Unpredictable Leopard

Here is a hunting story from previous client Joe McCray:

At five a.m. we crept into the blind. The wind was blowing through the blind from front to rear, and we stayed awake by shivering and waiting for light. I hadn’t brought my binoculars and was relying on Gert to keep an eye on the bait tree.

Expecting some warning, I was surprised when Gert whispered that the cat was in the tree, and made the hand motion to shoot.

I put the rifle up on the shooting sticks and looked through the scope. Sure enough, the cat was sitting on the limb like a dog, intent on munching the bait.
I removed my right glove and released the safety, and then carefully lined up the crosshairs on the pale form. Unfortunately, there was a three inch diameter limb running across the shoulder. Crowding the limb as much as I dared, I squeezed the trigger.

“You missed!” Gert whispered.


“I saw him bouncing away through the grass.”

How could I have missed? I ran through my entire vocabulary of curse words, found a few I liked and repeated them until I got bored with them.

“I couldn’t see the bullet hit with the muzzle flash…” Gert allowed as we got out of the blind.

We went back to the truck, letting the light improve.

But during the drive down and around to the sand river then back to the bait tree, I went through the shot a dozen times, and I kept coming up with the same answer. No way I could have missed.

The cat has to be dead. I kept telling myself that anyways.

We got to the tree and to nobody’s surprise, there wasn’t a dead leopard under it. But behind the tree was blood. First a little, and then a clear trail into the grass and headed toward brush.

“This just keeps getting better and better,” I thought, wishing now that I HAD missed.

Gert grabbed his 458 Lott and I had my 375. We started the follow-up. Guns shouldered and safeties off, we eased forward.

One step at a time.

I kept my eyes on the brush, trying to see the cat before he started his charge. To my left Gert was scanning the grass, doing the same.

“There he is!” Gert breathed, then repeated, “There he is!”

I saw out of the corner of my eye, Gert had his rifle aimed at something in the grass to our left. Then I saw the cat.

“If he moves, shoot him!” Gert instructed.

No kidding? I had my gun on the leopard now, and was ready to shoot again for any reason, maybe to just break the tension.

We sidled sideways, across a washout and closer to the leopard.
Finally, Gert leaned forward and tapped the cat on the head with his muzzle.

“You have no idea what you have here!” Gert said to me, then shook my hand. I was laughing.

“He’s huge!” Gert blurted.

Gert was running around yelling. I was still laughing, until I checked the blood trail. The leopard had run straight towards the brush, then fishhooked around and hid in the grass. He had died with his feet under him, waiting for us.
Gert tried twice to lift him, failed, then took off his coat and tried again. He WAS huge.

Joe McCray