Long post, American Lion Hunt, Africa style

JJHACK

New member
Joined
Jun 21, 2001
Messages
302
Location
Rural Wa. State/ Ellisras South Africa
If any of you saw the last issue of Bear hunting magazine there was a story about hunting widlerness areas with pack goats. These goats will pack in all your things and work like magic in the most rugged habitat. We have been using them for many years now in Washington State. I ran into a bit of trouble with them and a hungery lion. Here is the story.

Well I guess there are two kinds of people who use pack goats, and live in the wilderness. Those who have had a goat killed by a lion, and those who will. I never thought it would happen to me, but I lost a goat on Saturday night. I thought he somehow escaped and did not come back. That is unlikely, as you might know. Goats never leave the herd for long without coming home due to their strong herding instincts. I walked the perimeter of the pasture and saw nothing unusual however I continued a more detailed search when it became obvious he was not coming back. I knew in my heart what had happened, I just did not want to accept it. There is no way a single goat vanishes without a trace! If a lion killed him and carried him off, there would be some evidence someplace. My challenge would be finding it in time to save the others.

The past several days my daughter and I spent packed into the Alpine Lakes wilderness fishing. We covered about 20 miles and used four of my six goats on this trip. Two were left home with my wife who chose to stay home with them during this extended trip. The two that were left behind were each 16 months old. They were 1/2 brothers, one is a pure Oberhasli, the other one is half Tonnenburg, half Ober. He was big and was able to pack and climb as well as I hoped for at his age. He was about 100+ pounds. Normal at this age would be about 80lbs so I figured he would have a great future with me ending up somewhere around 200 pounds full grown at 4 years old. He would likely be packing 55-60 pounds of Gear or meat for us. He was also unfortunately the goat that vanished.

When I came home Sunday Afternoon, Tatia was in tears not knowing what had happened to him, it was also her favorite "boy" in the herd. My daughter unloaded the goats and cleaned up the gear while I took a slow walk around the pasture fence and looked for a way he might have gotten out. After the first lap around the pasture I changed my "mindset" from looking for a goat or a place he could escape to looking for evidence of a Lion attack. I saw a section of fence bent but nothing really significant. In another place I noticed the flora was very slightly disturbed, a few blades of grass laid down and two small fox glove plants broken. As if something had stepped on the grass and plants there. Not significant but strange considering there is no walking path here. My extensive training on animal tracking when I was in Professional Hunting School in Africa was valuable but I never thought it would be used in my own back yard! I took a few steps up the creek bed and saw that a couple of the various plants were laid down. I saw a rock that had been pulled over leaving it’s indentation in the ground from the time water was flowing here and allowed it to slightly sink into the soft wet silt. The part that peaked my interest was that it was laid down in the direction against the natural flow of the water. I stopped here and just studied the situation for a moment. The area is very dark even during the day. There is a cliff, which is part of the mountain going straight up about 60 feet on my left, and on the right side all the trees are all very large cedar, maple, and fir. The ground here is often cool and damp, as it never gets any sunlight. You would actually benefit from a flashlight in this creek bed during the day if you were looking for something small. Because of this there are very few plants. Mostly various mosses, sallal and ferns. With a multitude of dried brush and branches tangled into the tree roots where the high waterline is at when the creek is fully flowing.

About 60 yards up this creek following the insignificant sign I came to some nettles (a thorny vine), which were also pushed away going against the natural flow of the creek. There I noticed a few strands of hair on the thorns, I stopped to study the earth and look for hoof prints....……. nothing. I made my way over the thorns and saw a tuft of two-tone brown hair. My stomach sunk, it was the same color as the goat and no hoof tracks in the dirt. I saw a spot where the few plants in the area were all pressed down in about a 5-foot circle; this indicated something big was lying down here. I skirted that spot and went about another 30 yards and saw the dirt badly disturbed and lots of goat hair in a small pile of sticks and maple leaves which were scratched up from around the area.

