Summit Treestands's Leopard Bowhunt with Dries Visser Safaris


Join Pat Lefemine as he bowhunts leopard in South Africa with Dries Visser Safaris!

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Dries suggested the option of starting to hunt plains game now - rather than waiting till after the leopard. This made sense since it could be a while before a cat hit, and I could find myself with little to no plains game hunting time.  He also suggested that I sit at the same waterhole as last evening. There was a chance that those Gemsbok would return.  Apparently, that one big Oryx was quite a trophy. 

After a quick breakfast I headed out to the waterhole for a long day afield.  My instructions were to keep a two-way radio on channel 2, and if the bait is hit, they will call me to organize my gear and would swing by to pick me up.

I was in the blind by 8:00 AM and I saw my first "animal" approaching an hour later. It was a wild Ostrich - a tall male.  Now there is a story about this ostrich.  Apparently this Ostrich had attacked Michael, one of the guys from Arizona.  The Ostrich knocked him down and was stomping him before he was scared away by the trackers.  Besides the assault, he complained that when the Ostrich showed up, nothing else would come to water.  So I had an attitude.

A female Ostrich soon joined the male and as the hours clicked by they simply fed, and fed, and fed until I couldn't take it anymore. It was time to avenge my fellow bowhunter.

I quietly picked up my Bowtech and slowly opened the shooting window.  The Ostrich looked up briefly but went right back to feeding.  I then thought - "where are the vitals on an ostrich?"  Now, I'll probably catch hell from the ethics police but I was confident that if I shot him like a turkey - I wouldn't be too far off.  I let the pin settle and waited for my favorite "gobbler" angle.  The release was good and my arrow passed cleanly through his vitals. Big bird dropped right in front of my blind.

Watch the video (7.7mb)

I radioed for the trackers and the ostrich was in the truck and on the way to the skinners. I climbed back into the blind but not for very long.  Over the speaker on my radio I heard "Pat, do you copy?"

It was Dries.

"You must get your things together - the big male hit the bait - we're coming to pick you up."

I swear my pulse increased 30% and stayed that way the rest of the day.

We reached the river blind and started setting up the final gear for the hunt. That included the listening device and the red bait light - both necessary for night hunting leopards.  As I was videoing Dries setting up the bait tree, Ben yelled something in Afrikaans - and he was pointing to things around our blind.

Listen to the unedited audio

I could tell by the look on everyone's face that there was trouble. Dries explained:

"The leopard walked around the blind - several times. He's onto us. That's very bad." 

I was anxious to hunt but I listened to the options carefully and left the decision to Dries.  He recommended that we get everything set up - the light, the listening device, and the blankets in the blind - everything. Then when he hits again we'll just sneak in and hunt.  There was too much risk hunting this evening. If the cat catches us in the blind, it's over. He won't be back.

Video of Dries explaining the leopard track

We spent the rest of the afternoon getting everything setup.  For our last chore, Ben lit a pile of cow dung on fire and set it on a rock inside the blind. The smoldering poop is a technque Dries uses to mask human scent.

We backed out quietly and drove back home.  The female also hit the other bait again, but still no male.


Bowhunting Leopard

There are two ways to bowhunt leopard.  The method used by cougar hunters in the US is getting popular in Africa and that is to tree, or bay, leopards with dogs.  But that presents problems; both for the dogs and for people. Unlike a cougar, who will sit peacefully in a tree with both dogs and hunters underneath - a leopard will be much more aggressive and is very likely to come out of the tree at the first sight of a person. In addition, lots of dogs are beat up or killed by the leopards - especially in areas without trees. Once the leopard is hit, he is very likely to charge. This results in a leopard with bullet holes in it. 

The second method is to bait leopards and hunt them at night and it is the method Dries and I prefer.  This is a very effective technique however it is more difficult than using dogs.  The leopard needs to get on bait, he needs to be within very close range, and the bowhunter needs to pull everything off perfectly on the unsuspecting cat.  In addition to the challenge of getting a close shot - making the shot is tough at night - especially when you are shooting upward at a small target in a tree.  All of this while your adrenaline is kicked into overdrive makes this the most challenging method.

The use of artificial light and a listening device are essential to the leopard hunt.  The listening device alerts the PH and the bowhunter that the leopard is on bait, and the red light is used to illuminate the target just enough so you can make your shot.  Unlike a spotlight that may momentarily freeze a deer, the light Professional Hunters use is a small red light attached to a dimmer.  The light is imperceptible to the leopard so I must point out that there is no "jacklighting" involved.  This is the only effective way to bowhunt leopards  - especially in South African where the cats are completely nocturnal and extremely shy of humans.  A spooked leopard never comes back to the bait and that means all of the weeks (or months) of baiting was wasted.

Anyone who's ever hunted leopard says the same thing: this is perhaps the most intense bowhunt you can go on. You get one shot - maybe, and you're hunting an animal with senses far superior to any other animal in Africa.  In addition, a wounded leopard is extremely dangerous and has all the advantage when he's being tracked in the thickets. 

Leopard hunting is not for everyone. I would only recommend this hunt to experienced bowhunters - preferably with dangerous game experience.



Next - Day 6

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