Thirteen miles from the nearest paved road in Utah's northeastern backcountry, high on an impossible bluff, a predator stalks its prey through snow-filtered moonlight. It has incredible night vision, padded feet, wicked claws, hearing that finds the feeding mule deer below like radar and canines that can sever the spine of an animal that vastly outweighs it. In one violent whirr, the 130-pound masterpiece of muscle and stealth pours onto a mule deer and seizes its neck like a Conibear trap. Moments later, the mountain lion drags its lifeless prey up a rock face while heavy snowflakes erase what few crimson clues remain of the deer's demise.
As sunlight crests the mountain's peak, the predator takes another half-pound of flesh from the softest parts and begins to cover the rest for later. Then suddenly its ears attune to the distant, detested, bawling sounds of its only enemy in this country as they resound up the ridge and grow nearer. With a distended belly, the cougar will have trouble running. This time it may have to fight.
Three miles away, a hunter struggles to keep within earshot of Suzi, his lead hound. He'd cut the track the evening before, grabbed a restless night's sleep in his pickup and put the hounds back on it two hours before dawn. By sunup he knows the 5-inch-wide print like it is his own, as does the relentless Walker with the talented snout who lives to fill it with fresh scent of feline. In this wet snow and with this wind, the hunter likes the odds, but he knows it's never even close to a sure thing. Any second the big tom could bound up sheer rock and over miles of mountain. What if he can't get there fast enough and his beloved hounds mix with the cat? Sweat sluices down his back as he picks each snow-laden foot up past the other and crunches them down, metronome-like, in the energy-sapping powder.
When bawls give to frenetic yaps, it's evident age-old enemies have spied each other. Spurred, the hunter double-times and trudges uphill alone, as determined as a man can trudge, directly toward the sounds of hell and its trappings. As the houndsman nears the ruckus in the pines, he thumbs the leather thong of his holster and peeks between the cylinder and gate of the Super Blackhawk. This time it's rimmed with five .44 caliber hollow-points, because this is not another practice run. This is opening day.
Hunters' Field-Judging Tips
An exceptionally large male may lay down a track as wide as 5 inches. Tracks of adult females are 3.5 inches wide or less
When walking on impressionable terrain like snow or soft dirt, on level ground a mature male's average stride should stretch more than 40 inches; anything less is likely a female. More than one set of tracks likely indicates a female with young.
Gender isn't easy to determine. Mature males' skulls are larger and more round than that of females', with ears set lower on the head. They may also have tattered ears and scarred faces. Another good indicator is genitalia. Good luck checking that out.
Adults' teeth are usually stained yellow, and the tips of their canines are blunt; their coats are a uniform, tawny color, and their bellies are white. Sub-adults' teeth are bright white, with sharp canines; those less than 3 years old usually display faint spots on their sides and back, barring on the inside of their legs, and spots or barring on their bellies
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We Hunt Bear by Adam Heggenstaller, Editor in Chief, Shooting Illustrated
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Average age black bears live to in the wild
15-80 square miles
Range of a male black bear within a loosely defined home range, depending on habitat
Speed a black bear can run for short distances
Oldest documented wild bear killed in Virginia
Largest known black bear ever killed by a hunter (North Carolina)
Researcher Laura Boester at the University of Toledo found that fox squirrels hear over a noise-frequency range roughly 2.5 times greater than humans, with more capability to detect higher-frequency sounds.