You may not know it, but Burkina Faso offers some of the biggest lions in Africa.

Although their manes are not as impressive as their cousins’ in East Africa, they have bigger bodies and a reputation for aggressiveness. Adding to the danger of this hunt is the method allowed: You have to track down your quarry on foot – no baiting or dogs. Even more challenging was my client’s request to hunt his lion with his .470 Nitro Express, and his preferred distance was 40 meters maximum. All the ingredients were present for an ultimate lion hunt!

African Echo recently obtained a 260,000-hectare concession in Burkina Faso in the eastern province of Gourma, 350km from the capital Ouagadougou. In April 2011, I did my first lion hunt there with a French hunter and good friend.

We left camp just after 5.00 a.m. the first day. Although it was still early morning, it was already 35ºC. Leaving my air-conditioned room was like walking into a sauna. April is the hottest month of the year, but it’s good for lion hunting because most of the animals are concentrated around the rivers and waterholes. Only five minutes into the hunting concession, we saw our first buffalo herd, about 400 strong. This amazing sight left me with little doubt regarding the potential of this area.

Less than 10 minutes later, woken by our approaching Land Cruiser, a big male lion dived across the road about 70 meters in front of us and disappeared into the nearby thicket. We quickly continued to a suitable position wind-wise to start our stalk. Unfortunately, the wind kept changing direction and we only caught one more glimpse of this formidable beast about 20 minutes later.

Around 10.30 it became impossibly hot and we took shelter in the shade close to the Wamou River. Our nap was disturbed by hippos snorting nearby and a group of vultures that surrounded us looking for food. That afternoon, we spotted two male lions not far from our resting place. We immediately started to approach them, but our effort was interrupted by a group of elephants. The locals have an extreme sense of respect and fear of elephants and the trackers refused to carry on. It was getting late anyway, so we headed back to camp.

We left camp earlier the next morning and entered the concession before first light to hunt in cooler conditions. After the morning hunt, we again retreated to the shade for our extended lunch. The trackers use this time to hunt guineafowl and other game birds for additional meat. One rushed back and explained that he’d just been charged by a lioness very close by. She’d caught a roan bull minutes before our arrival and was chasing the tracker away from her kill. This meant there could be male lions close by. Hoping to profit from this event, we approached immediately.

The heat, lunch, and anything else we had on our minds disappeared like mist before the sun.

When we arrived on the scene, the lioness made it very clear she wouldn’t tolerate any interference with her lunch. Two charges later we retreated. There are few things in life that can touch your masculine soul as profoundly as a charging lion. The black of her pupils and her deep and intimidating roar were as clear as the blazing sun itself. Both charges stopped roughly 30 meters in front of us. We stayed in the vicinity for most of the day and glassed for a sign of other lions, but no luck.

We drove into a big herd of buffalo the next morning and continued directly to the roan-kill of the previous afternoon. We approached cautiously on foot, but found only vultures, with lion and hyena tracks around the carcass. We followed a big lion track for a few kilometers in the growing heat.

After lunch we decided to slowly walk up the dense riverbeds hoping to find some lions close to the water. Except for some harnessed bushbuck and waterbuck, we saw nothing.

On the fourth day we went deeper into the concession. Driving for hours into this vast and unspoilt wilderness left me in awe. I’ve hunted in quite a few African countries, but the herds of buffalo and large numbers of other animals really impressed me.

Later, we came across a dead elephant cow. It was difficult to say what had happened to her, and the stench was terrible. Observing from an upwind position, we could see that lions had fed on the carcass. This was definitely a spot to re-investigate.

During Day Five the action started! We were on fresh lion tracks that led into a thicket when, without warning, two big male lions broke right through our line, roaring so loudly, it shivered my spine! A primal awareness of their power and danger filled us – You could literally feel the lion charging past you! Nothing could beat this feeling! Nothing!

Still high on this adrenalin-filled emotion, we immediately followed the tracks. Everything had happened so fast that there’d been no chance of taking a shot. But just as suddenly as these beasts appeared, they disappeared like ghosts in the darkness.

Something strange happened late that afternoon. We were slowly walking next to a thick, half-filled riverbed hoping to see some lions lying up in the shade when I spotted a two-meter crocodile crawling out of the water up the side of the dry river wall. It was 55ºC and that was definitely not crocodile behavior! Before I even finished this thought, the extremely nearby roar of a lion filled the air. The sticks were ready, and not knowing what to expect next, all securities were off. We were ready for whatever was coming our way!

