I don’t know whether it’s the economy or just a general lack of interest in things like crime scene Christmas trees and homemade fireworks, but fish without faces has marked a recent flagging trend in the comments department. so I'm forced to respond with a little sensationalism.
over the last several years I’ve met a few guys in town who, um, hunt mountain lions. I guess this can mean a lot of different things. for example if you want to shoot a cougar and all that you can put into a lottery, maybe get a tag, bring your hounds, bring your guns and so on. more people around here are into this than you might guess. a couple of my neighbors have their own dogs and, with or without tags and guns, will go out pretty regularly in the winter to track down and tree cougars and bobcats. there’s also a guy that goes by “Mad Dog” (seriously) who has a flooring store at the north end of town and a reputation of hassling cougars, pulling their tails and stuff.
anyway, so of course I’ve been really curious about all this for a while. I ended up asking a guy named Gary (not Mad Dog) if I could tag along sometime. yesterday morning Gary called to let me know they’d found some tracks in the new snow and I got out there (Pigeon Hollow) as soon as I could. after waiting around a little by the trucks and hounds for some logistics to get sorted, I climbed onto Gary’s snowmobile and rode “bitch” up to where we could begin tracking on foot.
how many hound dogs will fit into a 50 gallon plastic barrel? three, it turns out. that’s Mt. Nebo on the far horizon.
on the left: a cougar track and snow fleas. on the right: some bobcat tracks that Gary and Mark (Gary’s brother) also pointed out to me along the way. the cerberus on the end of Mark's leash are Bonnie and Diego. I should also say that the two photos below were taken on the way back. when the dogs are tracking they're way off the leash and miles ahead of any of us.
Gary and Mark are both turkey farmers, Sanpete natives and really nice guys. they talked with me about growing up tracking mountain lions, their observations on the behavior of cats and dogs, and how they both currently have sons who are on the wrestling team at the local high school. they also showed me the general area where the big herb farm was discovered this past fall.
ok, here's the juniper the dogs led us to.
and here's Mark climbing the tree. he has our attention.
this time around Gary and Mark weren't packing. after we got a good look and I shot some ok photos, the dogs were called off and the lion ran away. once we made it back to the snowmobiles I rode down again behind Gary, holding Diego over the saddle on my lap.
"I startled a mountain lion.
It turned from the road and was gone...
If anyone ever kills it,
he'll have taken more wild beauty than he can ever make.
He'll owe the universe a cougar,
and I hope in my too tame guts he has to pay."
"He yave not of the text a pulled hen,
that saith that hunters ben not holy men"