“There are no guarantees when it comes to leopard hunting but in our hunting area, you will get the best possible opportunity to take a trophy leopard on the first safari without a doubt” – Graham Sales.
The beauty and elusiveness of the animal as well as the thrilling and challenging hunt itself, can be counted among the biggest factors in motivating hunters to secure a leopard trophy.
At Graham Sales Safaris(GSS), we are extremely selective in trophy quality and hunt only in the most pristine areas with high leopard population densities, creating a perfect opportunity to take a magnificent mature male leopard. Experience the leopard hunt of a lifetime with Graham Sales Safaris and take the shot without having to sit in a hunting blind for several weeks.
This article covers the leopard hunts conducted professionally by Graham Sales Safaris. Graham Sales is a two-time winner of the PHASA “Uncle Stevie” award as well as the prestigious Professional Hunter of the Year award and has guided hunters professionally for 18 years. (PHASA “Uncle Stevie” award is an acknowledgement of trophy quality)
- Hunting area / concession – Where will your leopard hunting safari take place?
- Hunt Preview: How your hunt will be conducted and what you can expect
- Get in touch
Hunting area/concession – Where will your leopard hunting safari take place?
Graham Sales Safaris conducts leopard hunts professionally in Northern Mozambique, Zimbabwe. Northern Mozambique is described as one of the areas with the highest leopard populations in Africa today.
“Northern Mozambique is by far one of the most untouched areas that I have ever hunted” – Graham Sales
At GSS we define a quality area to hunt leopard as an area which has had very little human interference. When landowners with live-stock clash with leopard populations, it does alter the behaviour of the animals, which has an impact on the viability of conducting a successful hunt.
At Graham Sales Safaris, we continuously guide and advise our clients throughout their leopard hunt.
Hunt Preview: How your hunt will be conducted and what you can expect
When GSS conducts a leopard hunt, the week before our client arrives, we pre-bait the area. We will shoot bait-impala or bait-baboons and scout the area for large male leopard tracks in preparation for the hunt. Pre-baiting is not essential in Northern Mozambique but it is something GSS does in general when conducting a leopard hunt.
As Graham Sales Safaris is highly selective in trophy quality, baits (a carcass) are only placed in areas where the presence of a large older male leopard is confirmed by either myself or one of my trackers.
After a large leopard track is discovered, the GSS team consider factors like where the nearest water source is from which the leopard might be drinking, if old and new tracks are present one will have to identify which general direction the leopard moves to and from. The general wind direction will obviously play a huge roll when we select the bait and blind location. The bait location is of utmost importance, this selection can be very challenging especially when one has to consider the general wind direction as well as the direction the leopard moves to and from and also where we will build the blind. After a suitable location (tree) is identified, a ‘drag’ also needs to be done.
‘Drag’ refers to the dragging of prey animal intestines across the habitual path of a leopard in order to entice him towards a baited tree. Usually the drag is done from a water source closest to a fresh leopard track, and dragged towards the baited tree.
“The bait and the way we put the bait up is important, but to me the ‘drag’ is probably one of the most important parts of preparing the bait location – one can have the perfect bait location but the leopard still has to find the bait.” – Graham Sales
One needs to keep the drag fresh, and re-drag every few days depending on the climate and time of the year. In general, during winter the drag needs to refreshed every third to fourth day, but in summer it might have to be done every second day.
Enough meat needs to be put up in the bait tree for a large male leopard to feed for consecutive nights on the carcass. A small carcass, like that of a female or young impala, might be cleaned off by a large hungry male leopard in one sitting and he will not return to that bait!
Impala is probably the most common bait animal but baboon and zebra meat are also very often used. The reason why zebra is being used is that zebra meat will last longer than an impala and not spoil as fast as it has a higher fat percentage. However, zebra meats tends to form a layer and not produce a strong scent whereas impala meat does produce a scent that will attract a leopard more easily. Sometimes the leopard does not find the bait by following the drag and only by picking up the scent of the bait. There are many factors the GSS team considers even when selecting a bait carcass. Often a combination of zebra and impala meat is used.
“It comes down to the quality of the area in which you will hunt the leopard. We hunt in arguably the area with the highest leopard population in Africa. We get hits on at least 70% of our baits.” – Graham Sales Safaris
When hunting leopard in Northern Mozambique, baboons are often used as bait as they are plentiful in the region and form a huge part of the leopard’s diet in this specific area.
Placing the bait is another factor GSS looks at. One needs to place the bait high enough so it can’t be reached by hyenas or lions but not too high as the leopard still needs to find it and when he does, be able to feed. For placement of the bait, tree selection therefore becomes a vital factor.
There is always a chance that a smaller or young leopard might hit the bait, and for this reason, once the bait is hit on the first night, a trail camera is strategically placed close to the bait to identify the leopard in question. Trail cameras are not put up from the beginning as it might scare off the animal from hitting the bait .
GSS keeps the bait fresh by replacing it regularly, however a leopard will eat rotten meat but he might not return to the bait if the meat is completely spoiled.
Maintaining the bait is crucial. GSS believes in checking our baits every day. As we have learned that Murphy’s Law comes into play, the day a bait is not checked that is the day the Leopard has hit the bait the night before.
Hunting in Northern Mozambique where quality leopards are more plentiful, the GSS team has never spent more than 6 nights in a blind on a leopard hunt.
Fellow professional hunters agree that once you get a big cat on bait, the chances are good that they will be able to take a shot at the animal the following sitting.
In a good quality area like Northern Mozambique, Graham Sales Safaris can select the highest quality leopard for our client.
When it comes to Leopard Hunting what sets GSS apart from the rest is that we hunt only in the best leopard hunting areas.
Choosing the correct tree for the bait will again influence the location of the hunting blind.
We prefer to use pop-up blinds that we cover with natural brush. Pop up blinds contain the human scent and also keeps any noise contained – all to a certain extent. In general we place the blind between 60-75 yards away from the bait, depending on numerous factors. 90% of leopards are shot between this yard range.
Only after the Leopard has fed will we put the blind up.
Inside the blind will be a comfortable chair and shooting sticks will be set up to support the rifle now aimed at the bait.
Leopard hunting has its high-tech elements these days. Graham for example places a movement detecting sensor in the tree which communicates with a vibrating box carried by him to alert him to any movement at the bait. Branches are used to cover the entire carcass which effectively hides the carcass from scavengers like vultures but most importantly the dried leaves create a ruckus when the leopard tries to get to the bait which further alerts the hunters.
You hardly ever see a leopard getting into the tree so one will be sitting there and suddenly you will hear the leopard trying to get to the carcass. That is probably one of the most beautiful and exciting sounds that one can experience on any hunting safari. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into hunt. A 15-day hunt comes down to those few minutes.
Once the leopard is in the tree he will open the bait by scratching through the branches and leaves which have been placed around the carcass to make it possible for him to feed.
Once the leopard is feeding and feels comfortable, GSS will make sure that it is the male we’ve been hunting before we indicate for our client to get ready to take the shot. Once the leopard is feeding and my client is ready and can clearly see the leopard I will decide on the right moment to take the shot.
Get in touch
For a custom quotation from Graham Sales Safaris on your next leopard hunting safari, contact us today.