Gary Gorney, of Minot, N.D., was pheasant hunting in the Custer Mine area near Garrison, N.D. on Dec. 26, 2019, when he shot and killed a charging mountain lion.
When his German shorthaired pointer stopped, Gorney was expecting a pheasant to flush. Instead, a female mountain lion weighing more than 100 pounds emerged from the tall grass. At that point, Gorney's instincts kicked in to high gear, and he dropped his dad’s 100-year-old double-barrel shotgun and reached for his 9mm handgun.
“[I] went for the sidearm that I carry with me under my jacket. My instincts as a military law-enforcement officer took over," said Gorney. “There was no thought process. It was self-defense.”
By the time Gorney dropped the shotgun and drew his pistol, the cougar was a mere 10 feet away. Gorney fired, and then his dogs pursued the cat and engaged the wounded animal. Initially, he was going to pull off the dogs, but he knew he didn’t want to get close to the cougar, which eventually died at the scene. He then promptly reported the incident to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department (NDGFD).
“Some mountain lions have literally turned up anywhere in North Dakota,” said Stephanie Tucker, NDGFD game management section leader and furbearer biologist. “But that’s not typically where you expect to find them. You expect to find them in the Badlands.”
“I bowhunt the Badlands and I’ve been hunting the Custer Mine for 31 years, and I’ve never seen a cat,” said Gorney. “I felt like I was in Africa hunting. The grass perfectly matched its coat.”
The NDGFD allowed Gorney to keep the hide and some meat from the cougar, but he was required to forfeit the head, abdomen and chest cavity to authorities.