My good friend James Reed introduced me to Anton Smit and Paul Ferreira of Marromeu while at the SCI Convention in Las Vegas. He had hunted with Marromeu previously and had shot a great leopard. He knew leopard was tops on my list of trophies and strongly suggested I talk with them. So after hearing the story about the leopard in their area and the many other types of game, I talked Jessica into going with me–husbands stayed home. Jessica had been to Mozambique before and loved it. She wanted to go back to try for Cape buffalo again using a Blaser S2 double rifle chambered in .470 Nitro Express loaded with our 500-gr. TSX FB Barnes VOR-TX Safari ammunition and take another with .416 Rem. 350-gr. TSX handloads using her favorite dangerous game rifle that my husband, Randy, custom built nearly 30 years ago on a Mauser ‚Äò98 action.
The first day in camp we sited in our rifles and all were good. I took a .338 Win. Mag. Fierce Firearms Edge Rifle custom made for me that weighs about 6 1/2 lbs. with a muzzle brake. The .338 Win. Mag. and I get along very well.
Our PH explained that baits had been put out several weeks prior to our arrival. Marromeu takes leopard hunting very seriously, and therefore have a very impressive rate of success. Every day of the hunt we checked the baits (I believe altogether seven baits were set out.) Not much had been going on with any of them other than a hyena working on one, so we proceeded to look for animals to shoot during the day. We traveled daily by truck to a fly camp where Argos are kept, and set out on Argos from there. Jessica wanted Cape buffalo and I signed up for bushbuck (I find them amazingly beautiful) and reedbuck. Jessica also signed up for warthog, bushpig and suni.
As the days passed, Jessica shot a great warthog, bushpig and non-trophy waterbuck for a feast the local government was holding in the area. I got my bushbuck and reedbuck, and we both shot multiple non-trophy reedbuck for bait.
After the eighth day of the hunt, I admit I was nervous about getting a leopard. Rains had plagued our hunting time and not much was hitting the baits. It is very hard to sit in a blind, not being able to speak and with only an occasional whisper or a little eye contact, nor go to the bathroom–not to mention constantly getting bitten by mosquitoes and tsetse flies.
The ninth morning of the hunt, we were up early as usual and JW came in very excited saying that a leopard had come into a bait. One of the hunters in camp had shot a zebra a few days prior and they used the zebra hindquarter at that blind. JW said that the trail camera showed the leopard had come to the bait at 5:00 am and got a drink out of the small stream nearby, but hadn‚Äôt eaten much of the bait. He was very sure he would be back.
Shortly after 5:30 pm we heard animals making a very loud chatting noise. I found out later that they were bushbabies and something obviously had them upset (probably the leopard.) Then at about 6:00 pm we heard a loud grunt. John and I looked at each other in disbelief. We immediately knew what it was and my heart started to thump out of control. The leopard came into view and sat down next to the bait.
The leopard was breathtaking, I had to collect myself to take the shot. I fired, and the bullet struck the left side of his chest just below his neck. After the shot, we heard a thrashing of branches, which sounded like it was close to the machan. Then there was a gurgling sound, which meant the shot had penetrated the lungs. JW whispered, ‚ÄúI‚Äôm sure he is down but we must sit here for at least another 45 minutes to an hour in case he‚Äôs just stunned.‚Äù After that, we didn‚Äôt hear another sound. JW got down from the machan and after about two to three minutes (which seemed like an eternity) he yelled and exclaimed, ‚ÄúYou have your leopard!‚Äù Then I got excited. I had refused to celebrate until I saw the leopard on the ground so that was a very long hour of waiting.
About five minutes from the PH camp, the driver of one of the trucks I was sitting in started honking the horn. I asked, ‚ÄúWhat are you doing that for?‚Äù He said this is tradition when a leopard is down. When we got to the PH camp, all the people in camp came out to greet us singing and dancing and many jumped on the truck. Another five minutes away was our camp and the honking went on the whole way until we got there. Once we did, the same kind of celebration went on. Jessica was waiting at camp but no one had told her I got a leopard until we pulled up to camp. She couldn‚Äôt put together what was going on. When she saw the leopard, we both hugged and cried. It was a moment that I will never forget. The singing and dancing went on for 15 minutes or so. The leopard is a very respected and feared animal for these people. I was very impressed and it just made the leopard hunt all that more special.
We took pictures and, for the first time since arriving, I felt I could relax. The leopard was at least 180 pounds and 8‚Äô3‚Äù long from nose to tail. They guessed the leopard was a minimum of 12 years old. Only two leopards are to be taken off the area this year. It felt amazing to be one of those lucky hunters. JW told us with much emotion that this was his 17th year of hunting, and his 17th leopard, but the first one he has taken with a woman. I feel privileged to have hunted with such wonderful people.
Now it was Jessica‚Äôs turn to hunt Cape buffalo. She ended up shooting her first Dugga boy with the trusty .416 Remington at 90 yards. The bull went just 15 yards and expired quickly. She took the second Dugga boy with the .470 Nitro at just 35 yards. Again, the big bull went just a few yards and fell, but not before she was able to pull off a quick follow-up shot–the beauty of a double rifle. She recovered the second bullet that entered forward of the ribs and traveled diagonally through the body, ending up in the hindquarter. There was more than four feet of penetration and the bullet was picture-perfect! How great it is to get the trophy of a lifetime and share an amazing hunting experience with my daughter? It just doesn‚Äôt get much better than that!– Coni Brooks