Today we’re checking more lion bait. The lion hunting is starting to get pretty old because we do a lot of driving and I have to sit in the back with the rotting bait and bucket of guts. The guts are dragged behind the truck to lure in the lions. The smell is caustic to my senses, like it’s eating away at the inside of my nose and I’ve been close to puking more than once or twice. To say the least, it’s distracting. Maybe this picture will give you an idea of what I’m talking about.
We drive away from one of our lion baits when the trackers stop the truck. Up on top of a rock outcropping, we see a large male lion looking down on us. He has a huge, full, dark mane. Stu turns the truck off, but not in time because the lion disappears over the ridge. We drive back to the bait and hang out to wait and see if the lion comes in. We hide behind some palm fronds, when the lion starts walking right towards us. We now find ourselves between the lion and the bait. The lion’s body blends with the landscape and flora, a natural camouflage, and it takes my eyes a second to focus on him.
Tim has already mounted his gun up on the sticks and whispers, “Here he comes, here he comes!” I ask where because I can’t see him, and Tim says, “Look down my barrel.” Sure enough, the lion is walking right towards us and doesn’t see us yet. Man, I thought skydiving was scary, but skydiving can’t even compare to the surge of adrenaline shooting through my body from simply standing near one of these African lions.
Stu tells Tim not to shoot because he can’t tell if the lion is old enough. The lion looks much older than the other ones we have seen, but Stu can’t tell the age until he sees his teeth. If the teeth are yellow and worn and he has scars on his body then he would say shoot. The lion must have seen us and starts to walk away. I have him perfectly in frame, Tim is chomping at the bit to shoot him, but Stu lets him walk away. He is just unsure of the lion’s age and doesn’t want to risk the fine or the ethical and ecological consequences of shooting a young lion. Yet another exciting lion encounter.