The daily walking continued. Impala carcasses were carefully hung in strategic trees—trees where evidence of leopard activity was sought and found. We built leopard blinds. Capstick (and many other writers of Africana hunting) tells marvelous tales of waiting in such blinds for these wily and mysterious beasts to appear. The standard time for their appearance is just at the last of available shooting light—magically coming into focus on the very same limb the bait is hung from. Alas, all the leopard sign we investigated disclosed animals around the 85-90 pound size. Considering the cost and time investment in leopard acquisition I wanted at least a hundred-plus pound example. The upshot: I abandoned the project. We moved on to other pursuits.
Such as a representative warthog. And one fine day we spotted one, a good one! He was a bruiser, trotting at a brisk pace around two hundred fifty yards to our front, from left to right. The reason for the brisk pace soon became evident: there was a lioness after him! Roy rapidly whispered that he had lioness on his quota sheet, and at a very reasonable cost. We had discussed my desire for a mount featuring a leopard with an impala in its mouth…why not a lioness as stand-in for leopard? I had two good impala bagged, ready to go. So. I would attempt to take a big lioness. The opportunity was right there in front of me. I set up from sitting position and raised the Weatherby Mountain rifle. All she had to do was present a righteous shot profile. She did. Poised for a dash at the pig. I took the shot. Just as she sprang! Whap! A hit! She tumbled. Got up…and disappeared into the brush. Haltingly. She was hurt, no doubt of it, but the bane of hunting mishaps had struck…a hit a little too far back. Caused by the last second spring for the warthog. Damn! These things happen. And so does the only responsible response from the hunter: saddle up and track her down to the finish—whatever that outcome may be. We sent one of our faithful trackers back to the truck for my .375. Things were now quite serious and a thumper caliber was called for.
While he was gone we imprinted in our minds the unique characteristics of our quarry’s pad prints, knowing that gut shots, given time, will fail to leave a reliable blood trail. And we were at least forty five minutes behind her by the time the .375 was in hand. Once it was, we pushed into the bush after our wounded lion, one of African hunting’s grimmest duties. We were in the legendary soup. Wounded lion attacks have resulted in many dead hunter outcomes. The critters keep to thick cover. The charge, when it comes, will be unexpected and fast! And so I found myself in the most classic of African hunting challenges—going after a wounded lion!
Let’s save the story of tracking down our wounded lion for next time. I’m heading for the high country early in the morning, and…I want to sort the details of the all-day effort to fetch her in my mind before continuing. It’s the right thing to do.