals Seen –22 species listed in the Appendix along with 114 birds. Note on animals – the areas we hunted had very little plains game. We saw the occasional animal but did not see any numbers that would be huntable.

Executive Summary for the ADD members amongst us-

My son and I both killed very nice male leopards on the 6th and 7th day of the hunt. The hunt is 95% boring as can be and 5% pure, rock stomping, dog howling, leopard growling excitement. Both leopards tried to escape in the rock hills in the Matopos area but the fearless hounds and Jack Russell Terriers flushed them, then treed them, then we shot them. Both were killed at about 75 yards with shots through the shoulders and lungs.


How Did This Hunt Happen?

The short version is that Greg Brownlee sent an email to customers about openings for leopard hunting with dogs. I do not sit in blinds well and would rather take a beating than sit still for a long time while I am hunting, so this chance to hunt cats intrigued me. I did my due diligence on leopards with dogs and on Matupula Safaris and Mark Butcher, the owner. All info and references came back positive so I met Mark Butcher at the DSC show for the details on this. Sent the deposit and waited on the day to arrive.

Part of my research was done over the past few years reading about leopard hunting. The books “Chui” by Lou Hallamore and “Into the Thorns” by Wayne Grant were good guides for me. I also bought “Boddington On Leopard” DVD and an older DVD “He’s in the Tree”. All of the info was good but talking to Mark Butcher laid out how the hunt would go off and what to expect.

Greg and Jeff have not steered me wrong, so I went all in and booked it.
(On agents, I am convinced that I am better off working with an agent that I trust. I have done hunts both ways - on my own and with an agent. I have had the best experiences using agents and less hassles. Jeff and Greg are two of the best.)

Sidebar

Most of the AR members read the hunt reports. I post hunt reports and enjoy them myself. A lot of the feedback I get from my reports seems to indicate I have created an image of the “mighty white hunter” or the “collector” of unusual trophies. The reality of my hunting exploits is that I am an “accidental hunter”. I like to hunt but mostly I like to do fun stuff with my family. The oil business is such right now that I can afford an unusual hunt as you see in the other hunts I have done recently. I am by no means a collector or mighty white hunter. I go because hunting is fun and I get serious time with my family undistracted by the busy-ness of our lives. Size or length do not matter a lot to me, just hunting something fun and mature is fine.

Anyway, I did this hunt as it looked fun and I got to spent two weeks with my son that I would not get to do any other way.

The Method

Leopard hunting is easy. Leopard finding is hard. We spent the first six days hanging and checking baits. The Ellement brothers and Warwick Evans have been hunting the Matopos Hills area west of Bulawayo for 15 or more years. They have taken several hundred leopards over the years. They have a keen understanding of where the leopards are and what areas they travel. The basic method was to hang baits near water and hills or in narrow gaps between ranges of hills. The baits were beef hindquarters or zebra quarters. In all, I bought 27 baits. At baits that get hit by leopards, we hung trail cameras to discern males from females and to see what time of the night the baits were visited.

If we had a hit, we went back over the next couple of days checking trail camera pictures and looking for tracks. On the third day, we checked a bait and had a hot track. Warwick set out his “strike” dog and we followed seeing how the dog reacted to the track. If the track is fresh, the dog starts howling and running. When the leopard is bumped, he releases the trailing pack of about 8 to 10 dogs to get the leopard to bay somewhere. On our first hot track, the strike dog followed it for a couple of hours with the track getting “hotter”. Warwick released a couple more dogs to get the cat moving but we never got close enough to the cat to release the rest of the hounds. We were on that track for seven hours before giving up.

Over the next few days we scattered baits all over a 150 square mile area and had numerous hits. One bait attracted a female with three cubs. They came back several times over the days of our hunt. We called this group the “Rugby Team” by the antics the four cats used getting at the bait.

One of the oddities on this hunt was that the Rugby Team leopards discovered the trail camera. The first time, they chewed if off the hanger and appeared to play with it leaving near the bait. The next time they hit the bait, they chewed it off the hanger and carried it away. We never found it. The guys said that elephants do that and hyenas will do that but this was the first time they lost a trail camera to leopards. This is the damage they do.





We had another leopard that Ellos and Warwick recognized as one that comes through the area every 38 days or so then is gone until the next time. It was a huge male they have been chasing for several years but have been outsmarted each time.

One the local villagers contacted us that calf had been killed by a leopard near our baits, so we set fresh baits in the area and checked the dead calf for tracks. After three more days, we ended up getting this cat.

Trail camera pic of a younger leopard


We also had a couple of local guys that worked off and on with the PH’s looking for cat tracks on trails near the villages. The local people do not like leopards due to predation on goats, calves and chickens.

In the evenings, the PH’s looked over the trail cam pictures and discussed the plan of attack for the next day.



On several of the areas, they had bumped the male leopard in the area several times and knew roughly where he went or where he would hide. This helped save time each day checking baits. In seven days we traveled 2100 kilometers checking baits and looking for tracks.

A combination of all of the above helped us connect with both leopards.

On the Subject of Baits

You have to pre-bait. Do not wait until you get there or hope that the hunter before you leaves some baits. The area hunted is 150 square miles. A lot of leopards can live in that big of an area. You need a lot of bait. I paid to pre-bait and it helped. I ended buying 27 baits and shooting 2 zebras for bait. At one time we had five cats hitting the baits, but most of the time we feed a herd of honey badgers along with assorted bush pigs and hyenas. There is not enough plains game in this area to be able to shoot the baits you need. You will not have enough time to shoot baits, hang baits, check baits, shoot more baits and so on. If you want to kill a leopard, you have to put up a lot of baits. End of sermon.



Super Cat One

First up would be my son. He had joined me from Switzerland where he works and had a valuable two weeks of vacation to make this a great trip for me. We had no real context to refer to in hunting leopards with dogs. We had hunted mountain lions in British Columbia a couple of years ago but were badly hampered by the -35C weather for much of our trip. We treed one female cougar and took a lot of pictures. We also managed one female lynx but the weather killed the movement of anything – including us.

So, here we are with three expert PH/Houndsmen and are after a cat a bit more tempermental than a mountain lion.
We followed our routine of checking baits and found one hit hard on the 6th day of the hunt. Warwick and Ellos decided to put the strike dog on the track and off we went. It took about six hours to get the cat to bay in a cave. This cat ran for the rocky hills when bumped and then tried to lose the dogs on the sheer rocks by going from cave to cave.
These hills look like loose piles of boulders with dozens of crevices and caves formed. This is deal dassie habitat and the dassie is a leopard’s favorite meal. The leopards also use the hills and caves as safe areas or resting areas. The leopards can get up above the surrounding countryside and can see a long ways. We set up on the sticks each the dogs started up into the rocks hoping to catch a leopard sneaking out ahead of the dogs for an easy shot. That did not happen for us.

Waiting to Catch a Glimpse of Spots



Leopard Hiding Places in the Hills




When this cat was bumped, all of the dogs were turned out and he ultimately holed up in a small cave. We all stood back as the dogs worked the cat and tried to get him out of the cave. My son was on the sticks hoping the cat would come out of the cave, hesitate at the entrance and get shot. That did not happen. This cat fought the dogs for thirty minutes or so, then, the PH’s turned loose a couple of Jack Russell Terriers that tore off into the fracas and straight into the cat. This leopard ended up weighing about 150 pounds. A Jack Russell weighs maybe seven pounds, but it is all heart.

I had never heard a leopard roar before. When the dogs had this old boy cornered he let loose several roars that stood my hair on end. It was on par with a lion roar. When the cat roared, the dogs all bolted toward the cat, not away from him. They wanted a piece of him in the worst way. I was impressed with the courage of the dogs.

That cat bolted from the cave with several dogs on his tail and quickly ran up a tree that was leaning at a 45 degree angle turning to the fight the dogs again. I was staring at the cave mouth and never saw the cat run out – they are that quick! From the time it bolted and treed to the shot was about ten seconds. When the cat was in the tree, my son had an eighty yard broadside shot which he quickly took dropping the cat stone dead on top of the dogs. We went from calmness to chaos in about one minute. The process was long and drawn out but the final encounter and shot was lightning quick.

With the cat down, the dogs “worried” the dead cat for a minute or two then found a place to lie down and sleep. We had a couple of the dogs get hit by the cat but nothing life threatening or worrisome. Warwick gets to doctor his dogs often as the get scratched from time to time.

Again, I was stunned at the beauty and size of these super cats. It is an amazing animal equipped to do some serious damage.

