Saturday, July 19, 2008

Recalling a Mountain Lion Capture a Half Century Ago:

I don’t remember the date, exactly, but it was about the time that Major Charlie Smith dropped the first H-bomb.
My chain smoking hunting buddy, “Emphysema” had a bad crick in his neck and he tried all week to beg off our hunting trip at the Drag A Ranch, which is located northwest of Datil, New Mexico. I couldn’t let a chance to go hunting go to waste, so I talked him into going on an easy hunt.
We arrived at the Drag A just before dark driving through two feet of fallen snow. My camper was one of those old, heavy types that fit in the bed of the truck with a little kitchen and drop down beds. Its heating system worked well and we set up a snug, warm camp for the night.
The next morning we headed north horseback into some rough country. About a mile from where we camped I saw dents in the snow that appeared to be a days old lion track, but the hounds weren’t interested, so we rode on. After a mile or so riding over the snow covered rocks and through the wet trees, my hunting buddy began to complain that the crick was really beginning to hurt, so we turned around and headed back for camp.
We started past the spot where I had spotted the old lion sign and I stopped long enough to show it to the hounds again. Immediately one of my dogs picked up the scent and the others began working the old track. Within a mile or two of this spot the hounds jumped a large female and soon treed her.
Remember, this was long before cougar became designated game animals. At the time they were considered vermin. The local zoo was always after me to provide them with a good specimen, so we decided to rope the female cat and take her in.
Emphysema offered to climb the tree and I mentioned to him that his terrible crick seemed to have disappeared. He agreed that it did seem to have improved as the hunting got better. So, up the tall tree he climbed rope in hand. I encouraged him to get the rope over her head and in her mouth so she couldn’t spit it out or choke. He made a good loop with a cold and frozen rope from his saddle and pulled the cat down the tree toward him. She came down and landed on the same branch. He started hollering and she jumped, ending up swinging six feet off the ground and ten feet from the base of the tree.
Dooley, one of my best hounds ended up swinging from her tail. I discourage this as I thought her neck might break, but he watched her swing, bounced off the base of the tree and attached himself again to her tail.
I finally got the hounds and the cat separated and every one tied up. We swung the cat across my saddle and I started leading my horse back to camp. This horse, whose name I seem to have forgotten, was really bad to lead, so I trudged through the snow and pulled him along. Finally, he stopped and when I checked what was going on I found that the lion’s back legs had come loose from the frozen rope and she was walking along side on her back paws as the horse moved.
After trussing her back up we made it to camp. I covered her up with a dry tarp and put her next to the camper door. A few minutes later a couple of young pups began to bark and howl. I opened the camper door to find the lion had undone her back feet again and was jumping six feet into the air and hopping around trying to escape.
One more time we retied the rope, but this time we brought her inside the camper with us until we delivered her to the zoo the next morning.