Mountain Lion Mojo
I know that most people have never seen a mountain lion except at the zoo. Until I moved to Colorado many years ago, I was in the majority. Over the years, I have put in several thousand miles on foot between hiking, backpacking and hunting, and have managed to see three mountain lion up until this particular archery hunt. The most rewarding experience prior to that was the time my son and I were bow hunting and saw a pair of mountain lions with a fresh mule deer kill. They were trying to drag it up a steep slide area to what we assumed was their den. It was very comical to watch their interaction, and unfortunately, I left my camcorder in the jeep.
I have also watched many hunting shows that make suttle warnings to archery hunters while elk calling. Even though we are supposedly on top of the food chain, there are other hungry critters looking for elk as well, such as mountain lion and black bear. Although many have never seen a human up close, they definitely recognize the sound of a meal, which is not necessarily a good thing if you're the one making the sound. For that very reason, I sometimes carry my .357 just as a precaution but more for comfort. But, just like my last mountain lion encounter, my camcorder and pistol were elsewhere. Today would forever change my thinking in regards to both of those.
My hunt this afternoon was on a steep hillside where I had taken two elk in prior years, one with a rifle and the other with a bow. The walk was short and I was still kinda tired from the morning hunt, thus my main reason for going here. I usually approach this area from a different - and longer - direction because elk will usually hang out on the very ridge I was hunting on. At the upper edge of my overlook was a humongous pine tree that stood out like a sentinel guarding this small grassy domain with oakbrush and service berry underlings. My early arrival would allow me to slip above the grazing area without detection and the cooling of the day would ensure that any breeze would ascend beyond my area of concern.
As with most things, I have been meaning to place a tree stand in this strategically located pine tree, but that is still on my long to-do list. Instead, I sat under its limbs, which gracefully spread out like an eagle's wings protecting her young. The slope provided the perfect decline for shooting clearance as the limbs extended outward and formed a natural canopy. And so, I began cow calling.
Now I'm not that particularly good at cow calling and worse at bugling. I think I get such a good response from animals not necessarily from the eloquence of my delivery but rather from the elk's pure curiosity to get a good look at what freak of nature can make such a sickly sound. For me, it works extremely well. I called in a herd bull once after one of my first bugling attempts, which was preceded by hitting all of my cow calls for quite some time - he just wouldn't budge. Then I took a bold step similar to when I asked my wife out on our first date ... much to my surprise it worked. This bull came charging in like a lion after a warthog with an attitude. I'm sure this herd bull thought I was a bull on his last leg and my entourage of cows would be easy pickings. But, that is another story.
Now I'm not sure if there was something similar in my cow calling that attracted a local mountain lion, or I could have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time making the wrong sound. Regardless, after about an hour of on and off calling, I was pretty sure that any elk within close proximity would have responded and come looking to find out what all the fuss was about. In this particular area, there are multiple mini canyons in which the elk travel back and forth depending upon hunting pressure. So, even though one may have not been close upon my arrival, it would have been very possible to attract any that were travelling through. As it turned out, the only traveller was a potential man eater.
Nestled up under my piney protector, I was oblivious to what was encroaching upon my location. A periodic squirrel squawking at who-knows-what and pesky camp robbers certainly didn't detract from the intoxication of the mountainous beauty that would put the most avid hunter into a trance. From my recollection, I was under its spell until something caught my eye downhill to my right...seven paces away...with dinner bells in his eyes.
Of the initial reactions that one may have from such an encounter, the most obvious - peeing in my pants or soiling my drawers - weren't even close. Instead I basically had two thoughts: "There went the neighborhood" and "Oh crap, now what do I do!" My previous wild animal encounters probably saved my bacon by instinctively preventing me from exiting the premises. Instead, I calmly spoke to the mountain lion "You better get out of here." In looking back, that was a really stupid thing to say. But hey, under the freakin circumstances, who gives a flip! Anyway, if that mountain lion could talk, I'm sure he would have said something like, "And what if I don't meathead; whacha goin to do about it?"
Next, after my eloquent short and persuasive speech, I reached over and grabbed my bow and began to take one of the longest steps in my life. In a reversal of roles, the limbs that once were a protective canopy became a hindrance to my survival. I kinda moved along with my right knee grounded and then took one very long step with my left leg...right toward the mountain lion. Anything else, in my mind, may have provoked his instinct to pounce, pummel, and partake. During this slow motion "Matrix" move that seemed to take an eternity, I managed to morph from a sitting position to a standing position with a full draw.
My mountain lion would not be outdone...he also took one step...toward me. Now we were only five paces from each other in a staredown that would make Hollywood envious. I'm motionless; he's motionless. In looking through my peep, I had my pin set right between his eyes, which in hindsight would have been too high and my index finger had a slight pulling pressure on the release's trigger. My poise and determination were the qualities of the world's greatest poker player, but I was looking down the barrel of a gun. Now I don't know if mountain lions think before instinct kicks in, but I was sure that whatever was going on in his head was about to reach its conclusion.
I figured that in another second or two, the bow's release would disengage and my 65 pound draw bow would thrust the one-piece steel 100 grain broadhead right through his skull. Anything less would render me as mountain lion poop all over this glorious mountainside. Luckily and surprising to me, in a nano-second he bolted to the side and disappeared down the mountain. For an instant, I thought that my mojo may have merit and pondered writing a book about it-touring the country-signing autographs. Reality finally set in that the mountain lion just wanted something a little more appetizing...I didn't qualify. No matter; I survived the ordeal and most importantly I still had clean drawers!