Mark Ellement, Tim Ellement, my son, Warwick Evans











Super Cat Two

After my son took Super Cat One, we checked some baits and went to the camp to celebrate. We made a plan for the next day which had Ellos and I heading about two hours north to check the Rugby Team bait and everyone else scattering to check baits. When we got an hour and half into our drive, we got a call that the cat that killed the calf four days earlier had returned to that site and left some fresh tracks. We reversed course and drove back to the tracks meeting all of the PH’s there. Warwick decided to put the strike dog on the track and see what happened.

For the next four hours we followed the trail, then jumped ahead to a road crossing looking for tracks and were able to guess the route of the cat and cut off time and distance. We kept the dogs on the right track when they cut a track of female that had met up with our male for a short period of time. Usually, when this happens the dogs are pulled off as they cannot distinguish between males and females. The penalty for shooting a female is $5000 and suspension of the PH license. While milling around, the handlers were able to get the dogs on the male tracks, so off they went.



Over the next three hours, the leopard moved into the rocks and evaded the dogs several times. We had decided to pull the dogs off at 3PM due to heat and thirst but one of the dogs kept hanging around one cave. The dog was quiet but the handler was sure the cat was close. Within a few minutes the other dogs came to the cave and the howling fight began. The leopard was in a large cave but up on a ledge above the dogs. The dogs could go in and out, smelling the cat but could not see it. The Jack Russell’s went to the cave and let out howl that got the leopard growling. At each growl, the dogs swarmed into the cave only to get swatted out. After ten to fifteen minutes, the cat decided to vacate the area by climbing out the top of the cave out of our sight. One of the dogs caught sight of the escaping cat and followed him yelping and howling. The others soon joined him and they treed the cat in a forty foot tall acacia tree a quarter mile from the cave.

We followed and caught up with the fracas and I got a good look at the super cat looking down at the dogs from his perch. I lined up on the sticks and let fly hitting him in the shoulders. He dropped but hung by one paw dangling above the pack. At this, Warwick fired two quick shots from his .375 flanged double rifle, I fired once more and Warwick fired again in a the space of three seconds trying to be sure the cat was dead when it hit the ground. The reason for this is that a mortally wounded cat would tear up several dogs quickly before expiring. All of our shots missed the mark and the leopard fell to the ground. The dogs all jumped on him and we could see the leopard take one swipe before going down. That one swipe sliced up a couple of the dogs, not severely, but there was some bleeding dogs when we got to the dead cat.

Again, the dogs worried the cat for a minute then all dropped to the ground to sleep.



I was blown away by the beauty and strength of these cats. “Super” Cats are what they truly are!




The claws are impressive



For perspective, I am 6’ 4” and weigh 245 lbs




A little fun with the guys-



The Real Heroes – the Dogs

I have a lot of experience with bird dogs and labs. I have hunted mountain lions with hounds. I have been around tracking dogs. I have never seen anything like these leopard hounds. First, most dogs can smell. Most dogs will follow something they want. But most dogs are not going to follow something that will be a chainsaw on steroids when they catch it. The process was to set out a “strike” dog or two on the track. If the track is hot, you will know by the way the dogs bark and follow. When the leopard is close or sighted, the rest of the pack is released. This “pack” is two groups of five dogs being led by a handler. These handlers are like trackers or spotters. They have to keep up with the strike dog and communicate back to the head houndsman on where the leopard is going and what the dogs are doing. The head houndsman is in charge of deciding if the leopard can be caught or how to go about catching up to it. Warwick Evans is a pro’s pro with his hounds. He has been on possibly 400 leopard hunts, hundreds of jackal and caracal hunts along with lion hunts with dogs. He knows his business and can read the dogs as well as how the cat is acting. He raises a lot of hounds and Jack Russell Terriers that are shipped around the world. He runs hounds year around and loves it.







Back to the dogs. Other than persistence in closing the distance to get on a cat and the fact they will run until they drop, the courage of these dogs amazed me. I had never heard a leopard “roar” before. I was very surprised when I heard the first one. It was loud. It was mean. I rumbled me much like a lion roar. When either cat roared while in the caves, the dogs ran to the roar and not away from it. From a distance we could see a couple of the dogs getting cut but they never flinched and “hounded” those cats. The Jack Russell’s were the fiercest. They are “one bite” for a leopard. They ran right into the fight each time to get a piece of a leopards butt. I could not believe the intensity and how those dogs will take on a cat that outweighs them 5 to 1 or 20 to 1. Amazing is all I can say. The only thing I can compare them to is a Navy Seal.

The Other Heroes - the PH's

I did not mean to imply that the dogs did all the work! But, without them we would be blind to the cats. Now, I am no longer prone to "PH Worship" as I was on my first trip to South Africa. But I have to tell you, these three PH's and the appy were rock stars - in the league with Dean Kendall, Thiery Labat, Buzz Charlton and a very few others. The Ellement brothers - Mark or "Ellos" and Tim are outstanding in every respect. Mark is part owner of Matupula with Mark Butcher. He is an exceptionally skilled leopard and elephant hunter. He leads a lot of important and very prominent hunters every year after the big bulls around Hwange NP and after leopards. He thinks like a leopard and is as smart as an elephant.

Tim Ellement is no slouch either. He is younger and "exact" in his methods. He was shot by a friend following up a wounded leopard several years ago and is just getting back to 100%. He was hit by a load of SSG in the back and survived, just to show you how tough he is. He was on top of every detail and was relentless in checking baits and patterning the cats.

Warwick Evans is THE HOUNDSMAN of houndsmen. I have hunted with a few great ones, Doug McMann (chilcotin hillbilly on AR) is one. Warwick hunts cats of one sort or another every day or every year. He lives in South Africa and hunts jackals, caracals and whatever other cats will run. He is known around the world in houndsmen circle as one of the top authorities on dogs and leopard hunting. I tried to get him to tell me how many leopards he has seen taken over his dogs and he deferred not to say. Mark Ellement told me the number was over 400. This guy can read the howling of his dogs like a pygmy tracker can read bongo tracks. He is top notch.

I usually leave the apprentice PH's out of the story but the one Mark Ellement was mentoring was exceptional - Vaugh Whitehead-Wilson. He has been an appy for 5 or 6 years and is as enthusiastic and energized as any I have met. Warwick pulled me aside and said this kid is one of the best hunters he has seen come along in a long time. We went night hunting for predators using calls, we fished, we chased elephants with him. He knows his stuff and if you get to hunt with him, have your track shoes on as he can make a mile in a hurry.

Elephants for the Beginner

With both cats in the salt, we had several days to use prior to leaving Zim. With Nelson Mandela on his death bed and every flight booked, then re-booked, we could not get out of Zim without buying new full fare tickets. I had refundable, changeable tickets but the clause is that if you change the ticket, I had to pay the fare difference. The difference was the same price as the round trip ticket I had already purchased.

With that situation, we chose to stay and chase elephants around Hwange NP and see what all the fuss is about. We had not ever considered elephant hunting seriously so this was a chance to experience it with some real professionals. One day into the elephant hunting, Ellos Ellement got word that his dad had terminal cancer and he had to go to Bulawayo to help out. We were at their camp on the Zambezi at the time. He arranged for another experienced PH, Greg Michilson and an apprentice PH (Vaughn) to show us around. Both of these guys are solid hunters and we had a great time checking and tracking about 40 different bulls we encountered over the next four days.



I had no experience judging elephants and had no idea they are so “aware” of what is going on around them. They are tough to get close to and tough to judge. Both PH’s showed us a bunch of bulls at thirty yards with all of them being 35 pounds or less. We saw a couple of single tusked elephants that they estimated would go 55 pounds. At the end of it all, we stalked close and I could have taken several different bulls but decided not to pull the trigger on anything less than 40 or 50 pounds. If I was going to shoot one, I want it to be something special as I do not know if I would hunt them again.

All in all, it was a great experience to see elephants and hunt elephants. I can understand a little bit why that could be a very addicting pastime.



Sidebars

Dove Hunt

To break up the monotony of checking baits and spending hours in the truck, we went dove hunting one afternoon. Being close to Bulawayo made it easy to get a couple of shotguns and some shells. We bought our baits from a local butcher facility and near to that were a couple of cattle feedlots. These feedlots were surrounded by trees that the various types of dove chose to roost in. With a feedlot comes feed that the cows spill and the doves eat. We shot up about a case of ammo for 60 to 70 doves. The PH’s outshot us amateurs badly but we had a great time. Add this to your hunt next time you can.



