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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Back into the desert

Well it finally happened, my old blue hunting truck decided it wasn’t going to go freeway speed anymore. With that, I have not been able to get out coyote hunting for the last few weeks and barely been able to make it to work. I spent two weeks shopping around for something that I could use out in the hills and as a daily driver. I finally decided that I needed a Jeep Cherokee. After spending several hours on different websites I narrowed it down to a 1999 Cherokee for a number of reasons. Saturday I finally found one with relatively low miles and a perfectly straight body.

my new jeep

My new daily driver and coyote hauler

I bought the Jeep around noon, spent 3 hours getting it registered, and got home around 4pm. The Sun is setting pretty early these days so I had to race across town to get into position before dark.

I headed deep into Unit 22, in an area I had been four wheeling and seen lots of sign the last two years, but had never been calling. I found a spot off the main trail to park and hiked into the sunset. I crossed four or five hills before finding a place to setup. I was on a big rise, with a giant cholla behind me. I was positioned just to the west of where two washes joined in a Y. I set the caller and decoy on my side of the Y so that nothing would be able to sneak in without me seeing it. The Sun was at my back and the wind blowing up the wash in the direction I hiked in from, so I knew I was pretty clear for anything coming in anywhere except from due North.

After catching my breath from the hike up the hill, I started running the call at about 30% volume. Within about two minutes I saw a coyote coming in hard over a hilltop about 400 yards to the South-East. The coyote was headed straight to the West and turned heading North when he reached the wash bottom that the caller was setup in. at about 80 yards from the caller he slowed up, pausing a few times behind bushes where I couldn’t see. But when he came into the open in front of the caller he was moving pretty quick. I had the coyote in my sights and was just about to bark to freeze him, when he raised his head, looked at the decoy, and paused.

The coyote was right at 100 yards from me and I pulled the trigger with the crosshairs right behind his shoulder. Usually this drops them like they have been hit by lightning, but this coyote took off running like nothing happened. I have been worried that my scope might be a little off and cursed myself for not seeing where the bullet hit. I tried to pick up the coyote in my scope but he was moving too fast, then he turned and started running straight up the hill toward me. I dropped my AR-15 and grabbed the pistol at my hip, but he was too fast. Before I could clear my holster the coyote was 5 yards in front of me moving top speed.

Then the coyote collapsed, sliding through the dust, coming to rest short of 8 feet from my boots, stone dead. It’s funny, you think that you play through every possible scenario in your head, but when you get out there something totally unpredictable happens every single time. I had setup the stand with about 10 minutes before sunset, and had a coyote in my hands with 5 minutes to spare. I hiked down to pick up the caller and spent a few minutes enjoying the sunset.

sunset in the desert after coyote hunting

Enjoying the sunset at the end of a great day.

 

 

First coyote with the new jeep

This coyote almost ended up right in my lap.

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Called one in

So Wednesday I had a late start in the office and decided to go call an area where I had heard some coyotes, but never pulled the trigger on one. I headed out from home at about 4 am, set off the locator call before first light, had some responses and snuck in within about 300 yards of where I was hearing ‘yotes.After dawn I was running some quiet rodent distress calls when I heard a vehicle coming down the road behind me. I muted the call waiting for the truck to pass, It was about a half mile off but made a bunch of noise. After a few minutes of silence I was about to start running my call when I heard a FoxPro Bay Bee Cottontail about 80 yards behind me. I still don’t know how i missed them coming in but I was sitting pretty much in the open within what had to be line of sight to their caller. I thought it might be funny to tear loose with some bark howls on my caller which was about 30 yards from me. But was actually worried that I might get myself shot on accident. Instead, I sat stone still while they ran through about 10 sounds in 8 or 9 minutes. Then they got up and left. When their SUV was headed back down the dirt road, I took off my camo, gathered my things and hiked out.Last season I called in the same two quail hunters twice on the same day, about 10 miles apart, but this was the first time I have run into another predator hunter in the field.

It was a few miles from where I was parked back to the Highway, but when I got there I saw the same white SUV parked on the south side of the road, for a minute I thought it would be fun to sneak up on them and start blasting my caller, but I headed home instead.

Anyway, if any of you were hunting Cow Creek wash north of Lake Pleasant Wednesday morning, you almost got me.

Arizona sunrise

Didn’t get any coyotes, but I caught this great Arizona sunrise.

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FoxPro Hellfire vs. Wildfire review

I have used the Wildfire and Spitfire, both with a lot of success. Recently someone was asking about whether they should get the new FoxPro Hellfire or the Wildfire on one of the forums I frequent. It was late and I was tired so I typed up a little more than what was probably needed. Anyway, someone else asked the same question a few days later and I couldn’t find my review. After some digging I decided that I should post my review here in case it comes up again:

Both the Wildfire and Hellfire hold 200 sounds, and use the same remote, with Foxbang. It is about $350 for the Hellfire and $200 for the Wildfire.

The Wildfire it a little smaller and about half the weight than the Hellfire. Batteries last longer in the Wildfire and the Wildfire does not get as loud as the Hellfire. When you power up the Wildfire (and the Spitfire with the same speaker) there is some noticeable static coming from the plastic speaker.

