My Shot At Chui The Leopard

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paper, wliilc he and I slipped into a bunch of tall grass and low thorn some 40 yards from the bait tree. We knew old C.hui would be watching that bait from the cover of the tall grass, and John figured he would not notice that, when the hoys boarded the jeep and pulled out for camp, two of us were left behind. The trackers and Macorra then drove tlie jeep back a half mile from the bait tree anil waited there.

Knowing the leopard knew where we had slipped up on him that morning and that we used the other tree for an approarh, we had moved around to the side and bedded down prone in a clump of grass only 40 yards from the bait hut with the wind in our faces. We cut a hole through the grass about six inches in diameter, so 1 could command the tree and its base with my big rifle. It was a very hot afternoon and the sun was merciless. Combine this with a flock of tsetse flies that never let up, it was one o£ the most miserable waits I ever put in. Neither of us dared move or make the slightest sound. Some malaria mosquitoes also helped to make life miserable. But we were determined to get old Chui this time, or at least keep him away from the bait until dark.

lie was a very canny cat, however, and did not show as hour after hour went by. A yellow necked francolin approached to "within three feet of my rifle muzzles and looked me straight in the eye. I could not even breathe; just stayed dead still and looked that bird in the eye. As nothing moved, he finally gave up and walked on up the slope. We breathed again, knowing that, if we had startled him, the cat would have departed.

Darkness was fast approaching and I was about ready to give it up. Then, suddenly, 1 saw the bait swinging and knew Chui was again in the tree. He had approached from the hide-out tree we had used that morning, and we had not seen a sign of him until the bail began to swing. Now I made out bis hind quarters and tail to the right of the tree bole, and could see his shoulders and neck between tree bole and the rear end of the wildebeest, where it was lashed up near the fork of the tree.

The light was failing fast as I lined up on him, aiming as close to the tree as possible on the shoulder side of the tree bole. His head was clown inside the wildebeest, his shoulders moving back and forth as he tugged at the bait.

I centered the sights and squeezed. A bloom of cordite flame blotted out my sight picture. Instantly. Chui let out one of the nastiest growling roars I had ever beard, leaped, heading for cover. Every time he hit the ground, he gave vent to another rasping, grunting growl. He made the tall grass 50 yards away and disappeared; but he stopped there, for we could hear him as he continued to growl like the devil for what seemed to me a couple of minutes. Then all was quiet.

Now I had done it. I had a wounded leopard in tall grass, and it was getting dark. I felt lower than a snake's belly, knowing that we had to go in after him and that some of us would likely get chewed up. John, however, seemed in good spirits. He said that all that terrific growling sounded to him like the leopard's death song; but .1 thought John was just trying to cheer me up.

The boys had heard my rille shot and soon drove up with the jeep. We loaded both shotguns with buckshot, and John put one between his knees while I held the other poked out my side of the open car. John warned me not to try to raise the gun or aim if Chui charged us; just poke it at him and fire, both barrels. That, he said, is the only way to deal with the lightning speed of a leopard's charge. He won't growl or warn you as a lion will, and you will not know where he is until he springs—and then it is loo late to dodge or raise a gun to the shoulder.

With the head lamps turned on, we drove slowly into the tall grass. (It is perfectly legal to use artificial light to finish off a wounded animal.) John drove very slowly, one hand on his shotgun. I, for one, was expecting to have the spotted devil on my tmmm Branw

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