Fishing

We tried our hand at tigerfish or vundu fishing but had no luck. It would have helped if we had something other than hand lines. We did catch two small tigerfish to use as bait. The Sedenda Camp on the Zambezi is an excellent spot for fishing from the shore. The PH’s brought their families there in the summer to fish for vundu (catfish). They had one large vundu that they tagged and have caught four different times in the same spot. The camp is located at the confluence of a small stream and the Zambezi. The small stream is fed by hot springs which draw crocs and other warm water seeking critters to the area. Water bubbles out of the spring at about 180 degrees F and flows into a stream that goes to the Zambezi. The camp staff get all of their hot water from this spring, cook boiled eggs in it and do their washing in it.




Plains Game for Fun

We usually hunt plains game wherever we go, just for fun. This part of Zim has little plains game except on dedicated game ranches. We hunted a little in the late afternoons on the way back to the camp. My son shoot a couple of zebras out of one group, I shot a blue wildebeest and my son took a nice Common Reedbok that hung around a little too long near one of the bait sites. Do not plan on shooting much plains game in this area, it just isn’t there.





Victoria Falls

Another side trip was to go to Victoria Falls. We have been to Zimbabwe and Zambia in the past but never took the time to see the Falls. It was uncrowded and we were able to get right to the edge of some serious drop offs to take pictures. It is a wonder to behold and I recommend you go. The town is a typical tourist destination with folks selling trinkets and raincoats and whatever else they can do to extract cash from your wallet. The “foreign visitor” fee is $30 and the local price is $6 to see the falls. It is worth it but I felt a little gouged. We, however, did not bungee jump due to the recent issues with the rubber bands breaking and dropping folks in the Zambezi River.





Night Hunting

This is legal in Zim and we spent one night trying to spotlight any of the small cats – Serval, African Wildcat, Genet, or Caracal. We hoped to lure in spotted hyenas or jackals as well. We struck out with the lights and with the electronic callers. We saw several bushbabies and duikers however. I would have bet a lot we would have seen servals or genets but no luck. It was fun being out at night and seeing and hearing things we normally do not.

Birding

I am an addicted bird watcher. Ever since my trip in 2005 to Zimbabwe, I have been very active in learning African birds. Ellos Ellement was an excellent PH but also an avid birder. I added a number of birds to my life list on this trip. I would encourage you to pick up a guide book and have a try at birding when you are in Africa. You will see birds there that are nowhere else and it adds to your experience. Here are few pictures of some we saw.





Observations and Musings

I read a lot of what Peter Flack writes. To me, Peter Flack is the epitome of the African ethical hunter. He is 100% fair chase, prepares for his hunts, commits the time to know the quarry and then hunts the way he feels he should. He is not a “hound man”. He did not hunt his bongo with dogs. I suspect he is against leopard hunting with dogs. He and I disagree on the ethics of using dogs in the hunting process. My position is that this is as ethical and fair as hunting leopards over baits or shooting them at night. By the way, the monster 34” bongo that Peter Flack shot was taken at night over a salt lick. I am not a “sit in the blind over bait” guy. I do not like to hunt whitetail deer at feeders or shoot elk in alfalfa fields. It is personal preference, not a statement on ethics.

With this said, I really liked chasing leopards with these hounds. It is a hard hunt mentally. It is not 100% successful. The dogs add a dimension to this hunt that is exciting and very fun. I highly recommend it. The shot on the leopard can be easy, as it was for my son and I, or it can be very difficult if the cat holes up in a cave and does not tree. Consider this type of hunt before you discard the idea. Honestly, Warwick and I discussed a lion hunt using hounds. It is legal in places and he has done them. He tells me that a lion will bay quicker, will stay on the ground and fight the dogs. He told me that this will get the hair on the back of your neck standing up for sure. I will likely try a caracal hunt with hounds in the future when I go back to South Africa. This is tougher than leopards with dogs according to what Warwick tells me.

1. The area around Hwange NP is crowded with people. I was unprepared for the sight of so many villages and people. This did not impact the elephant or leopard hunting but truly hammered the plains game I hoped to see.

2. There are plenty of elephants. We saw dozens and could have shot a 35 pounder but opted not to. If you have a couple of weeks to hunt just elephants, this place looks like a great spot and the Matupula guys know this area upside down and backwards.

3. Zimbabwe has changed a lot since I was there in 2005. Every tracker/skinner/camp boy had a cell phone. They did not use them on the hunt nor did a cell phone go off while hunting, but they all had them. The overall economy looks much better now than eight years ago. In Bulawayo, shops were open with plenty of stuff to buy. The airport was busy. In Victoria Falls, the town was bustling with lots of activity. We had no trouble getting fuel or bottled water.

4. I fear that plains game hunting in many parts of Zimbabwe will fall by the wayside. Hunters can get better deals in South Africa and Namibia and more variety. Without hunters taking plains game in Zimbabwe, the economic value will drop and the game with disappear. I do not know the solution other than plains game hunting there will eventually move to ranches and high fence areas.

5. There is a massive open pit coal mine operating just east of Hwange NP and south of Vic Falls. This is funded by the Chinese. It is a mess and the dust/air issues around it are bad. I had not seen this in Africa before. The mine is providing a bunch of jobs but with that come lots of truck traffic, pollution and concentrations of people in the areas near where we hunt. I doubt that the government in Zimbabwe will regulate the activity.

6. I am not sure I am cut out to be an elephant hunter. The PH’s got me up close to several bulls. I was stunned at the size of the animals. They are really bigger than I thought. Holding a .375 H&H felt a little small to me. They need to be hunted and taken out of the area, but I am not so sure I am the one to do it. Just something about a big pile of gray death laying on the ground does not sit well with me. Maybe I will change.

7. I want to hunt a lion with dogs. And video it. And not get bitten or scratched.

8. We took a side trip to see Victoria Falls. Wow! Go do this. It is really cool and no, I did not bungee jump.

9. I added 35 birds to my life list. Being a hunter, I became a birder to fill in the sitting around times. Most PH’s are birders as well. Get a field guide and learn a little more about birds when you go to Africa.

10. Matupula means “knuckles” in the local language and was the name of the chief that gave Mark Butcher the area to hunt. Mapassa Big Game Hounds is named after a local tribal leader in South Africa.

11. There is a lot more camp and support staff on a leopard hunt than a regular hunt which means more money needed for tips. The dog handlers and various trackers worked very hard to find the cats and I tipped them well. One of the skinners was deaf-mute that had exceptional eyes for tracks and animals in the bush. He was an amazing guy and did a great job on the skinning.

12. Take a lot of AA and AAA batteries for the trail cameras. These are expensive in Zim.

13. Next time, I will buy a satellite phone. The cost is way down these days and air time is about $1 per minute. I meant to do that but forgot. Cell phone service is good in many of the areas we hunted but is seriously expensive for roaming – more than a satellite phone.

14. Affluent Russians are showing up more and more in Zimbabwe. The PH’s were very lukewarm on these guys due to the ethics, flamboyance and communication problems.

Conclusion

I always ask myself after a hunt - Would I do this again?. If the answer is an emphatic "YES", it was a great hunt. In this case - YES! YES! YES! If you want a super cat, go with these guys. If you want a chance at a big Hwange bull elephant - go with these guys. Be prepared to hunt, walk and have fun. Everything was top notch down to the camps, the food and the vehicles. As I sit here, I am dreaming of a lion hunt with hounds. Now, that would be a great next adventure!!!!





Appendix List of Birds and Animals Seen
BIRDS
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
African Grey Hornbill
Grey Lourie
Fork-tailed Drongo
Red-billed Quelea
Greater Blue-eared Starling
Meve’s Starling
Green (Red-billed) Wood-Hoopoe
Swainson’s Francolin
Pied Crow
Pied (Southern) Babbler
Natal Francolin
Reed Cormorant
Lilac-breasted Roller
African Harrier-hawk (Gymnogene)
Cape Turtle Dove
Emerald Spotted Wood Dove
Grey-rumped Swallow
Black-crowned Tchagra
Grey-headed Bush Shrike
Red-billed Oxpecker
White-browed Sparrow Weaver
Little Grebe (Dabchick)
Black Eagle
Brown Snake Eagle
Black-shouldered Kite
Blacksmith Lapwing (Plover)
Rock Pigeon
African Green Pigeon
Bradfield’s Hornbill
White-necked Raven
Black-eyed Bulbul
Yellow-bellied Greenbul
Marico Flycatcher
Magpie Shrike
Red-winged Starling
Southern Black Tit
Village Indigobird
Grey Heron
Egyptian Goose
African Fish Eagle
Coqui Francolin
Striped Kingfisher
Woodland Kingfisher
Little Bee-eater
Black-headed Oriole
Black-faced Babbler
Pale Flycatcher
Bushveld Pipit
Blue Waxbill
White-backed Duck
Red-billed Teal
White-backed Vulture
African Hawk Eagle
Tawny Eagle
Black Crake
Black-bellied Bustard
Temmick’s Courser
Common Moorhen
Namaqua Dove
Meyer’s Parrot
Yellow-fronted Canary
Helmeted Guineafowl
Greater Honeyguide
Groundscrapper Thrush
Crimson-breasted Shrike
Red-headed Weaver
Maribou Stork
Ovambo Sparrowhawk
Green-backed Heron
Senegal Coucal
Black Collared Barbet
Arrowmarked Babbler
Bounder Chat
African Yellow-eye
African Pipit
Miombo Double-collared Sunbird
Laughing Dove
Red-faced Crombec
Crowned Lapwing Plover
African Wattled Lapwing Plover
European Barn Swallow
Cattle Egret
White-fronted Bee-eater
Rufous-naped Lark
Spurwing Goose
African Pied Wagtail
African Jacana
Wire-tailed Swallow
Ground Hornbill
Black-winged Stilt (Plover)
Common Ringed Plover
Double-banded Sandgrouse
Swallow-tailed Bee-Eater
Racket-tailed Roller
Purple Roller
Trumpeter Hornbill
Golden-tailed Woodpecker
Lizard Buzzard
Black Collared Barbet
Tropical Boubou
Three-banded Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Golden-crested Bunting
Livingstone’s Flycatcher
Brown-hooded Kingfisher
Giant Kingfisher
Rufous-bellied Heron
White-browed Coucal
African Yellow White-eye
Hooded Vulture
African Goshawk
Common Fiscal Shrike

