Sunday, 4 March 2012

The Lion of Zion



“Hunting mountain lion with dogs is so easy, it’s not even sporting”

                                                                     An American hunter with whom I spoke during my research.

“Hunting lion is like shooting a glorified house cat”

                                                                     A shooter from France. 

“Two local elk hunters froze to death in a snowstorm.” 

                                                                    Excerpt from Field and Stream Feb 2012 





Preface

I had been planning a mountain lion hunt for the past two years and after a lot of searching, research and emails to and fro, the Utah fish and game department finally accepted my UK deer stalking certificate as per their hunter safety exam requirement. 

I spent a lot of hours researching a cougar hunt and even studied the couagar identification manual issued by the New Mexico fish and game department. 

I thought I was ready but I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.





Acknowledgements

I would like to thank all those people I consulted before going for the hunt. 

Thanks are also due to my friends Vince Cilli and John Posoli who patiently endured and answered all my questions about hunting gear.

Last but not the least, I would like to thank Shaneal Bess who helped me get my license and tag and answered my queries re: the miscellaneous aspects of the trip and the hunt.




Dedication

I humbly dedicate this hunt to my grandfather from whom I inherited my love for hunting in general and big cats in particular. He gave me my first shooting and hunt lessons.

I gratefully dedicate this hunt to my guide Jake Bess without whose hard work this hunt wouldn’t be possible.




Prologue



“No matter what what you do, do not fall asleep, otherwise you could freeze to death. I will come back to rescue you. I just need to find a way of getting back”

“In case you can’t make it by the morning, my passport and driving license will have the contact details for my family”. I said.

“Don’t be ridiculous. Just keep the fire alive. Do NOT let it die. I will come as soon as I can”



Day 0

I was aboard the shuttle to St. George, Utah where my guide Jake was waiting to pick me up. If the beginning was anything to go by, it was going to be a great hunt. I had boarded the shuttle like a taxi; I had to wait less than a second to board it and I was the only passenger so no stops en-route. We made good time and reached St. George 30 minutes before expected. Jake was there in his pick-up truck with 6 hounds and a 4X4 ATV and a snowmobile in tow. We loaded up my gear and headed over to Mount Caramel in Utah where he had set up camp in preparation for the hunt. It was a good 3 hour drive during which we made one stop for dinner and spoke about gun culture and shooting, comparing and contrasting the differences between the UK and the US. For example he had a rifle right next to him in front of the car. It was there even we stepped out for dinner. He told me all his trucks had a rifle in them; always had. He also carried a revolver with him in case a lion mauled a dog and it needed to be put down. I asked him why they had cartridges in the magazine. He said that a rifle was a rifle only when it had ammunition in it; without ammunition it was just a stick. So why keep a rifle without a full magazine? I for one couldn’t argue with this logic. 

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The rifle and the handgun in the truck.



He then explained to me the structure of the hunt. We were to start really early in the morning and drive around the canyons and hills looking for mountain lion tracks. Once the tracks were located, a pack of hounds would track the lion and we would follow them. The pack would eventually either tree or corner the lion and give me a shot at it. We would return to camp if we didn’t locate tracks by one in the afternoon. The reason is that it may up to 3-4 hours to get to the lion after the tracks are located. Add to that some more time for shooting, skinning, photographing plus the journey back. If starting the chase after 01 PM, there won’t be simply enough daylight left. The shooting in itself is not very challenging in that the shots are from close range but the chase is very exciting and hard. A favourite anecdote was that of a NFL athlete who was good enough to play in superbowl (name withheld) found the climb and the pace so hard that he threw up! It is rare to find the lion within minutes. Jake also told me that he has guided for bear, deer, elk, mountain goat, antelope but a lion hunt is by far the most demanding hunt a person could have. So exiting and hard is this chase that many hunters don’t actually shoot the lion. They merely chase the lion with the pack of hounds and once they ‘catch’ it, they turn back. For example my guide told me he had personally shot only 4-5 lions but chased more than 350 (not including chasing for clients). Wow! This was going to be fun, for I have always believed that the excitement is not in the kill but in the chase. Pulling the trigger involves the last half second of a hunt; it’s the time before that that makes hunting so addictive.


Finally we reached the camp area which was adjacent to Zion national park. There was an old sheep camp which he had modified into a hunting camp. It was adorned with mule deer antlers, rattle snake rattles and similar stuff. It had a gas, sliding beds, solar operated light bulbs, and an old fashioned wood stove for heating. Situated in a canyon, surrounded by hills, with a stream gurgling by, miles of wilderness would be our backyard and the outhouse! For the next seven days we were to live in this wilderness, away from civilization, away from mobile signals, away from internet access, even away from a postal address.

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View from the camp


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The stream behind the camp


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The 'outhouse'




Day 1

We awoke before day break only to discover the door had frozen shut solid; we were locked in! But nothing a few powerful kicks couldn’t resolve. Jake told me he had seen the dew freezing and thus sealing the door but never when there were two persons inside with heating! We didn’t have a thermometer but one can only imagine how cold it must have been.

We started early and went around the canyons and mountains looking for lion tracks. Though lion tracks are more commonly found on the tops of ridges than canyons, we were paying attention everywhere. For me it was proving to be a good learning experience as we came across mule deer slots, coyote tracks, dog tracks, and other animals’ prints.

Each track told its story.

Look here a herd of mule deer passed by last night, 3-4 of them. In fact there were so many of them that I called it “MacDonald’s for lion”. Not surprisingly, we soon came across a herd looking at us curiously.

This coyote was here a few hours ago.

The jackrabbit was heading towards those bushes to our right.

