Op-Ed: Trophy Cougar Hunting, Never Better

Your chances of adding a trophy-sized mountain lion to your den have never been better, so don’t procrastinate.

Op-Ed: Trophy Cougar Hunting, Never Better

Cougar, mountain lion, catamount, puma, panther, painter, call them what you will, but the big cats are back and then some. The cougar population has exploded throughout most of their historical range and is expanding into new habitat, much to the detriment of big game animals. Mule deer, blacktail and whitetail deer, big horn sheep and elk are showing the predation impact of the burgeoning mountain lion population that, combined with mismanagement of black bear and wolves in many once primo big game producing areas, has created a potentially unrecoverable “ predator pit.” 

The resurgence in the mountain lion population is being felt in most of the western states and human-cougar encounters are becoming more and more common as the big cat population grows and expands along with more people building homes that encroach on cougar habitat and the overly protected cats becoming more brazen and aggressive. There have been numerous attacks on people in the past few years and cougar predation on livestock and pets is becoming commonplace in many rural and even urban areas of the western states. 

A study on cougar in California, where hunting them has been banned entirely for 40 years, showed the West Coast cats were killing a deer every 1.9 days and in many areas had virtually decimated the blacktail deer populations. The California bighorn sheep had to be declared an endangered species to give the state a legal right to control the overabundant cat population that brought a healthy bighorn herd to the brink of extinction within a relatively short period of time. 

We may be just seeing the tip of the iceberg but fortunately several game and fish departments are seeing the disaster in the making and are taking steps to control the mountain lion populations with more liberal kill limits and hunting opportunity at less cost.  

If you’ve ever dreamed of going on a cougar hunt, the time has never been better and you can rest assured that by removing a mature cougar from the population you’ll be doing your part to help manage big game in your chosen hunting area.    

Tracking and stalking a cougar as it courses the mountains and foothills on its hunting forays can be the toughest challenge a hunter ever undertakes. A mature cat can cover twenty miles in a 24 hour period, over and through the roughest terrain imaginable. You don’t have to be crazy to attempt such a hunt but it probably wouldn’t be detrimental if you were!  

The most successful method of hunting cougar is by utilizing a pack of trained hounds to trail and tree or bay the mountain lion. For most hunters, that means hiring a professional guide who specializes in such hunts. A quality mountain lion hunt today can cost from $1,500 to $6,000 for a fully guided and outfitted hunt. I’ve had several of my friends bring their coonhounds and bobcat hounds from the Midwest to Colorado to chase lions and they’ve taken several cats and also had some exciting and long distance chases with their dogs, however, cougar chasing can definitely be a do-it-yourself venture if you or a compadre have hounds and lots of initiative.  

Be aware that western states where wolves have been reintroduced have become a nightmare for hound hunters and many have had their best dogs killed by wolves that homed in on baying or treed hounds. Most I have talked with will ONLY run a smoking hot cat track where the chances of a short, one-day chase are high to reduce the chances of a wolf/hound encounter.   

Calling cougar with a predator call is also a workable method for taking a cougar. Calling will work in most areas of cougar country and you don’t need snow to be successful. However, in wolf inhabited areas of the West, the likelihood of a big cat responding to a predator call is unlikely. Each year a number of western predator callers working fox, coyotes or bobcats get surprised by the sudden appearance of a curious cougar. My choices for a mountain lion calling venture would be Arizona, West Texas or New Mexico.  

The main drawback to calling cougar is their relatively thin population density and a big cat’s penchant for traveling great distances through rugged and remote reaches of the country.  Getting within hearing range of a cougar is the key to successfully calling them so an intimate knowledge of the country you are hunting and haunts and habits of the local cougar population is of the utmost importance. A persevering hunter could combine tracking a cougar on fresh snow with calling. At least you’d know there was a cat somewhere ahead of you that might hear your calling.     

I’ve talked with several successful cougar callers and they recommend calling for a least an hour with a raspy loud call that will reach out — a call that imitates a big game critter in distress. There’s a narrow line in choosing a calling location where visibility is adequate that allows spotting an approaching cat before he sneaks in on you, locates you and disappears without your knowledge of having been in a close encounter, and country that’s broken enough for a cat to feel comfortable approaching a critter already in the clutches of another predator.   

Texas classifies cougar as varmints with only a general license required and no season or limit while all other states classify them as big game animals with various restrictions. Several states have recently started allowing more than one mountain lion per hunter to help control the populations. The top two states for consistently producing the largest and most cougars are Idaho and Colorado followed closely by Montana, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico.  

Your chances of adding a trophy-sized mountain lion to your den have never been better, so don’t procrastinate.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.