OPINION — Social media allows folks to reach out.
I’m new to the area and I’ve never hunted mountain lions before.
Never lived anyplace that even had mountain lions wandering about.
I thought it might be fun to get a tag and poke around up in the timber looking for tracks.
Might I have a few tips to put me right in the middle of a herd or pack or gaggle…. whatever they call a pride of lions?
One more question, the big males, since they don’t have manes like their African cousins, how do you tell them apart?
How should I determine the size of a good one?
Good questions and I might be able to give you a few pointers.
Find the deer.
The lions are hungry this year with the bitter cold and deer numbers are down a bit from the norm.
Wherever you can find a concentration of deer, you should be able to pick up a track every few days as a lion moves through looking for a meal.
It’s not like the old days when the wildlife sanctuary kept a few intact females within their high fences.
You just had to set up on the National Forest just above and wait for the visiting toms that would come into check to see if one of the females was in season.
Tourist used to stop and tell the sanctuary folks that one of their big cats had gotten out when one of the wild ones would casually cross the road in front of their cars.
Each year, several lions would be taken very close to town.
By the way, if you should happen upon signs of a lion gathering, the rules require you to pass them by.
Female lions will keep their cubs with them until they are quite large.
It isn’t unusual to cut the sign of several full-sized tracks traveling together.
Normally it is a mature female with her nearly full- sized cubs.
Occasionally you will cut the tracks of several toms following behind a female with smaller cubs.
Either she has come back into heat and drawn their attention, or they are attempting to kill her cubs to bring her back into season, preferring cubs of their own.
Either way, the rules still require you let such gathering be and search out the tracks of a single lion before you take up the chase.
Tracking lions is a hoot.
You learn more following the paw prints of a lion on the hunt than you could ever pick up from reading books.
Try to follow the tracks from a distance and watch how they loop back to the canyon rims and peek down below using branches for cover or hiding behind downed trees.
Only human hunters cloth themselves in neon and campout in the open.
Wait for your lion to descend into a deer bedding area.
Loop around on the high ground to confirm that they haven’t passed on through and might still be down in the draw or canyon. Often, they will have hidden caves and ledges that they like to sun in or use to get in out of the weather.
After ensuring that they are in the area, go back to the mouth of the draw and get below their tracks.
A lion will hold tight if they believe they have the upper hand and that they can look down on you.
Take your time.
Lions will go through the thickest cover, and you will need to follow.
Turn on your sixth sense and wait for the hairs to start standing up on the back of your neck.
Those stiff hairs will let you know that you are within springing distance and a cat is just above or behind you.
Slowly remove your rifle and ensure that your scope is free of snow after crawling through all of the scrub timber.
Slowly scan your surroundings paying especial attention to those places that are darkened by shadows or elevated.
Your lion could be laying on the thick limb of an old pine, peaking out from a cave, or hiding crouched, with just their eyes and ears exposed waiting for you to turn away before they make a move.
Most of the time that’s all you will see, just their eyes and the tops of their ears with the occasional flickering black tip of their wrist-thick tails pulsing behind them.
Line up your sights and try to get an estimation of their size by the distance between their ears.
You should be able to fit your fist in between the ears of a big-headed male.
But it can be hard to get them to hold still long enough…. Good luck, the season is only ten days old and there have already been nearly that many cats taken.
The Speirs family has owned and operated Crow Creek Wildlife Management Service since 1996.
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