Snow up to my waist, freezing temperatures, a frost bit nose, and a grin from ear to ear. That was me for three weeks straight, after being invited to come film a mountain lion hunt for my good friend Brad with our friend and outfitter Dirk Jenkins with Great Plains Outfitters. I had called Dirk a few days before Brad’s hunt was to start and begged for him to come let me ride along and get a feel for everything before I started filming. Little did I know, his yes was going to change my life. I immediately started packing everything but the kitchen sink for the trip and after filling the entire back seat of my truck up with gear, I was headed over to the other side of the mountain to Ten Sleep, Wyoming. A town that will always be ranked up in there in my book.
The first day of the hunt, I was like a newborn calf trying to figure out how to walk. I stayed behind and observed and tried to help as much as I could with things like entertaining the hunters and taking pictures of the hunt. Totally useless things but at least I felt like I was involved. I was soaking it all in, quietly observing from my corner. Mountain lion hunting has always been thought of as more of a men’s sport and I was trying to figure out just what it was that made it that way. I sat there on the back of one of the snowmobiles like a stalker, just watching every movement, every word said and anything else that seemed viable. I had been bobcat hunting with some friends but had never been with someone who was as knowledgeable as Dirk was with the whole subject. This was Dirk’s life and he put his heart and soul into it. I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher.
After a few days, it was all over. Not for me but for Dirk. I had fallen madly in love! I was now eating, sleeping and breathing mountain lion hunting. I wasn’t just quietly sitting back anymore. I was constantly making Dirk stop and look at tracks. Most of the time which were nothing. I’m sure I sounded about like my 3 year old does. “What’s that? How about that? What’s that one? Are you sure about that one? How about that? That one really looks like one! What’s that over there? Why are we going over here? I have to go to the bathroom! What about over there?” When we actually did cut a lion track and let the dogs run it, I was grabbing the GPS that was linked to the dog’s telemetry collars and I was off into my own little world. My adrenaline was kicked into high gear and I was running through the waist deep snow as much as my little legs would let me, trying to keep a watchful eye on the dogs that had now become my best friends. These dogs lay their life down on the line for you and I without a doubt would lay mine down for them. Maybe it was their big brown eyes, I don’t know, all I know is these dogs had sniffed their way straight into my heart.
Things just got better from there, I was able to spot tracks easier and make out the difference before I even stopped and really studied them. Although, one thing I learned is even as much as you think you may know about mountain lion hunting, there’s always something to learn. I’m not just talking about me. I’m definitely no mountain lion expert after only a few weeks. But there were times that even Dirk was befuddled by some of the lion’s behavior. It’s something that never gets boring, no chase is exactly the same. Each one is different as well as each cat’s behavior is entirely different. Mountain lion hunting is no easy feat. These cats are extremely elusive and do most of their hunting at night. You rarely ever see a lion out in the daytime, although I was lucky enough to get to! The weather during mountain lion hunts is unpredictable and we had it all in those few weeks. Anything from 60 degrees and sunny to -30s with 60 mph winds. I never let that stop me though, I had become obsessed. I wanted to cut a track, I wanted to tree a cat and I wanted to learn!
When the three weeks had finished, I knew this was something I was in love with. I knew it was something that I wanted to do! I wanted to keep hunting and keep learning. It wasn’t about killing a cat anymore, it was about the hunt. I realized I had completely forgotten I had my own tag in my pocket. I was having more fun going along with Dirk’s clients watching them try to get a cat. That’s when I realized it, as much as I want to get a cat, I want to guide. This has become my new goal, by next winter I should have my guide license and I will spend it running through waist deep snow, getting frost bite and trying to give other people a mountain lion hunting experience of a lifetime. I still haven’t figured out why it has always been such a man’s thing. Although, I doubt most guys cry when they have to say goodbye to the hound dogs at the end of the trip. Until next season girls, I love you!