Elusive and dangerous are the first thoughts any hunter should have when leopard hunting. This is, pound for pound, the most dangerous animal in the world when wounded, drawing a deep respect from all who have hunted this magnificent creature.
Contrary to popular belief, Leopard are NOT endangered in Namibia. But because they are largely nocturnal and rarely seen, there is this erroneous perception that they are rare. They are however extremely shy animals with excellent senses and camouflage and very good at avoiding humans.
They are also highly adaptable, hunting a wide variety of prey from medium-sized antelope down to frogs and mice and are able to live in a variety of terrain, making them the most widely distributed of Africaâ€™s Big Five game animals. Leopard are usually solitary, holding and protecting a large territory which is roamed in its entirety on a regular basis. Leopard vary in body size tremendously, a trait that is primarily influenced by the terrain they inhabit and the relative availability of their prey. Males are larger bodied, thickset and well muscled. Their heads are larger in relation to their overall size and their necks are thick and muscular. However it is difficult to distinguish between young males and mature females
Leopard are thought to date back as far as 2 million years which is testament to their perfected ability in all aspects. They are the perfect predator, opportunistic hunters and massively strong for their size. In their heart lies the knowledge of this inner strength not often exhibited unless wounded or cornered, and they always prefer flight over fight.
Due to their secretive nature it would be very difficult to successfully hunt leopard on a 14 or 21 day safari without baiting. Baiting is the most popular method, lying in wait at dusk from a blind 75 or more yards away. Leopard are very alert, usually coming to the bait the last few minutes before complete darkness.
Quality optics with strong light gathering capabilities are necessary. The bush will notify you of a Leopards pending arrival. Many smaller creatures and most of the birds will announce that Mr. Spots is on the move. The bait tree will be empty and the next minute he will be sitting in the tree by the bait. This sudden arrival is guaranteed to cause hyperventilation and an outbreak of sweat! They have phenomenal eyesight and almost telepathic hearing. The slightest unnatural sound or flicker of movement will arouse his suspicion and make him disappear.
The real challenge is to pit your skill against that of the leopard, try to outwit him and get him to come to bait with enough light to afford a shot. It is like a game of chess played out over a couple of weeks at a few locations. It is a match of wits and a contest of wills. It is said that you hunt an Elephant with your legs, a buffalo with your guts, and a Lion with your heart but a Leopard is hunted with your brain. It is ILLEGAL to hunt with the aid of a light. However it is quite a common practice as some countries do permit it.
Once wounded - TAKE CARE , it is something nobody wants to experience! Wounded Leopards are usually hell bent on revenge and their ability to hide means they hold all the advantages when following their blood trail. They will choose the time and the place and more often than not will wait until you are literally stepping on them before they charge. Any medium calibre rifle from 7 x 57 and upwards is adequate with the best shots being for the shoulder, spinal or for the vitals situated behind the shoulder. Here as with a brain shot on an Elephant, the angle the Leopard is offering you is important. Quick expanding ammunition that will deliver sufficient hydrostatic shock will drop even the largest of Leopards.
With leopard, trophy judgment is usually not as important as deciding whether it is a mature male or not. The best indicators are the body, head and neck size and the base of the tail.
Namibia has of late become a very popular leopard hunting destination!