We approached very cautiously. The least expected happened next. A big old hippo bull came out of the thicket towards us. Kicked out of the river by another male and irritated by the lion, the hippo was in no playful mood! With the wind in our favor, I was sure he was unaware of our presence – but we were very aware of him! He was about 20 meters away and a clear and present danger. The lion dropped a few slots on our priority list and we retreated as quickly as possible. Things can get a bit cramped in the rivers during the dry season. Especially in April, just before the first rains in May.

On Day Six we decided to return to the dead elephant cow. Even before the driver switched off the engine, we could hear the lions roaring. They were very close to the carcass, and we started to approach. When we caught sight of the elephant we could see the vultures dancing up and down above it as the lions fed. The thick vegetation allowed a closer approach. All of a sudden the tracker went down. Everybody followed immediately. Slowly pointing his finger into their direction, I spotted them. I knew there were males, but for the moment all we could see were females about 100 meters away.

We started to leopard crawl, literally sailing on our stomachs towards them. You could feel your heart pumping in your chest, only interrupted by the frequent roaring of lions that has a tendency to drive through your whole body. Closer and closer we went and I remember thinking, “It’s exciting hunting lion with a .470 NE.” At about 50 meters we stopped. We could hear the male lion, but couldn’t see him. We were lying behind a small shrub and, realizing that we were in the middle of the battlefield, I slowly positioned my client on the sticks – very slowly!

One of the females spotted us and started retreating. Another female followed. I was desperately searching for the male. From behind the elephant carcass, a huge male appeared and slowly headed in the same direction as the females. He was walking slowly and perfectly broadside. I told the client that if he got a clear shot he must take it. At about 70 meters the shot went off. He missed.

The lion, still not sure where the noise had come from, continued on his path crossing right in front of us, at about 30 meters. He picked up a bit of speed, but still not running. I whistled, trying to stop him for a second shot. The client, confident that he could take him, sent off another 500-grain softnose. This time the lion took a direct hit and I could see in its reaction that it was good shot. Taking into account the situation and danger of a wounded lion, I started to lead through and fired two shots. The second was a hit, but that was the best we had. Our lion was wounded and on the loose.

I started looking for blood where the lion was hit the first time. No blood. We slowly followed the tracks where the vegetation was still open and we could see well in advance. About 70 meters later, the tracker found a few drops of blood. This worried me a bit, because after taking a hit from a .470 NE, I was expecting more. We decided to wait for the Cruiser. We had a wounded lion in the thicket and the question was not “if ” but “when” he would charge. Taking into account the hits he’d taken, I was almost sure he was hiding not far away. The only thing that concerned me was the blood trail. Something was wrong!

We slowly followed the tracks heading for thick grass. Wounded lions have a reputation for jumping on the backs of hunting vehicles – a fact that I was very quickly reminded of by the tracker and scout. We decided to slowly circle this area with the Cruiser. After 20 minutes we still found nothing. I took the scout and went back to where we’d left the tracks the last time. I confirmed for a second time that the lion was definitely heading for the thicket. I called the tracker and guide and we agreed – the lion must be in the thick grass less than 50 meters ahead of us. We found no sign of him leaving.

We had to get him out of there! This was one of those situations you always wish to avoid as a PH, but it had to be done. I decided to enter the thick grass on the back of the hunting vehicle. Armed and extremely ready, we very slowly moved into the thicket. This was nail-biting stuff and I could feel my whole body heating up from the adrenalin.

Not even 10 seconds into the tall grass, the scout started shouting hysterically, pointing towards the left of the vehicle. Three heavy barrels were immediately pointing in the same direction. Everything seemed to go into slow motion and my eyes peered like lasers, looking for any movement.

The sight of the motionless body of our lion was greeted with silence at first and then with sighs of relief. Our lion was dead. After making 100% sure everything was safe, we could not but help admire the size and masculine strength of this beast. We examined the body to identify the shots. The client’s hit was a bit to the back, but still in the vital organs. I must admit, I was not too impressed with the effect of the 500-grain softnose Woodleigh ammunition, manufactured by Cartouches Sologne in France, from my friend’s .470 Nitro Express. Definitely not enough expansion! My shot was through the hindquarters.

In a few moments we picked the fruit of all the hard work of the past six days. A sense of relief and accomplishment overwhelmed me, and I’m sure I speak for the rest of the team as well!

Lion hunting in these parts is a spiritual affair and several traditional rituals followed. The lion was presented to the local village. The next evening we celebrated the Lion Festival into the early morning hours with guests and dancers from all over.

Thinking of all the breathtaking moments involved in this hunt, and all the wild and magical African elements orchestrating it, I can honestly say I’ve never experienced anything like it before in my life!

PH and outfitter Glaeser Conradie, a member of PHASA, SCI and ACP, is an experienced, fully qualified and licensed dangerous-game hunter. Conradie’s African Echo has operated in Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and now in Burkina Faso, since 2001.