I hunt solo most of the time, as an ambusher, but very much enjoy the chase. Standing on the shoulders of giants, being able to follow and stay with prey that would otherwise elude me. Understanding that we both need each other and the synergies that exist in a collaborated effort. It's an exhilarating endeavor!
I happened upon a houndsman that I hit it off with, strait away. Stopped by his place to visit on the return of my elk hunt in September. The hounds and I got along famously. Couldn't wait for December!
North Central CO had tough conditions for the first 5 days of the hunt, although we did tree some Toms. Day two we found one print in a small patch of snow in the shade, they were able to run him in the dirt. About 4 miles worth, I ended up in the right spot and the Tom trotted by me at 20 yds, panting and looking behind him. He was a young male with big feet that hadn't filled out yet, treed him twice. I will see if I can post the video, amazing footage. Elected to pass him up, he needs another year or two. It was very impressive to see the hounds diligently working out the track in dry dirt, on a rocky rim.
Tommy Boy's scratch.
Found an kill on day 4. Shortening up on the big boy. He eluded us that day, I came to the conclusion later is what because he had been rolling around on the cow, licking the hair off. He smelled more like an elk than a lion ,in the wet snow that started in the afternoon. One of my favorite hounds, Claudia, wouldn't run with the other dogs, but kept coming back to us. Not from lack of drive, she would run the pads off her feet, but because she's so honest, she kept smelling elk! I actually saw this Tom also, at about 120yds, through he trees, so I knew he was there. As the wet snow increased, he got farther ahead of the dogs, and eventually rimmed them. Houdini, we called him.
Pretty fresh, just got the ribs broken. I couldn't believe how he could lick the hair off that hide. The middle of their tongue is like a rasp!
Tommy Boy came back to his kill, he had to cross the road in the process.
I ran up and down to get different composition, while the moment was right, absolutely stunning. The hounds were getting impatient in the box. We had a little pep talk, just the eight of us.
I gave them some words of wisdom, keep him off the rim, etc...don't let him vertically jump over the top and hang you up for 30 mins, etc.....he might back track like he did yesterday, he's no dummie, this is Houdini, you got to pull out all the stops! etc.. I don't think they really wanted to listen...but they had no choice.
He's a "goodun" Dillon said. He's our boy. Roger that...the short lived spectacle of the sunrise is gone, here comes the day, and the brighter sky.
We're legal on time, but we're taking no chances with this spoor. He could be close, we don't want to put the hounds in a ambush situation without enough light for them to see well. The kill isn't too far, hard for me to tell.... Now it's time, collars are on, doors open, General gets dragged to the spoor and pointed the right direction, Bill opens up like a fire engine siren, Freddie, bawling like crazy, scrambling to be first, Ruger almost bowling him over in his haste, they're off!! I didn't say it out loud cause that would be nerdy , but I might have quoted something about "letting slip the dogs of war" in my head, ain't saying......rest assured, it was a big moment.
After 5 days, we went from the track above to the pic below in under 30 minutes. They pressed him hard, treed him fast, so quickly that he didn't get in a good one at all...
He wasn't comfortable in the least...I was pretty sure I couldn't get a shot before he jumped, it was so steep it was hard to stand up, and Dillon had to leash the hounds. I concentrated on not falling down the mountain.
Looking forward to the rest of this adventure!
This is the smaller Tom that we ran in the dirt.
I was able to capture some of the intensity of the hounds, this day was all females as one of the younger ones was in heat, and we couldn't risk taking any makes along. No matter, they make it happen, very good noses on some of these and patience as well.
Of course I had to get a pic of him above me in the tree.
This was in a different county, we went to a private place to check for lion tracks. The owner wants to make sure they aren't over running the place, didn't find a single track, but did see a few elk.
A few things swayed me towards it. It's light, it fits in a pack, completely. No brush to grab the string, sight, etc. It shoots as well as my Xcursion 6 , to 25 yds anyway,( only got it 10 days before I left) and it allows for hands free operation on the chase. Walking sticks are a huge benefit to a flat-lander, when walking up and down slopes with snow on them. Very happy with my decision.
In the end, I went with the Exodus, mainly because I'm too cheap to point a 30$ head up in the sky and let it go, haha. I have a bunch of them, I've had a couple bows that flat don't like them, no matter how I tune them, but this one did. I'm assuming it's 30-40 fps slower than my Xcusion 6, the T24 is at 29" ( they are a draw length specific design and he didn't have a 30" there, at that time) and at 62 lbs.
The more dogs that got leashed, the braver Tommy Boy became, and I could tell he was debating his current situation. Kinda like living with a mean woman that is getting fat, thoughts of greener pastures just come natural.... ;)
I was putting my TAP stab on and waiting for the clearance from Dillon to shoot, and off he went, I've learned that lions almost always jump downhill and he did. I felt like a biscuit cramming, gravy slurping, fat kid, on rope climbing day at the gym.....I couldn't believe how Tommy and the dogs could almost fly over terrain that I had to crawl through on all fours....it was humiliating. I thought I saw a 3-toed sloth pass me by once, but I must have been hallucinating from lack of oxygen, a sloth would have been frozen stiff at this altitude, maybe it was the sweat in my eyes in the 10 degree temps, I don't know...
SHUCKS! All this work to get up here and now we have to start all over again..I wasn't worried about the dogs being able to tree him again, just worried about me getting there without breaking a leg or something.
But, he had bulging muscle, where the other Toms were flatter looking, big shoulders on him. Big round pumpkin head, We think we have the right one, just need to tree him again.