ANIMALS

Leopard
Zebra
Blue Wildebeast
Common Reedbok
Elephant
Livingston Eland
Klipspringer
Chacma Baboon
Vervet Monkey
Chobe Bushbuck
Grey Duiker
Black-backed Jackal
African Wildcat
Tsessebe
Impala
Greater Kudu
Dassie (Rock Hyrax)
White-tailed Mongoose
Bushbaby (Galago)
Steenbok
Red-tailed Rabbit
Common Waterbuck
 
Posts: 8735 | Location: Denver - Go Rockies!! | Registered: 12 February 2004Reply With Quote
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Amazing report as always Ross, thanks for allowing us to help!

The list of animals seen at the end of your report is always my favorite part. Congrats again!

Greg


Greg Brownlee
Neal and Brownlee, LLC
Quality Worldwide Big Game Hunts Since 1975
918/299-3580
greg@NealAndBrownlee.com


www.NealAndBrownlee.com

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Hunt reports:

Botswana 2010

Alaska 2011

Bezoar Ibex, Turkey 2012

Mid Asian Ibex, Kyrgyzstan 2014
 
Posts: 1130 | Location: Tulsa, OK | Registered: 08 February 2010Reply With Quote
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Very nice! tu2 Congrats! Big Grin
 
Posts: 14385 | Registered: 04 April 2005Reply With Quote
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My wife and I spent a couple weeks here last year, and it truly is amazing country!!
Ross, everything you describe is a perfect reminder...Smiler
We stayed in Matopos at Big Caves Lodge. Did you get a chance to see that?
The game and Eles in Hwange were just indescribable... 50-90 pounders everyday!!
We were with Terry Anderson on this part of our adventure, before heading out to hunt with Thierry Labat and Zambezi hunters...
I live in Puerto Vallarta and today was just "hot"!! 35 Celsius with 100% humidity...
We are taking our two boys to Sango in three weeks, and I just called and changed our flights.... Were leaving next week, and adding some great R an R!!
Nice report, it really brings back some great memories!!
(and as always, the highest kudos for taking your son hunting!!)
 
Posts: 93 | Registered: 04 August 2011Reply With Quote
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after 2 unsuccessful leopard bait hunts( 1 in the Matapos Hills)i had enough freezing my ass off in a blind all night. got an opportunity to do a dog hunt in the Botswana Kalahari. there the leopard really have no trees to bay in so they fight it out on ground in the blackthorn and charge when you approach.most exciting hunt i have ever had in terms of pure adrenaline rush. i doubt i will ever hunt another leopard but if i do- it will be with dogs. watching the bugger fold up in a mid air leap 10 feet of the shotgun barrel and landing at my feet was about as much excitement as my heart could stand....congratulations on an outstanding hunt, made even more special by sharing it with your son! clap
 
Posts: 8161 | Location: Georgia | Registered: 28 October 2006Reply With Quote
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dogcat, A very appropriate name for this excellent hunt. A great report,and quality time with your son. Where do you get your energy, Im quite tired out just reading about it. Thank you.jc




 
Posts: 1138 | Registered: 24 September 2011Reply With Quote
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I enjoyed your report! Thank you!
 
Posts: 1072 | Location: NT, Australia | Registered: 10 February 2011Reply With Quote
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I always really enjoy your reports. Great detail, awesome photos and interesting story. Better than the magazines.
JCHB
 
Posts: 346 | Location: KZN province South Africa | Registered: 24 July 2009Reply With Quote
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quote:
Originally posted by JCHB:
I always really enjoy your reports. Great detail, awesome photos and interesting story. Better than the magazines.
JCHB


I agree with JCHB. Thanks for all the details in the report. Congrats on your outstanding trip!!!


MSG, USA (Ret.) Armor
NRA Life Memeber
 
Posts: 580 | Location: Chester County, PA. | Registered: 09 February 2011Reply With Quote
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Posts: 8735 | Location: Denver - Go Rockies!! | Registered: 12 February 2004Reply With Quote
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Great report as always. Congrats on your success with your son Smiler
 
Posts: 1025 | Location: Norway | Registered: 08 June 2012Reply With Quote
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Very nice report!

Always enjoy your writing style and photos.

Congrats to you and your son on two very nice cats!
 
Posts: 729 | Location: Helena, Montana | Registered: 28 October 2009Reply With Quote
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Wow, great report, that had to have been a great experience.

I appreciated your comments about dog hunting in particular, as not many of us have had the chance to do it, and probably don't understand it as well. I hunted with dogs in the south for many years, the first few whitetails I shot were all during dog hunts, which were quite legal at the time.

It is pretty near a lifeless man, whose blood pressure and heart rate do not increase, when hearing the hounds turn up the hollow he is in. I do miss those gone for good days, yes sir I do.

Next time you are in Fredericksburg or Houston, please PM me, I'd like very much to share some stories of your hunt!


Master of Boats,
Slayer of Beasts,
Charmer of the fair sex, ......
and sometimes changer of the diaper.....
 
Posts: 340 | Location: HackHousBerg, TX & LA | Registered: 12 July 2009Reply With Quote
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Great hunt, great cats, and even better 5 star write-up. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I note with interest that you an I read the exact same books to prepare for our leopard hunts this year. I also took a super cat, but I did it in a blind with Mike Payne (write-up is under Shangani Leopard). If I ever take another leopard hunt, it will be with dogs. Everyone who has done it says how exciting is. Sitting in a blind trying to be quiet for 9 hours was flat out miserable for me, and I doubt I would do it again.

By the way, nice reedbuck! That is one animal I hope to take on next year's hunt in Zimbabwe.
 
Posts: 1479 | Location: Virginia | Registered: 29 September 2011Reply With Quote
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Ross,

Safari with your son is always a life long memory. Fantastic cats, pics, and hunt report.

Mike


Michael Podwika... DRSS bigbores and hunting www.pvt.co.za " MAKE THE SHOT " 450#2 Famars
 
Posts: 6732 | Location: Wyoming, Pa. USA | Registered: 17 April 2003Reply With Quote
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Great report.
Congrats on two awesome cats.


PH 47/2015 EC
HC 16/2015 EC
Ferdi Venter
ferdiventer@gmail.com
http://www.ferdiventerhunting.com

Nature at your doorstep
 
Posts: 305 | Location: SA Eastern Cape | Registered: 20 August 2011Reply With Quote
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Great report Ross, thanks for sharing!


.


Making America greater than ever! Great days ahead for the U.S.A.!!!
 
Posts: 34761 | Location: Crosby and Barksdale, Texas | Registered: 18 September 2006Reply With Quote
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Really great report and I appreciate your outlook, perspective and interest in the bigger picture of the flora and fauna. PH's generally love hunting with clients like you, and you guys generally shoot great trophies......

Fantastic that you got to share it with your son

Well done
 
Posts: 394 | Location: Africa | Registered: 25 September 2009Reply With Quote
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Excelent report of a marvelous adventure .
Ilove hunting with dogs ,and i love hunting with my son ,in this hunt you see that everything was perfect .Congratulations for sharing with us .Juan


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Posts: 6330 | Location: Cordoba argentina | Registered: 26 July 2004Reply With Quote
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Absolutely FANTASTIC report.

Glad you all had a great time.


