Hunting leopard (panthera pardus) is as unique and as
different as any other Dangerous Game trophy. The considerations for this
animal are the stealth it uses and the danger it presents if not shot
well. You are not only doing a disservice to those who you are with if a
bad shot is made but you are putting your PH in great danger when he has to go
after it. So listening to your PH on everything from what to wear to when
to take the shot is imperative.
There is a lot of paperwork that is necessary which must be done by your PH before during and after the hunt. It is an animal that requires CITES and import permits as well for some countries. Most countries have an annual quota which they are not permitted to exceed. In the U.S. the US Fish and Wildlife gets involved over and above the CITES permits. Only leopard from certain sub-Saharan countries are allow. If you go to our Links page and click on the appropriate links for the US you will find out more information that is current.
SCI minimum score is 14 inches. Since a leopard is smaller than the other Dangerous Game animals it can be shot with a medium caliber rifle such as a 30.06 but also a .300 magnum is fine as is something in .375.
Using any good soft-nosed bullet between 180 and 250 grain in Nossler Partition, Swift A-frame and Barnes in soft nose, would be a good choice. Make sure that you can place the bullet where you need to aim, as good shot placement is very critical
Leopard are usually solitary animals which roam an area that is wholly theirs. Since the leopard protects this area it makes the rounds on a regular basis. All of its senses are excellent as well as it camouflage coat. Males are a bit larger in body with a broader head and have a darker, yellowish orange tinge on their coats. They are of course nocturnal and hunt anything from medium size antelope all the way down to mice and frogs.
It is next to impossible to hunt leopard on a 14 or 21 day hunt without using bait. Baiting is the most popular method of hunting. Your PH must go to the area and know that a leopard is there. They then set the bait and see if it has been hit. If so, a blind is made and the hunter and PH come to the blind and make the wait. Usually just before dark the leopard will come on the bait. This is where good optics must come into play. With low light conditions it would be very difficult to make the shot without good optics., Listen to your PH when the leopard comes to the bait. He will be whispering in your ear everything that you should know as well as where and when to make the shot.
Sometimes there is a problem baiting as you can see in these two photos. We had hung a warthog as bait for a leopard to judge the size and sex for hunting. We are using a red light field camera so as not to scare the leopard if a flash takes place. What we have got is a Honey Badger coming and taking the bait as well as scaring the leopard away. Needless to say Honey Badgers are only $200 USD and make great mounts.
A true trophy leopard is judged by your PH by its maturity, body, head and neck size. If you have never hunted leopard before then it is best to let your PH tell you if you have an SCI leopard in your sights.
Where to hunt leopards are based upon where the leopards are. Since they are very adaptive quality leopards are hunted in many countries. Zimbabwe is the most consistent country with a very high success rate while Tanzania and Zambia having some good concessions as well.
South Africa has very good quality leopards but it is because of the game farms these leopards do not readily come to the bait and permits are controlled by the government with strict allotments each year.