In the winter of 2009/10 I am 36 years old. I have owned a hound for 27 of these 36 years. I started saving for my first hound when I was 5 and had four years of ruined Christmas mornings until the summer I was 9. I was up at my fathers hunting camp in the Southeast Rocky mountains and along came that hound pup that started the quest of a giant tom cougar. You here the folklore of 200 pound plus cats and you know some, “very few”, are true, first entered my imagination. This daydream took me 27 years, but no longer is it a daydream, I have cracked 200.
I am a hunting guide. I am fortunate for I grew up in this lifestyle and had a head start over many. But no matter the opportunity you must choose to walk the miles and live in the elements. If you choose with your heart and it wishes to be out in the wilds then opportunity will nock. That is how I ended up with a guide area in central British Columbia that possesses a stable cat population and a cabin to light a fire. My quest to arrive on that certain day with that certain track is, was and still will be the adventure. I would guess all the trails followed finally grew in to that moment when I drove by in my truck and locked up the breaks.
“Please don’t be wolf tacks”.
I back up and my heart skips. The snow is sugary but the trail is clean. It is not wolves. There are many around crossing these roads but this is not, “wolves”. I get out and walk in under a black spruce.
“Oh my miss molly, this is a real one”, I whisper to myself. 2 ¾ inches across the hind pad, 3 1/8 on the front pad and 4 6/8 across the front track. These numbers might not mean much to some but others it means this is one of a few rare moments if you are lucky and hunt hard.
I know not to get over zealous and let go right there on a 12-16 hour old track. He is big and he is a tom. Tom cougar can put on miles and I am early in the day. Don’t jump the gun and don’t blow this one. I call my guides and hunting partners Kevin Frew and Julien Remillard on the logging radio. No answer. My camp organizer and cook Sindee comes on the radio and asks if I want her to relay a message. They message is simple, “get your ass’s over here”.
Criss crossing and 8-10 air miles later of cutting off cat tracks on side trails finds Kevin on the radio, “Bart the Tom cuts this little road and heads down into the canyon”. This does not bode well with me. We now have fresh wolf tracks everywhere. We deal with wolves everyday in our country. We try to play it smart knowing wolves come to hound baying. We cut them off, we race to trees, we honk horns, we shoot rifles, we win against them usually but we have lost a couple times. I know I have to walk out the track until we are free of these fresh wolf tracks and know where they are heading.
Conditions are good this day, 6-8 inches in the shade 2 inches on open South slopes. I quick step the track, jog some where the terrain is kind to my youthful will and aging body. Soon the Tom cuts a female lion and is on the follow, making scratches every 50-100 yards. I keep the guys posted by hand held radio.
“Heck this cat is big, holy he has a big foot”. They make fun of me later…
The wolves follow the cougar track, another young tom cuts into the foray. Pretty soon I have a mid size game trail of predators. Cats and wolves cutting out and circling around back to the trail. It is a first class mess. Our big Tom is playing for keeps against the young Tom. I can see where he chases him and comes back around to the female. The female runs circles back tracks and makes the big guys life a little miserable. Eventually I work out a line out trail containing the female and my tom of choice. I am lined towards an old road I know and radio Kevin and Julien to meet me there with the hunter.
We do a little “switcharu” and Kevin runs with the hounds as we cut them loose. Being 24 years old Kevin can run with the hounds. Over a couple rock piles and off on a dead out hound race we went. Julien and I are sticking with the barking as best we can with the trucks. Kevin calls a half hour into the chase as I am driving.
“I can hear them treeing”.
“Stick with the tom track we know Murphy’s Law”. You always get the female first.
Positioning allowed Julien and I better access. I raced in and Julien came with the hunter. As I was getting to the tree I called Kevin. “Leave the tom track we got him”. And oh boy had we ever. I have treed over 500 cougars in my life and always have I dreamed of walking into what I saw. This Tom looked the part; I was looking at the mythological beast. I felt this cat could crack 200 pounds. I wished every friend I ever chased cats with could see what I was looking at. Later we would find out that it was 201 pounds of shoulder muscle and meat headed wrinkles. Best I can describe him is that the front end of this Cougar made his hindquarters look small. His presentation was the perfect match to my 9 year olds folklore dream.
Inaki Mena a fine man from the North of Spain where Inaki says, “ a hand shake still means something”, shot him. Kevin, Julien, young Wyatt Gentles, Joe Verni and Ronny Hammer from Norway were all there. We shared a memory; we share cracking 200 and some B.C. folklore. Ps… The wolves lost this one!