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One Big Cat

By Christina Palen

Sky was beautiful that morning of December 19, 2013 when I met with Bud and Travis, two amazing hound trainers and breeders.  We had decided to have that day to improve my hunting skills working hounds. As usual when I leave for a day of hunting, I always carry a mountain lion tag with me. I knew that one day; I would cross paths with one.

Sometimes being prepared has its rewards.....

We arrived at unit 20A outside of Lake Pleasant around 7am. Once parked my training began. First Bud and Travis unloaded their hounds and applied collars with tracking devices to each one.  They ran a check on their equipment then proceeded to load the 14 hound into their cages. After 30 minutes, we started driving on a back road searching for tracks. Bud was in the lead in his Polaris, and Travis and I followed in another. We soon agreed to split up. From that point on we communicated through Walkie-talkies, and proceed to look for sign. 

Travis and I walked through and up many of the washes looking for any indication of cat tracks. Around 8 am we finally located some tracks, the Tom tracks were clear and crisp, and freshly made. At this point, the dogs started to pick up the scent from the cages, barking and howling impatient to be released.  

Travis notified Bud of our location, and once he arrived and inspected the tracks, he confirmed that it was a large Male Mountain Lion and recently it had been in this wash.

Bud and Travis agreed to turn the hounds loose on to the tracks. Within minutes, the hounds started to run and jump over each other from side to side. The hounds stopped only to smell the ground before continuing to run down the wash trailing the tracks. Suddenly, their barking and howling started to change. Soon I could understand the mode of communication of the dogs as they work together to locate the scent. One dog is just as eager as the next one to reach the goal first.

A little further down the wash we discovered cattle carcass where we spotted more tracks.  Shortly, after locating the carcass the lead dogs were off on a run. The hounds picked up their pace as we trailed behind them. We speed up, to keep up with the dogs thinking they might have come up on the Tom. Suddenly, the dogs quit barking. Wondering about what was going on; I start to worry about them. The silence seemed to last forever.  

The dogs have stopped. We can hear them again as we come to the opening in the canyon. The adrenalin rush is on now! As we climb through a dry waterfall and creek bed, we realize the high canyon walls were blocking the sound of the lead hounds. 

Soon we can hear all the dogs again. Within minutes we can see the dogs on top of a cliff where they have this large Mountain Lion surrounded. We rush to the cliff side climbing strait up through the bushes and cacti. Adrenaline is now flowing in our veins. Rocks are breaking and sliding beneath our feet as we attempt to reach the top. 

When we finally reached the top my watch reads 11am, looking over this 70 plus feet cliff, we realized there were shear rocks on both sides of the mountain. The dogs are climbing around like mountain goats. Barking and howling. Some boulders are now masking the hounds from my location. My excitement explodes as we can see or quarry the Mountain Lion.

As I approach the edge, where Bud is waiting for me, I pulled myself up on a large boulder. The cat is a huge Tom. However, I had no idea just how large or close to the cat I was, until I pulled myself up on to that boulder. Surprised by the short distance (7ft), I draw my GLOCK 17" 9mm and shoot the large Tom. My bullet found its mark hitting him in the center of chest, and exited between his shoulder blades.

Quickly, he jumps! Over the dogs, off the cliff and away from us, falling strait down. I can hear him hitting rocks and out crops as he falls. e was falling hard and fast. I have no idea the dogs would go back down off the cliff side so fast. Bud chased them to ensure they are not injured if the Mountain Lion survived. Travis and I continue to try and pull dogs off the cliff the safest way without losing them off the rocky unstable edges. 

We then hear one of the dogs barking and howling. Travis and I look down from a lower saddle of the cliff.  I see the mountain lion tempting to cross the wash about 50 yards beneath us. I was very concerned that at this distance shooting him again with the dogs so close could endanger the dogs. However, Bud encouraged me so I aimed carefully at the shoulder and fired another round, this time he died in his tracks.

Bud reached the Tom first, and tossed him to the bottom of the wash. Then Bud carried him over to Travis and me, after we reached the bottom of the cliff. 

It is at this moment that we start examining the cat, so we can see just how old this Mountain Lion might be. This cat was old with only one K9 tooth, scars all over his body, and one eye severely damaged from possible several fights at some point during his life.

Arizona Game and Fish estimate his age between 10-14 years old. Currently, the skull is being measured with more accuracy by experts, regarding a possible record size.