The best recommendation I can give Gavin is to give a brief summary of the leopard safari we just completed. 

This safari was in Mozambique, which I mention to give context as to the professionalism that was required to be successful!  Mozambique is like Africa 100 years ago with thick bush and totally wild conditions, a productive but challenging area to hunt.   

Day 1:  Gavin arrived with his hounds, houndsman and trackers.  He used a mixed pack of French wolfhounds and American blue ticks.  This combination of hounds was very powerful as a hunting team.  

Prior to arriving, Gavin had arranged for pre-hunt scouting to get a general idea of where leopards were moving.  Based on this early scouting, we spent the first day scouting river banks and other areas where tracks were likely.  By the end of the day Gavin had identified tracks of two large males whose territories appeared to be adjacent to each other.

Day 2:  We spent the next day focusing our search in the area of the largest tracks and Gavin put baits out in the second area as insurance if the first area proved unfruitful.  

Late in the day, at almost dusk, we ran across fresh tracks of the large male we were scouting.  We drove back to camp immediately and loaded the hounds, packed flash lights and water and grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed back.

We arrived back at the tracks just at dusk.  Gavin released the hounds and within ten minutes they were baying the scent and the chase was on.  To my ear there is no music more beautiful than hounds baying a hot scent.  

Because I am 67 and not as quick as I once was, the houndsman went ahead while I struggled with Gavin through the extremely thick bush.  Most of the time there was only visibility for 3 or 4 feet.  As we struggled to keep up, after about two and a half hours the hounds treed the leopard. Hearing the hounds singing, we redoubled our efforts to close. 

We heard, about 300 yards away, a huge cacophony of hounds and leopard fighting.  The leopard had come down from the tree, rushed the houndsman in the grass, was driven by the hounds and disappeared in the bush.  It was about 10:00pm and pitch dark.  I literally could not see my hand in front of my face due to the thick canopy which blocked all moonlight.    

We finally caught up with the houndsman (who was very excited) and the hounds were released again.  For the second time, in about 10 minutes they were baying the hot sent.  Phenomenal noses. 

In less than one and a half hours later, just prior to midnight they treed the cat again.  This time I was close by.  Unfortunately, it had rained a little and the bush was literally steaming (more about this later).  

Gavin led me to the best side of the tree to get a shot at about 15 yards range.  The cat was huge!!  I

pulled my rifle up and the scope was totally fogged by the rain and steam.  Gavin put the light on the cat and he started down the tree toward us.  Not a happy cat!

I shot and he collapsed.  I was jubilant until after 15 seconds he got back up and headed directly towards us, now a really unhappy cat.  I chambered a second round.  The cat was still only a fuzzy blur in my scope.  I shot a second time and he was hit and turned back up the tree.  I chambered a third round and quickly fired a third shot which finished the hunt.  

We were all jubilant.  It was an experience of a lifetime!

Gavin then conducted a formal ceremony of respect to the cat which was a fitting capstone to the evening.  Then the two trackers, who assisted the houndsman, rigged up a pole and attempted to carry the cat out.  

He was so heavy they had to be relieved at times for a “breather’.  The bush was so thick it took two whole hours to get back to the vehicles.  We returned to camp and were serenaded by the staff with an African song of thanks and praise to the hunters.  Another amazing experience.  

Day 3: The next morning, after skinning, the green measurements potentially put this cat well within the all-time top 50 and an SCI gold.  We will have to wait for the official score.

The hunt was phenomenal and despite the tough thick bush, due to professionalism it was over in three days (counting the last day for trophy preparation). Gavin handled the situation well, put me in the right place at the right time on the right cat.  He also had the good discretion to let me take the follow up shots but was also ready in case I missed.  Very well done!

If you read this and do not think it is a recommendation – there is nothing more I can possibly say. 


Bob Buker