Now I'm sure what I'm up against but continue to follow the track. I would need to locate the remains to set up an attempt at shooting or somehow catching this lion. I did not go far before I saw a clear set of lion tracks in the dirt. Another few steps, and there up against
the cliff wall I see a big pile of debris about the size of a muskrat den. It is so dark and damp in this spot I really must strain my eyes to see details and tracks in the low light, yet it is a hot and sunny day of 80 deg and it is about 3PM. I looked at it carefully while pulling it apart and there is the blaze orange collar still on the goat’s neck. Most of the internal organs were eaten and much of the inner thighs were gone. I took the collar and covered the remains back up. I did a quick look around and saw several good places I could sit and wait for the lions return tonight. If I could not remove this lion in a hurry I could be out of the goat packing business. I live on the edge of an enormous wilderness area, which is completely road-less. The road in front of the house is a main access road. This makes the use of hounds difficult but as a last resort I will have to try to get a hound permit from F&W to use them.

In retracing the events it appears he was killed in the barn and dragged to the fence. Then the lion must have jumped the 5-foot fence while holding the 100 plus pound goat in its mouth. The other 16-month-old goat will not go into, or even near the barn now!

My daughter and I have packed many overnights since I came home from Africa this year, about 180 miles total packing. Not nearly as much as last season at this time but we have such great goats now that the plans for our summer were really coming together for several extended trips in August, and during the deer and bear season. This episode really deflated me and without a
quick solution to this I'm in serious trouble being able to keep my goats safe. Fortunately the lion hunting season had just started in Washington State, and I already had the license and tag I needed to legally kill this lion.

On Sunday Afternoon I went to visit a few neighbors down the road to warn them of this lion and attempt a bit of "sweet talking" to get them to allow me access to their property to track and remove this stock killer. When I spoke to the first neighbors, they were so worried and concerned about the safety of their two children who are 3 and 5 years old. They allowed me full access to the property and said I should not worry about shooting my gun anytime of day or night. They know I am a Professional hunter because they visited my house in the past and saw my trophies and know of my work in both the USA and in Africa, so far so good. One neighbor down and 2 to go, I went down the road with my wife Tatia to see the next neighbor and he was also surprised because his horse was seriously bruised and limping last week and he could not tell why? The vet he called to look at the horse said it looked like he fell or crashed into the fence or a tree while running. The owner said it must have been the fence because he found it was broken in the corner closest to his house the previous morning, he also remembered hearing the horses running around quite a bit that night. He mentioned that the man down the road from him has 4 calves of about 450 pounds each. They crashed through the split rail fenced the previous weekend and two of them had broken or otherwise hurt their legs, which required them to be put down, and prematurely butchered. There is nobody east of this landowner for a long way so I stopped there and had the full permission and co-operation to do what ever I wanted to take out the lion from everyone involved. These property owners had no idea what had caused the problems for their livestock but were beginning to think the lion prowling around the area was the cause of the fright in these animals, I had to agree.

On Sunday night I set out a spring loaded animal control snare, which I used during my Bear management work on the tree farm. They were a bit big for a lion’s foot but I felt it was worth the risk to increase my odds of catching it. I connected it to a concrete pier block which are commonly used to hold up decks and porches. The blocks weigh about 80 pounds each. I locked the goats out of the corral and set the snare inside the barn door at the entry. I checked the snare at 10 PM before I went to bed and there was nothing in it. I locked the goats out of the corral and they slept in the pasture that night. The lion would have to cross the snare to get in the barn or the corral. On Monday morning I walked over to the corral and saw it was quiet. I decided to see if there was a miss or if the goat carcass was disturbed again. When I walked to the pasture gate separating it from the corral I realized the concrete blocks was gone!

I froze, stunned that I was so close to ground zero and could not see the block. I do not think that any lion alive could jump the fence with the block attached to its foot. While standing frozen and very concerned that this lion was laying still waiting to pounce on me I realized the drag marks from the block on the ground were going right past my feet behind me. I slowly turned around and saw the block with the empty snare and the cable loop with lion hairs in it! I cannot believe I walked past this snare, although the block was hidden in the long grass and since it was so quiet in the corral I never thought anything was in there. I'm sure if the lion was in the snare it would have been bouncing and struggling to escape while I was approaching, I would like to think so anyway. These cable snares are commonly used for capture and relocation of large predators. The cable will not harm their feet any more the handcuffs would on a criminal. They will also not hold a hoofed animal because the loop will slide right off of a smooth leg. I have extensive experience with them on bears, and other furbearers. I knew this one had cable that may have been to big but I was in a panic to solve this and thought it was worth the try to get him if he went into my barn. It was my only option with this short notice problem.

