I'm new to the forum but thought you might get a kick out of my most memorable shot. It happened on my 2nd trip to Africa but a little background is needed. I first read Robert Ruark when I was 10 or 11 and after reading Horn of the Hunter I wanted to shoot a leopard but unfortunately there weren't many in Pennsylvania so I practiced on squirrels and over the years I must have shot 100's of squirrels with my .22lr and using my imagination they each became a leopard. Years go by and I managed to hunt big-game in Alaska, Canada and many areas of the U.S. Finally I decided that with the kids thru college it was time for me to fulfill my dream and travel to Zimbabwe to hunt leopard. The trip was a hugh sucess for everything but leopard.....16 long afternoons and evenings in a leopard blind but the leopards were a no-show....plenty of sign but no cats. Two years later I went back with a PH known for his ability to get a leopard for his clients.
We started the 2nd hunt by shooting a variety of baits...impala, warthog and even a hugh Zebra stallion to the point that after 3 days we had bait in 7 or 8 trees waiting for a hit. During this time I shot a big kudu, a Rowland & Ward class sable, a 40" buffalo and a variety of other animals. Each morning we checked the baits and each morning nothing. This went on for 6 or 7 days and even though there were leopard tracks on nearby roads nothing hit the baits. We even saw leopards twice crossing roads while driving back to camp each night. This all changed as on the 8th day we had 6 leopards on 5 of the baits...one bait actually had a male & female dining together. We picked the tree with the biggest set of tracks and hastily built a blind about 50 yards away so the setting sun would be at out backs. We left planning to be back in the blind by 3PM. At this poinit to say I was a basket case was putting it mildly...almost 40 years of anticipation was doing a job on me.
I tried to each lunch and I couldn't. I tried to relax and take a nap and I couldn't so we went to the range to sight my rifle in to be "dead-on" at 50 yards. As an aside to this point I had been shooting great with 1-shot kills on kudu, buffalo, a running zebra, warthog and a variety of othr animals. The only animal that took a 2nd shot was my sable and that was only an insurance shot as the first shot was solid. Anyway, the 1st shot from a solid rest missed the paper so I reloaded, tried to relax and the 2nd shot just nicked the edge. No one said anything or made eye contact and I felt like an idiot. The next 2 shots were touching right where they should be so I adjusted the scope and the next 3 shots were dead-on...I was ready.
The 1st night in the blind was uneventful (I couldn't sit still I was so pumped) so we left about 6:45 which was about 20 minutes after dark.
The next morning we found the leopard had hit the bait after we left so we planned to go back to the same tree that afternoon. We were in the blind and had no action until about 5:30 when we heard the leopard clawing and marking the base of the tree but at that moment a pair of young elephants walked down a nearby road scaring the cat away. No action until it was too dark to shoot so another day goes by.
We checked the bait again the next day and it was mostly gone so I shot another impala and we refreshed the bait planning on being in the blind by 3:00 again.
We were in the blind about an hour when the PH suddenly grabs my arm and literally drags me out of the blind. An elephant had smelled us and charged the blind. We quickly got cross-wind of him and watched as he demolished the blind scattering it over the small clearing we were in. He lost interest after awhile and left. I was going nuts thinking what else could happen. We left the blind as it was and came back the next morning to rebuild it....the cat had hit the bait again....eating almost all of it. We put another impala in the tree and decided not to sit that night hoping things would calm down.
At this point I was getting apprehensive and it was difficult not to get discouraged but the next afternoon came quickly and we were back in the blind about 3:00. The time past slowly until about 5:30 when all of a sudden the cat was in the tree slowly looking things over as he approached the limb the bait was on. He started to feed and the PH gave me the signal to shoot. I watched him thru my scope waiting for him to stop feeding and when he paused I shot. At the shot he dropped limply from the branch but just before he hit the ground his body turned, he landed on his feet and was gone. The PH told me to stay put while he and tracker quickly went to where the cat landed and followed the tracks for a few minutes. I quickly put my shoes on and reloaded dreading what the PH would say when he came back....had I blown a shot I had "practiced" for years?
When they got back he told that the leopard had crouched just as I shot and while my shot was a little high the hit was probably fatal and that we had two choices. The 1st was to come back in the morning and follow the trail as he ws sure the leopard would bleed-out over night....the only problem was their were a lot of hyaena in the area and they might find him and they wouldn't leave much of a trophy. The 2nd option was an immediate follow-up to finish things. My choice! I taped my SureFire to the barrel and said let's go. We had followed the trail about 60 or 70 yards thru mostly low cover interspersed with some scrubby bushes when the tracker noticed what I first thought was a little bird in a bush about 20 yards in front of us. The little bird turned out to be the white tip of the leopard's tail. The tracker picked up a baseball-sized rock and when we were ready he tossed it toward the bush. It hit a bit in front of and to the right of the bush and the leopard came out of hiding in that direction. He quickly realized his mistake and turned toward us and at that point I shot hitting him just below his chin with my .375. The cat literally was turned in mid-stride and was dead when he landed. The 300gr Nosler traveled all the way thru his body and exited just to the side of the base of his tail. I was amazed at how fast it happened and that even wounded as he was, he made it half way to us before the shot stopped him ...easily my "most memorable shot".
It's exciting to come thru something like this all in one piece but I would have been just as happy if he had fallen dead at the bottom of the tree ..... making that my most memorable shot.
That's me with my 9.53 Lazzeroni Hellcat.