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.