The Wildfire has a green indicator light and the power on switch is identical to and right next to the speaker off switch. The green indicator light is hard to see in the daytime and even with it powered up there is a chance that the speaker will be flipped to ‘off’. I cant tell you how many times I would sneak out to setup my caller, get hidden, sit for a few minutes, then send a signal to a caller that wouldn’t make noise. Then had to go back out and start over again, laying down more human scent in the area I wanted to call. I eventually got in the habit of placing the caller to my ear to listen for the static before setting the caller down and walking away.

The plastic speaker also seems to have issues with certain notes at high volume. The tone becomes tinny and some coyote howls resonate weird when the volume is up.

Aside from those issues the caller is deadly. I used my Spitfire for two years and called in hundreds of coyote, and a half dozen bobcats. I still carry that caller if I am doing a lot of hiking because it is so light and easy to pack. This is the caller I was using to bring in foxes on a failed Dove Hunt.

Wild specs review.

In Red: Power on/off switch, and Speaker on/off switch. The switches have a high profile and can get flipped in transport. Leading to dead batteries in addition to the problem with setting up to call.
In Green: is the power indicator, which is difficult to see in the daytime.

I have a Hellfire as well. The Hellfire is built on a TOA PA Horn and is LOUD. The FoxPro electronics are solidly built into an extended magnet cover on the back of the speaker, held in place with three screws, the battery pack is attached to the frame. I love the on/off switch on this unit, it is an old school steel toggle that just feels solid to flip on. When I first powered mine up I thought it was broken, because there was absolutely no static coming from the speaker. But It plays the sounds perfectly, sounds are crystal clear at any volume, and it gets loud! The sounds never break up or sound tinny even on difficult howls at top volume. (Did I mention it is loud?).

The Hellfire is a little bulky, being twice the weight as the Wildfire, but maybe I am not used to carrying it yet. It also burns trough batteries faster, but using the FoxPro rechargeable pack they tend to last much longer. You will still get a full day of calling at max volume with regular batteries (8+hours).

FoxPro hellfire review picture

At the top is the steel on/off toggle, that is recessed enough that it won’t be turned on in transit. This picture is the off position. The ‘Batt’ indicator light is bright amber, so you will see it an predators won’t. It also flashes as a low battery indicator. The Wildfire does not have that feature. All of the electronics are located in this housing, the black nylon case on the frame is the battery pack.

I wanted to save up the money for one of the CS24b’s from the custom shop, but other than the custom remote I couldn’t see or hear too much difference between it or the Hellfire. I am sure at some point I will be kicking myself for not putting up the cash for that other remote, it has the dial selector on top and comes with the Foxcast programming.

In my eyes the Spitfire/Wildfire are ‘entry level’ e-callers. The Hellfire is by far the cheapest ‘Pro’ caller on the market. The great thing about them is they both hold their value. A statement about the quality of the company and the honesty of their business practices.

Either way you go you are going to call in ‘yotes for sure. Feel free to comment on this post if you have any questions.

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First Bobcat of Fall

With the foxes last weekend and the coyote a few weeks before, I am in full swing for predator season. I have been avoiding some of my coyote hot spots, hoping to save some for the FoxPro hunting contest this year. So in the mean time I have been doing a lot of scouting and a little calling.

Saturday morning I went out to Unit 22 with my buddy Don. We went into a spot on Sycamore Creek that had been closed for the past few months due to the Sunflower fire. We were a little late getting out there but we put in three 20 minute stands without anything coming in. We also didn’t hear any howls in response to our calls. Last year I regularly got a great response to group howls in that area. It could have been too late in the morning, or maybe there just weren’t any coyote around. We spent the rest of the morning driving the back roads looking for scat and tracks with little success.

Sunday night I was having a hard time sleeping, so about 4am I gave up and decided to get out and do some calling for a few hours. I headed about an hour north of Phoenix in Unit 20b. I went to a place where I had done some calling a few weeks back and had a few coyotes howling back to me.

I hiked into a wide wash with my FoxPro Hellfire and my R-15 until I found a fairly open area with a clear hillside overlooking it. I set up my Hellfire in the middle of the clearing right in the middle of a dead staghorn cactus. From here there was a clear line of site in every direction for about 40 yards. I climbed the hill and set myself up about 60 yards from the caller, I could see just about every route to the caller, but there was a palo verde tree right in between me and where the caller was setup. This is a good thing because I think I tend to watch the caller and decoy if I have a totally clear line of sight to them.

I started the call at about 25% volume and turned it up over the next two minutes to just under 50% running cottontail distress. I was facing West and the sun was coming up behind me but I was still in the shade of the hillside. About 2 minutes later I heard a series of howls off to my right, at least a pair of coyote, maybe more, but a long way off. About two minutes after those howls I decided to switch sounds to reach out to those coyote. I grabbed my remote, highlighted the sound I wanted, and looked up just in time to see a bobcat coming in to the call from the right.

It was standing tall but creeping in to the caller. I put my scope on it and was shocked by the spots on its back. Most of the bobcats I have shot were almost completely solid orange on their backs but this one was covered in tan spots. I had not planned on taking any bobcats this early I the year, but I have an idea for a project in my head and really wanted these spots.

At about 70 yards I took a broadside shot, the cat flipped about 10 feet in the air, took three steps, and collapsed. I kept the call running for another 10 minutes with a mix of sounds before going over to check out the cat. It was thinner then I had thought, but tall, by far the longest legs and body of any bobcat I have shot. The spots looked great too, I can’t wait to get this one tanned.

I skinned the cat in a big mesquite tree and was back in town by 8am. Pretty great way to start the day.

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