By Sam Cacia, Sewell, N.J.
Six years ago I decided it was time to hunt something other than deer. February rolled around and I made my yearly trip to the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pa. As I walked the room with all of the outfitters I settled in on a mountain lion hunt in Montana. I was told that the draw deadline was in June. When June rolled around I submitted for the draw, and in September I was notified that I wasn’t one of the lucky ones. I repeated this process for the next four draw cycles before I received that wonderful letter telling me that my time had come.
I called my outfitter and made all of the arrangements. One month before my trip I got a phone call from my best friend’s son: “Hey, I heard you were going to Montana for mountain lion,” he said. “I’d like to shoot one too. Can I come?” I said he could, but then explained that I waited five years to get this permit; it’s not like deer hunting in Pennsylvania. Disappointed, he still wanted to tag along, and we left Philadelphia for Montana on New Year’s Day.
At 2 a.m. on day one, we loaded up the truck and headed out. The outfitter, Adam’s, strategy was to look all night for tracks in the snow, and if we found them, hang out there until the sun came up. This allows you to cover more ground and provides plenty of time to get to the cat before sundown. By 1 p.m. we had still not seen a single track. I was sure that day one would end with no results. As you know in hunting, things can change pretty quickly. At 1:30 p.m. we found a really nice track and the adrenaline began to flow.
Adam let the dogs out and it didn’t take long for them to do their job. He said to me that today was my lucky day. I asked why he thought that; he said my cat was only 100 yards from our location. It doesn’t get much easier than that. The part he left out was that it was across a creek, through knee-high snow and straight up the mountain 700 feet! By the time we started our walk it was 2:30 p.m.
The mountain was so steep that I could stand up straight and almost touch the mountainside. I didn’t know how far we needed to go at the time, and I was concerned about losing daylight. Adam got to the base of the tree way before I did, and when I arrived, he said he was really sorry: “The track in the snow was so deep and so big that I was sure it was a male,” he said, “but it was not.” It was my call to take this cat or continue the hunt the next day. I stood there still trying to catch my breath with the snow falling steadily, thinking about the increasingly worse weather forecast for the rest of the week. As I pointed to the treetop, I said to Adam, “That’s my cat.”
He asked if I was sure, and suggested we find another one the following day. With a smile on my face, I said: “You told me that this was as easy as it gets, and I nearly died trying to get up this mountain.” I don’t know what was worse, the incline or the two feet of snow I pushed through. Once again I said, “Adam, that’s my cat.” It took one shot from my left-handed Browning .270 to bring the cat to the ground.
When we got back to the lodge we weighed the cat at 100 pounds. Adam told me that as females go, that was about as big as they get. It didn’t really matter to me how big it was. I made a lot of great memories with some great people. I think I made the right decision; as it turned out, the weather was really horrible the rest of the week.
I’m looking forward to the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pa., in 2023. My outfitter will have my cat on display and I will take it home from there. Until then my pictures will fill the void. Time to pick a new adventure. I just hope I don’t have to wait five years to make it.
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