As a lifelong hunter, I don't scare easy, but when you're face to face with a predator, your instincts take over. I've hunted a lot of different animals in a lot of different places, but these encounters still stick with me. Dangerous creatures are part of the job description, and keeping calm under pressure is the only way to survive a close call with one of these magnificently lethal animals.
After passing just a few feet away from me, one animal that shook me to my core was a leopard in Mozambique. Our group had created a flimsy grass hut to hide out in and our goal was to wait for a leopard to eat on the bait 30 yards away in a tree before making the harvest. However, leopards are clever creatures and he undoubtedly knew we were in the hut. After closely circling the blind for what seemed like forever, the cat decided we weren't a threat and went for the bait. Sleek and powerful, the carnivore effortlessly scaled the tree and began tearing at the fleshy bait hung above our heads. It was the best footage I’ve ever captured and even though I wasn’t going to shoot him, my legs were shaking uncontrollably. I couldn't help but imagine my own hindquarters in his teeth as he viciously tore apart the bait. He could have taken us all out with just a quick lunge into our blind. The experience was hair rising to say the least. Every time I see the footage it gives me goosebumps to remember what it was like being so close to this powerful predator.
Another animal that is incredibly fast and deadly is a brown bear. In fall of 2021 my husband and I did a brown bear hunt on Kodiak Island. I completed my hunt with a Winchester 375 H&H, however my husband was determined to notch his tag with a bow. We waited for a monster bear and then made a mad dash down to the river in which the bear was fishing to get in front of him.
I assessed the situation and realized that if I sat directly behind my husband to film, I wouldn’t get much footage. There was a steep bank that provided cover for him and the guide to draw but would obscure my view. I placed a GoPro over his shoulder to capture whatever footage I could and went 30 yards above them for a better angle. This gave me a birdseye view of the entire scenario unfolding below me.
My heart started to pound as I realized the bear was on their side of the bank and would be close to stepping on them. I wasn’t sure if they were able to see him coming or if he would simply appear in front of them and catch them off guard. I was on the brink of signaling to them when I saw my husband draw and I was instantly relieved. The giant brown bear was only 10 yards away and then lumbered inside of 4 yards when he finally presented perfectly broadside. The arrow zipped straight through the bear and into the river on the opposite side. After the shot the bear turned back to them and I remember feeling my heart sink, imagining enraged claws descending on my husband. Luckily, the bear looked back for only an instant and then continued on, in fact, straight up to me. One perfectly placed arrow put this bear down only a few yards away from where I had been filming.
I’ve had numerous close calls with snakes throughout my hunting career but the two that stand out the most are a rattlesnake and water moccasin. The rattlesnake incident happened during a spot-and-stalk antelope hunt in Montana with Powder River Outfitters. My husband and I were belly crawling up on a big herd of antelope trying to get into archery range. We were finally closing in when my husband violently jumped back. He spooked the entire herd, sending our hard work speeding into the distance. For a split second I was furious until I heard the deafening rattle and spotted venomous fangs just inches from my face. We were lucky nobody was struck. I'll happily give up an antelope to avoid a face full of rattlesnake any day.
I was at my parent's house in South Carolina when I had a run-in with a water moccasin. This time I wasn't mid-hunt or on my stomach, but casually talking on the phone in the yard. Then I saw movement in the grass and noticed a creature charging me. At first I thought it was a lizard because the snake had its head high off the ground, but I quickly realized that was not the case. This was the most aggressive snake I had ever seen and even though I wasn’t trying to bother it one bit, it chased me all the way across the yard.