Photo Gallery: Stalking a Hartebeest

lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
Photographers sometimes send us images of such drama that we publish them even though they don't have much to do with hunting or fishing. This sequence in particular caught our attention. It shows a lioness stalking, killing, and feeding on a topi (a kind of hartebeest) with her cubs, and captures the the predator/prey relationship in a way that every hunter will understand. We called Denver to get the details of the shoot. F&S;: Where were you when you photographed this series?
Denver: It was in the Masai-Mara game reserve in Kenya. I spotted a lioness waking up from a nap with her two cubs. The mother raised her head to look around and spotted a topi (a kind of hartebeest) grazing some distance away.
Denver Bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
F&S;: So what happened next?
Denver: She just got up and started her stalk. I pulled my land rover over so that I was about 70 yards away and started shooting. She got to about 40 yards from the topi before it sensed something was wrong and lifted its head.
Denver Bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
I figured it was the wind, and that it was going to mess things up for the lioness. But she was crouched down stalking in the high grass and the topi never saw her. After a minute or two it put its head back down and started grazing again.Denver Bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
That's when the lioness started her sprint. I don't think the thing even lifted its head up again, she just bowled it over.Denver Bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
When the topi struggled to it's feet the lioness was clamped down on it's throat. We call this the "terminal hickey.-¿ She latched on there, and in less than a minute the topi crashed to the ground.Denver Bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
F&S;: Was there anything wrong with this topi? From these pictures it seems completely unaware of its surroundings. I mean, if you look closely you can still see grass in its mouth from when it was grazing.
Denver: There wasn't a thing wrong with the topi. That lioness just had the luck of the tall grass and the wind, and I was lucky to catch it on film. Lions are incredible predators.
Denver Bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
F&S;: What was it like, watching the attack happen?
Denver: This was the first time I'd ever been able to shoot a successful stalk, so it was exciting! Every photographer I know loves the predator-prey stuff. And most hunters too. It probably has something to do with the drama and rush that comes from life and death situations. I was excited about being able to witness and capture it on film.
Denver Bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
F&S;: Have you seen any other lion attacks since then?
Denver: Only one other time, when some lionesses were worrying a cape buffalo herd in Botswana's Okavango Delta. The big bulls would come out to the edge of the herd and chase the lionesses off for a short while, but eventually the herd broke and ran for a short distance and that separated a cow with a young calf. Inside a handful of minutes the calf was done.
Denver Bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
F&S;: Have you ever felt threatened while shooting these animals?
Denver: Oh sure, yeah, I've been charged by elephant, rhino, cape buffalo. Mostly while in a land rover. When you're in a vehicle, I think the vehicle's in more danger than you are. Although from time to time an elephant will crush a vehicle that didn't get moving in time, and sometimes people get hurt that way.
Denver Bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
F&S;: What was your closest call?
Denver: Closest call. I'd have to say ... I was on foot photographing some black rhinos last year. Black rhinos are a little like grizzly bears. They have a tendency to charge first and ask questions later if they're surprised or see something they don't know. I was working this female with a mostly grown calf when they started coming in our direction. Fortunately there was a little bush nearby that I could keep between us, and it kept her from charging. Still, she was glaring at me from 10 feet away, a 4000-pound animal on the other side of this little bush. She could have taken that bush out easy, so it was a little exciting.
Denver Bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
F&S;: How does shooting in Africa compare to shooting in North America?
Denver: There's a lot more varied wildlife over there, and it's generally more visible -- easier to photograph. You can get close and see them and watch their behavior and photograph them. They have more (and significantly more dangerous) animals, too. Lion, leopard, cape buffalo, elephant, rhino, hippo, and crocodile.
Denver Bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
F&S;: What happened after the lioness killed this topi?
Denver: Well, I told you she was with cubs. When she started the stalk she let out some sort of call which told the cubs to stay put in order to not screw up the stalk. And shortly after she killed it she started letting out another call, which brought the cubs over for dinner.
Denver Bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
lions, hunting, stalk, hartebeest, hartebeast, topi, sarengeti, masai mara, kenya, photo, denver bryan
F&S;: Do you hunt?
Denver: I've been a hunter since I was a kid growing up in Missouri. A cow elk fills our freezer most years.
Denver Bryan