Editor’s Note: Pat Reeve and Nicole Jones’ TV show, Driven with Pat and Nicole, airs on the Outdoor Channel Tuesday nights at 8:00 pm and Friday nights at 10:00 pm EST. For the last 3 years, this husband- and-wife duo has won a Golden Moose Award for excellence in TV production from the Outdoor Channel. “Driven” features big-game hunting around the world, but its main focus has been whitetails. Pat and Nicole wear the Mossy Oak Treestand and Break-Up Infinity camo patterns.
I’d always wanted to hunt a lion. I never really knew that people could hunt lions when I was younger, so when I found out they could be hunted, I decided I wanted to go after the king of the jungle with my Mathews bow. I’m definitely a thrill seeker. I had always told Pat, “A lion is one animal I really want to take if I have a chance.” Pat said, “You’re absolutely crazy, Nicole. There’s no way I would go on a lion hunt with you. Lions are dangerous. They eat people. You’re totally out of your mind.” We met Frikkie du Toit of Frikkie du Toit Safaris at the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and talked to him about Pat going to Africa and taking a Cape buffalo. Finally, he asked me, “Nicole, what would you like to hunt?” I replied, “Actually, I’ve always wanted to hunt a lion,” I wanted a male lion, because I knew there weren’t many women who had taken a lion with a bow, and I didn’t know of any women who had taken a male lion with a bow.
We had done our research and had learned that Frikkie had been on many lion hunts, and had the scars to prove it. He told us about some of his successful lion hunts and also about lion hunts when everything had gone wrong. Frikkie looked me in the eye and said, “You need to know what you’re getting yourself into because this is really a dangerous hunt. I know you think a lion hunt will be fun, a big adrenaline rush and a great adventure, but you need to keep in mind that they’re very-dangerous animals.” Because we had been meeting Frikkie for several years at the show, Pat finally said, “If you ever hunt a lion, Nicole, you need to go with Frikkie. He’s the only professional hunter I would feel comfortable with for you to go to hunt a lion.” Frikkie asked me how I wanted to hunt the lion, and I said, “With a bow, of course.” He answered, “Okay, as long as you understand what you’re getting into,” and I explained, “I told you, I’m an adrenaline junkie.” I wanted to get up close and personal with a big male lion and shoot him with my Mathews Monster bow. This bow was the same one I used to hunt whitetails. When I was doing my research for the hunt, I found that a lion’s skin was fairly thin, so I didn’t have to pull a lot of poundage and didn’t have to worry about how far the arrow would penetrate. I practiced a lot and set my bow up for 56 pounds of draw weight. I was using a Muzzy Phantom cut-on-contact broadhead, the same broadhead we used for whitetails and just about all the animals we shot. I had on my ScentBlocker Sola hunting clothes in the Mossy Oak Break-Up pattern. ScentBlocker Sola is a ladies’ line of hunting clothes that I helped design.
When we arrived in Africa, Frikkie said, “I have to see to see this girl shoot her bow.” He wanted to know everything about me and my abilities before we got close to a lion. After Frikkie saw me shoot, he said, “Okay, I’m confident you can make the shot.” On the hunt, we had another professional hunter and an African tracker. Pat ran the camera. Frikkie explained, “We’ll drive down the dirt roads to every waterhole I know about, until we find a lion track. The tracker will be able to tell if the animal that made the track is male or female, and how fresh the track is. The lions hunt and feed at night. First thing in the morning they get a drink of water and then look for shade in the middle of the day.”
That first morning, we traveled some dirt roads and checked several water holes. Finally, our tracker found a lion track. He told us the track had been made in the last half hour. “The lion probably is lying down not very far from here.” We parked the vehicle and started following the track. We found the lion under some shade trees right on the edge of the road. We had to circle around the lion to get the wind in our favor. The sun was starting to set. Luckily, the sun was right in the lion’s eyes. Frikkie told us “We’ll go after this lion. If we don’t have every aspect of the hunt in our favor, we’ll back out and leave the lion. We can go after another one. We don’t need to force a shot.”
I nocked an arrow, and we began to stalk. A lion is a nighttime hunter. His eyes are designed to see really well at night, but he can’t see as well with the sun shining in his eyes. When we left the truck, Frikkie told me, “Nicole, I want you to stay between me and the other professional hunter. Whatever happens, do not run.When a lion sees something running away, they assume it’s a prey animal. They’ll come after you if you run away.” As we started walking toward the lion, Frikkie said, “If the lion begins to charge, you stay directly behind me.” At that point, I knew I was entrusting my life to these two professional hunters. I trusted Frikkie, because I knew he’d been on many lion hunts and knew exactly what to do. As we began our stalk to the lion, we tried to keep brush and grass between us and the big cat. We walked straight toward the lion. Frikkie had explained that he could read the body language of a lion and could determine if we were getting too close, and the lion was uncomfortable. I had my range finder in my hand. The lion was looking at us. “We’re at 30 yards,” I told Frikkie. He said, “We can get closer.”
That lion was looking straight at us. Lions aren’t afraid of anything or anybody. “We will take a few more steps,” Frikkie said, as he took my arm and guided me forward. When we got 25-yards from the lion, Frikkie said, “The lion is quartering to us. Aim for the lion’s mane where it touches his body. Aim 2-inches below center body mass right there.” I drew my Mathews Monster, took a deep breath, let the pin settle where Frikkie told me to aim and released the arrow. When the lion took the arrow, he jumped straight-up, roared and tried to bite the arrow. He turned to run away from us into some thick cover. As soon as the lion ran off, I nearly came unglued. My heart felt like it was in my stomach, and my stomach was in my throat, I could barely breathe, and I felt like I would pass out. I realized I had accomplished one of the biggest things on my bucket list. Frikkie said, “We’ll stay here a few-more minutes. Then we’ll go into the brush slowly. You made a really good shot.” Finally, Frikkie said, “Okay, let’s go.” We started following the blood trail one step at a time. We only had gone 40 or 50 yards, before we found my lion. I was thinking, “If the lion isn’t dead, he still can cover that distance in 2-seconds.” Finally, Frikkie said, “He’s dead.”
When I put my hands on my lion, I almost went limp. I was emotionally and physically drained. As we stalked the lion, my adrenaline really amped-up. When I drew and took the shot, I had to override that adrenaline and make sure I went through my shot sequence correctly. Then when the lion jumped and ran away, all that adrenaline was reloaded. When I finally put my hands on that lion, I was totally drained. I hardly could believe it. I finally had my hands on the lion I’d dreamed about for so many years. Then, I thought, “This lion could have killed me.” I was trying to process so many thoughts and emotions all at one time.
When I approach an animal, especially a dangerous animal, I don’t want to think about what can happen. I only want to think about making the stalk, being in the moment and preparing for the shot. Once I finally touched the lion, I started thinking about what could have happened. Everyone on the hunt celebrated with me. We dragged the lion out of the thorn brushes to take pictures and shoot videos. Then we started hearing lions roaring – not just one lion but several. We could tell by the sound of the roars that the lions were all around us and getting closer. The sun already had set. Night was approaching quickly. Frikkie told us, “We have to get out of here right now, or we may have to shoot another lion.” Pat was saying, “We need to shoot a few more pictures, and we need to get more video. This is a once-in-a-lifetime hunt. I have to make sure it will be well documented.” Frikkie gave us 5-more minutes, and then we left. This truly was the hunt of a lifetime and the greatest adventure I’d ever had.