Leopard hunting is boring, monotonous, repetitive, smelly and hard work both physically and mentally but it is exhilarating hunting when it all comes right.
"Pound for pound, the African leopard is the strongest, fightingest animal on earth. His strength is fantastic. He can hang an antelope three times his own weight, twenty feet up in a tree." Alexander Lake
Leopard Trophy Minimums
The method to judge a leopard trophy is by measuring the skull as per Rowland Ward and SCI instructions.
Panthera pardus (African Leopard)
RW Measurement Method
SCI Measurement Method
Where To Hunt A Leopard
If you are looking to hunt a leopard, choose your African hunting country carefully. Leopard is a CITES I animal and in the case of US hunters, USF&W will not issue an import permit for any leopard hunted in northern or central African countries where they have declared them to be 'Endangered'. This includes leopards legally hunted in Central African Republic (CAR), Uganda and Ethiopia. The leopard populations of southern Africa - in Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe are considered 'Threatened' by USF&W but CITES import permits should be issued for a leopard trophy.
You can hunt a male leopard as a 'precious game' animal on a savanna hunt in the Central African Republic but American hunters will not be able to hunt or import a leopard trophy. In CAR you are not allowed to hunt at night or use artificial light and also bait animals will need to on your quota and paid for as full trophy animals.
You can hunt a male leopard on both highland and lowland hunts in Ethiopia but American hunters will not be able to hunt or import a leopard trophy. In Ethiopia you are not allowed to hunt at night or use artificial light and also bait animals will need to on your quota and paid for as full trophy animals.
A leopard can be hunted in Mozambique and is among the few animals you are allowed to hunt at night and use an artificial light. Bait animals will be part of your hunt quota and charged at full licence & Government fees but usually 50% of the trophy fee. Some outfitters may offer to pre-bait using a previous client's animal carcasses - always check costs prior to booking. Hunting leopard with dogs is permitted in Mozambique.
In Namibia you can hunt a leopard with a special predator trophy hunting permit applied for and issued in advance of the hunt. Leopard hunting is not allowed at night (30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise) and artificial light is not allowed. Only a male, free-roaming leopard may be hunted, with a minimum skull measurement of 32cm. Hunting a leopard with dogs is forbidden in Namibia. Most leopard hunts are offered as a specific hunt package with various inclusions & exclusions - free or costed pre-baiting services, specific number and species (example 3 non-trophy springbok) allowed as free bait animals to be shot by the client, extra bait animals required are usually at a reduced price.
In Tanzania you can hunt a leopard on a 21 day licence. You will find leopards on offer on 16 or even 12 day hunts but the hunter will still be paying for a 21 day licence. Only a male leopard with a minimum length of 150cm from nose to base of tail, may be hunted. In Tanzania you are not allowed to hunt at night or use artificial light and also bait animals will need to on your quota and paid for as full trophy animals.
In Uganda leopard may only be hunted by an overseas hunter on the off-chance of one being declared as a genuine PAC animal and the wildlfe authority has granted permission for it to be hunted. As USF&W declare the leopard population of Uganda as 'Endangered', American hunters will not be able to hunt or import a leopard trophy from here, despite the 2012 CITES export quota of 28 leopard trophies from Uganda.
In 2015 after the lifting of the lion and leopard hunting ban, you can now hunt a male leopard in Zambia. You may not hunt leopard at night (30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise) or with artificial lights. Also pre-baiting for leopard is not permitted and bait animals must be part of the licence quota and paid for in full. There is a 14 day hunt minimum for leopard.
In Zimbabwe leopard hunting regulations depend on the type of hunting area. In State safari areas you may not hunt any animal at night (30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise) or use artificial lights or dogs. In Communal or Tribal hunting areas you can hunt leopard at night with artificial lights. On private land the leopard hunting standards are set by the landowner and usually you can hunt leopard at night and with artificial lights. Hunting leopard with dogs can done on private land with a special permit. Since the hunting of the 'iconic' named lion in July 2015, all leopard hunts (lion and elephant too) must now be attended by a member of the National Parks authority. As an extra measure the Zimbabwean National Parks authority has ruled that you must not shoot a 'collared and/or iconic' leopard.
South Africa has, over the years, garnered a reputation for unscrupulous dealings when it comes to leopard hunting such as recycling the same leopard permit through numerous different hunting clients and other dodgy scams. However now there is a genuine attempt to 'clean up' leopard hunting for the benefit of the hunting clients and the leopard populations of South Africa.
If you are thinking of booking a leopard hunt in South Africa, you really must ask all the right questions and read the permits carefully, particularly the TOPS permit to hunt a leopardbefore you start hunting or you could land in a heap of trouble, least of which, your leopard trophy will not get exported or allowed to be imported to your home country.
Leopards may not be hunted by foreign hunters as a PAC hunt.
South Africa currently has a CITES export quota of 150 leopard hunting trophies. The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) then requests the 9 South African provinces to indicate, in writing, the leopard quota they require and each then gets allocated the number of leopards they may hunt, based on the sustainability of their leopard populations. By far, Limpopo gets the largest leopard quota and hosts the most leopard hunts for overseas hunters in South Africa. The Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (LEDET) is now making huge strides to be transparent in the allocation of leopard tags, record-keeping and tightening the leopard hunting regulations. The SA Leopard Hunting will cover all the provinces of South Africa as one central framework to manage leopard hunting.
2016 Provincial Leopard Quotas
Limpopo - 59
Mpumalanga - 11
KwaZulu-Natal - 9
North West - 2
Eastern Cape - 3
Western Cape - 4
Gauteng, Free State & Northern Cape have not requested or received a leopard quota.
