Hunting Leopard

The African Leopard (Panthera pardus) inhabits a wide range of habitats within Africa, from mountainous forests to grasslands and Savannas, excluding only extremely sandy desert. The African leopard exhibits great variation in coat colour, depending on location and habitat. Coat colour varies from pale yellow to deep gold or tawny, and sometimes black, and is patterned with black rosettes while the head, lower limbs and belly are spotted with solid black.

The key to hunting a Leopard is being patient. They patrol huge, vast areas and baiting them in numerous locations often result in faster success. They have an incredible sense of smell, hearing and eyesight, thus they will avoid any area that’s seems just a little bit “different” than the way it was when they crossed it the day before.

With our knowledge and precision way of baiting these Leopards we have had 100% success rate on them. A Leopard hunt consists of early starting, long days, as you can never tell when he will come past your bait.

A Leopard is very aggressive and often charges after the first shot. This makes for an adrenaline filled hunt of a lifetime.

Natural History
Smallest in body size and most widely distributed of Africa’s Big Five; most dangerous when wounded. Solitary animals, live in isolation. Shy and secretive, primary nocturnal. Can live without water if necessary by getting their moisture requirements from prey but will drink regularly if water available. Mature tom weighs between 120 and 180 pounds, female 70 to 130 pounds. Can consume as much as 20 percent of body weight at a single sitting. Strongly territorial. Effective and ruthless killers. Prey on virtually any meat source; also scavenge; like rotten meat. Life expectancy 12 to 15 years.

Sex Determination
Difficult. Mature toms large, thickset, and well-muscled. Heads larger in relation to overall size. Mature females slender, not as well muscled, heads smaller, thinner necks. Male and female rarely seen together, so difficult to compare.

Trophy Assessment
Body length (nose to tip of tail) used to determine size. Any tom >7 feet = good trophy; any tom >8 feet = huge. Size of spoor an aid to determining body size. Trophy leopard’s spoor will be 3.5 to 4 inches in length. Mature male nearly always has largest spoor; set up bait near its tracks. SCI method (15) and RW method (17): combined score in inches of skull’s length and greatest width.

The Hunt
Search for suitably sized spoor in areas where favoured prey most abundant-near water holes, pans, river pools; select suitable blind site (be able to get in and out unseen) and hang bait. Bait tree not too exposed, Easy access to blind most important. lmpala usually make best bait; also, warthog, bushpig. Drag bait area well, but do not overdo “scent.” Build blind 50-120 paces downwind of bait once it has been fed on. Stable shooting rest in blind most important. Sit still; leopard have phenomenal eyesight and hearing. Communicate only by gestures. ln dry, sandy areas, tracking also used as a hunting method.

Rifle, Calibre, and Bullet Selection
A 7mm is as low as one should go. ln some African countries various 9.3mms or .375 H&H are minimum legal calibres for all dangerous game, including leopard. Bullets suitable for leopard should be relatively light and fairly fragile so as to rapidly release kinetic energy (hydrostatic shock). A good-quality, light-gathering scope with bold, easily visible, or illuminated reticle essential.

Shot Placement
Leopard particularly susceptible to hydrostatic shock. Heatt positioned well back in chest cavity.

  • Side-on high heart/lung shot very effective: Place shot halfway up body, above where elbow reaches when front leg is at its most rearward position while walking.
  • High shoulder/spinal shots, used to “drop” a leopard, good choice for “last light” situations.
  • Standing side-on shoulder/spinal shot: Place shot through centre of shoulder blade. Also, good option when leopard in “dog sitting” position.
  • Quartering, frontal shot: Place right on shoulder joint.
  • Full-frontal shot: Place squarely into centre of chest.
  • Quartering-away shots: Aim to break opposite shoulder.
  • Shots taken at leopard lying on a branch or on the ground are not recommended.

Shot placement on any of the dangerous game in Africa is vital. Below are some images from a very well-known author, Kevin Robertson’s Book – Perfect Shot Placement for African Big Game. If you would like to buy a copy of this book, which we would recommend, you can get it on Amazon, by clicking here