Following a long night of checking gear, packing, re-checking gear and re-packing, I'm on my way to Namibia on a leopard hunt. Although there was a flurry of activity centered on the safari last night, preparation actually started months ago. Part of that, of course, was practicing with the rifle I will be using on the trip.
Leopards are dangerous game, but unlike the heavyweights of the Big Five, they are thinly built. In fact, one PH told me any reasonable deer rifle will work just dandy on leopard. So I feel confident my choice of the tried-and-true .308 Win. cartridge, loaded with Federal Premium's 165-grain Fusion bullet, will get the job done--provided I do my part with the little Kimber Adirondack I'll be packing.
To get ready, I've been shooting the rifle at leopard photographs enlarged to about 50 percent of life size. My PH, Jamy Traut, says we'll be hunting out of a blind over bait, and shots (or more likely, the shot) will be close. I've done the majority of my practice at 50 to 75 yards. To add more realism, I've been practicing from a seated position, shooting off sticks. And since a leopard usually comes to the bait tree in waning light, I've been shooting indoors with the lights turned low. I even enlisted the help of Assistant Editor Jon Draper, asking him to pose as my PH and give me a tap on the shoulder when it was time to shoot. (Draper took the job a little too seriously, wanting to wear those super-short shorts only a real PH can get away with.)
Before long, with a little luck and a hungry cat, it will be time to see if all the practice pays off. I hope to provide updates as the safari (which also includes assorted plains game) unfolds. Check back here for updates from the bush.