Half day fox hunt

I had a chance to get out this Thursday and took a good friend with me. He is an Arizona native and has hunted every corner of the globe, but never harvested a gray fox. I told him that there was very good chance that I could put him on a pair of them if he could spend the day with me. We both had things to do early that morning so we got out there around noon to hunt through the afternoon. I took him out to an area where I have called in a half dozen foxes during the scouting season, but never run them off or taken a shot.

The first stand was a blank, but we didn’t really have a good wind and the sun was high. The second stand was a great setup overlooking a big riverbed and we called in a coyote at about 10 minutes. But the coyote never came closer than about 200 yards and there was no way for me to reach out there with my shotgun.

The next few stands were blank as well, but we were in some amazing country and a light rain blew in cooling everything down about 20 degrees. We then hiked about a mile through a small canyon that was absolutely covered with tracks. Mule deer, coues deer, javelina, fox, bobcat, coyote, and some very fresh mountain lion footprints. All these tracks right on top of each other covering every inch of the wash. Our blood was pumping and our voices were low as we positioned ourselves on a steep hillside overlooking the dry wash running through the bottom of this canyon. We were hunting foxes but we both had mountain lion on the brain.

With the natural rock piles, low cover, and steep hills I was really expecting to see a fox here. But at about 10 minutes into this stand a coyote appeared out of nowhere directly behind the caller and decoy. For the second time that day I couldn’t reach with my shotgun and my buddy was not interested in shooting a coyote. The coyote stepped downwind of the decoy and did not like the smell at all. He quickly headed off up another big hillside to our right. I switched sounds to a coyote distress yelp and the coyote froze looking back at the decoy. I told my friend to take the shot but when I looked to my friend he was still scanning the bottom of the wash. The sun was setting out in front of us and he had lost sight of the coyote in the shadows.

My partner got a look at where I was pointing but still had no interest in shooting a coyote, so he handed me his AR and told me to take the shot myself. By the time I got seated the coyote was at the top of the hill looking back over the valley for a final glance before heading out. I placed the cross hairs over his chest and pulled the trigger, just as the ‘yote trotted off. The shot scattered the rocks on the hill right where the coyote had been standing.

We both climbed over to the top of the hill where the coyote had disappeared just to be sure, and realized that in a way it was a good thing I had missed. I had not brought all of my gear with me and I would have needed to carry the coyote all the way back to my truck, which was at least a mile and a half away. The coyote was pretty good sized and 40 pounds of dead weight would not have been fun. We stayed up there on that hill and watched the sunset, it was pretty dramatic with all the storm clouds in the sky and everything in the desert had come alive from the rain. I took some pictures with my phone couldn’t quite get one to do it justice. I love this desert more every time I go out, even more when spending time with an old friend that I had not seen in ages.

It was a day I won’t soon forget. We never did see a fox but sometimes hunting success isn’t measured by the fur in the back of your truck.

The sun just starting to set through the storm clouds from high on the hillside on the last stand of the day.

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Arizona mountain lion

Things have been busy at work lately and I have not been getting out to hunt at all. Today I had planned on leaving work early and heading out into the desert to chase some coyotes. I work the night shift so early for me is 5 am. My wife had a rough day so I decided to stop by the house on the way out of town, this ended with me falling asleep instead of going out.

When I woke up around 10am I had a text message from my boss so I decided to hit the office really quick and get out in the early afternoon. Really quick turned into 5 hours and I didn’t get my tires back on the road until about 4pm. Years ago I had some gold claims up north and with my new Jeep I could actually get back to it. I had seen and heard coyotes there in the past but it was about an hour away which would leave me with about 30 minutes before sunset to hunt. I really needed some time out in the desert and figured 30 minutes and an Arizona sunset would be worth the 2 hour round trip.

When I got out there, I found a good place to hide the Jeep, hiked a few hundred yards down a hill, and found a great spot on top of a 20 foot cliff that gave me about a 270 degree view of the bend of a dry riverbed. There was some heavy cover out between 150 and 300 yards in front of me. I hiked down into the riverbed and setup my FoxPro Hellfire about 60 yards from where I would be sitting.

When got back into position on top of the cliff it was 5:10 pm, I had 26 minutes to hunt before sunset. I started running the call with some rabbit distress and about 8 minutes in was scanning the treeline through my scope when I thought I heard something behind me. I took a quick glance over my shoulder and didn’t see anything. I figured the sound was just the strap of my rifle hitting some tall grass where I was sitting.

About that time I switched up the sound on the caller and heard a low growl behind me. I looked over my shoulder again and still didn’t see anything. This time I thought the sound might have been a small airplane rolling. A lot of pilots come out this way, do barrel rolls and buzz a nearby lake, I was hoping that they keep their distance. I thought I heard the growl a few more times, but something just seemed a little off. I looked over my shoulder at least a dozen times and never saw anything.

At 5:30 I had been on the stand for 20 minutes and decided to call it a day. I took my shotgun out of my lap and set my rifle down next to it. I pulled out my cell phone to take a picture of the area I had been calling, the sky was starting to change and the reds and yellows reflecting of the rocks looked great. I stood up to stretch my legs, stretched my arms over my head and twisted to the right to stretch my spine.

That is when I saw it, the lion was about 40 yards behind me, staring right at me, crouched low, in that position cats get right before an attack.

I dropped my cellphone, cracking the screen, and bent over to grab my shotgun as fast as I had ever moved in my life.

As soon as I moved so did the cat. It covered 100 feet in about a second.

I kicked off my safety as I was swinging the barrel at the cat and aimed for the hollow in front of his shoulder. It was weird, there was a shadow there about the size of a quail, and in that instant I was thinking in my head, “just hit that bird”.

I pulled the trigger right as his front paws were hitting the ground about 20 feet from me and he just collapsed like a marionette with cut strings. As fast as it happened I think I had the next round loaded in my 870 before he fully hit the ground and I was already taking a step back.

I didn’t need the step or the next round. But I held the gun pointed at the big tom for at least a minute before I moved toward it. I stared at it in shock and for a long time couldn’t hear anything but my heartbeat pounding. At some point over the next few minutes I realized that my caller was still running and went to collect it.

I took the caller and my guns up to the Jeep and looked for a way to get closer to where the big cat was laying. I managed to get the Jeep a few hundred feet closer but still had a major hill to haul it up. I was pretty spent by the time I got the cat to the back of my Jeep. If anyone had been watching me I am sure they would have been laughing at that point. Any pro-hunter points I scored with that great shot on a charging animal, were totally canceled out by my inability to get the cat into my Jeep. I did everything wrong for about 10 minutes before I was flat out exhausted and realized that I just needed to either work on my deadlifts in the gym for a month and come back, or bear hug it and leap into the back of the Jeep with it.

After I got the cougar situated in the Jeep I realized that I hadn’t taken a single picture of it, and that my phone was still on the ground back down the hill. It was nearly dark by the time I found my phone and the cat was laying on a tarp which isn’t the best background for a picture. I briefly thought about unloading the cat and trying to get a few pictures but I had a long way back to town, and even longer to my buddy’s place where I have a game freezer.

When I got to my friends place I didn’t tell him what I had, just that I needed a hand outside. The look on his face when I popped the back door of the Jeep was absolutely priceless.

The only way I can really sum it all up, terrifying and awesome.

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