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A life long dream comes true and story about hounds racoon and lions

WIbiggame

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 5, 2013
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893
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Wisconsin
This story starts about 28 years ago I read a book in school called “Where the Red Fern Grows” that book changed me as a person in so many ways but will stick to this story for now. After reading that book cover to cover I asked my dad about getting some redbones to chase racoon with on our farm. He laughed and said we probably cant anymore dogs but I know someone who has redbones. My dad has always been a big bird dog guy so I grew with hunting dogs and we had a handful at home I think Mom would’ve lost if we got a couple more lol.



My dad and I went over to the neighbors house and asked him if he would come over and take us out chasing racoon some night in the fall. He agreed, little did I know that something would be set in motion that would change my life in that conversation.



The hunt materialized about 2 weeks later when Rodger came over with his 2 redbone coon hounds, 1 both dogs where state champion dogs and the male was a world night champ. When I saw those dogs in person I immediately fell in love and vowed to myself someday I could have my own “red” dogs. I was 10yo at this time but knew it was something I wanted. The hunt that night was amazing we treed 1 coon that turned into an all night event with swirling winds, bluff country and rain. To say I was hooked was an understatement. Everyday after that I was asking my dad to go hunting with Rodger, and for the most part we did. My dad didn’t really share my enthusiasm so after a couple weeks it would be just me tagging along with Rodger and his dogs as we chased coon all over the hillsides.



Fast forward 6 years, I had gotten my lifeguard certification and been working at the small local pool all summer saving every penny I made to buy a dog. When the end of the summer came I had enough money to buy a dog of my own and chase racoon with Rodger. This was 22years ago and I think I read every single hound hunting magazine written and spent most of my time in the back of the magazines reading about who was selling dogs and reading about blood lines. I finally landed on a guy who had dogs across the state. Rodger liked this idea too as that blood line would cross really well with his. Rodger had offered me to buy one of his puppies but I wanted to buy something we could cross and start our “own” line. The day came when I went and bought my first dog and best friend ever “Stryker”. Stryker and I spent so much time together chasing coon for 7 to short years. I shot a lot of coon over him and we got into more than one sticky situation but always made it out.


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This was before cell phones and i didn't own a camera so this is one of the only pictures I have of Stryker, just happens to be the first too, it still sits on the night stand.

Through these 7 years I had with him I developed a strong desire to shoot a mountain lion with my bow over good working hounds. This dream was written down on my bucket list and my 40th birthday was going to be the year I made it happen. I started saving a few dollars every week knowing that I didn’t want cost to be an issue when this hunt happened in 15 years.
 
Well I turned 38 last August and had been in contact with a couple outiftters about setting up a lion hunt with them in 2 years. I had 2 places in mind and after speaking seriously about it with both of them, one had opening 3 years out and the other has an on-call list that he could accommodate me whenever if I called him early. Both outfitters informed me that I was potentially gambling with my 1 true dream hunt waiting 2 more years as mountain lions with dogs might be a thing of the past by than. I really hope not! So after some sweet talking to my wife and a very fortunate first night sit archery buck kill that freed up my whole fall I got the OK at home to book this hunt.

So I called the outfitter who has the on-call list and he had a couple spots available to so I sent him my down payment. I cant believe this dream is coming true!! We set my tentative dates for sometime in January or February depending on when the weather comes in. I have a very cool boss and great co-workers so I knew that I could go on the 6 day hunt at the drop of a hat and not worry about work. More on that to come. Christmas and New Years where awesome this year family time was amazing and knowing I had this big trip coming up made it even better.

Once January rolled around I called the outfitter and told him I am free of all my family obligations and to let me know when the weather comes in and I will be on a plane down to hunt. He said that sounds good but hunting had been tough as they hadn’t gotten any snow and none was forecasted in the near future. My heart dropped as this is my luck, should’ve been here last week, kind of stuff. Oh well I knew I had 2 months and this outfitter has great dry ground dogs should we need to just use the dirt.
 
Well as luck would have it about 6 days later I was at a meeting for work and get a call from the outfitter I can hear hounds going wild in the background and the outfitter tells me get on a plane now and get here we had a big storm come through and you need to be here. Come to find out when I got there he made that phone call from a tree where they had a lion treed 1 of 3 they got that day.



Now the excitement hit, I left the meeting quick and called my wife, when she answered her first words where “You got the call didn’t you?” I was shaking and somehow got the yes out. She calmed me down and said go back into your meeting I have some downtime I will get your flight booked. Th last 1.5hr of that meeting was brutal as I was just dreaming about those hounds barking in the background of that phone call. If you’ve ever had hounds you know that feeling and I am getting goosebumps now writing about it again.

After the meeting my boss came up to me and asked if everything was ok I seemed happily stressed, I apologized for not being “present” and explained I had gotten the call to go on this once in lifetime hunt. I had 2 people at work who would be willing to cover my shifts when I was gone so I talked to them. One of the shifts was a 24hr the next day which one of them took with no questions. The 2nd shift was Wednesday of the week another 24hr shift and the 2nd co worker took this one no questions. So I was set for my 6 day hunt everything was covered.

