Hunting The Elusive Kwe Kwe Lion – Part II

 

Hunting The Elusive Kwe Kwe Lion – Part II

By Jonathan Collet, Professional Hunter, Zimbabwe.

 

PART II – THE RETURN

Part II of the lion hunt I did mid-June 2011.


Our long awaited return had finally arrived. Six weeks of planning and anticipation was now over and we were back to finish where we had left off. Seeing that lion bolt out of sight our final night six weeks earlier was cause for many sleepless nights.

 

Day 1…

We had a few things to do like make sure the sound system was working and erect our blind, the blind we had set up the last two nights of our previous trip. I sorted out the sound system while Trevor and the others went off to erect the blind. With sound system working and blind in place we took the afternoon off. It had been a couple weeks since he had killed another of poor Sandy’s cattle. Was he still in the neighbourhood? We wanted to find out so chose to spend our first night doing some reconnaissance work, not hunt but locate him only. We left camp after dark and headed off to where we hoped to find the lion. Sure enough he was still lurking around. It didn’t take long and we got a response from him. That was all we wanted, to know he was there and to let him know his diesel smelling and engine roaring buddy was back. We headed back to camp…

 

Day 2…

After a leisurely wake up and a hearty breakfast we all headed off to make sure we had everything in place for the evenings hunt. I checked on the blind to make sure it was the way I wanted it. We also wanted to see what the lion did the night before and how he had responded to us. He followed us as planned but not past our ambush site. Maybe it was just a coincidence that he chose to turn back 100 yards before. Then again maybe not… This cat was smart and one step ahead of us every time. We brushed the thought aside and hoped it was just coincidence. With everything ready and in place we headed back to camp for lunch and a nice long nap in preparation for our evening out. I arranged with Ken to have the live bait delivered to the sight late that afternoon. I wanted it tied and in place by the time we got there. Although we had the right equipment this time we felt that the moon was vital to our success. It was a couple days after full moon and it was rising later than hoped but nothing we could do about that. We had to work around it.

By 6 pm that evening Steve and I were “comfortably” seated in our little hideout while Trevor and crew went off to fetch the lion. Within minutes I heard the lion respond but no caller. The lion was not far and I thought it a bit odd that it was calling us rather than us calling it. About half an hour later the Landcruiser roared up the road and came to a screeching halt in front of our blind. I rush out the blind to find out what the problem was “THE SPEAKER IS NOT WORKING” Trevor said. Damn!!! (Putting it mildly) I discovered the power source to the Amp had a faulty connection. I fiddled with it for a few minutes and thought I had got it working. I scuttled off back to the blind while Trev and crew headed off to try again. Minutes later landcruiser and crew were turned around and heading off in the opposite direction to go fix the sound system. I obviously hadn’t fixed the problem. Hearing our crew drive off into the distance was rather unnerving. Where was the lion??? What was he up to???

An hour and a half later the LC crew were back (what a relief) with the problem fixed. It was now late and who knows where the lion was. It took almost an hour to locate him again. He had gone walkabout. The game was back on and the LC crew were headed back towards us with the lion in hot pursuit. Steve and I were ready!!! The ‘Cruiser drove past us and stopped about half a km down the road. They called again and then we waited… and waited… and waited. No lion… What the hell!!! FLIPPEN HELL… next thing the damn thing roared less than 50 yards behind our blind. Don’t know about Steve but I just about shot through the roof of the blind… Baboons roosting in a tree not too far behind our blind alerted us to him passing, to and from. That was it, back to the drawing board. That cat knew the plan, he had figured us out from our botched attempt six weeks earlier. Even with live bait in place he wasn’t interested. He showed enough interest in his diesel smelling buddy to follow as he had done before but that was it. We weren’t fooling him. We had been out smarted yet again. Back to camp we went feeling rather despondent and frustrated.

 

Day 3…

With very little sleep and no time to waste we were off to change things again. After each failed attempt we very quickly figured out that a new plan was needed as the last would never work again.

 

  • He’d been poisoned so never touched bait again.
  • He’d been spot lighted and shot at. Became very light shy as a result.
  • We pulled him in underneath our noses with live bait but the spot light spooked him off. He never touched live bait again.
  • We had him sniff and circle the live bait after that but our attempt at a little light high up in the tree above spooked him off to where he never came anywhere near our live bait again.
  • And to add to all this he was losing interest in the caller. It took more and more effort to get him to respond let alone follow the truck. Our hopes of getting him were fading fast.

 

We had two options in place for our next plan, the elevated tree stand that we had used before and a road blind. The lion had walked below the tree stand four times the night before in response to our caller. This was while we were in our ground blind with the live bait. The road blind was built out of grass in the tall grass on a slight bend with a long stretch of visible road. Both were built in the hope of ambushing him as he followed the truck. If the one failed we had the other as plan “B”.