I was devastated and heart broken I had this devil in the snare and he was able to pull his foot out of the cable loop. I decided he would probably not come back this way again with the scare of the concrete block attached to his foot, at least for a while. I had in effect made my situation worse with this missed opportunity. Now the real work would begin in tracking this lion to his bed and shooting him as he jumped and ran or with a little luck as he slept. I snuck into the dark old growth forest to see how much of our goat Bevis was left. I saw it was not touched and worried that he would leave the area and come back when I was no longer expecting predator trouble. That would make for an awful next few months of sleep for me, the neighbors, and all of our livestock.

I met up with one of the neighbors in town that afternoon, and she told me the lady across the road was looking for both her cats. They had not come home in two nights and were always around their house. My neighbor did not say a word about the lion because of our pact to keep this under wraps until we sorted it out. Should the Fish and Game department be involved the dogs they use would likely run the lion out of this road-less and very steep area without being caught and then the lion would come back at his will to take another goat. None of us really cared too much about the ladies free roaming house cats anyway; they were a pest to me always making a mess around the house.

I set myself up on the cliff behind my house on Tuesday night and had a great view of the pile where Bevis was buried. I had no clear indication of which direction the lion would come from, if he were to show up. I could however see quite well from this high vantage point. I also had a nearly full moon to assist with the night shooting. I waited till dark expecting at any moment for him to show up. Nothing but relentless insects. Your senses seem to become as sharp as a razor in total darkness when you’re all alone hunting for the largest most successful predator in North America.

I heard, and could actually focus on Mice and other small critters I assume to be shrews. Human night vision is actually very good when correctly adjusted to the dark. The forest comes alive at night when you’re sitting quietly. I saw a few bats and other small nocturnal birds I could not identify flying around the forest floor. I waited, and waited, falling asleep and waking up to shift my sore behind and swat away bugs for what seemed like an eternity. I was getting depressed with the whole nights events until about 3:30 AM when I heard the lion down there about 60 yards away and nearly straight below me. I could barely see him with the dark background of the forest floor. I could make out the shape but had no way of knowing what was between he and I. If I were to shoot like this would I hit a branch that I could not see between me and the lion? It was too risky to shoot without 100% success for me. Not shooting could be accepted as the lion not returning to continue eating on Bevis, that would be understood. However shooting and missing or wounding it would be a real slap in the face to my credibility, and to responsibly take care of this problem. I have hunted 17 Mt. Lions to this date and never had a miss. Sitting and waiting all this time was wearing on my patience. I felt like I had two opinions speaking to me one in each ear. On my other shoulder whispering in my ear was a voice that said this may be your only chance, gut shoot him if you have to just put a bullet in him someplace for what he did to Bevis and he will eventually die. I had to use my strongest will power to hold back from taking this shot.

All during this period the lion sounds were getting quieter or further away, or so it seemed. Daylight finally arrived and I was now so dejected I felt like I was going to lose this battle for the first time. I had him in a snare and I had him in my rifle sights and I still did not have him dead! I tried to get an hour or two of sleep because I had a class to teach this afternoon for my job. When I arrived home that late afternoon I slept for a while and went out to check on Bevis's remains. They were moved and I had to track a little way to relocate them again. I eventually located the body and it was in a difficult and very thick bushy area. Once it was located I was careful not to touch anything. I snuck back out trying not to disturb the plants or ground in the area. I would have to be very close to get a shot if that lion was going to come back and finish this meal. I searched for a likely spot and made a little clearing so that I could shoot without deflection of the bullet. I also cleared the area I was to sit of all leaves, twigs and branches so as not to make any sounds while sitting there tonight. I also knew the direction he would come from now and had a very safe, and much brighter backdrop to hopefully see a bit better in the dark.

I ate dinner and had nothing to drink even though it was really hot and I was very thirsty. There is no option for using a "bathroom" when seated 40 feet from the goat’s body and having to be still enough to not alert the incoming lion. I waited there all night again falling in and out of sleep. I realized this was wrong on so many levels. Not only was my acute attention to every sound and movement making me crazy, but also the bugs being this close to the goats remains were much worse, I also had no protection from behind. It was a horrible paradox to hear things behind me but not want to turn and see what it was for the fear I would spook the lion away, yet It might be me he was about to pounce on for the perception I was stealing his meal.