I went home and had my bow and “go bag” all ready for the call, being on the on call list I didn’t know if I would get 1 day or 5 to pack so I just had everything ready to go. I went back to the hospital and had lunch with my wife and stopped at my kids school and let them know that I was leaving for the week. After the goodbyes I made the 2.5hr drive to the airport and got on the plane for my dream hunt.
 
Sorry for the long write up to get to the actual meat and tators of this story its just crazy sitting here 2 weeks later and re living my dream I feel I cant do it justice writing but am trying my best.


Well the flight went smooth I booked my rental car at the airport before my flight departed and upon arriving at the rental car desk was given a free upgrade to a Jeep Gladiator, very nice vehicle by the way that would come in handy over the corolla I was suppose to get later in the story. After taking about 40 pictures of the vehicle before leaving, been saved by doing this after “damage” was found when I brough a vehicle back. I had a gas station by the outfitters house programmed into the GPS and I was off on the 2hr 15min drive. The plan was that I would get to the gas station around 0400 local time get a couple hours of sleep and the outfitter would pick me up at 0600 to start looking for lion tracks. This was all good in planning but 2 things made it impossible to get any sleep. 1) I was going freaking mountain lion hunting 2) the gladiator doesn’t have the most insulated doors and I had forgotten in general how cold vehicles get when its cold. LOL I was freezing trying to sleep in the back of this thing.

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Day 1

Well 0600 came and the outfitter came pulling up, I was awake and getting things ready at about 0530 and could hear the hounds barking as the outfitter lives right by the gas station. I will admit I spend about 15minutes just standing there listening to the hounds bark, I couldn’t believe I was hunting over hounds again I hadn’t been hunting with hounds since having to put Stryker down 15 years prior just been to hard for me. When the outfitter pulled up we through everything in the truck introductions where shared and the hunt started.


We were hunting right on a state line so the plan was to get a tag for each state. One of the states I was able to get my tag online and the other we planned on looking in the state I had a tag for, for lion tracks and head across the state line to a convenient store where I could buy my license. We spent the next 4 hours looking for lion tracks but didn’t find anything. We saw deer, coyote, elk, mustang, and cattle tracks. It was amazing how this guy can drive around these mountain roads that are snow covered with one had on the wheel and his head out the window looking at tracks going 35mph and not only keep the vehicle on the road by decipher the tracks. Well after we spent the 4hours looking for tracks and not turning any up we went across the state line and got some breakfast and bought my license.

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View of the sunrise on day 1.

We met up with another guy who was out looking in the 2nd state. He hadn’t had any luck either. I had been awake for 32 hours at this point and was starting to feel it. The outfitter could sense that so we pulled over and checked the weather, as luck would have it 3-5” of snow was forecasted for the evening ending about 0200. The outfitter suggested I go back to my hotel get some rest and we would hit it hard tomorrow with 3 different trucks looking for tracks. I was still pretty amped about being on a mountain lion hunt but I knew my body needed rest and the snow coming in made me feel confident about tomorrow, so I agreed.

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view driving back to hotel after hunting day 1. This country was all new to me and is uniquely beautiful!
 
Day 2

Day 2 started with me meeting the outfitter at the gas station at 0500. Through our talking on day 1 he realized how much the dogs and being around them meant to me. It was truly amazing being around hounds again and was much needed after 15yrs of staying away. So by me telling him about my dog he said come a little early and you can help load the dogs and spend sometime with them. This was awesome as I can say if I actually harvest a lion it would be a VERY small part of this trip and I just wanted to see hounds work again. Well we got the dogs all loaded up roughly 35 of them between 3 trucks and we were off to different areas and different states.

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These dogs are amazing and the sunrises didnt disapoint either.

We were driving on a high mountain road when the radio cracked “Ive got a big track crossing the road” the outfitter slammed on the breaks and grabbed the radio handle “come again?” “”Ive got a big track here crossing the road and it looks really fresh” the location was described and the outfitter told me it would be about a 2hr drive to the location. Now I thought 35mph with 1 hand was crazy the driving when we knew there was a fresh lion track was something completely different. I was transported back to my younger days with my buddies in high school ripping around on the back roads with our trucks, smiles fist bumps and laughs filled our truck as we made the trip over to the lion track.

We got to the track about 2hr 15min after the initial call, when the outfitter saw the track he looked at me with a huge smile and said this is a giant tom. I couldn’t believe it I was standing over a track of an animal I had dreamt about hunting for along time and this was going to happen. We went to the back of the truck and let out a handful of dogs instantly they were off on the running up the mountain barking as they went.

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I felt 16 again, and closed my eyes and could hear Stryker barking going up that mountain. A tear came to my eyes as I just stood there 2000miles from my farm but it felt like I was home listening to my own dog. This trip was already worth it and everything I thought it would be and so much more.

