2023 Hunting Adventures Recap

Desk Pop

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This time of year Hunt Talk desperately needs hunting stories, because the other threads are going off the rails haha.

So, here goes my third year of recaps.

I stuck it here because it includes a Rocky Mountain bighorn and a Desert bighorn.

I didn't draw as many tags as some years, but got to help on some, plus, I had a good international trip mixed in. Add a really nice mountain lion, and some other stuff, it may not be all boring.
 
January - I have a pack of hounds, and other than Africa's dangerous game, it is my favorite type of hunting.

My 2022 recap ended with a five lion and one raccoon day, that included a solid tom that was left on the mountain.

That track was a friend's, and he wanted to let it go. Whoever finds the track decides the fate of the lion. However, I did ask my buddy, G, who was with me at the time, if he would have shot the tom if he could have.

He said, "no, I'd only want a really really big one."
 
So G and my good buddy C had set aside time for a Saturday hunt in January 2023.

C lives across the state.

The plan was pretty relaxed. We'd do a hike, hopefully put up a female lion, get some photos, then head to the local Mexican joint for some 16-inch Super Macho Burritos.

At the truck, I said, "hey, either of you carrying a gun in case we tree a monster?"

Neither were. My back was messed up and I was barely able to hunt. I carried nothing I absolutely didn't need, including my pistol.

G grabbed his truck gun, a .243 bolt and semi-reluctantly strapped it to his pack.

We collared three of my dogs up and started hiking into the two-night old snow.Screenshot_20240324-174405.png
 
600 yards in, we cross a tom lion track. It is a narrow box canyon, and impossible to get a stride measurement on flat ground, because there isn't enough flat ground. A stride measurement tells a lot. A 40-41 inch tom is mehhh. A 42-43 inch tom is nice. 44-46 you're looking at a possible giant. I just know the foot is big enough to 100% be a tom.

I tie the dogs up and hike up the canyon wall into where the sun would shine. The track has had sun in it. It had snowed Thursday. The cat came through Thursday night, and Friday's sun melted it out. It was Saturday. A tom can go a looonnnggg damn way in two nights.

But it is a track, and I know the dogs will take it.

It is best everyone is involved in the decision making process, especially if it means we could possibly be out past dark collecting dogs.

It could be 30 miles away. It could be dead in someone's garage.

Or, we could catch it.

I see birds (ravens) at the top of the mountain. C sees them. We exchange knowing looks. We've been doing this together for 1,000s, yes 1,000s of miles on foot. We know what it could mean, but we also know how false hope is a killer.

We say nothing to G.

We all agree we need to try it, because life is short, and we want to see this tom in a tree.

I set my hounds free from the prison of the chain, and they take the track.
 
My little Walker female blew up at the top of the mountain.

"Is that Mace?" G asked.

"Yeah."

"Why aren't the others saying much?" he said.

"They won't honor in. They have lead dog mentalities. They need to smell it just like Mace does before they'll believe, and they won't get off the track and cut over to Mace," I said.

Mace is heading towards us, going nuts. The echoes make it sound like ten hounds, but it is just her.
 
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"They jumped him, G. He had a kill up there. He came down Thursday night to the creek to drink, then went back up to the top to sit on his kill. Probably a deer, maybe a moose. That's why those ravens are up there. He's heading down to us. We may see him cross. He is jumped and running. It's a foot race now, and that little 32-pound Mace dog will smoke this fcker in a footrace."

He looks at me, astonished.

"Really?"

"Yep, just listen."

Mace sounds like a freight train. She is flying, and her bawls sound insanely intense. She is heading right towards us.
 
Mace crossed about 100 yards ahead of us. It was around a bend, so we didn't see her or the cat, but did see their tracks.

You can't gauge the size of a track that is running at full speed, unfortunately.

Spike and Drama came screaming down the mountain and pass over the tracks.

Mace started her tree bark about 300 yards in. We waited until Spike and Drama got to the tree and started bushwhacking towards the music.
 
We reach the tree. The tom is laying in a weird position.
Screenshot_20240324-185107.png

"He's good," I said, "but I can't tell how big. He just ate, so we don't want to be swayed by his belly. He seems to have a big frame, but I can't tell with him laying down." I have to speak loudly because of the baying of the hounds.

I keep looking and circling the tree. All the angles suck.

C thinks he is solid too, and he has seen a lot of toms with me.

I don't take killing a lion lightly. I'd rather chase them than kill them. But I don't want to be a dumbass and see him in a photo on Instagram tomorrow when he walks five miles in any direction and gets cut, caught and killed.

I keep looking. Now I'm back with my homies.

This guy is good, I think.

I keep staring. I wish he'd just stand up.

I speak: "Ok, this is a good cat. He may be great, I can't tell unless he moves. He is way bigger than that cat we caught two weeks ago, and that one was pushing 140."

C cuts in: "He's waaay over 140."

I nod and continue: "This tom is in another league as that cat, and that was a solid, mature tom. We need to kill him. I don't care who, we all have tags. 10 out of 10 houndsmen would kill this cat. He's a beaut. If you guys don't want him, I'll ta-"

The tom leisurely stands up and walks behind the trunk, limb to limb. We still haven't seen him broadside.

He steps out on a limb, displaying his grandeur, and looks at us from eight feet away with hate in his eyes.

"Holy shit," someone says.

"Jeez," I say.

I hear the f word behind me, twice. These guys never say fck.

The lion jumps from the limb and takes off towards the bottom with the hounds hot on his tail.
 
We reach the tree. The tom is laying in a weird position.
View attachment 320271

"He's good," I said, "but I can't tell how big. He just ate, so we don't want to be swayed by his belly. He seems to have a big frame, but I can't tell with him laying down." I have to speak loudly because of the baying of the hounds.

I keep looking and circling the tree. All the angles suck.

C thinks he is solid too, and he has seen a lot of toms with me.

I don't take killing a lion lightly. I'd rather chase them than kill them. But I don't want to be a dumbass and see him in a photo on Instagram tomorrow when he walks five miles in any direction and gets cut, caught and killed.

I keep looking. Now I'm back with my homies.

This guy is good, I think.

I keep staring. I wish he'd just stand up.

I speak: "Ok, this is a good cat. He may be great, I can't tell unless he moves. He is way bigger than that cat we caught two weeks ago, and that one was pushing 140."

C cuts in: "He's waaay over 140."

I nod and continue: "This tom is in another league as that cat, and that was a solid, mature tom. We need to kill him. I don't care who, we all have tags. 10 out of 10 houndsmen would kill this cat. He's a beaut. If you guys don't want him, I'll ta-"

The tom leisurely stands up and walks behind the trunk, limb to limb. We still haven't seen him broadside.

He steps out on a limb, displaying his grandeur, and looks at us from eight feet away with hate in his eyes.

"Holy shit," someone says.

"Jeez," I say.

I hear the f word behind me, twice. These guys never say fck.

The lion jumps from the limb and takes off towards the bottom with the hounds hot on his tail.

That is an awsome picture.
 
The hounds put him up 200 yards below, and we get to the tree.

I tie the dogs up for their safety, and G sets up.

His snowshoes are from like a million years ago, and I love them. They are kind of heavy, but work well.Screenshot_20240324-193029.png
 
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