Hounds didn't disappoint, make quick work of him this time. He picked a much better tree, a 90' Spruce...good grief, I could hardly see him. He was standing, but content, I was pretty sure he was prepared to wait us out, right here in this tree.
Zoomed in shot.
Talked myself through the shot and made sure I was ready for followup if needed, 'K, here goes nothing. I decided to keep my entrance where I wanted it , in case I hit his shoulder or something, would leave the rest to chance but wanted to make sure I had it where it would do some good. Not the best angle, not the best footing, not the best distance, but we have to take what we're given, right?
So standing practically on one foot, in the slick snow, I pulled back my 24" ATA , 10 day old bow , raised it up to 60 degrees or so, and tried not to think about how much all this was costing me, and the price of failure. What am I doing?!?!?!
Breathe...pick a spot, peep/sight housing looks good, pull hard into the wall, cause that's what this bow likes, and slowly squeeze off, reminding myself not to peek. SCHWWISSH. Good shot, 8" of fletching sticking out. I didn't screw it up, borderline elation, and relief. Lion look at me, looks at the VAP sticking out of his shoulder, reaches down , bites it off and spits it at me. I *%^$ you negative. Now his look of superiority and boredom, that only a cat has, is changing.
No time to lose, another arrow, put this one a little lower, make the exit count, angle is just so dang steep! SCHWWIISSH. Another good one, he is quicker this time, reaches down, bites it off, and starts to move, his look is changing even more, I can see him trying to figure out how I can reach him from down there. He knows I'm responsible, he sees the cause, feels the effect, but can't understand it. Much like a mouth-breathin, sweat pant wearing, Old Milwaukee swilling, Packer fan when they lose. ( J/K ! :) )
It's on now, he's not going to just stay up there, I can see it in his eyes. He's not indifferent , he hates me. It's war. It's a battle that has been going on for thousands of years, human ingenuity, opposable thumbs and steel versus the unfathomable strength , agility and sheer physical ability, we are not just spectators but we are participants, right here and now. Life or death. I could read his mind for a few seconds, his look said, " I'm coming down there and when I do, you are the first to die. I will rip your guts out." Dogs and guide forgotten, I don't think I even heard the frantic baying that results from a moving cat,, I loaded another arrow, moved 10 yards left, he came around the tree, started at me and started to come down, I ran him through, right in the chest, dead center.
We both knew the game had changed in that second. The other hits would good, and fatal, but this one was better, 20" or so, straight in. He kept his decision to climb down, but now he's more concerned with putting distance between him and his adversary, instead of taking me out.
He isn't right, his grace and poise and strength are compromised. He knows it, I know it. I know it's just a matter of time, but the dogs are going nuts, they will almost strangle themselves as he's running away, pulling against the leash. I would prefer to give him time, but must follow up and make sure no broadheads are sticking out before we release the hounds so they can see for themselves he's dead. We owe them that.
As I was pulled back, I didn't remember seeing any eyes, I would have seen his eyes if his head was up, surely I would have..now I have to peek again, this time he would have seen me and he'd be ready, no doubt about it, if he was able, he would strike this time. Only 30 yds from the original tree, but felt like I was a mile away, brush so thick, you couldn't even walk normally. I was on my own, facing an apex predator that I had totally P'ed off. I could see the individual snowflakes, my focus was so keen, could smell the bark, frozen dirt, felt the above average humidity, the GPS in my head was reading off compass cardinal points as I tuned, 350 degrees, 360, need to get to 030 before I will clear, came around the dead-fall ready to defend myself with more steel.
He was expired, turned around and facing his back trail, all ready to pounce, but the holes in him, robbed him of his force. He was going to ambush me, just as I figured, I guess we're not all that different, I would have done the same.
As I found him.
Dillon can't hear me, the dogs are too loud. I make a quick search for broadheads and then scramble back to the tree. I tell him he's dead and it's OK, nothing sharp sticking out. it's almost as he doesn't believe me , he asks again, I tell him again, he lets the dogs go, they trail him to where he fell and start to worry and shake him. I had to stop Freddie from hiking his leg on him, I'm guessing they DON'T Like cats, lol.
I let them have their due, I can't stop looking at the Tom, can't stop hugging the dogs, I want to soak it all in. I brush the snow off him, but then stop, it's perfect, I have dogs bawling in my ear, licking my face and a dead cat in my hands, a damn good cat. He's mature, he's a super talented killer, and he's ours, we did it. We caught him. It's Perfect.
Dillon got to hold him first, he's not as tall as I am. I'm a tad over 6'1" and 230.
What do you think he weighs? I wanted to know for sure, so we had to drag him out whole and then weigh him on the calf scale at the ranch, no way was I quartering him up if I didn't have to.
He lost some blood by the time we got him back to the shop, he came in right at 160 lb.
As you can see the scale was pretty high, so just a little angle on the pic, but he made the grade, thank goodness...
Here's a good pic of the hair cutting tongue.
The man, the legend, extraordinary houndsman and one of the toughest dudes I've ever been around. Dillon Kujala of RidgeRunner Outfitters.
Sir Thomas took a trip to PA to meet Mr Razza. I hope they get along OK. Maybe Mr Razza will do another lion mount thread..
I will never forget that cold December morning, thank you Sir Thomas.
One heck of great read and harvest for you.
Thanks for sharing
Good luck, Robb
Thanks for the kind words Brotsky!
I will post pics in my trophy room after I get it home.