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Posts: 49727 | Location: Dubai, UAE | Registered: 08 January 1998Reply With Quote
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Very detailed report, one of the best. Nice cats, a great safari, and priceless father\son memories.


Dave Fulson
 
Posts: 1433 | Registered: 20 December 2007Reply With Quote
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Great write up. Awesome cats.
Congrats.
 
Posts: 4214 | Location: Southern Colorado | Registered: 09 October 2011Reply With Quote
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Fantastic hunt report, thank you. The hunt reminds of a Swedish lynx hunt with the difference that we only use one dog
 
Posts: 292 | Location: Northernmost Sweden | Registered: 17 July 2013Reply With Quote
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Posts: 8735 | Location: Denver - Go Rockies!! | Registered: 12 February 2004Reply With Quote
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Beautiful cats, well done!


On the plains of hesitation lie the bleached bones of ten thousand, who on the dawn of victory lay down their weary heads resting, and there resting, died.

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch...
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
- Rudyard Kipling

Life grows grim without senseless indulgence.
 
Posts: 6850 | Location: Victoria, Texas | Registered: 30 March 2003Reply With Quote
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Great report!! Nothing better than getting to spend quality time with your son!

Congratulations!!!
 
Posts: 583 | Location: North Louisiana | Registered: 01 February 2011Reply With Quote
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Awesome report! What a great hunt and fantastic adventure with your son!
 
Posts: 138 | Registered: 25 December 2003Reply With Quote
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Great hunt and a most memorable time with your son...and two SUPER CATS to beat...Way to go memories for a lifetime! tu2
 
Posts: 3430 | Registered: 24 February 2007Reply With Quote
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Awesome report Ross,
One thing people don't realize is that good dogs think they can whip a cat whether its a mtn lion , leopard or a lynx. It is different then hunting bear foresure.
Congrats to you and Shawn I wish I was there to see the action. One Day!



Doug McMann
www.skinnercreekhunts.com
ph# 250-476-1288
Fax # 250-476-1288
PO Box 27
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Canada
V0L 1W0
email skinnercreek@telus.net
 
Posts: 1183 | Location:  | Registered: 21 April 2008Reply With Quote
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Fantastic report and beautiful cats!


Torbjorn
 
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Thanks for the great report.
 
Posts: 3174 | Location: Warren, PA | Registered: 08 August 2002Reply With Quote
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Outstanding adventure, Ross...and extremely well written!

I did this hunt in 2002 with Warrie and Mark Butcher in those same Matopos hills over close to Plumtree. Like you, I recommend it highly...in fact, the She-Wolf (my long-suffering bride) just mailed a deposit to do this again in 2015. This time she'll be behind the gun and I'll have videographer duties!

The entire Matupula operation is top notch; I've a particular soft spot for their camp at Sidinda...it was our very first safari camp in 1995!

Warrie's "Mapassa" pack is indeed something to behold, and both the wife and I fell hopelessly in love with JRTs on the spot. Warrie shipped us two over the years since then; I doubt we'll ever be without at least one of these little dust-devils...Max, the old man, is curled up at my feet as I type this!

I've got a question to bounce off you if you have a minute...I'll drop you a PM.

Thanks for letting all of us share your adventure!

Mark


DRSS

"I always take care to fire into the nearest hillside and, lacking that, into darkness." - the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
 
Posts: 498 | Location: Coleman County, Texas | Registered: 05 July 2003Reply With Quote
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Dogcat, a big swedish lynx will be about 25kg (biggest one I know about is meassured to 34kg). Not even close as big as a leopards. So there is not the same effort for the dog as with the leopards. But we use the same dog for the Brown bears, then we sometimes uses two dogs. It is just a matter of hunting culture, in Sweden the culture is to mostly use only one dog. But yes, the single dog needs to be very good...
 
Posts: 292 | Location: Northernmost Sweden | Registered: 17 July 2013Reply With Quote
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Wow, that trip will add a few pages to your bird ledger!
 
Posts: 17652 | Location: Very NW NJ up in the Mountains | Registered: 14 June 2009Reply With Quote
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dogcat.

Congratulations to your son and yourself for the results, 2 super cats, on this magnificent hunt for leopard with hounds.

I can surely say that you caught my interest in connection with hunting leopard the dog way.

Your hunting reports are always enjoyable to read, this one I enjoyed very much as well. Your pictures are great; the very first one of your son, with very big hands on the leopard, made me smile.

Great report, full of interesting info and for a birder, great list you added. Senegal Coucal, a beauty, my first sighting this March in Hwange.

Jytte
 
Posts: 213 | Location: Denmark | Registered: 13 December 2010Reply With Quote
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Very nice report and photographs, probably the best way of hunting Leopard, congrats


quote:
Originally posted by dogcat:
Zimbabwe Leopard Hunt with Hounds

Dates– June 16 to July 1, 2013

Outfitter –Matupula Safaris and Mapassa Big Game Hounds

Agent – Jeff C. Neal, Inc. – Jeff Neal and Greg Brownlee - http://www.jeffcnealinc.com/

Travel Agent – Falcon Travel – Stacey Gibson – 210-492-6933

PH’s – Mark “Ellos” Ellement, Tim Ellement, Warwick Evans (houndsman), Vaugh Whitehead-Wilson– apprentice, and Greg Michilson

Areas Hunted – Matopos Area west of Bulawayo one hour, Sedenda Camp, built and owned by Matupula in the Zambezi Valley area just east of Hwange National Park

Rifles – Rented rifles –CZ 550 in .375 H&H with a Swarovski Z6 1.7x10 scope and a Sako AV in .375 H&H with a Leupold Vari X III 1.5x5 scope. Both in excellent condition and accurate.

Ammo – Federal Premium Safari .375 H&H TBBC and TBSH (solids).

Game Sought – Super Cats (big leopards)

Game Taken – 2 Super Cats, zebra (2x), Blue Wildebeast, Common Reedbuck

Animals Seen –22 species listed in the Appendix along with 114 birds. Note on animals – the areas we hunted had very little plains game. We saw the occasional animal but did not see any numbers that would be huntable.

Executive Summary for the ADD members amongst us-

My son and I both killed very nice male leopards on the 6th and 7th day of the hunt. The hunt is 95% boring as can be and 5% pure, rock stomping, dog howling, leopard growling excitement. Both leopards tried to escape in the rock hills in the Matopos area but the fearless hounds and Jack Russell Terriers flushed them, then treed them, then we shot them. Both were killed at about 75 yards with shots through the shoulders and lungs.


How Did This Hunt Happen?

The short version is that Greg Brownlee sent an email to customers about openings for leopard hunting with dogs. I do not sit in blinds well and would rather take a beating than sit still for a long time while I am hunting, so this chance to hunt cats intrigued me. I did my due diligence on leopards with dogs and on Matupula Safaris and Mark Butcher, the owner. All info and references came back positive so I met Mark Butcher at the DSC show for the details on this. Sent the deposit and waited on the day to arrive.

Part of my research was done over the past few years reading about leopard hunting. The books “Chui” by Lou Hallamore and “Into the Thorns” by Wayne Grant were good guides for me. I also bought “Boddington On Leopard” DVD and an older DVD “He’s in the Tree”. All of the info was good but talking to Mark Butcher laid out how the hunt would go off and what to expect.

Greg and Jeff have not steered me wrong, so I went all in and booked it.
(On agents, I am convinced that I am better off working with an agent that I trust. I have done hunts both ways - on my own and with an agent. I have had the best experiences using agents and less hassles. Jeff and Greg are two of the best.)

Sidebar

Most of the AR members read the hunt reports. I post hunt reports and enjoy them myself. A lot of the feedback I get from my reports seems to indicate I have created an image of the “mighty white hunter” or the “collector” of unusual trophies. The reality of my hunting exploits is that I am an “accidental hunter”. I like to hunt but mostly I like to do fun stuff with my family. The oil business is such right now that I can afford an unusual hunt as you see in the other hunts I have done recently. I am by no means a collector or mighty white hunter. I go because hunting is fun and I get serious time with my family undistracted by the busy-ness of our lives. Size or length do not matter a lot to me, just hunting something fun and mature is fine.

Anyway, I did this hunt as it looked fun and I got to spent two weeks with my son that I would not get to do any other way.

The Method

Leopard hunting is easy. Leopard finding is hard. We spent the first six days hanging and checking baits. The Ellement brothers and Warwick Evans have been hunting the Matopos Hills area west of Bulawayo for 15 or more years. They have taken several hundred leopards over the years. They have a keen understanding of where the leopards are and what areas they travel. The basic method was to hang baits near water and hills or in narrow gaps between ranges of hills. The baits were beef hindquarters or zebra quarters. In all, I bought 27 baits. At baits that get hit by leopards, we hung trail cameras to discern males from females and to see what time of the night the baits were visited.