If I were in my bed I would be lying awake, tossing and turning and worried. Sitting here in the bush with all the bugs and possible threats I could not seem to stay awake. That will be one of the strangest things to ever occur to me in my life. I was having visions about when this lion was going to show up, from what direction, and what it would look like when I saw him, would I hear him first? I was wishing for him to just come already. I have been wrapped up like a spring for way to long and I cannot remain under this much tension without exploding. It was only midnight and I know he came at 3:30 yesterday night. How in the world can I manage three and a half more hours of this stress, and at nearly point blank range?

Nothing happened over the next four hours which seemed like much longer to me. My back was killing me and I found I could not sit still no matter how much I tried. I sat quietly with my legs folded under me, and thought to myself, this is where the real discipline will make or break this. This is where I will make a mistake and lose concentration for just a moment, and allow the lion to detect my presence and sneak away. I kept thinking that while I’m sitting here in the dark I will hear the goats in the pasture go crazy when the lion sneaks into kill another one. I have been in this exact position before many times both doing hunts and for damage control for other predators. I knew that the mental weakness to give up is the main reason for almost all failures. The next 2 hours will likely decide who wins this, the lion or me. I re-focused my attention and said to myself I could give it my best shot for two more hours until daylight comes. Over the next 30 minutes I tried to be strong and sit still, the longer this took the more likely I would be the one who would break down and make the mistake. It would only take a sneeze, clearing my throat, a cough, a casual look around, shifting my weight, any little movement would catch the attention of the lions fantastic night vision, I would be busted and the lion would be gone!

I heard some birds rustling and even a few Robins were calling and I wondered why they were up so early. They usually wake us up in the morning with our windows open this time of the year, but that comes about 5AM or a bit later. It is only a little after four in the morning, and they are flying about in the near darkness of this black section of forest. Maybe it was a weasel or an owl trying to grab one from its roost? I thought for a moment that they might have been awakened or spooked out of their "roost" by the lions approach? A moment later I heard what sounded like my stomach growling from hunger but it was not my stomach, it was a very loud purring sound! All the bird movement was precisely from the lions approach. The lion was there on the remains of the goat and I never heard as much as a crunched leaf or shuffled twig on the ground. How was it possible for me to be this close to the lion in this jungle thick bush and not hear a sound? My shock was momentarily overwhelming; it was difficult to refocus my attention on what I was here for. That lion was much closer then I thought it would be. I needed to shoot now and quick, I was way to close to it and afraid to even move. I was so close I knew that lion could hear my heart beat and for sure the safety catch on my rifle going off. The first light of morning was breaking through and I could see him clearly without the riflescope. It was 4:30 AM and although not bright, it was plenty light enough to see clearly for my shot. My effort to clear the area for a proper shooting lane looked like it was going to pay off now. I checked the scope power setting by feel without taking my eyes off the lion to be certain it was at its lowest level. I did this for about the thousandth time in the last eight hours. I also slowly moved off the safety catch to the fire position and that was done by feel without blinking while keeping my eyes and attention focused on the lion. It sounded like a loud click to me but the lion only looked my direction briefly and seemed not to take much notice.

I had to wait until the lion was in a position with his head down or looking away to raise the rifle to my shoulder. I was way closer then I intended, or at least in this low level of light and thick bush it seemed that way. It was peeling off the hair and skin along the ribs to get at the meat. When it finished eating off of the exposed side of the goat it started to pull over the body. I thought it might try to drag it to another location and started to panic. The lion moved into a position that allowed me to raise the rifle and get in position to shoot, but the lion was now behind just enough brush to prevent a perfect shot. With thoughts racing through my mind now worrying about the likely hood I would not get a shot for another night I was stressed to the point of losing my mind. I had sit still for so long now in the same position my legs were numb. I think they could have been amputated and I would not have felt a thing. They were so far beyond the tingling sensation now that I really could no longer feel that I had feet. Even with the intensity of the moment I had a thought flash through my mind that I may have actually damaged the nerves or circulation in my legs by sitting this way for so long.

