Mountain lions have always seemed very elusive and mystical to me. After years of dreaming, I never imagined that I would actually be going to do it.
It all started with an e-mail by Matt Burrows (Stick and String Outfitters) telling me about his successful hunt. Two days later I read a post on the CBA sponsored section of Bowsite.com with photos from Dean Hendrickson’s hunt. I had been talking with Matt for some time about doing a Cougar hunt , I had also contacted Dean directly and inquired about hunting with him. I came to find out that they had partnered up together and I was interested to find out more.
Things materialized on Monday morning and by evening I was Pay-Pal'ing half of the hunt price to Matt - if I harvested a lion I would then pay the other half. Dean called me that evening stating that we were going hunting the next morning! I had agreed with Matt to take the first legal cougar that Dean could tree. There are a ton of lions on this property and the landowner wanted them reduced - and I would be happy to take any legal lion with my bow. Tuesday morning I met Dean and Mike (a friend of Dean’s) at their predetermined location. It was windy, cold, and the sign was weak due to the crusted snow. It was evident that not much had moved around the night before. After hiking 6 - 7 miles we packed it in and I headed in to work by 10 A.M. It snowed the rest of that day so I was optimistic about conditions the next morning.
The second morning was a different story. The snow was powdery and the winds
We walked down the hill following the track and found that the lion had been held up in a small cliff area. Dean decided we should catch, and leash, the pup. Dean then set his other experienced dogs loose on the track. They immediately started howling and raced off. We shot some quick video while watching the dogs work. This was evidently a fresh track of a feeding lion. The dogs raced around in the small ravine for about 20 minutes, never leaving our immediate sight. Suddenly, they tore off over the hill and out across the next hillside. We climbed to the ridge to listen and watch for the dogs. They went across the bottom, crossed a paved road and then went up the canyon about a mile from us. As the hounds reached the center of the canyon, I spotted a large herd of elk running across an open park. Just behind them were Dean’s hounds. We were worried that the dogs had “trashed” onto the elk tracks (which Dean’s hounds rarely do) and were after the live elk - not the fresh cougar track. We quickly headed back to Dean’s truck in an attempt to catch the dogs. The closer we got to the truck the more the hounds started barking across the canyon. Once at the truck Dean got out his radio tracker and said his dogs had treed something! I was now getting really excited. My hope was it was the cat with the big track.
We drove a short distance to the paved road and parked at the base of the draw. We unloaded the pup, and our gear, and headed up the canyon toward Dean’s howling dogs. The dogs were only about half a mile up the canyon and we quickly rushed to within a few hundred yards of them. Dean and Mike were now certain the dogs had treed a lion. Mike released the pup to join the other two dogs as Dean videotaped and discussed what we 'hoped' was about to happen.
We climbed up the steep hillside to the dogs. There, 10' in the tree, was a monster of a lion. Dean secured the hounds. I drew my bow and readied to shoot. I was calm, and confident. I let the arrow fly. The cat was hanging with its front legs over a limb and its lower body and legs hung straight down below him. My arrow flew into a limb below the cat - I panicked. "How could I have missed"?
I shot a second arrow which connected with the cat. I immediately nocked another arrow and drew. But just before I could send an arrow into the huge cat’s chest, it jumped down from the tree and ran into the small ravine below. Dean and I started after the lion while Mike stayed back with the dogs. Dean and I were concerned that we had a huge wounded lion on the ground - and that could mean trouble.
The cat went downhill up the opposite bank. We went 60 yards when Dean said; “Congratulations Scott looks like you’ve got yourself a nice lion!” We followed the track a little further and could see where the big cat had bedded down. Dean progressed a few steps ahead of me - now just 7 yards from the brush where we last saw the cat. Suddenly I spotted an ear flutter in the brush directly next to Dean and I called out softly “Dean freeze, he’s right there!” Dean cautiously backed away very slowly. Together we walked around to the front side of the dangerous cat - 12 steps away - glaring at us. I nocked another arrow, shot, and watched the arrow sink right behind the cat’s shoulder. The cat went silent. I know after that last shot my nerves were somewhat at ease. Dean yelled for Mike to release the hounds so they could muzzle the prize they had worked so hard for.
A few minutes later I pulled the big tom from the brush. He was gigantic! I could barely move him by myself even though I was full of adrenaline. The tom weighed about 200 pounds (no exaggeration) and the skull green scored 14-12/16 which was well above the Pope & Young minimum and just a quarter of an inch short of the Boone & Crockett minimum.
I have to thank Matt Burrows for arranging this hunt for me and Dean Hendrickson who I must say is one of the most knowledgeable houndsmen I have ever met. I’m thankful that I was fortunate and lucky enough to be along on this amazing adventure! Thanks guys for making my dream of taking a mountain lion become a reality.