If we had a hit, we went back over the next couple of days checking trail camera pictures and looking for tracks. On the third day, we checked a bait and had a hot track. Warwick set out his “strike” dog and we followed seeing how the dog reacted to the track. If the track is fresh, the dog starts howling and running. When the leopard is bumped, he releases the trailing pack of about 8 to 10 dogs to get the leopard to bay somewhere. On our first hot track, the strike dog followed it for a couple of hours with the track getting “hotter”. Warwick released a couple more dogs to get the cat moving but we never got close enough to the cat to release the rest of the hounds. We were on that track for seven hours before giving up.

Over the next few days we scattered baits all over a 150 square mile area and had numerous hits. One bait attracted a female with three cubs. They came back several times over the days of our hunt. We called this group the “Rugby Team” by the antics the four cats used getting at the bait.

One of the oddities on this hunt was that the Rugby Team leopards discovered the trail camera. The first time, they chewed if off the hanger and appeared to play with it leaving near the bait. The next time they hit the bait, they chewed it off the hanger and carried it away. We never found it. The guys said that elephants do that and hyenas will do that but this was the first time they lost a trail camera to leopards. This is the damage they do.





We had another leopard that Ellos and Warwick recognized as one that comes through the area every 38 days or so then is gone until the next time. It was a huge male they have been chasing for several years but have been outsmarted each time.

One the local villagers contacted us that calf had been killed by a leopard near our baits, so we set fresh baits in the area and checked the dead calf for tracks. After three more days, we ended up getting this cat.

Trail camera pic of a younger leopard


We also had a couple of local guys that worked off and on with the PH’s looking for cat tracks on trails near the villages. The local people do not like leopards due to predation on goats, calves and chickens.

In the evenings, the PH’s looked over the trail cam pictures and discussed the plan of attack for the next day.



On several of the areas, they had bumped the male leopard in the area several times and knew roughly where he went or where he would hide. This helped save time each day checking baits. In seven days we traveled 2100 kilometers checking baits and looking for tracks.

A combination of all of the above helped us connect with both leopards.

On the Subject of Baits

You have to pre-bait. Do not wait until you get there or hope that the hunter before you leaves some baits. The area hunted is 150 square miles. A lot of leopards can live in that big of an area. You need a lot of bait. I paid to pre-bait and it helped. I ended buying 27 baits and shooting 2 zebras for bait. At one time we had five cats hitting the baits, but most of the time we feed a herd of honey badgers along with assorted bush pigs and hyenas. There is not enough plains game in this area to be able to shoot the baits you need. You will not have enough time to shoot baits, hang baits, check baits, shoot more baits and so on. If you want to kill a leopard, you have to put up a lot of baits. End of sermon.



Super Cat One

First up would be my son. He had joined me from Switzerland where he works and had a valuable two weeks of vacation to make this a great trip for me. We had no real context to refer to in hunting leopards with dogs. We had hunted mountain lions in British Columbia a couple of years ago but were badly hampered by the -35C weather for much of our trip. We treed one female cougar and took a lot of pictures. We also managed one female lynx but the weather killed the movement of anything – including us.

So, here we are with three expert PH/Houndsmen and are after a cat a bit more tempermental than a mountain lion.
We followed our routine of checking baits and found one hit hard on the 6th day of the hunt. Warwick and Ellos decided to put the strike dog on the track and off we went. It took about six hours to get the cat to bay in a cave. This cat ran for the rocky hills when bumped and then tried to lose the dogs on the sheer rocks by going from cave to cave.
These hills look like loose piles of boulders with dozens of crevices and caves formed. This is deal dassie habitat and the dassie is a leopard’s favorite meal. The leopards also use the hills and caves as safe areas or resting areas. The leopards can get up above the surrounding countryside and can see a long ways. We set up on the sticks each the dogs started up into the rocks hoping to catch a leopard sneaking out ahead of the dogs for an easy shot. That did not happen for us.

Waiting to Catch a Glimpse of Spots



Leopard Hiding Places in the Hills




When this cat was bumped, all of the dogs were turned out and he ultimately holed up in a small cave. We all stood back as the dogs worked the cat and tried to get him out of the cave. My son was on the sticks hoping the cat would come out of the cave, hesitate at the entrance and get shot. That did not happen. This cat fought the dogs for thirty minutes or so, then, the PH’s turned loose a couple of Jack Russell Terriers that tore off into the fracas and straight into the cat. This leopard ended up weighing about 150 pounds. A Jack Russell weighs maybe seven pounds, but it is all heart.

I had never heard a leopard roar before. When the dogs had this old boy cornered he let loose several roars that stood my hair on end. It was on par with a lion roar. When the cat roared, the dogs all bolted toward the cat, not away from him. They wanted a piece of him in the worst way. I was impressed with the courage of the dogs.

That cat bolted from the cave with several dogs on his tail and quickly ran up a tree that was leaning at a 45 degree angle turning to the fight the dogs again. I was staring at the cave mouth and never saw the cat run out – they are that quick! From the time it bolted and treed to the shot was about ten seconds. When the cat was in the tree, my son had an eighty yard broadside shot which he quickly took dropping the cat stone dead on top of the dogs. We went from calmness to chaos in about one minute. The process was long and drawn out but the final encounter and shot was lightning quick.

With the cat down, the dogs “worried” the dead cat for a minute or two then found a place to lie down and sleep. We had a couple of the dogs get hit by the cat but nothing life threatening or worrisome. Warwick gets to doctor his dogs often as the get scratched from time to time.

Again, I was stunned at the beauty and size of these super cats. It is an amazing animal equipped to do some serious damage.

Mark Ellement, Tim Ellement, my son, Warwick Evans











Super Cat Two

After my son took Super Cat One, we checked some baits and went to the camp to celebrate. We made a plan for the next day which had Ellos and I heading about two hours north to check the Rugby Team bait and everyone else scattering to check baits. When we got an hour and half into our drive, we got a call that the cat that killed the calf four days earlier had returned to that site and left some fresh tracks. We reversed course and drove back to the tracks meeting all of the PH’s there. Warwick decided to put the strike dog on the track and see what happened.

For the next four hours we followed the trail, then jumped ahead to a road crossing looking for tracks and were able to guess the route of the cat and cut off time and distance. We kept the dogs on the right track when they cut a track of female that had met up with our male for a short period of time. Usually, when this happens the dogs are pulled off as they cannot distinguish between males and females. The penalty for shooting a female is $5000 and suspension of the PH license. While milling around, the handlers were able to get the dogs on the male tracks, so off they went.



Over the next three hours, the leopard moved into the rocks and evaded the dogs several times. We had decided to pull the dogs off at 3PM due to heat and thirst but one of the dogs kept hanging around one cave. The dog was quiet but the handler was sure the cat was close. Within a few minutes the other dogs came to the cave and the howling fight began. The leopard was in a large cave but up on a ledge above the dogs. The dogs could go in and out, smelling the cat but could not see it. The Jack Russell’s went to the cave and let out howl that got the leopard growling. At each growl, the dogs swarmed into the cave only to get swatted out. After ten to fifteen minutes, the cat decided to vacate the area by climbing out the top of the cave out of our sight. One of the dogs caught sight of the escaping cat and followed him yelping and howling. The others soon joined him and they treed the cat in a forty foot tall acacia tree a quarter mile from the cave.

We followed and caught up with the fracas and I got a good look at the super cat looking down at the dogs from his perch. I lined up on the sticks and let fly hitting him in the shoulders. He dropped but hung by one paw dangling above the pack. At this, Warwick fired two quick shots from his .375 flanged double rifle, I fired once more and Warwick fired again in a the space of three seconds trying to be sure the cat was dead when it hit the ground. The reason for this is that a mortally wounded cat would tear up several dogs quickly before expiring. All of our shots missed the mark and the leopard fell to the ground. The dogs all jumped on him and we could see the leopard take one swipe before going down. That one swipe sliced up a couple of the dogs, not severely, but there was some bleeding dogs when we got to the dead cat.

Again, the dogs worried the cat for a minute then all dropped to the ground to sleep.



I was blown away by the beauty and strength of these cats. “Super” Cats are what they truly are!