The lion wrestled with the body for just a short time exposing its ribs and chest but my arms were now shaking slightly from holding this rifle up and studying the situation through the rifle scope for so long. It was probably about 90 seconds or so but the 8 pound 30/06 rifle was moving a bit too much from my trembling. That was caused from either exhaustion, or anxiety or both. At about the instant I was going to have to lower the gun down and try to regain my composure the lion stepped out of the bush, the rifle fired! It was as if somebody else had pulled the trigger. This must have happened on some kind of mental hunting autopilot in my mind. It actually shocked me when the rifle fired. I normally like that feeling because it is a guarantee of a solid aim and no "flinching" at the shot. I was under way too much stress to appreciate this “perfect shot” at the moment. The lion sprung up into the air, spun around which at the time reminded me of the high dive at the Olympics when they do that twisting move as they dive into the pool. I tried to stand but my legs were worthless and dead. I could not get up very easy. I managed to struggle to my knees and saw the lion alive but unable to move, or so I hoped! It turned and laid its ears back giving me the most evil snarl you could ever have imagined. The head and neck were going limp but springing back up and then falling limp again. The life was draining from it and I was about to shoot again when it fell still for the last time.

My eyes were watering from straining my vision, and I stood in shock that all this effort and all the stress was relieved in the very instant I pulled the trigger. My feet were beginning to get some feeling back and I walked over to inspect the dead lion. It was smaller then I thought it was when I first saw it. It was also a female with no cubs; She had huge paws and a thick healthy coat. I looked it over amazed at how quickly this was over, and then realized I just woke up every one of my neighbors.

What a relief that I got this lion and did not have to explain a missed shot or worse a wounded lion! I heard my wife's voice yell to me from the pasture about 80 yards away "are you OK" I yelled back that I was and that the lion was dead. I have done this kind of hunting for 20 plus years and have killed a lot of lions and bears for people who have had predation problems. I never felt emotional or so worked up over killing one of these big cats until this one. This one was personal, it killed my livestock, and it also put me in a position of risk. It would either be an embarrassment to me to be unsuccessful at this for those people who know me and live around me, or I would earn their respect for solving the problem for everyone. Nothing ventured, nothing gained I suppose. I was lucky enough to do what I had planned to do. With my experience and education in this kind of work I managed to get lucky again. Gambling with large predators could very easily have been a horrible blow to my reputation, or even my well-being. You know the saying that one simple mistake can wipe away a hundred successful jobs! This could have turned out much different had I rushed the shot the previous night and missed, or worse had a wounded lion run off! That was a gut wrenching decision not to shoot, especially when the sun came up and I was empty handed again. It's never easy to do this all night watch over the remains of livestock or somebody’s pet, but it is the most successful and most certain way to kill the lion doing the damage. Using hounds and shooting the first lion you run up a tree does not always guarantee you will kill the correct lion. With the right hunter and dogs it is the most consistent method though.

I told the neighbors of the success although all of them heard the rifle shot early that morning and knew what happened. They are grateful to me, and I'm relieved this is over for now. It has been five years with stock in my pasture and we never had a problem until now. I hope this lion was just passing through and not moving in. The Female lion weighed 92 pounds dressed and was in just about perfect health. It did have a four-inch long porcupine quill in its left front leg just under the skin when I removed its hide. It was quite fat and very solidly built with huge feet and claws.

We have since taken on the additional responsibility of a dog. My neighbors on one side have a Mastiff and on the other side will be buying a Great Pyrenees, or two to keep watch over their little boys.
 

Nut

New member
Joined
Mar 28, 2001
Messages
6,435
Location
Ohio but my heart is always in the woods
Great story JJHack. I enjoyed it and loved the detail you go into.
cool.gif


Glad you took care of the problem
elkgrin.gif
 

csutton7

Active member
Joined
Jan 5, 2001
Messages
1,940
Location
Omaha, NE usa
JJ-I remember this story from some other site--don't remember which one--anyway it's a great story--thanks for bringing it over here---chris
 

ELKCHSR

New member
Joined
Nov 28, 2001
Messages
13,769
Location
Montana
That was very long, but well worth the read!!!!Thanks!!!
biggrin.gif

Where in rural Washington you live..
biggrin.gif
 

Forum statistics

Threads
96,296
Messages
1,455,921
Members
30,278
Latest member
HiddenOaks
Top