Hunting The King Of Beasts
This story is from our 1998 safari at Chete, on the shores of Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe. We were hunting with my very good friend Roy Vincent, and a lion was one of the animals we were after. There are two ways of hunting a lion here. One is to find a recent track and follow it. The other way is to put some baits up. When a lion comes and feeds, the bait is generally replenished, and a blind is built to sit in to get that lion.
I have shot three lions before, and all of them were followed. We have put up baits on previous hunts, but we never managed to get any to come and feed while we were there. Although many of our baits have been eaten before.
Roy and me follow a very simple procedure. He does the hunting and I do the shooting. This plan has worked over the years. I just tag along a step behind him.
On this occasion he decided that we should put up a bait in a dry river bed about 200-300 yards from the Lake. He has had some lions feed there before, and thought others might do the same. We built two blinds, one on each hill overlooking the river. This should give us a better chance to approach the blind, depending on the wind direction.
We shot a zebra and put it up for them. Next morning we left the camp at about 3.30 to be able to get to the blind before daybreak. We stopped the truck about ½ a mile away and walked the rest of the way to the blind. No luck this time, as nothing has come to the bait.
The next day we passed by our bait and found that the zebra had been eaten. It was late in the afternoon, and we needed to get a fresh bait up quickly. We could hear a hippo making some noise in the lake not very far from where we were. And someone in our party suggested that we go and get that hippo. We tried, but those hippos did not co-operate. They stayed too far off shore.
As luck would have it, we shot an elephant the next day, and we put one of his legs up for the lions to feast on. We decided to try to get into the blind in the afternoon, as the lions might decide to have an early dinner. We heard some noise coming from behind us, and then all was quite. The sun went down and we had to go back to camp. Roy thought a lion probably made that noise, as he might have smelled us on his way to the bait. So another early start in the morning is on the cards again.
Again, we left camp at 3.30, and when we got close to the bait we could hear lions feeding. Our excitement mounted. We got to one of the blinds, and we could see a lioness walking away from the bait. We thought she must have been the last one to leave the bait. There was still quite a bit of meat left, although the aroma coming from it was not very pleasant at all.
We left camp at our usual time of 3.30. A few yards from the blind we could hear some growling at the bait, which had our pulse shoot up. It was our lucky day! As we could see a very large lion standing on his hind legs feeding very noisily. We watched him for a few minutes. He got down and turned towards us at a slight angle. I am not so sure he suspected anything, but I did not wait any longer. I aimed at the junction of his neck and left shoulder and sent a 300-grain Barnes X bullet his way. He flopped over, got up, and walked a couple of yards and started rolling on the ground and biting himself. Before I had a chance of giving him another bullet, he disappeared from our view into a gully. We could hear growling for a couple of minutes, and then all was quite.
The lion could be lying there stone dead, or he could have just followed that gully into the hills, or he could be waiting there for one of us to appear to even the score with. We decided to go up the hill on the other side of the gully, and try to see if we could see him. We made a detour and went up the opposite hillside. We could not see the lion, but we could see an awful lot of his blood on the ground where he was flopping around. That gave us a bit more encouragement, and the likelihood of him being alive after loosing all that blood was very remote. And as with a lion you really do not want to take any chances, we got back to the side where we had originally shot from, and went into the gully. Rifles loaded and ready. By this time our trackers have arrived, as we had left them at the truck. They came over as soon as they heard the shot. Roy was about 5 yards from the lion, but he could not see it. Million, one of our trackers, saw it. We were very relieved to see it dead. We found that my bullet hit it exactly where I had aimed, going through his chest, and coming out from just behind the opposite shoulder. We loaded up our lion, and headed back to camp, to share our trophy with the rest of the gang there.