While everyone was preparing to celebrate the New Year, my brother and I were preparing our gear. By10:30 p.m. we were in bed anticipating an early morning with high hopes to start 2016 off the right way. The next morning it was hard to get out of a warm bed, but around 5:00 a.m. I finally convinced myself that we wouldn’t find any cat tracks in bed and I woke up and went to convince my brother as well. Two Red Bulls and 45 minutes later found us traversing the back roads of North Idaho looking for cat tracks in the dark and 20-degree weather. Eager whining from the dog box assured us that the hounds wanted to find cat tracks as badly as we did. Daylight came with no sign of tracks, then we got a call from our good friend Kaleb.
He told us he had cut some fresh bobcat tracks and to hurry up and meet him, we agreed and cut a 45-minute drive down to 30-minutes. When we met up at the designated location he excitedly explained that further up the road from the bobcat tracks, he had cut a big fresh mountain lion track. We followed him to the bottom of the side road and then proceeded to load 3 hound dogs, backpacks, guns, and the 3 of us into his two-seater side by side. It was slow going due to the two feet of snow, but we made it in what seemed like no time at all. We looked at the tracks just briefly then started into the motions that every hound hunter is familiar with. Fresh batteries in the GPS, turn on the collars, link up to the collars, and then put the hounds to work.
Griz and Gunner started the track out and they took it at a dead run, confirming that this was as fresh as suspected, my brother kicked in a third dog Rank who took off as fast as he could, not wanting to be outdone by the other two hounds. They were running the track fast and quiet and had moved out to 800 yards within minutes. The GPS showed another road coming up from the bottom that would take us closer to where the dogs were dropping into. Back into the Polaris Rzr and back down the mountain to come up another road. We waited at the head of that road trying to get signal on the dogs and see kind of race they were doing. They had dropped into a pretty nasty area and the GPS was having a hard time picking up signal on them. 30 tense minutes later and we had their signal again, GPS showed treed.
We started up the road, breaking through the fresh powder proved slow going, but it was better then walking through it. When we got to within hearing distance of the dogs we shut the Rzr off listened briefly then grabbed packs, leashes, a gun and we started hiking up the road. As I questioned my brother while we hiked up the road he listened to his dogs, having been with the dogs on countless trees and miles of races he informed me that either the cat was treed low or they were baying it up. He was stoked though because he could tell through their bark that they had eyes on it.
Sure enough we got to within 50 yards and looked over the road to see a big old Tom bayed up in the draw. He heard or sensed our presence and took off up the draw that our road was paralleling. The hounds followed hot on his tail making him work to stay out of distance, feeling the excitement we too took off up the road. We ran close to 100 yards through 2 feet of snow but the excitement was fueling us and it didn’t seem like anytime at all and we had eyes on the big cat again. This time he was bayed up where the road wrapped through the draw. Ears pinned back he answered the dogs face barking with his own equally pissed off hiss. Lunging and barking the hounds stayed on him while we videoed, it seemed like minutes but really only seconds until he slipped into the culvert that ran under the road.
We realized what the cat was doing and ran to the other side of the road to head him off, he came to the opening gave us a look and no second thought then leaped and bounded effortlessly up through the snow and back into the big timber. Two dogs followed through the culvert and one over the top of the road as they screamed and hollered up into the timber after him. As we headed back down the road we tried to catch our breath and recount the action we had just witnessed. Just seeing a cat that big reminds you that without weapons humans are nothing close to the top predator. Yet armed only with their teeth and bark those hounds’ pour their heart into chasing that cat without a second thought of life or limb.
We headed back down the road listening to the chase when the racket stopped and the woods went quiet. Our ears strained as we waited for the hounds to start up again, knowing this cat was a fighter it was a tense couple minutes as the unknowing set in. Finally, they started up, we could tell by their tune that they were treed solid. 300 yards of brushy snowy North Idaho slopes was all that stood in between us and the first cat of 2016. We snuck as quietly as we could into the tree not wanting to provoke this cat into jumping and starting the race up again. When we hit the small opening the tree was in out came the whoops of excitement, yells and high fives, and the rewarding of the dogs.
They were equally excited doing everything in their power to climb that big bull pine and get a piece of the cougar. We sat back and enjoyed the hounds doing what they love while we took some pictures of this memory to be relived and shared with family and friends. We tied back the hounds and pulled out the weapon of choice a Ruger .17, as the hounds strained at their leashes I aimed through the scope into the lungs of the cat. The first shot hit perfect, he scrambled to stay on his bull pine perch while I reloaded, again I hit him, this time a little low. It was enough incentive to make him run for it, from 20 feet up he lunged in our direction hitting the ground just feet from us and taking off past us into the brush. While my brother stayed back to handle the hounds Kaleb and I stalked through the brush to find the cat. 40 yards of slow cautious going and we saw him up under a tree peering out, knowing of his fate to come. One more follow up shot made for a quicker death of the most lethal predator in North America.
Now it was time for celebrating, hounds first though, from behind us my brother unclicked them and they came down to their trophy. As they gave the cat a few more satisfactory face barks and pulled some fur, we admired these great hunters. Each one of them was bloodied from getting to bold and close, to this old warrior. Yet each one of them had not given up and would never had given up as long as they had life in them. As my brother caught up I could also see the pride in his eyes from the hours and hours of bonding, taking care, training, and hunting that he had invested in these dogs.
To him its not about trophy’s, its about the dogs and trying to get them to be the best that they can. If you ask any hound hunter they will confirm that its more then just a means of taking animals, it’s a lifestyle that hound and hunter both love and are passionate about.
This hunt wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Kaleb who has been hunting with us since we were old enough to pack .22’s around, he got off of swing shift at midnight and went out looking for tracks the next day. Also thanks to his dog Gunner who’s as gritty as they come. This hunt wouldn’t have been possible without my brother and his dogs Griz and Rank. Thanks to them for a hunt that will be remembered for a lifetime.
Thanks Everyone!Thanks for all the reviews everyone! It was an awesome experience, looking forward to many years of hunting with friends and family.Written by Garrett DeMers on Sun 28 Feb 2016 5:09:03 AM GMT
AwesomeGreat story! Love the video!Written by Logan Foster on Sat 27 Feb 2016 7:16:27 PM GMT
Awesome!Awesome video and well written story!Written by Deon Watson Sr. on Sun 21 Feb 2016 8:55:53 PM GMT