Saturday, 20 April 2013

Trophy Hunter

"The true trophy hunter is a self-disciplined perfectionist seeking a single animal,the ancient patriarch well past his prime that is often an outcast from his own kind...If successful,he will enshrine the trophy in a place of honor.This is a more noble and fitting end than dying on some lost and lonely ledge where the scavengers will pick his bones,and his magnificent horns will weather away and be lost forever." 

Elgin Gates

Sunday, 7 April 2013

hunting for a track

The enjoyment of many activities often begins with the planning and preparation, and hunting is a very appropriate example of this. For most hunters the anticipation of the hunt is as intoxicating as the action itself; acquiring and mastering new equipment, packing travel bags and gun or bow cases, reading every scrap of info about the quarry and hunting area, and lots of conversation with hunting kin, all in preparation of the adventure, whether it be a day outing or several weeks. Once the hunter reaches the destination, boots are on and nature surrounds, the hunt has begun.

For the Leopard hunter however the hunt only commences in earnest with the discovery of a suitable track. Weeks can pass travelling roads and checking game trails without success. Sundry prayers at hours of the morning when most are comfortably horizontal. And when that magical moment arrives and the familiar spoor of the elusive travelling cat is evident in the beam of the angled spotlights, you struggle to trust your eyes because it almost seems too good to be true.

Of course there are prime areas where Leopard population density is so great that in the course of a morning several tracks can enticingly be up for offer, but across the course of any committed Leopard hunters innings, those honey pots are a rarity.

So few tracks to pursue? ………………but why? ……………well because,  separate from the fact that the territorial cat usually requires an extensive area to satisfy the numerous essentials  for survival like a prey base, stalking cover, cub rearing habitat and a preferable low concentration of competing predators, to mention a few, the conscious Leopard hunter must also exclude all the intercepted female and sub-adult male tracks. What remains is a quarry that is estimated to be 8% of the total population – the mature male. Challenging.

This is one we had to pass up:

9cm measurement of the length of the front pad (including toes).

100cm stride - walking speed (exclude toes – top of the front pad to the top of the following front pad of the same paw).

Apart from the ‘roundness’ of the paw imprint and the absence of the ‘neat’ qualities of a females imprint, we can identify this track to belong to a sub-adult male due to the above measurements. A more mature male will measure at least 10cm and 115cm in these soil and ecological conditions.

It certainly was not a wasted morning and a stirring feeling of future expectation remains. Plus it is wonderful to know that no more than 48 hours previously the stealthy predator prince wandered down this path in search of a meal awarding opportunity.