Another sleepless night. I was having a difficult time getting on schedule. Mike from Arizona had offered up an over-the-counter sleeping pill and tonight I think I'll be taking him up on his offer.
I met Dries and Ben at 9:00 AM for breakfast and then it was off to check the baits. Our first stop was the river bait as this was our favorite setup and one where we hoped the leopard would hit.
A nice print was found next to the half-eaten donkey quarter. In the soft soil it was difficult to say if the pad would go 2.5 but it was definitely a male with a pad 2.25+. But Dries also remarked that we had a problem. Our barricade (to keep the honey badgers off the bait) did not work. They busted through the thorn brush and worked the bait over. Honey badgers will often travel in groups and despite being 1/4 the size of a big tom; they will keep the leopard away - especially if there's a group of them. Like our badgers back home, they are mean little creatures with an attitude. This problem had to be corrected before we could hunt here.
Ben, Dries and I got to work. They cut 5 times the amount of thorn brush as before and this time we tied it down so the barricade could not be breeched. I also went on a mission: find and disrupt the badger's den. It took us well over 90 minutes but we were all satisfied that between the new and improved barricade, and my messing with their den - it may just work.
From there we went to the other bait site. For the 3rd day in a row the female leopard had hit it - but still no male was on this bait. We freshened that bait to the sound of barking baboons - watching us from the opposite hillside. As soon as we wrapped up here, we headed back to the lodge.
We arrived at the lodge by 2:30 PM and Dries offered to drop me off at a waterhole. I was eager to do some hunting so I quickly gathered my gear and before long I was hunting plains game.
About an hour into my sit, I saw my first animal approaching. It was a mature female waterbuck followed by more cows and calves. They fed on some alfalfa and took turns at the waterhole. As the day faded, a decent warthog with her youngster showed up to drink before running back into the bush - tail erect. It was getting quite dark now - but still plenty of shooting light left when I heard a grunt. Out of nowhere a really nice Gemsbok appears followed by an even bigger Gemsbok. Gemsbok (or Oryx) was one of the 2 plains game animals on my list. When I had hunted Zimbabwe 11 years ago the only two animals I did not take were the Gemsbok and Zebra. So I picked up my bow and turned on the camera.
But as I watched the magnificent animals give me one great shot after another - I decided to put my bow down. Getting video footage of the shot was important and it was just too dark to pull that off. Given this was only my first 3 hours at a waterhole - I was pretty confident I'd get another opportunity like this. So I watched them feed and drink until the approaching truck scared them away.
Tonight was Gene Wensel's last evening and I wanted to spend some time with him. But my shooting coach needed me before I got too relaxed. With a lot of trepidation, I practiced for the 3rd time in the dark. My first shot was perfect, so was the second, third…and fortieth shot. I shot 40 bulls out of 40 shots. Both of us were happy. My equipment problems were behind me, my confidence was high, and I was ready to hunt leopard.
Gene and I did have a chance to visit and watch some videos. By the end of the evening I chased down a sleeping pill with a Castle and fell to sleep instantly.