2016 New Limpopo Leopard Hunting Rules
Limpopo will be divided into 52 hunting zones where all trophy leopard hunting can take place - both local & overseas hunters.
Only landowners and Previously Disadvantaged Individuals (PDI) will be able to apply online to hunt a leopard - not outfitters.
PDI applicants will be randomly allocated a hunting zone.
Only male leopards may be hunted.
All leopard hunts must be conducted with a registered dangerous game PH.
There will be a first annual draw for PDIs conducted in September for the following season and 1 winner will be allowed to hunt a leopard in 1 hunting zone.
Only PDI winners must then obtain hunting rights from landowners within their hunting zone and also appoint a hunting outfitter. They then must submit these details online for further consideration.
A second draw for landowners on the remaining 32 hunting zones, will take place in December for the following season.
Landowners may combine several properties as long as they border each other.
Draws are done by a random electronic system.
There will no longer be the previous back-up draw or waiting list.
The larger the hunting area submitted, the better the chance of winning. For example, each multiple of 100 hectares of land garners an extra 'ticket', thus increasing the probability of a win.
Winners will be notified by letter.
This letter must be provided to the identified hunt outfitter who only then may market the leopard hunt to overseas hunting clients.
Only when a named hunting client is found, may the landowner or outfitter apply on behalf of this client for a TOPS permit to hunt the leopard.
This application must be accompanied by the 'hunting rights' document, from the landowner to the outfitter for foreign clients.
A permit to hunt a leopard may be renewed 3 times, providing a 90 day window to pre-bait and hunt
Only 1 client may be accommodated for a leopard hunt. When the hunt is finished, whether successful or not, no new further clients may hunt in that particular hunting zone.
A permit may only be issued in 1 client's name. Renewals may only be in the same client's name and be consecutive.
Once a hunter has used up their 90 days (or 3 30 day renewals) the hunting zone is closed and no leopard may be hunted in that zone until the next year after the next application process.
In Ethiopia the trophy fee for a leopard is US$4600.
In Mozambique leopard hunts are usually sold as all-in packages, either as leopard only or in combination with another dangerous game animal or plains game. A 14 day leopard only package hunt (using baits) comes in between US$28000 and US$31700, including leopard licence and trophy fee. A 14 day non-package leopard hunt can range from US$13300 to US$25300 in daily rates + trophy and licence fee. The non-refundable licence fee of the leopard is around US$2500 and the additional trophy fee is between US$6000 and US$7000. If you opt to hunt a leopard with dogs in Mozambique, the hunt length can reduce to 10 days and your all-inclusive package will be about US$32000.
In Namibia leopard hunts are commonly offered as all-inclusive packages (leopard trophy fee + all or some bait animals) with the offer to refund the trophy fee if you fail to get a leopard. These leopard hunts have been squeezed down to 12 hunting days, rather than the usual 14 days and range from US$16000 to US$25000. The trophy fee for a leopard will be between US$5000 and US$8500.
In Tanzania the Government trophy fee for a leopard is US$3500. After adding Community Development/anti-poaching fees, the full trophy fee can be between US$4030 and US$7100.
The trophy for a leopard in Uganda is between US$3900 and US$7500.
With Zambia just having re-opened leopard hunting, the few trophy prices available run from US$4750 to a whopping US$12500.
In Zimbabwe the leopard trophy fees vary from US$4000 to US$9000.
In South Africa the leopard trophy fee is between US$3900 and US$15000.
Leopard Hunting Methods
Most commonly bait and blinds are used to hunt leopards. Tracking on foot with bushman trackers and/or dogs is practised in some countries where the leopard chased and treed or forced into a spot where it can't escape then shot. For the full 'tricks of the trade' on baiting a leopard, read these articles:
Many hunters judge their leopard trophy quality in body weight. This is somewhat irrelevant as weight varies according to when the cat last fed and/or mated. Really big and fat leopards are mostly found near cattle farms in countries such as South Africa or Namibia where they routinely can predate on calves. However these cats are used to human persecution and are supremely smart at ignoring baits, so they are generally harder to successfully hunt than a wilderness leopard.
As you will rarely see the cat that is hitting the bait, all the signs must tell you if the animal is actually a mature male leopard and not a lioness. Assess the spoor size and claw marks.
Once in the blind, you will have to trust your PH's judgement at the moment the leopard arrives, as you will be preparing to shoot. He will sex it and make a decision on whether it is a good trophy. Get the signals to be used by the PH clear in your mind beforehand and don't shoot unless told, despite sometimes overwhelming excitement. Hopefully this will avoid mistakes of taking a female or juvenile leopard.
If you do see your leopard on bait or on a trail cam before going into the blind, look for a big, possibly scarred head and muscular body, particularly round the neck.
Leopard Hunting Shot Placement
Cats have their hearts very slightly further back than most animals and as usual, heart and lungs are the largest target area.
If the animal is standing at right angles to you, bring your crosshairs up the foreleg and divide the body in half and then in half again and the centre of the heart will be found at the top of that first (lowest) dividing line, but just behind the foreleg The lungs extend to slightly above the mid way line.
If the animal is at an obtuse angle to you, remember the previous rule and aim at the opposite shoulder and you'll hit the same area.
If the animal is standing facing away from you, and you feel confident of the shot, aim at the root of the tail where it joins the body.
If the animal is facing you, aim for the central chest area where the bottom of the neck leaves the body.
Chui! A Guide To Hunting The African Leopard by Lou Hallamore and Bruce Woods presents the techniques used to hunt African leopard. It has stories of many great hunts and a large section of what to do when things don't go quite right. Highly recommended.
Shakari Connection is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com