By Ray Howell – President Kicking Bear Camp for Kids
Sep 22, 2007 – 4:19:26 AM
This past January presented me with a wonderful opportunity to hunt with my old friend Darrell Mecham who lives in Green River, Utah. Darrell is noted for taking large cats so I eagerly looked forward to hunting with him. He is a full-time state patrol officer for the State of Utah and I believe that hunting lions is his way of relieving the overwhelming stress associated with his work.
We were hunting with highly trained dogs and were riding mules which turned out to be one of the most incredible hunts I’ve ever experienced! My first day was a real learning curve, riding the mules up and down the steep mountainsides.
A mule is just another word for a “four-wheel drive horse”! Some of the rockslides we traversed looked impossible to cross and the only thing I felt comfortable about was watching Darrell and following him. I figured if he could do it, I could do it. But there’s a real thin line between keeping yourself from panicking and trusting in your mule 100%.
Going up the mountain and walking the rocky edges was unnerving, but going back down was ten times worse! Sitting in the saddle looking down several hundred feet off the edges you were traveling on gave you the feeling that you could fall off at any time. One particular pass I went through on the first day really tested my nerves. You had to go about 50 yards straight down and then take a sharp turn to the right or you would have fallen off and gone all the way to the bottom. It’s hard to describe in words the feelings that go through a person when you are doing this. I was leaning back in the saddle, keeping my weight towards the mule’s rear. While turning his head to the right, I was squeezing him so hard with my legs that I felt as though I was going to pop a muscle in my hind end!
After getting through that slide I had the most unbelievable adrenaline surge that made me want to scream “ya-hoo”! That evening, while saying my prayers, I confessed everything I had ever done wrong because I was sure I wouldn’t make it through the following day. After the third day, however, I finally was comfortable enough to feel confident in what I was doing.
During the first part of the hunt we had chased two different lions that we thought were with females because they kept playing and going around in small circles which confused the dogs. For hours on end we kept trying to “straight line” the dogs, but every time they got going, they always ended up going in circles too.
Darrell had told me of another lion that was coming down into the town of Monticello that the Fish & Game Department was trying to harvest, as it was becoming a threat to the townspeople. With the fresh snow we decided to check for tracks around a large campground and recreational area just outside of town. We hit pay dirt! There was a large set of tracks, possibly the lion that was causing all the trouble. We started tracking him immediately in the deep snow.
We followed him for about five and one half-hours until we came to an unbelievably large Ponderosa Pine. Darrell’s big red dog, Copper, was at the base of the tree bellowing at the top of his lungs. As soon as Darrell saw the cat he motioned to me to get over to him quickly. When I looked up, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The size of the cat’s head looked to be about the size of a basketball! The shot I had to make was about sixty feet straight up.
As I released the arrow it passed through the cat so quickly he barely even flinched. Within moments the cat expired and fell out of the tree. There was no ground shrinkage. My dream of taking a large P&Y cat had come true. It green scored 14 and 15/16. I had told Darrell that when he got me a big cat that I was going to take him and our friend Steve Salas into town and buy them a steak.
The threat was gone, the trophy cat on the ground.
There was only one main restaurant in the town of Monticello. When we walked into the establishment the rancher who allowed us to stay on his ranch was dining there with his family. When he saw us he signaled us, with a big grin on his face, to come over to his table. He shook my hand and very loudly told everyone in the restaurant that I was the person who had alleviated the town of the troublesome cat.
Several people from the restaurant started clapping their hands and walked over to me and shook my hand. One by one they thanked Steve, Darrell, and me. We all enjoyed a steak dinner while visiting with the people of Monticello.
For more on Ray and his Kicking Bear Camp for Kids: Kicking Bear