August 14, 2014 |
Last month was filled with a lot of excitement! My daughter Jessica and I traveled to Mozambique on July 14th and returned home August 1st. Traveling with us was John Mogle with Hunting Illustrated TV. He was going to film our hunting activities for his television show that airs on the Sportsmen’s Channel.
We arrived in Johannesburg on July 15th and spent the night there at the CityLodge Hotel situated within short walking distance of the airport. We had a good night’s sleep and then headed for the airport to catch our flight to Beira, Mozambique. After arriving and clearing customs, we caught the bush plane to hunting camp that is located in the Coutada 10 hunting area of Mozambique to hunt with Marromeu Safaris.
Coutada 10 is situated on the eastern coastline in the Zambezi delta next to the Marromeu buffalo conservancy. It covers an area in excess of 1000 square miles – 640,000 acres unfenced and with the Indian Ocean coastline stretching over 28 miles. At last count, there are 22,000 buffalo in this area. This year has been unusually wet. By now the grass should have been burning but the rains have not stopped. Therefore, the grass is taller than usual and still very lush and green. I was introduced to Anton Smit and Paul Ferreira of Marromeu by my good friend James Reed with Sports Afield magazine at the SCI convention in Las Vegas. He had hunted with Marromeu previously and had shot a great leopard. He knew leopard was tops on my list of trophies I wanted and strongly suggested I talk with them. So after hearing their story about the leopard they have in their area and the many other types of game, I talked my daughter into going with me. Husbands stayed home. She had been to Mozambique before and loved it. She wanted to go back to try for Cape buffalo again using a Blaser S2 double rifle chambered in 470 Nitro Express loaded with our 500 gr. TSX FB Barnes VOR-TX Safari Ammunition and take another with 416 Rem. 350 gr. TSX handloads with her favorite dangerous game rifle that my husband, Randy, custom built nearly 30 years ago on a Mauser 98 action. Randy now refers to this rifle as the “Fisher Price” model because he shortened the stock for her many years ago for a Brown bear hunt. Needless to say, the rifle became hers after that!
The first day in camp, we sited in our rifles and all were good. I took a 338 Win. Mag. Fierce Firearms Edge Rifle custom made for me that weighed about 6-1/2 lbs with a muzzle brake. As many of you know, me and the 338 Win. get along very well. I was shooting 225 gr. TTSX VOR-TX Ammunition. I had a Leupold VX 6 2-12x42mm CDS illuminated reticle scope.
Our Professional Hunter (PH) was JW Hofmeyr. He explained that baits had been put out several weeks prior to our arrival. Marromeu takes leopard hunting very seriously, and therefore have a very impressive rate of success. Every day of the hunt we checked the baits (I believe altogether 7 baits were set out.) Not much had been going on with any of them other than a hyena working on one bait so we proceeded to look for animals to shoot during the day. We traveled daily by truck to a fly camp where Argos are kept, and set out on Argos from there. Jessica wanted Cape buffalo and I signed up for Bushbuck (I find them amazingly beautiful) and Reedbuck. She also signed up for Warthog, Bushpig, and Suni. This is a photo of me relaxing after lunch in the Argo while John Mogle plays Solitaire on his cell phone:
As the days passed, Jessica shot a great Warthog, Bushpig and non-trophy Waterbuck for a feast the local government was holding in the area. I got my Bushbuck and Reedbuck, and we both shot multiple non-trophy Reedbuck for bait.
The 4th day of the hunt was my birthday. Everyone in camp surprised me that evening with a birthday song and to my surprise, a delicious cake with candles!
On the 6th day of the hunt, some trackers at the fly camp reported hearing a leopard making a lot of noise nearby the night before. They said he was very upset by the sounds he was making about a hyena eating on the bait, but the leopard apparently wasn’t going in to tangle with it.
After the 8th day of the hunt, I will admit I was getting nervous. Rains had plagued our hunting time and not much was hitting the baits. It is very hard to sit in the blinds not being able to speak with only an occasional whisper or a little eye contact, nor go to the bathroom – not to mention constantly getting bit by mosquitoes and Tsetse flies.
