Fulfilling One Dream and Chasing Another
As hunters, we all have our own ideas of what a trophy is and we each have our personal dream hunts that drive us. Some dream of taking a full curl big horn ram or that 6x6 bull elk during the rut but for me, it was chasing and harvesting a mountain lion. As with most dreams it was one I’ve had since I was young, about 14 and just starting my hunting adventure. Not sure why the big cats caught my attention so much in fact I had not seen one in the wild until I was 39. I think the allure of chasing after an animal that is so secretive, quiet and ellusive made them more mystical than other critters.
As with a lot of dreams they get put on the back burner and my dream was no different. I got married, joined the Army, had a few kids and of course time and money was consumed by family and the job took me all over the world. Just about the time the kids were getting older, had a few bucks in my pocket life again changed this time throwing me the big “D” curve ball. I guess that is how life goes but the dream of chasing that cat was still their burning in the back of my mind. A couple of years went by, met a great lady who loves the outdoors as much as I do so we got married. She had never hunted but wanted to go and I was more than happy to have her with and teach her what I knew. We did well on deer and elk weekend hunts as time did not permit for much more.
Then in 2005 my wife and I both connected on our bulls and we decided to get a shoulder mount of my bull and a European mount of her bull. While dropping off the bulls at the taxidermist shop I saw a mounted cat and asked my wife what she thought of it. She looked it over and said that a big cat would look great in the house. Well I did not need much more encouragement from her and the fire was once again lit. I talked to the taxidermist about outfitters as I knew without dogs getting a cat is next to impossible. He said he had a guide that he knew and gave me his information. The price was pretty fair but being able to take a week off of work to hunt was not possible with the current position I had. Then another curve ball as the Army decided I needed to move again and spent 2 of the next 3 years overseas and the other out of Colorado. I cannot complain too much since I did choose my career.
Once I got home in the summer of 2009 my wife brought up the cat hunt again so I called the guide Doug. I spoke with him and he suggested doing an “on call” hunt. I had to ask what he meant by “on call” and basically he said he would call me as he found fresh tracks and did not have a client booked during that time. My job now was more flexible and I agreed and we signed the contract for the 2009-2010 hunting season. True to his word Doug called me not long after the season opened as he cut a fresh track. Snow pack was poor but the dogs had the scent and the chase was on. As luck would have it, we chased that cat for about 8 hours up and down some very steep hills with a lot of loose rock under our feet but never could tree it. Now I am in pretty good shape for pushing 50 and do a fair amount of hiking but those hills were no joke. A few days later Doug asked if I wanted to meet up with him again and go looking for tracks. Of course I said yes so we met up and headed out. We did this several different days with little to no luck mainly due to very little snow. However, my luck would change when Doug called the morning of 26 December.
Standing in of all places Wal-Mart, shopping the after Christmas sales I got the call. I got home as fast as I could and headed to the meeting place. Doug showed me the tracks and I was fired up for the chase. He released the dogs and for the next four hours we chased that cat up mountains, thru fields and down the side of a few mountains. Finally we were heading down yet another hillside when he asked if I heard that? I did not know what he meant and he said the bark, it is different, they have treed him. To be honest after hearing dogs bark on and off for 3 hours or so I am not sure I could tell the difference but Doug sure did.
Heading down the hillside we had to plow thru waste deep snow but hearing those dogs kept us pushing on hard. At one point we could see the dogs under the tree about half way up the other side of the canyon hillside but could not see the cat. This again gave me even more of a rush and we pushed on even harder. We finally got out of the deep snow and were headed up the hill were the cat was treed. It was still a good half a mile but I was closer to my dream than ever before. As we pushed on I thought my heart would beat out of my chest, some due to the steep hill but mostly due to the excitement of the hunt. Once we arrived at the tree I handed my camera over to Doug as I wanted to make sure I got some good photos of this hunt. At first it was difficult to see the cat but once we zeroed in on him he was clear as day. Doug saw him first and I still can hear him saying “look at the size of the head on him, what a toad”. With all the excitement I had to take a few deep breaths to steady my nerves. I chambered a round into my .243 took aim and fired. The cat fell from the tree, tumbled and ran down hill about 50 yards. We let him lie for a few minutes before we approached. Once we knew he dead I could finally put my hand on my lifelong dream that was no longer a dream but a reality.
Some might think it is sad that my dream is over but I am not. In fact living that dream gave me a sense of accomplishment and great satisfaction knowing I finally lived a dream not just dreamed a dream. I also get the rare opportunity to relive the dream anytime I want by looking at the photos and seeing that beautiful cat in my living room. It took over 33 years to live the dream but I can say I lived it. Shortly after getting home from the lion hunt my wife and I were walking thru our bedroom to our office. She stopped and looked in the corner of the bedroom and said “yep we need one there”. I said honey I am not sure what we need there but I know it will cost us. She said yes it will but that I would agree. Of course I had to ask what was cooking in her head. She said we need to go bear hunting and get a life size mount like it is walking thru the room. What do you say to that other than “do you want it facing left or right”? Well it took over two years but we are headed too Idaho in the spring of 2012. I did not ask but maybe this is a dream she has had that we are now filling.