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"My First Cougar Hunt"
Written by Duke Aiken

My First Cougar Hunt
I went to bed Sunday night with anticipation of going on a cougar hunt. The weatherman was predicting snow in the mountains of Southern Utah tonight. I woke the next morning to my mother's voice; she was standing next to my bed. It had snowed and she was wondering if it was my easy day at school and I said, "Yes." I could here dad in the other room talking to Jeff Allen from Kanab.

Jeff and his wife Jesse had taken us out a couple of other times, but we hadn't found what we were looking for. I heard dad say "Sounds good, we will see you shortly." In a few minutes, my dad walked past my door and said "Duke get up, dress warm, and get your gun we are going hunting."

We meet Jeff and Jesse with the dogs about 7:30 am near the area we had hunted before, but we discovered there was only a skiff of snow so we headed back towards town where there was more snow. Our elevation was between 7500 and 8500 feet. It had snowed about 2 inches the night before atop 3 or 4 inches of old snow. The wind was blowing hard and visibility was tough due to the thick fog and blowing snow. We rode around in Jeff's outfit trying to cut a track.

About 10:00, we finally cut a good track and Jeff said, "This is the lion we want." Jesse let five of her best dogs out, leaving ten still in the box. Immediately, the chase was on. Even though the track was closed in from the blowing snow, the dogs lost no time in picking up the scent.

We drove up the road a ways, parallel to where we thought the dogs had gone. We stopped to listen about a mile or so from where we first let the dogs out. The dogs were hot on the track and after a few minutes Jeff thought they may have him treed. We decided to head out on foot into the fog and blowing snow. The four of us headed out down a steep ridge in the direction of the dogs. We stopped after a few hundred yards and could no longer hear the dogs. We kept going until we cut the tracks of the hounds. We found the tracks clear across the ridge. We followed them into a north slope thick with fur and spruce. Not long after that, the dog tracks started going in circles and it was impossible to tell which way the tracks were actually going.

Jeff suggested that we make a circle away from the tracks to see which way the dogs had gone. Because of the zero visibility, we voted to remain together. We had a 50/50 chance, so we made a large circle to the right. Well guess what, we went the wrong way. We ended up further down a steep ridge of which my dad slid on his behind most of the way. To make it worse, at the bottom was a bed of black lava boulders covered with new snow. It was pretty slow going and we made it back to the truck with only a few skinned knees and shines. Unfortunately we didn't cut a track.

At the truck we had a few snacks, mostly sugar stuff, and then drove the truck towards the site where we had last seen the dog tracks. There were several other roads along the way, so we went back to looking for fresh, new tracks.

It had been about 5 hours since we had heard the dogs and Jeff was sure they had a lion treed or they would have come back. After hitting several roads, we finally cut their tracks. Now we knew which direction they were going.

They were headed for the rim. We turned around and headed for the rim road. We didn't cut their tracks, but Jeff assured us that they had crossed the flat next to the rim and the tracks had blown in. Jeff went over to the rim to see if he could hear the dogs. He wasn't gone long when he came on the radio, "Duke, bring your gun, the dogs have him treed!" With a grin on my face I said, "Ten four." Jesse let the other dogs out and we headed towards Jeff.

When we hit the rim, we didn't know if Jeff was to the left or the right, so we radioed him. He let out a war hoop and we heard him load and clear. We reached Jeff quickly and to our surprise we saw a couple of the dogs just off the ledge Jeff was standing on. Pretty soon here came another. "Jeff where is the cat," my dad ask. Jeff turned and replied, "I don't know. It sounded like they were right here but, I don't know. Help me get these dogs up the ledge will you." So my dad worked his way off the ledge and started handing dogs to Jeff when all of a sudden, we heard a big crash. My dad looked up with surprise and asked, "What the heck was that." Jeff excitedly replied, "Our Cat!"

The next thing I knew, Jeff was handing dogs back to my dad off the ledge and the chase was on again. Those dogs had that lion treed most of the day and when we showed up they thought it was time to go home. But we weren't done yet. The dogs we threw down chased the lion back up the cliff right into the rest of the dogs. They treed that lion so fast he didn't know what to do. Jesse walked up in front of us and said, "Don't talk when we get close to the lion, as sometimes it will scare the lion and they will jump out of the tree."

When were getting real close to the dogs and they were going crazy. As Jesse moved into a position where she could see the lion, she turned around and her eyes were as big as silver dollars. She says, "It is a big Tom!" So I quickly put a bullet in the barrel, but Jeff grabbed the gun out of my hands unloaded it. Then he looked at me and whispered, "We better check the barrel for obstruction, all the walking and falling we had done." Jeff blew down the barrel and a bunch of ice and snow came out of the chamber.

Thinking I was ready to shoot now I put the gun to my shoulder, but the scope was fogged up. I wiped my scope clear, put the cross hairs right behind his shoulder and let him have it. The bullet hit him right through the lungs and he jumped out of the tree and ran about thirty yards and fell over. We had a few hand shakes, high fives, and yipeees, then went to work.

We had to drag him about a mile to where the truck was, we still had dogs off the ledge and it was getting dark fast. What a great day it was. I would like to thank Jeff and Jesse Allen and their great dogs for the wonderful experience my dad and I had.