Hunting Mountain Lion with a Dan Wesson 1911

Hunting for television can be tricky. It is not only about what you see, but what the camera can see and capture as well…. Unlike conditions in the studio, you have no control of the weather or the animals.

I landed in Grand Junction, CO in mid February full of expectations. This was my third attempt to get a mountain lion in the past 5 years. The snow was on the ground, sun was shining and Mike Schoby, host of Petersen’s Hunting TV and his crew were waiting for me. We drove to a little town on I-70 called Rifle, got our tags over the counter and headed off to the lodge. We only had 5 hunting days and I didn’t want to loose any time, so as soon as we unpacked I needed to check my gun. Call me superstitious, but I will not go out without checking the zero on my gun. This trip was a little different for me. For the first time, I have packed only a handgun for a big game hunt, a Dan Wesson semi-auto .45 caliber pistol. Because we are in the mountains, chances are we will be out the whole day looking for tracks. With the help of dogs, the cat will be treed and I should have a shot no more than 20 yards so hauling a rifle is not necessary. (yeah, that’s what they said about my leopard hunt and I ended up tearing my pants and my vest and got few scratches on my face crawling in thorn bushes trying to get close to a cat that was NOT in a tree, but that is another story.)

Our outfitter Andy Julius (juliusag@msn.com) headed out just after midnight to look for tracks. I couldn’t believe the bright moon and the whiteness of the snow that night.

The morning was a little cloudy and cold. 26 degrees. Thank God for foot warmers. We received a message on the radio that they found two day old tracks. I thought we would need super dogs to follow it. I carried my gun in a harness holster to keep it warm and handy. I took water, snacks, a knife, a Leupold rangefinder, and some spare ammo, as well as an extra hat and gloves in my backback. I was advised to travel light. Snow gators were a must as with every step that I took to follow the old track, I was in knee deep in snow. The treadmill can not prepare your body for walking in the snow. I fell back behind the guys a few times, thank god the tracks were going down the hill. We walked for another couple of hours and it became clear that the dogs lost interest in the track. The sun came up and I felt like I was on the top of the world. Perfect blue sky, perfect white snow, the pleasant smell of the pines, and my batteries were recharged. Down below us I could see three snowmobiles each going in a different direction. At almost three pm we got a message that they found a fresh male track about 5 miles from us. We couldn’t get there on foot, so we ran/slid down the steep hill to get to the snowmobiles that would get us closer to the new track. The sun goes down around 6 in February, so we only had a couple of hours of good light left. We always have to think about the camera, the objective here is to make a TV show out of my hunt.

The snowmobiles took us to the start of the fresh track. We could hear the dogs. I love their song and I love to watch the dogs work.

The baying got farther and farther away. It is amazing how fast the hounds are moving and we follow their sound on the snowmobiles. We reached a canyon the machines couldn’t handle, and were on foot again. I finally adjusted to the thinner air in the Rockies, so this time I kept the pace with the guys. The dogs were above us and I had another hill to climb but this time it was the southern slope with no snow, just rocks. It reminded me of sheep country, rocks and slides. I was glad that both of my hands were free to grab any bush that would help me to get up there. The shadows were getting longer and the evening light was perfect for the camera. Just then, there was the cat. He was big and my heart was beating fast. At that time all my practice with a handgun on the shooting range came in handy. Safety first, check the position of the other people and the dogs, check the position of the camera, make sure that he is rolling but I had to take another minute to get my breathing under control. I guess I wasn’t fully adjusted to the altitude yet.

The cat was actually in the tree. I saw his shoulder between the branches no more than 17 yards away. My shot hit the branch below him. I adjusted my hold point and this time the cat goes down. The state of Colorado requires that the centerfire ammo used for cougar hunting must produce energy of 400 foot pounds. I used hollowpoints that meet the requirements and the cougar was dead before he hit the ground. What a magnificent animal. It was 5:15 pm. By the time we were done with pictures, congratulations and hugging the dogs, the light was gone. We made it back to the snowmobiles in the dark. I was happy. I didn’t even feel the freezing wind in my face on the way back. The moon was huge, and I replayed the whole adventure in my head.

For me it is not only about pulling the trigger, it is about the pursuit, it is about being outdoors and sharing the adventure with good people. I felt very privileged that night and I was extremely happy with the performance of my Dan Wesson.

-Alice