Thanks in advance!
Congrats on a fine animal.
Yeah but you had a special brand of insanity going on for you there. :)
Last year I had booked the hunt with Doug after I had started the post out here and received positive feedback (thank you to all that commented). I booked a week with Doug and we hunted from Jan 17th - 21st all dry ground and working our tails off each day with no luck. Even though we did not get on a lion it was a great experience all around understanding the dogs and getting to learn tons of information from Doug about lion habits. After the hunt concluded, and since we had no opportunities, Doug invited me to come back out when it snowed, I only had to pay for my plane ticket back out to AZ. To me, it really meant a lot for him to do that and showed me the type of character he has, I know most guides would have just taken my money and said "sorry about your luck."
Anyhow, the entire winter of 2014 I sat back in PA with freezing temps and tons of snow, but absolutely no snow out in AZ. I swear I would wake up and check the weather reports every morning for North Kaibab and Flagstaff! Needless to say, I had a little bit of a bug to kill a cat...
After waiting all year, Doug finally called me the weekend after Christmas and told me what I had been waiting for, for almost a year, finally a good storm was coming through! I was so excited, I think I was basically worthless at work through new years eve. I got very little sleep new years eve (not due to partying, just b/c of excitement of finally flying out the next morning). Flew out of Harrisburg at 6:15 New Years Day and ended up in Phoenix at 12:30. The airline lost my bag with all my hunting gear, but I had my bow! After a quick trip to bass pro to pick up all missing gear I drove to Ash Fork (about 60 miles west of Flagstaff) to meet Doug. When I arrived, he had dinner waiting for me and we went out that night.
The first night out we cut a small cat (Doug was guessing around 80-90 lbs.) and a female with two kittens. Another guy that Doug knew ended up running the smaller cat with his son, they ended up catching it and his son was able to kill his first cat. I think he was only 10 years old or so. I thought that was pretty cool.
The second night was when the magic happened! We were driving through the same areas as the first night hoping that two of the lions Doug had been scouting would pass through their typical travel routes. At about 12:45 AM we cut his track, then again at 1:30 we cut another 2 miles off him where he crossed another road. We continued to drive the loop he was in until 4 AM and never cut his track leaving the area, we had assumed he had a kill he was feeding on. At 4 Doug parked the truck to sleep. Well, he slept, I was too excited and sat quietly playing on my phone. At sun up we decided to run around the loop of roads one more time to see if he ever came out, which he did, so we knew we were roughly within a 3 hours window behind him. We got ready and turned the dogs loose (last time we would see them until we were at the cat).
This is where I was amazed at Doug's skills as a guide. I realize that GPS collars probably help a lot of guys run directly behind the dogs and find easier routes to get to a treed lion when the GPS is saying the dogs are "treed." However, Doug's only concern is to continue staying on the lion track the whole time the dogs are running, he wants to ensure that if the dogs were to get screwed up, he can bring them right back to the lion track. That's exactly what we did for quite a few miles. After about 2 1/2 hours the GPS finally said "TREED" and the dogs were not moving from their location. We continued to the dogs, remaining on the lion track, but now moving much quicker.
Finally we popped out at the top of a nasty canyon and I looked out on the end of a finger that came out into the canyon and the lion was laying on the very point. With all dogs barking down in the canyon b/c they could not get up the cliff. Doug and I both stared at each other for a second trying to figure out how we were going to kill this lion and we decided to dive down into the canyon, go up the finger and walk out the point and kill him...Sounds easy, right?!?
I can tell you, I thought I was in half decent conditioning...I was a little girl compared to Doug. We went down the canyon and started up the finger that was all of 40 degrees with loose rock, snow, ice, all the fun stuff that no normal person would climb on...after about 20 minutes of picking our way up we made it to the top of the finger. I was exhausted, but the adrenaline started pumping again knowing we had to kill this thing. I knocked an arrow and we started walking out the point. We kept creeping along and I was honestly afraid we were going to end up 5 yards from the thing...Finally I got to the last bolder covered in snow and I peaked over, the lion was laying on his belly at 15 yards staring right at us. I immediately came to full draw, my left foot slipped off the rock I was standing on, I managed to get that planted and settled the pin behind his shoulder. I let the arrow fly and the shot was right on, had the arrow hanging out both sides of him. He went from laying on his belly to jumping 4-5 feet straight in the air and fell off the point of the cliff. We were doing the typical jumping up and down/cheering but we quickly realized we needed to figure out how to get off the finger we were on...
After about 1/2 an hour we figured out a route to get down, took us about 45 minutes or so to work through the nastiest brush I have ever been in with big 6-8 foot drops covered in snow hoping that our feet were not going to get stuck between boulders. Anyhow, we were able to work our way over to one of the dogs growling and carrying on, sure enough he had already been laying on top of the lion!
Needless to say words could not express my excitement and exhaustion at the same time. I was amazed at how big the cat was and I couldn't of asked for anything better. We guessed he was around 160 or so. We ended up just skinning him and quartering him right there. Fortunately, a couple great guys that were helping us cut tracks from the night before were able to find a lower access road and we only had to walk out about a mile! We were greeted by a bunch of mulie hunters who had never seen a lion and it was cool to start retelling the story...
Sorry for the long winded story on this cat, needless to say I am still riding on cloud 9 from the entire experience. Anyone that has never had the chance to do it before, you need to find a way to make it happen!!! I will post a couple more pics for everyone.
I wish you all the best in your up coming hunts and thank you again for all the support!!
Good stuff, and a great cat!!!
I could have read three times as much as you wrote and loved every word.
Congrats, and thanks for sharing it all with us.
I agree with you statement about everyone needs to do this at least once.
Be sure & post pics of the mount when you get it back.
you may want to see if you can redirect that vent away from the cat. Not sure if over time warm air blowing on the mount may create an issue.
Similar, but not air-related, I had a lynx mounted on a log covered in snow. The snowy log was exposed to sunlight each day through the corner of a window blind and ultimately turned the snow yellowish. I had to have the snow redone (free). Luckily the Lynx wasn't exposed to the sunlight so it was unaffected.