The 9th morning of the hunt, we were up early as usual and JW came in very excited saying that a leopard had come into a bait. One of the hunters in camp had shot a zebra a few days prior and they used the zebra hindquarter at this blind. He said that the trail camera showed the leopard had come to the bait at 5:00 am and got a drink out of the small stream nearby but hadn’t eaten much of the bait. He was very sure he would be back. The trackers, JW and a few others went to work building a 23ft high machan in this heavily forested area. It was very secluded and just looking at it I said “If I were a leopard I’d come here!!!” The blind was great and only big enough for the three of us. We were told we were going to get in the blind at 3:30 pm and may be sitting there all night if we had to. Alarms went off in my head that said “How in the *$#@ am I going to sit there until the wee hours of the morning without going to the bathroom?” I said to Jessica – I should have brought some Depend diapers and she laughed but I said “Don’t laugh! They sound pretty good right now to me!” I ceased drinking water early in the day to help that issue but I still didn’t know how I would make it if it did go into the morning.
The bait hung 60 yards from the machan. In this photo, I am sitting in the machan overlooking the bait site which was located inside the red oval in the photo:
Shortly after 5:30 pm we heard animals making a very loud chatting noise. I found out later that they were Bushbabies and something obviously had them upset (probably the leopard.) Then at about 6:00 pm we heard a loud grunt. John and I looked at each other in disbelief. We immediately knew what it was and my heart started to thump out of control. The leopard came into view leopard and sat down next to the bait.
The leopard was breathtaking but at the same time – I had to collect myself to take the shot. I fired, and the bullet struck the left side of his chest just below his neck. After the shot, we heard a thrashing of branches which sounded like it was close to the machan. Then a gurgling sound which meant the shot had penetrated the lungs. JW whispered “I’m sure he is down but we must sit here for at least another 45 minutes to an hour just in case he isn’t just stunned.” After that, we didn’t hear another sound. JW got down from the machan and after about 2 to 3 minutes (which seemed like an eternity) he yelled and said “YOU HAVE YOUR LEOPARD”!!! Then I got excited. I had refused to celebrate until I saw the leopard on the ground so that was a very long hour of waiting.
About 5 minutes from the P.H. camp, the driver of one of the trucks I was sitting in started honking the horn. I said what are you doing that for? He said this is tradition when a leopard is down. When we got to the P.H. camp, all the people in camp came out to greet us singing and dancing and many jumped on the truck Then another 5 minutes away was our camp and the honking went on the whole way until we got there. When we got there the same kind of celebration went on. Jessica was waiting at camp but no one had told her I got a leopard until we pulled up to camp. She couldn’t put together what was going on. When she saw the leopard – we both hugged and cried. It was a moment that I will never forget. The singing and dancing went on for 15 minutes or so. The leopard is a very respected and feared animal for these people. I was very impressed and it just made the leopard hunt all that more special.
We found the bullet exit hole right next to the spine. It was picture perfect small exit. The damage the bullet had done inside was devastating.
We took pictures and for the first time since arriving, I felt I could relax. The leopard was 180 lbs + and 8’3” long from nose to tail. They guessed the leopard was a minimum of 12 years old. Only 2 leopard are to be taken off this area this year. It felt amazing to be one of those lucky hunters. JW told us with much emotion that this was his 17th year of hunting, and his 17th leopard, but the first one he has taken with a woman. I feel privileged to have hunted with such wonderful people.
Now it was Jessica’s turn to hunt Cape buffalo. She ended up shooting her first Dugga boy with the trusty 416 Remington at 90 yards. The bull went just 15 yards and expired quickly. She took the second Dugga boy with the 470 Nitro at just 35 yards. Again, the big bull went just a few yards and fell, but not before she was able to pull off a quick follow-up shot – the beauty of a double rifle. She recovered the second bullet that entered forward of the ribs and traveled diagonally through the body, ending up in the hind quarter. Over 4 feet of penetration and picture-perfect! But I’ll let her tell the full story next month so stay tuned!
My rifle worked perfectly the whole trip. I love the scope and of course love the Barnes ammunition. Every animal Jessica and I took was a one shot kill. Needless to say, everyone was very impressed and when the time came to go home, we were sad – but happy to go and share our excitement at home with our family.
Marromeu has assembled an excellent team. The camp all worked very hard and were totally dedicated to helping me get my leopard. They worked equally hard at getting Jessica her two Dugga boys. We couldn’t be more pleased. How great it is to get the trophy of a lifetime and share an amazing hunting experience with my daughter? It just doesn’t get much better than that! I would also like to give special thanks to Linda Ferreira and her team for their up-front organization, thorough communication and preparations with escorts to completely assist us every step of the way at the Johannesburg and Beira airports. They were extremely attentive and navigated the sometimes difficult processes for us to ensure we arrived and departed in good order.