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.
Tips to Take to the Bank
by Mike Hanback
What's the best rut sign?
Look for rubs and lots of them. Scientists say a property with a good number of mature bucks can have 10 times as many rubs as a spot with few bucks that are 3.5 years and older.
Scientific studies show
and check for does where narrow fingers of timber or brush intersect, says top whitetail biologist Mickey Hellickson, after analyzing thousands of trail-cam images of Iowa and Texas bucks. Now you know where to hang some stands.
Your midday hunting
will be best from the 21st to the 24th, before the majority of hunters hit the woods on Thanksgiving weekend. There's a funky full moon this month—not until November 21. I expect bucks to rut some at midday, but not as much as they would had the moon waxed full earlier in the month. Come the 21st, bowhunters have been in the woods for a good six weeks, and guns have started booming in some states. I believe this pressure overrides the moon's effects and turns bucks secretive and nocturnal.
Guts. Glory. Ram. Three short words that accurately describe the new Ram 1500 Express and Ram 1500 Tradesman. Trucks that look every bit as dominant as last year's Ram 1500, winner of The Texas Auto Writer's Association coveted title, Truck of Texas. Talk less, say more? Damn straight.
The new Ram Tradesman Could this be the year of the work truck? If so, the Ram Tradesman is ready to clock in. Equipped with a juiced-up HEMI® engine and standard Class IV trailer hitch with 9,100-lb towing capacity, it's a tricked-out tool that's anything but standard for under $22K.**
The new Ram 1500 Express Hear the growl of the standard, proven 5.7L Hemi® V8 that offers 20 hwy mpg* and kicks out 390 hp. With 20" aluminum wheels and integrated dual exhaust, you won't find a better deal on a V8-powered sport truck anywhere else. This is the new Ram 1500 Express. Your truck. Your terms. Check it out at ramzone.com. .
*EPA est. 14 city/20 hwy Ram 4x2.
**MSRP excludes destination, tax, title, and registration fees
Like the fossilized skeletons of its ancestors displayed in the Smithsonian, a 12-foot alligator can be scary even when it's dead—something that Shooting Illustrated's Adam Heggenstaller learned in person during a gator hunt in Florida. Read More »