Saturday, May 22, 2010

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

A couple of weekends ago, or maybe it was last month, before my life became totally and utterly chaotic, I had the opportunity to witness something magical. Come to think of it, magical doesn’t begin to describe it. It was majestical (which in my book is WAY better than magical). Do I have you wondering yet? Well wonder no more. I got the opportunity to watch hound dogs in action!

No, I’m not kidding.

You see, my little family and I had taken a drive to visit my husbands grandparents who live in a little itty bitty town about 45 minutes to the south of us. Unfortunately, even though it’s really not that far away, we just don’t make it down there much so when we do, it’s a big event. His grandparents own 80 acres of timbered wonderland that borders umpteen thousands of acres of uninhabited timber company land. It is there on this wonderland they have a small sheep pasture. Can you guess what they raise in said pasture? That’s right – sheep!

It just so happens that the day before our trip to visit the other side of the family tree, one of their sheep was brutally murdered. This happens every so often, and usually the murderer is of the feline nature, specifically of the Mountain Lion kind. Thanks to the tree hugger, granola crunching, Birkenstock wearing voters of the State of Oregon, the Mountain Lion (aka Cougar, aka Puma – and I don’t mean the tennis shoe) population is thriving. That’s because these aforementioned voters decided that it was cruel and unusual to the Mountain Lion when hound dogs were used by hunters to hunt them. It just broke their poor bleeding hearts to see footage of a poor tree’d MOUNTIAN LION (emphasis on the LION part) being snipped at and barked at by a pack of vicious hound dogs.

Thanks to them, those of us who don’t live in the confines of the city get the pleasure of having our livestock maimed and often killed, and far too often for my liking, we get to come face to face with these killers. Our only option to control their population to a number that is manageable is to buy a cougar tag and hope to (or not) run across one while out in the woods, or your pasture, or your front yard, or heaven forbid your kids playground, which has happened at our local elementary school.

There is one caveat to this law, and that is that if your livestock is killed by a cougar, you have the right to call a “houndsman” and his dogs out to hunt for and to hopefully kill the cougar. This is what we happened upon when we arrived at the grandparent’s house. Just imagine our delight to see the pickup with dog boxes in the back! We knew that could just mean one thing – the chase was on!

What my husband and I did next may seem irrational and reckless to some, but please, let me defend our decision before you call child protective services on us.

As soon as my four year old realized that there were hound dogs on the scent of a cougar nearby, and that he had brought his toy, but very real to him, rifle AND his elk bugle (which to him was critical to the success of cougar hunting) he was off like a dirty shirt headed up into the woods. And of course we stopped him, right?

No, we grabbed our one year old and decided that chasing a cougar sounded pretty dang fun!

Okay, here’s where I get to defend myself. We did follow him up into the woods with our one year old son, but at that point we could hear the hounds a VERY long way away which made us confident that the cougar was not nearby. But just in case the cougar had a boyfriend or cubs nearby, we did grab the only rifle we had with us. A .22 Henry. I won’t lie to you and tell you that I didn’t feel weird and a little guilty about us taking our small children into the woods where a predator had been so recently, but common sense prevailed reminding me that if the cougar were still nearby, the dogs would be nearby. And we were armed. And my husband let me carry the rifle. That right there speaks to how confident my husband (aka Mountain Man) was that we would not be running into anything dangerous. Not to say that’s he’s not confident in my riflemanship (I made that word up!) because he totally is, but he’s the type of person who would prefer to fly a plane himself rather than risk that the trained pilot may make a mistake that may cost someone their life. If there was any doubt in his mind that we might need the rifle, he would never have agreed to let me carry it. And then we would have had an argument.

As it happened, we found the “scene of the crime” and found tracks of what was likely to be the culprit. Too small for a cougar, but just right for a bob cat. Of course we didn’t tell our 4 year old who was pretty sure this was about the coolest day of his life.

We did eventually meet up with the hound dogs and a while later, their owner.
You see the collar on this dog? It’s a radio collar with a GPS locator in it. When the owner turns the dogs loose, those dogs will cover miles and miles chasing the scent of whatever animal they are on. The owner can keep a pretty good handle on where the dogs are with the radio collars and not have to be constantly chasing them, trying to keep up.
Here you can see my four year old really getting into it. He bravely wandered off, ahead of the rest of the group with the dog. Isn’t he precious!

So while we didn’t get to actually hunt a cougar that day, it was pretty exciting getting to watch the hounds in action. And it made my son’s day, week, and possibly year, getting to be a mighty Mountain Lion Hunter.

Just for fun, here’s the Christmas card my hubby sent out one year. And yes, we were married then.


  1. Very nice post and kudos to you for taking your kids out on the hunt!

    We used to run bear with hounds when I was younger and it truly is an enjoyable experience to hear and watch them work. I really do think that it is something that everyone should try once!

  2. I can't wait to head West to do this. They get mighty upset if you mess with the panthers here in Florida!

    Great blog!