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I booked this hunt 5 years ago at the Great American Outdoor Show is Harrisburg PA. I spoke with every outfitter I could find there that offered a mountain lion hunt and Cody seemed to stand out above the rest. It took me 5 years to draw the tag, which is why it was booked so long ago. Montana does offer over the counter tags, but I decided to hold out for the special mountain lion drawing which takes place earlier than the over the counter tag and is extremely limited meaning you're not competing against a bunch of other hunters.
My hunt started on 1/2/19. My friend Josh came with me who was one of the 4 people in camp. Josh was not hunting, but decided to tag along just for fun and to escape his job that he hates for a week. There were two other people in camp the day after we started, but only one was hunting and his tag was for another unit. Cody doesn't like to bring two hunters from he same unit in at the same time to avoid any completion. We flew into Missoula on 12/31/18 which is couple hours from Codys. If planning a lion hunt I would recommend flying in 2 days early. For example, had I flown in on 1/1/19 after traveling all day I would've only had a few hours to relax before getting up to hunt. That's because they usually leave the lodge around 0200-0230 to start looking for tracks in the snow. The days are long with an average of 3-4 hours of sleep each night so I would recommend getting there a day earlier and starting out your hunt at least a little rested.
Anyway, before coming out, Cody offered me the opportunity to hire an additional guide for the week to look for tracks at the cost of $1250. The hunting area I drew my tag was 202, which is 717,000 square acres. Cody explained that having an extra person to cover that huge area can greatly increase ones odds of finding a good Tom track. Since this was/is probably going to be my only mountain lion hunt in my life I decided to increase my odds and went with the extra guide.
My friend Josh and I woke up on our first day at 0130. Cody's wife, Kolissa was in the lodge and had an assortment of simple breakfast options available. She also cooks up some breakfast burritos/sandwiches each morning and wraps them up in foil to keep them warm. You can take as many as you like and eat them as the morning goes along. There is also bread and sandwich making stuff on a table and you can make as many sandwiches as you like along with a table of snacks. Again, take as much as you like. You are usually gone for at least 12 hours so pack plenty of food.
We left the lodge sometime between 0200-0230 with our guide Eric Davis. Eric is a 25 year old from Arkansas. He's enthusiastic about going out and clearly loves his job. He comes from a strong Christian upbringing and he's one of the nicest people you'll met without a mean bone in his body. He was easy to talk to which is important being the amount of time you spend together.
The ride to my hunting area is about 30-40 minutes. Eric is also towing a couple of snow mobiles. In addition to Eric, Cody actually had two other guides and himself out looking for tracks. We were quick to find some female lion tracks, but Cody and the guides are pretty big into holding out for a nice Tom track, especially so early in the hunt. We also found some coyote, wolf, and bobcat tracks and of course an assortment of hoofed critters. We periodically touch base with the other guides who report similar finds of female lion tracks and one old Tom track. With all the extra bodies Cody put out there looking for tracks, we were able to cover the amount of ground in one night that another outfitter would've taken four nights to do. Think about how advantageous that is. The unit is big enough where we never overlapped.
At about 10:00, Cody found a nice set of Tom tracks near Cougar Creek. (Can't make this up). Cody waited until we all arrived and released the dogs, which was quite fun to witness. The dogs (Leopard Curs) take off barking and howling and disappear into the mountains. The dogs all have GPS collars and you can watch their movement/location on a receiver. After about 45 minutes the GPS receiver indicates that the dogs have a lion treed. We drove up a logging road in an attempt to get closer to the dogs. Once we got as close as we could we began the steep decent down the mountain. There was a few inches of snow on top of ice which made the climb extra fun. It took about 25 minutes to climb down with me slipping/falling several times. As we got closer you could hear the dogs getting louder.
Once the dogs came into view we could make out the lion in the tree. Cody mentioned that it was a really nice Tom. Even though it was a close shot, it took approximately 10 minutes of moving around until I found a suitable shot. Between tree branches and a lion moving around if proved to be more difficult than I originally thought it would be. Cody and the other guides informed me to keep shooting until they say stop. They had many stories of tracking wounded lions and dogs being torn up by them so they take this very seriously. I was using a 300 WSM, which is probably a little overkill. The first shot seemed to kill it instantly, but I still put a quick second shot into it before it fell to the ground. Once it hit the ground it never moved another inch.
Cody likes to get the cats out whole when possible to get weights on them, but that wasn't possible with the hike out we had. Cody estimated it at 150-160lbs which is a very big mountain lion. Before we took any pictures or did any skinning, Cody did a quick prayer and blessing for the lion. After taking a ton of pics we skinned and quartered it out. The meat is supposed to be good and since I probably won't have another chance I decided to bring it all home. The guides offered to pack/carry everything out, but I insisted on packing out the hide myself. The climb up sucked much much more than coming down.
Once back at the lodge, the game warden met us to check in the lion and take a tooth sample. He also mentioned that the meat is good eating. While I was doing that, my friend Josh took a ride with Cody to check a trapline and ended up trapping a huge bobcat.
Since I was done hunting and another cat hunter had just shown up to camp we decided to keep going out and helping them look for tracks. I also had purchased a wolf tag that I attempted to fill, but never saw one despite plenty of tracks in the snow. Unfortunately the snow conditions were not good this year and got worse each day I was there until the day I left. We found lot of female tracks and even released the dogs to tree a couple of them, but the hunter decided to pass waiting for a Tom. I later heard he got a nice lion the day I left.
After hunting for the day, Koliss would have a good meal of simple, but wholesome food. There was always enough to go back for as many extra helpings as you'd like and she usually had a pie or something for dessert. The lodge was nice and clean and the cabin Josh and I were in was very comfortable. Everyone in camp was very friendly, it was clear that they pitched in wherever needed and believed in teamwork. It was also very clear that Cody and Koliss cared a great deal about their clients and that they were having a good time. Cody had me complete an evaluation before I left and called me after my trip to make sure I got back ok and wanted to know if I had any complaints or suggestions. I thought about it and really couldn't come up with anything. My friend Josh who wasn't even hunting might've had more fun than I did as he didn't stop talking about it the whole way home. We are already talking about coming back for another hunt once I finish paying off my taxidermy bill.
Obviously the outfitter can't control things like weather or game movement, but I can guarantee you that Cody and his staff with give it their best to deliver a good hunt.
Phil was great to have in camp as he is a police officer that is on the K9 unit and works with dogs himself. We had four guides working for Phil to harvest a lion and made short work of finding a big tom track the first day of the hunt. I was very excited for him that he was able to harvest his lion so quickly. The rest the hunt was a blast and we were able to harvest another nice lion later in the hunt. Thanks Phil!
Cold with a little snow on the ground. Deeper snow in higher elevations. Day time temps in the 30s.