The claws are impressive



For perspective, I am 6’ 4” and weigh 245 lbs




A little fun with the guys-



The Real Heroes – the Dogs

I have a lot of experience with bird dogs and labs. I have hunted mountain lions with hounds. I have been around tracking dogs. I have never seen anything like these leopard hounds. First, most dogs can smell. Most dogs will follow something they want. But most dogs are not going to follow something that will be a chainsaw on steroids when they catch it. The process was to set out a “strike” dog or two on the track. If the track is hot, you will know by the way the dogs bark and follow. When the leopard is close or sighted, the rest of the pack is released. This “pack” is two groups of five dogs being led by a handler. These handlers are like trackers or spotters. They have to keep up with the strike dog and communicate back to the head houndsman on where the leopard is going and what the dogs are doing. The head houndsman is in charge of deciding if the leopard can be caught or how to go about catching up to it. Warwick Evans is a pro’s pro with his hounds. He has been on possibly 400 leopard hunts, hundreds of jackal and caracal hunts along with lion hunts with dogs. He knows his business and can read the dogs as well as how the cat is acting. He raises a lot of hounds and Jack Russell Terriers that are shipped around the world. He runs hounds year around and loves it.







Back to the dogs. Other than persistence in closing the distance to get on a cat and the fact they will run until they drop, the courage of these dogs amazed me. I had never heard a leopard “roar” before. I was very surprised when I heard the first one. It was loud. It was mean. I rumbled me much like a lion roar. When either cat roared while in the caves, the dogs ran to the roar and not away from it. From a distance we could see a couple of the dogs getting cut but they never flinched and “hounded” those cats. The Jack Russell’s were the fiercest. They are “one bite” for a leopard. They ran right into the fight each time to get a piece of a leopards butt. I could not believe the intensity and how those dogs will take on a cat that outweighs them 5 to 1 or 20 to 1. Amazing is all I can say. The only thing I can compare them to is a Navy Seal.

The Other Heroes - the PH's

I did not mean to imply that the dogs did all the work! But, without them we would be blind to the cats. Now, I am no longer prone to "PH Worship" as I was on my first trip to South Africa. But I have to tell you, these three PH's and the appy were rock stars - in the league with Dean Kendall, Thiery Labat, Buzz Charlton and a very few others. The Ellement brothers - Mark or "Ellos" and Tim are outstanding in every respect. Mark is part owner of Matupula with Mark Butcher. He is an exceptionally skilled leopard and elephant hunter. He leads a lot of important and very prominent hunters every year after the big bulls around Hwange NP and after leopards. He thinks like a leopard and is as smart as an elephant.

Tim Ellement is no slouch either. He is younger and "exact" in his methods. He was shot by a friend following up a wounded leopard several years ago and is just getting back to 100%. He was hit by a load of SSG in the back and survived, just to show you how tough he is. He was on top of every detail and was relentless in checking baits and patterning the cats.

Warwick Evans is THE HOUNDSMAN of houndsmen. I have hunted with a few great ones, Doug McMann (chilcotin hillbilly on AR) is one. Warwick hunts cats of one sort or another every day or every year. He lives in South Africa and hunts jackals, caracals and whatever other cats will run. He is known around the world in houndsmen circle as one of the top authorities on dogs and leopard hunting. I tried to get him to tell me how many leopards he has seen taken over his dogs and he deferred not to say. Mark Ellement told me the number was over 400. This guy can read the howling of his dogs like a pygmy tracker can read bongo tracks. He is top notch.

I usually leave the apprentice PH's out of the story but the one Mark Ellement was mentoring was exceptional - Vaugh Whitehead-Wilson. He has been an appy for 5 or 6 years and is as enthusiastic and energized as any I have met. Warwick pulled me aside and said this kid is one of the best hunters he has seen come along in a long time. We went night hunting for predators using calls, we fished, we chased elephants with him. He knows his stuff and if you get to hunt with him, have your track shoes on as he can make a mile in a hurry.

Elephants for the Beginner

With both cats in the salt, we had several days to use prior to leaving Zim. With Nelson Mandela on his death bed and every flight booked, then re-booked, we could not get out of Zim without buying new full fare tickets. I had refundable, changeable tickets but the clause is that if you change the ticket, I had to pay the fare difference. The difference was the same price as the round trip ticket I had already purchased.

With that situation, we chose to stay and chase elephants around Hwange NP and see what all the fuss is about. We had not ever considered elephant hunting seriously so this was a chance to experience it with some real professionals. One day into the elephant hunting, Ellos Ellement got word that his dad had terminal cancer and he had to go to Bulawayo to help out. We were at their camp on the Zambezi at the time. He arranged for another experienced PH, Greg Michilson and an apprentice PH (Vaughn) to show us around. Both of these guys are solid hunters and we had a great time checking and tracking about 40 different bulls we encountered over the next four days.



I had no experience judging elephants and had no idea they are so “aware” of what is going on around them. They are tough to get close to and tough to judge. Both PH’s showed us a bunch of bulls at thirty yards with all of them being 35 pounds or less. We saw a couple of single tusked elephants that they estimated would go 55 pounds. At the end of it all, we stalked close and I could have taken several different bulls but decided not to pull the trigger on anything less than 40 or 50 pounds. If I was going to shoot one, I want it to be something special as I do not know if I would hunt them again.

All in all, it was a great experience to see elephants and hunt elephants. I can understand a little bit why that could be a very addicting pastime.



Sidebars

Dove Hunt

To break up the monotony of checking baits and spending hours in the truck, we went dove hunting one afternoon. Being close to Bulawayo made it easy to get a couple of shotguns and some shells. We bought our baits from a local butcher facility and near to that were a couple of cattle feedlots. These feedlots were surrounded by trees that the various types of dove chose to roost in. With a feedlot comes feed that the cows spill and the doves eat. We shot up about a case of ammo for 60 to 70 doves. The PH’s outshot us amateurs badly but we had a great time. Add this to your hunt next time you can.



Fishing

We tried our hand at tigerfish or vundu fishing but had no luck. It would have helped if we had something other than hand lines. We did catch two small tigerfish to use as bait. The Sedenda Camp on the Zambezi is an excellent spot for fishing from the shore. The PH’s brought their families there in the summer to fish for vundu (catfish). They had one large vundu that they tagged and have caught four different times in the same spot. The camp is located at the confluence of a small stream and the Zambezi. The small stream is fed by hot springs which draw crocs and other warm water seeking critters to the area. Water bubbles out of the spring at about 180 degrees F and flows into a stream that goes to the Zambezi. The camp staff get all of their hot water from this spring, cook boiled eggs in it and do their washing in it.




Plains Game for Fun

We usually hunt plains game wherever we go, just for fun. This part of Zim has little plains game except on dedicated game ranches. We hunted a little in the late afternoons on the way back to the camp. My son shoot a couple of zebras out of one group, I shot a blue wildebeest and my son took a nice Common Reedbok that hung around a little too long near one of the bait sites. Do not plan on shooting much plains game in this area, it just isn’t there.





Victoria Falls

Another side trip was to go to Victoria Falls. We have been to Zimbabwe and Zambia in the past but never took the time to see the Falls. It was uncrowded and we were able to get right to the edge of some serious drop offs to take pictures. It is a wonder to behold and I recommend you go. The town is a typical tourist destination with folks selling trinkets and raincoats and whatever else they can do to extract cash from your wallet. The “foreign visitor” fee is $30 and the local price is $6 to see the falls. It is worth it but I felt a little gouged. We, however, did not bungee jump due to the recent issues with the rubber bands breaking and dropping folks in the Zambezi River.





Night Hunting

This is legal in Zim and we spent one night trying to spotlight any of the small cats – Serval, African Wildcat, Genet, or Caracal. We hoped to lure in spotted hyenas or jackals as well. We struck out with the lights and with the electronic callers. We saw several bushbabies and duikers however. I would have bet a lot we would have seen servals or genets but no luck. It was fun being out at night and seeing and hearing things we normally do not.

Birding

I am an addicted bird watcher. Ever since my trip in 2005 to Zimbabwe, I have been very active in learning African birds. Ellos Ellement was an excellent PH but also an avid birder. I added a number of birds to my life list on this trip. I would encourage you to pick up a guide book and have a try at birding when you are in Africa. You will see birds there that are nowhere else and it adds to your experience. Here are few pictures of some we saw.





Observations and Musings

I read a lot of what Peter Flack writes. To me, Peter Flack is the epitome of the African ethical hunter. He is 100% fair chase, prepares for his hunts, commits the time to know the quarry and then hunts the way he feels he should. He is not a “hound man”. He did not hunt his bongo with dogs. I suspect he is against leopard hunting with dogs. He and I disagree on the ethics of using dogs in the hunting process. My position is that this is as ethical and fair as hunting leopards over baits or shooting them at night. By the way, the monster 34” bongo that Peter Flack shot was taken at night over a salt lick. I am not a “sit in the blind over bait” guy. I do not like to hunt whitetail deer at feeders or shoot elk in alfalfa fields. It is personal preference, not a statement on ethics.