We stood at the truck for awhile and dogs slowed down and started making circles in about 0.5miles in a deep drainage, this area had a lot of rocks in in so the outfitter figured the lion when down a crack and it would take the dogs a minute to figure it out. Well after 20minutes of the dogs just hunting in circles and a couple younger dogs even coming back I started to lose hope that this lion was going to be caught. Just as those thoughts came into my mind one of the older dogs started barking fast and hard and running straight away from us up the mountain, the outfitter came and shook me, “she jumped him its on now” all the other dogs followed them up over the mountain.

We jumped into the truck and raced to the other side of the mountain to try and get infront of them. As we were driving we kept careful tabs on the road to make sure that the lion didn’t cross it we didn’t see any tracks. When we got to the other side of the mountain, the dogs were again hunting in a circular pattern, again we thought the lion found a spot to hide. This went on for about 20 minutes and 1 dog was away from the group so the outfitter and I were going to drive back around and see if we could hear this dog. As we were driving down the road we had just came up 20 minutes before, I noticed something that didn’t look right out my window. I asked the outfitter to stop and back up, when he got back his door flew open and before I could get my seatbelt off 15 more dogs were let out. The lion had back tracked and crossed the road after we came down it and the 1 dog had figured it out. A radio call was made and the other guys came up and we could hear the dogs barking hard and fast going away from us. So again we got in the trucks and head around to try and get ahead of them. We made it to the road we wanted to and stopped the truck as we stopped I could hear the tell tale sound of hounds treed. One of natures greatest sound imo. My smile must have been huge the outfitter looked at me with a huge smile as well. The dogs were treed and this road would let us drive about 200yds from them.
 
We parked the truck and I grabbed by bow and we started walking towards the tree. This was a pretty flat easy walk filled with emotion. As we got closer I stepped around a small tree and had my eyes up and there it was a MOUNTAIN LION!! I finally got to see a mountain lion I the wild, I had dreamt about this day for so long. I was flooded with emotion. I walked to the base of the tree that was surrounded by amazing barking hounds and this huge awesome animal treed 15ft above me. This was an event in my hunting career that will be hard to top.

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We studied the lion and it was pretty quickly decided it was a BIG lion just trying to see the black hair was proving to be challenging. Well the lion got a little uncomfortable so he moved just enough we could see the patch of black hair and knew it was a tom. The decision was made this was a GREAT lion to shoot. The outfitter started walking back to his truck and called his dogs and all 25 of them stopped barking and left the tree. This was amazing to watch, growing up hunting with coon hounds trying to call them anything was worthless lol. Watching these dogs not only leave the tree with a lion just above them but to also stop barking was pretty cool and a testament to the quality of dogs. 4 young pops where left at the tree and the outfitter came back.

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The lion presented a perfect open chest 7yd shot for me which I made with ease. The lion jumped from the tree and expired 30yds later from a perfect double lung shot.

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Walking up on the lion the outfitter was patting me on my back and giving me a hug. I told him I needed to stop and have a minute, he was very nice and stepped behind me and gave me about 2 minutes to just bask in what had happened. I have completed a lifelong dream hunt. I had just been extremely close to one of the most beautiful animals I have ever seen and I spent 2 days around several amazing hounds. It was a flood of emotion seeing that lion laying there. I walked up to him and that’s when the waterworks really started touching that cat and having a little pup pulling at his ear I saw Stryker and lost it. Even sitting here writing this I have tears about that dog. I looked up and made sure Stryker knew this was for him. I also gave a big thank you to the man upstairs for allowing me this awesome animal and once in a lifetime experience.

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Once I had collected myself pictures were taken cat was measured and weighed and hauled back to the truck.

The Tom was 7’6” nose to tail and weighed 150# his tooth wear was measured and age based on that was 5-7yo.

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I sit here finished with this write up and hope I did it justice and you all enjoyed coming along on this journey. I had debated writing this at all as this hunt meant so much to me personally I didn’t know if I would be able to convey the meaning of it to you as readers. I hope that the raw emotion came out and I did the hounds justice and most importantly did Stryker justice in writing this story.
 
Man..... huge congrats to you. It is such an amazing experience to run with hounds. It's just ...... different, so special, especially with true houndsman.

Again huge congrats, beautiful lion!
 
Congratulations! Definitely a trophy of a lifetime. Nothing like hunting mountain lions with hounds.

Please join Sportsman's Alliance, DSC, and SCI, if you are not yet a member. These organizations continuously advocate in the courts and in the media for sustainable-use wildlife conservation including hunting with hounds both here in the US and in foreign countries. Many times, these organizations are the only groups filing briefs against the anti-hunting organizations in emotion-based litigation to stop and terminate hunting with hounds.

Congratulations again on your very nice mountain lion, TheGrayRider a/k/a Tom.
 
This brought back some memories from my youth. We had an English red tick named Ticker, that i spent countless nights chasing racoon behind.
 
That was a great write up. I’ve also hound hunted for several years and finally did a Lion hunt early this month with an outfitter. First outfitted hunt for me, but I was super impressed with my guide and his hounds and had an awesome hunt. Congrats on your Lion!
 

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