Long Time Member
Well folks it happened. After years and years I finally drew my very first tag. As luck would have it it was a LE Cougar tag in the Boulder unit of Utah. I was extremely excited. As soon as I was notified I knew exactly who to call. My old buddy Wade Lemon has been hunting Utah for Cougars since the 70's and very few if any other outfitters kill as many lion as his company does annually. As time progressed and with my busy schedule it never seemed to work out for me to get there. Finally after the Houston Safari show was over I threw all my gear in the truck and headed out.
I slept in my truck in Farmington New Mexico and kept driving the next day until I arrived in Torrey Utah. Its a great little town with a beautiful view. When I arrived I contacted Bowdy, one of Wade's top lion guides, and told him I was in town. He told me to be ready to roll at 6:30 a.m.. At 6:30 I was ready and a crew of guys and dogs were waiting. I met Dustin and Rafe. They would be helping also and we all headed out. It was supposed to snow that night but it hadn't. It was cold and the snow that was there had a very hard crust on it. None the less we set out hunting. We found several female tracks, old and new. Then we found a big tom's track. It was a little old but the guides thought they could walk it out a little and freshen it up and get a direction. Things were looking great. Then the snow we were supposed to get the night before hit us. Game over for that day.
The next day we woke to a beautiful 3 inch blanket of fresh powder. Everyone was really excited. We all though for sure we would turn up the big lion's track that day. Boy were we wrong. It seemed as almost nothing had moved that night. Out of all our searching one female track was all we located. Bowdy said we should head south towards the town of Boulder and start looking around there. We got there about 30 minutes later. They obviously had received none of the snow from the day before. It was warmer and a lot of slush and mud was around. Right away Dustin saw a fresh female track and a little while later Bowdy saw a giant tom track. It was already noon but Bowdy grabbed a few dogs and they jumped on the track quickly. Conditions just got worse as the day dragged on. The dogs never lost the track but the going was slow. Finally just before dark we had to pick up the dogs and tip our hat to the lion.
On the third day the guides were still excited. They were confident we would pick up that tom's track fresh. After the long run the day before and more marginal to bad conditions I was a little less confident. Bowdy ended up finding his track. It was just a smudge of dirt on some crusted snow but Bowdy was confident it was fresh and everyone was ready to go. The dogs really liked the track and off they went. After a couple of hours and five or so miles the dogs had him treed. I couldn't have gotten luckier I thought. We pulled up on the snow mobiles and it sounded like the dogs were less than 100 yards away. This was going to be the easiest lion hunt ever! I grabbed my pack and weapon and started hiking to the tree. Upon arrival at the tree it was immediately apparent this wasn't the monster cat we had thought. In fact it was a nice mature female. Somewhere in the chase the dogs had jumped her and ran her. However it was still really exciting and fun. Here's her pic.
Well we know the system works and we know a big tom is in the area. All we needed was some luck.
The next day we were up and rolling. Conditions were just getting worse and worse. The crew stayed focused and sharp. They were as good a team of cat killers as any I have ever seen. We searched high and low that morning but only turned up a couple of female tracks. About 11:15 Dustin found his track. I looked at it. It was one foot print in a little spot of mud and snow sludge right before it disappeared into some boulders. I almost couldn't tell it was a lion. It looked days old and the sun had been on it all morning. Dustin said it wasn't as old as I thought and the dogs would tell us what to do. He took out a dog and she sniffed it. You would have thought there was some cocaine in the bottom of that footprint. Here eyes bulged, she lunged forward, and a cry sprang from her lungs. It was go time. Within minutes the dogs were collared and on the track. Three hours later they had him treed.
We drove to a different area. Loaded the packs and started hiking in. This wasn't going to be near as easy as the first hike. We went up a dry creek bed and climbed the easy side of a mesa. Along the top and down the other side and pretty soon we could hear the dogs. Down that side of the mesa to some giant cliffs and there he was. Not a female this time. Not even a good tom. This was a slug. The minute I laid eyes on him I knew this was what I had waited years for.
We quickly loaded a rifle and dispatched the cat. He fell a couple hundred feet down the cliffs. It was going to be a hellavu hike just to get to him now. About an hour and a half later we got to him. What a giant. I always hoped for a cat like this I was never sure it would actually happen.
In closing I would like to thank Wade Lemon and his team of expert hounds men. This would not have been possible without them. I would like to thank the state of Utah for making this available to an out of state hunter. Here are a couple of other favorite pics I took on the trip. Good luck everyone in the upcoming draws.
Here is a very rare find. Haven't seen one in years.
Hope everyone is having fun at the expo.