I put my last hunting day in the bag last Saturday. It was a good day to be outside, but not necessarily the best day for hunting as the snow was very loud. It was impossible to be stealth. The 6" of snow had warmed in the last day or two, crusting over with another few inches on top. We joked that we might have just as well banged some symbols as you walked through the woods. But we made a day of it and walked as slow as possible, then sat on top of a knob overlooking a couple saddles.
Great views showed us a few separate groups of does nearby, but no bucks chasing them. We also spied 3 other hunters on various ridges surrounding us. Across the way, maybe a mile and half as the crow would fly, we could see at least 30 elk. A dozen of them appeared to sport nice racks. If only that area were open to hunt.
But back to the idea behind this post. Mountain lions. I saw at least 3 mountain lions while I was hunting this year. Two of them in the same general area, the other a couple hours south. Spotting a mountain lion is truly a rare occurance.
The first cat I saw was about a week after I shot my deer. I was walking into the same area and could hear coyotes, they sound like they are fighting. I glassed down there and saw a mountain lion slinking around, seemingly as if defending the carcass. I listen as the coyotes and the lion seem to fight it out for about 5 minutes. Eventually I see the coyotes run off into the pasture. After a few loud coughs to alert the cat of my presence, I walked within 150 yards of it all and continued on my hunt.
A few weeks later in the same area, a friend and I were about a mile from the first sighting, hunting during quite a storm. Flakes and wind blew into our face as we cruised through the timber. He spotted a mature mountain lion in front of us at about 150 yards. He described it as leaping over a small knob after looking over its shoulder at us. I glassed in that direction and spotted a cat about 25 feet to the left. We sat for 4-5 minutes, staring at each other. The hair stood up on the backs of our neck as we changed directions and hunted carefully for the next 10 minutes.
The very next day I was 50 miles to the south hunting east of Hamilton with another friend. We had a productive day, harvesting a nice mule deer buck and following fresh elk tracks all day. Heading out, we hit the pavement in the fading fall light and drove east in the canyon. In the borrow pit, a mountain lion sprinted parallel to the road. We sped up and were able to get next to it for a second. It then lept off into the willows and disappeared with only the rustling of the willow bushes.
So at the end of the season, I could at least say I had the 3 unique opportunities to see a big cat in the while. Was this a consolation prize for not getting an elk? I don't know but it was one that I won't probably repeat. I looked into a bit of the facts about mountain lions and found they usually require a lot of room—only a few cats can survive in a 30-square-mile (78-square-kilometer) range. They are solitary and shy animals, seldom seen by humans. While they do occasionally attack people—usually children or solitary adults—statistics show that, on average, there are only four attacks and one human fatality each year in all of the U.S. and Canada.
I'll leave you with an exciting but graphic video of a mountain lion taking down a deer. There, I warned you. Anybody else out there see anything interesting this Fall?