With this said, I really liked chasing leopards with these hounds. It is a hard hunt mentally. It is not 100% successful. The dogs add a dimension to this hunt that is exciting and very fun. I highly recommend it. The shot on the leopard can be easy, as it was for my son and I, or it can be very difficult if the cat holes up in a cave and does not tree. Consider this type of hunt before you discard the idea. Honestly, Warwick and I discussed a lion hunt using hounds. It is legal in places and he has done them. He tells me that a lion will bay quicker, will stay on the ground and fight the dogs. He told me that this will get the hair on the back of your neck standing up for sure. I will likely try a caracal hunt with hounds in the future when I go back to South Africa. This is tougher than leopards with dogs according to what Warwick tells me.

1. The area around Hwange NP is crowded with people. I was unprepared for the sight of so many villages and people. This did not impact the elephant or leopard hunting but truly hammered the plains game I hoped to see.

2. There are plenty of elephants. We saw dozens and could have shot a 35 pounder but opted not to. If you have a couple of weeks to hunt just elephants, this place looks like a great spot and the Matupula guys know this area upside down and backwards.

3. Zimbabwe has changed a lot since I was there in 2005. Every tracker/skinner/camp boy had a cell phone. They did not use them on the hunt nor did a cell phone go off while hunting, but they all had them. The overall economy looks much better now than eight years ago. In Bulawayo, shops were open with plenty of stuff to buy. The airport was busy. In Victoria Falls, the town was bustling with lots of activity. We had no trouble getting fuel or bottled water.

4. I fear that plains game hunting in many parts of Zimbabwe will fall by the wayside. Hunters can get better deals in South Africa and Namibia and more variety. Without hunters taking plains game in Zimbabwe, the economic value will drop and the game with disappear. I do not know the solution other than plains game hunting there will eventually move to ranches and high fence areas.

5. There is a massive open pit coal mine operating just east of Hwange NP and south of Vic Falls. This is funded by the Chinese. It is a mess and the dust/air issues around it are bad. I had not seen this in Africa before. The mine is providing a bunch of jobs but with that come lots of truck traffic, pollution and concentrations of people in the areas near where we hunt. I doubt that the government in Zimbabwe will regulate the activity.

6. I am not sure I am cut out to be an elephant hunter. The PH’s got me up close to several bulls. I was stunned at the size of the animals. They are really bigger than I thought. Holding a .375 H&H felt a little small to me. They need to be hunted and taken out of the area, but I am not so sure I am the one to do it. Just something about a big pile of gray death laying on the ground does not sit well with me. Maybe I will change.

7. I want to hunt a lion with dogs. And video it. And not get bitten or scratched.

8. We took a side trip to see Victoria Falls. Wow! Go do this. It is really cool and no, I did not bungee jump.

9. I added 35 birds to my life list. Being a hunter, I became a birder to fill in the sitting around times. Most PH’s are birders as well. Get a field guide and learn a little more about birds when you go to Africa.

10. Matupula means “knuckles” in the local language and was the name of the chief that gave Mark Butcher the area to hunt. Mapassa Big Game Hounds is named after a local tribal leader in South Africa.

11. There is a lot more camp and support staff on a leopard hunt than a regular hunt which means more money needed for tips. The dog handlers and various trackers worked very hard to find the cats and I tipped them well. One of the skinners was deaf-mute that had exceptional eyes for tracks and animals in the bush. He was an amazing guy and did a great job on the skinning.

12. Take a lot of AA and AAA batteries for the trail cameras. These are expensive in Zim.

13. Next time, I will buy a satellite phone. The cost is way down these days and air time is about $1 per minute. I meant to do that but forgot. Cell phone service is good in many of the areas we hunted but is seriously expensive for roaming – more than a satellite phone.

14. Affluent Russians are showing up more and more in Zimbabwe. The PH’s were very lukewarm on these guys due to the ethics, flamboyance and communication problems.

Conclusion

I always ask myself after a hunt - Would I do this again?. If the answer is an emphatic "YES", it was a great hunt. In this case - YES! YES! YES! If you want a super cat, go with these guys. If you want a chance at a big Hwange bull elephant - go with these guys. Be prepared to hunt, walk and have fun. Everything was top notch down to the camps, the food and the vehicles. As I sit here, I am dreaming of a lion hunt with hounds. Now, that would be a great next adventure!!!!





Appendix List of Birds and Animals Seen
BIRDS
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
African Grey Hornbill
Grey Lourie
Fork-tailed Drongo
Red-billed Quelea
Greater Blue-eared Starling
Meve’s Starling
Green (Red-billed) Wood-Hoopoe
Swainson’s Francolin
Pied Crow
Pied (Southern) Babbler
Natal Francolin
Reed Cormorant
Lilac-breasted Roller
African Harrier-hawk (Gymnogene)
Cape Turtle Dove
Emerald Spotted Wood Dove
Grey-rumped Swallow
Black-crowned Tchagra
Grey-headed Bush Shrike
Red-billed Oxpecker
White-browed Sparrow Weaver
Little Grebe (Dabchick)
Black Eagle
Brown Snake Eagle
Black-shouldered Kite
Blacksmith Lapwing (Plover)
Rock Pigeon
African Green Pigeon
Bradfield’s Hornbill
White-necked Raven
Black-eyed Bulbul
Yellow-bellied Greenbul
Marico Flycatcher
Magpie Shrike
Red-winged Starling
Southern Black Tit
Village Indigobird
Grey Heron
Egyptian Goose
African Fish Eagle
Coqui Francolin
Striped Kingfisher
Woodland Kingfisher
Little Bee-eater
Black-headed Oriole
Black-faced Babbler
Pale Flycatcher
Bushveld Pipit
Blue Waxbill
White-backed Duck
Red-billed Teal
White-backed Vulture
African Hawk Eagle
Tawny Eagle
Black Crake
Black-bellied Bustard
Temmick’s Courser
Common Moorhen
Namaqua Dove
Meyer’s Parrot
Yellow-fronted Canary
Helmeted Guineafowl
Greater Honeyguide
Groundscrapper Thrush
Crimson-breasted Shrike
Red-headed Weaver
Maribou Stork
Ovambo Sparrowhawk
Green-backed Heron
Senegal Coucal
Black Collared Barbet
Arrowmarked Babbler
Bounder Chat
African Yellow-eye
African Pipit
Miombo Double-collared Sunbird
Laughing Dove
Red-faced Crombec
Crowned Lapwing Plover
African Wattled Lapwing Plover
European Barn Swallow
Cattle Egret
White-fronted Bee-eater
Rufous-naped Lark
Spurwing Goose
African Pied Wagtail
African Jacana
Wire-tailed Swallow
Ground Hornbill
Black-winged Stilt (Plover)
Common Ringed Plover
Double-banded Sandgrouse
Swallow-tailed Bee-Eater
Racket-tailed Roller
Purple Roller
Trumpeter Hornbill
Golden-tailed Woodpecker
Lizard Buzzard
Black Collared Barbet
Tropical Boubou
Three-banded Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Golden-crested Bunting
Livingstone’s Flycatcher
Brown-hooded Kingfisher
Giant Kingfisher
Rufous-bellied Heron
White-browed Coucal
African Yellow White-eye
Hooded Vulture
African Goshawk
Common Fiscal Shrike

ANIMALS

Leopard
Zebra
Blue Wildebeast
Common Reedbok
Elephant
Livingston Eland
Klipspringer
Chacma Baboon
Vervet Monkey
Chobe Bushbuck
Grey Duiker
Black-backed Jackal
African Wildcat
Tsessebe
Impala
Greater Kudu
Dassie (Rock Hyrax)
White-tailed Mongoose
Bushbaby (Galago)
Steenbok
Red-tailed Rabbit
Common Waterbuck


Ali Hakim
 
Posts: 58 | Location: a luangwa hunt by ali hakim | Registered: 19 July 2011Reply With Quote
one of us
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Wow. This hunt just went on my bucket list.
 
Posts: 1891 | Location: South Dakota | Registered: 22 August 2004Reply With Quote
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Great hunt report Ross. Congrats to you and your son on two huge cats. tu2


DRSS
Chapuis 9.3x74R
Searcy 470 NE
 
Posts: 1250 | Location: San Diego | Registered: 02 July 2005Reply With Quote
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Congratulations to you both...fantastic!


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National Rifle Association - Life Member
National Wild Turkey Federation - Diamond Life Sponsor
Pope & Young Club - Associate Member
 
Posts: 561 | Location: North Alabama, USA | Registered: 14 February 2009Reply With Quote
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Congratulations and great report
 
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