We had a very late start that night as the moon was vital to our success and it was now waning, moon rise at 10 pm and high enough in the sky for us to see after 11 pm. “Tonight was our night” so we hoped but little did we know that we were going to be in for a long one. We got our first and very distant response from him around 1 am. In the past he came bounding in to the caller but it took another two hours to get a second response out of him this time, a clear indication that he was losing interest. After his first response we moved closer to where we thought he was. Called and called but nothing. We moved again and again but nothing. After a good hour of this I made the decision to move to where we wanted him, to stay put there and call every fifteen minutes for as long as it took. Our moving all over the place and calling was no doubt confusing the fellow. He didn’t know where to go or what to do. What was originally one lion now sounded like a whole pack of them calling from all directions. So we parked and called. About an hour later we got our second response, this time he was close. It had worked… The game was back on….

Plan ‘A’ was the road blind which was less than 500 metres down the road. We shot off there. Steve and I debussed and snivelled into the blind as the ‘Cruiser drove on. Trevor stopped and resumed calling a few hundred metres further down the road. Steve and I were ready. We could see at least 150 metres of the moon lit road. The lion was toast, if only it would follow in the road. The lion responded a couple times but clearly wasn’t following along the road. It sounded like he was following parallel to the road about 100 metres in. No plan!!! The ‘Cruiser came back, we loaded up and went back to where we had called him in. Called there again and he responded, same place. He hadn’t budged. Where we sat in the road blind it sounded like he had followed in the bush but in actual fact he hadn’t. He stayed put and was further away than we had thought.

Plan ‘B’ – Tree stand!!! We rushed off to it, again only a few hundred metres away in the opposite direction. Steve and I clambered up into our perch while Trevor and crew called once then drove on. Surely the lion wasn’t too far behind. We were ready… Nothing… Trevor called again a few hundred metres further away. We got a response that time but the lion was not budging. For the next hour Trevor called and the lion responded numerous times behind us but never moved. It seemed Mr Lion was onto us. His diesel smelling buddy was a hoax…

 

4am…

I was frozen, the lion had gone quiet and all hope was lost. Trevor wanted to call it at night as did I but I suggested we stick it out until sunup because I didn’t want to compromise yet another situation. This lion was one step ahead of us all the time and if it had figured out our tree stand plan then it was over. We had no choice but to endure the torturous cold until sunrise.

 

4:45am…

Trevor radioed to ask if he should play the hyena call. He had consulted with the trackers and they figured it was a waste of time. He wanted to hear what I thought. The lion call wasn’t working, we needed a change so what the heck… I told him to go for it. We had various calls, a couple different lion calls, a hyena call, hyenas feeding and a bleating wildebeest call. Trevor made up a concoction of the hyena call, the feeding frenzy and the bleating wildebeest. It sounded pretty convincing from where Steve and I sat but who were we to convince the lion. Nothing… No response, not a peep out of the lion.

 

5:45am…

Staring out at the horizon, frozen through to the bone I could see the faint glimmer of hope signalling the onset of sunrise. I was battling with a cramp in my right leg and was about to stand up when I heard the call. Using the lion call, Trevor called again, one last time before it got light. It took my mind off my discomfort when out of the blue the lion responded, he was responding on top of our caller. We had listened to him respond from behind us the whole night but this time it was different. He wasn’t behind us, he was in front of us. I quickly moved into place where I could see through my little hole. Steve followed suit. There in the road walking towards us was our lion. I couldn’t believe it, thought I was dreaming. Trevor’s hyena concoction must have worked as the lion left his hideout behind us to investigate the commotion. He obviously saw that he had been conned yet again so was now on his way back along the road right where we wanted him. Trevor’s timing was impeccable as the lion would easily have snuck past us without a peep or responded where we couldn’t see him. He was wasting no time and it was now or never… The lion turned to his left 50 yards in front of us and presented a brief shot opportunity. Before the words “take him” left my mouth the shot rang out, echoing through the frigid valley. The lion gave out a low grunt as it leapt backwards then bolted off into the long grass. It was a hit but how well was anyone’s guess.

Instantly the radio came to life with Trevor wanting to know what the heck was going on. He hadn’t heard the lion respond to our caller and was oblivious to what was unfolding before Steve and I. “We got him, we shot the lion…”

 

6:15am…

Armed and ready Steve, Trevor and I with our two trackers in the lead slowly advanced along the blood trail. Expecting the worst but hoping for the best we were ready. The trail was good and surely the lion couldn’t have gone far. I strained to look through every bush and tuft of grass that could possibly hide an angry lion seeking his revenge. It was still, the pounding of my heart was all I could hear. There 50 yards out I saw him, laying on his side motionless. It was a good shot…

Twelve gruelling nights had finally paid off.

 

For information on hunts with Jonathan in one of the Dark Continent’s most beautiful corners, visit his website at www.touchafricasafaris.com