Hello! What do we have here? A hunter with 3 dogs was looking for something….. Could it be a lion? Did they find a trail? Let’s follow their tracks; they headed off the road. Oh no! They only needed to use the bathroom and returned back to their car.

One thing that struck us as out of ordinary was the number of car tracks in this remote part. It appeared that every hunter in the county had decided it was a good time to visit this wilderness. There were at least 4-5 different tyre treads in the tracks ahead of us. This didn’t look promising. If these people were any good they would get a lion before us and if bad, they would scare it away.


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Starting our hunt on day 1. I was hoping to see coyotes but no such luck.

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It would be unlikely to find cougar tracks in such country.

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A typical view of the canyons

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Looking for Lion tracks in this beautiful wilderness

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This was the only area not hit hard by other hunters

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You can see the amount of snow on day 1 BEFORE the snowstorm.



Soon we met a hunter coming our way. He only ‘caught’ lions and then let them go without shooting them. He introduced us to his 11 year old son and told us how hunting was a family activity for them. We then discussed various lion sightings in the area. He told us he had just been scouting the area ahead of us and there was nothing there. He told us a few other hunters had sighted a lion kill behind the hills where we had camped. We thanked him for the tip and parted ways.

We decided to leave the hunter-beaten path and changed course going over other areas but no luck. Soon it was one o’clock. We headed back to the camp where I stayed behind while my guide took the ATV and went to look for the kill. If the kill was to be located, it would give us lion tracks which we would follow.

In the meanwhile, I decided to go and explore the small hills behind the camp. 

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By chance I came upon an eaten leg of a mule deer. I wasn’t sure if a lion had killed it or a hunter but since there was no more meat left on it, I wasn’t hopeful of a lion coming for it.

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Mule deer bone


After some time, my guide returned having seen no sight of the kill. Well, it was a seven day hunt and how lucky does one have to be to get a lion on day 1. We discussed about the cold freezing the snow solid and the sun melting it making it difficult for us to find lion tracks. We had checked the weather predictions and it was supposed to snow either later that day or that night. We decided to call it a day early so that we could have an early start the next day. I went to bed praying for a good measure of snow and dreamt of lions.


Day 2.

I awoke a couple of times that night disappointed that there was no snow. Finally it was five a.m. and I could stay in bed no more. I went to the stove to put some wood in it and my guide pointed that it had started snowing. 
What the ..........! We couldn’t hunt while it was snowing and I was a bit sad on realising that a day of hunting would be wasted. I took solace in the fact that it would give us fresh snow to track the lions. We sat in the camp drinking coffee and looking out at the snowfall. I soon realised that I wouldn’t be able to go to the ‘outhouse’ in this snowfall. So we decided to go to a gas station further down the highway to use the facilities there. 

We spent some time at the gas station looking around as he had many mounted trophies and other items I found interesting. Due to its proximity to Zion national park, this station catered to tourists and had a lot of “western” stuff for sale. The receptionist told me that this snowstorm was expected to last at least for half a day. Bummer! There goes any hope of a hunt today. 

We decided that we would enjoy the snowfall and drive around towards Zion national park; since we couldn’t hunt, might as well do some sightseeing. Later we would return to the camp for some breakfast.

We were driving around looking at the mountains and canyons. The white and red landscape from the previous day had been transformed to a pure brilliant white.

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After we had gone a few miles, we chanced across fresh deer slots. Following these slots visually, we saw 6-7 mule deer climbing the hill adjacent to the road. It was really wonderful to see these graceful creatures climbing the hill with the snow falling all over the place.

After we had watched for a while, we had to move on as it wasn’t safe or advisable to stand in the middle of the narrow undivided road in the middle of a snowfall. We drove off but suddenly Jake braked and turned around looking at the road exclaiming “never in a million years could have I thought it possible.... right in the middle of a snowstorm”!

“What is it?”I asked.

“Lion tracks” said Jake. “Judging from the amount of snow in them, they are 30-45 minutes old; an hour at the most.”

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Lion tracks with the drag mark of the tail

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Lion track with snow in it.

Because of the cold and the snow, the hounds were in their dog cages in the back of the truck and the rifle in the truck ready as ever but if you recall, the purpose of this trip was to use the facilities at the gas station; I was therefore dressed in track-suit and slippers! We couldn’t follow lion dressed like this.
We had a quick discussion. We would go back to the camp, change and track this lion. This sighting was out of the ordinary; I believed that it was meant for me; I wasn’t passing up this opportunity.

We couldn’t just park where we had spotted the lion so we pulled up at the nearest country road, the dogs had the radio collars placed around the neck and off we went. By this time the snow was more than ankle deep and we were climbing a small hill. Within five minutes of walking I was reminded how out of shape I was. 

“It's not so bad” I thought. The lion has only had 90 minutes of head start on us. He wouldn’t have gone far. Jake had told me it can take up to 3-4 hours to get to a lion but this one should be closer.”

The GPS showed the dogs getting further and further. After they went a mile, the signal stopped. 

“Probably reached the other side of the mountain and lost signal”, said Jake. The remaining dogs with us can follow them and we should get a signal when we get to the other side of the mountain”

I had a sip of water and followed Jake and the 3 dogs that were still with us. This small hill was actually the smallest one we would climb. This led to a higher one and that in turn to yet another higher one. I mean a 100 m high hill can’t block out the GPS signal. Higher and higher we climbed. I was lucky that Jake had to stop and turn on his GPS and wait for the dogs signal and failing that, look for their tracks in the snow. This would give me time to catch up with him.

Higher and higher we climbed, one hill after another. It was still snowing and snow was now calf to knee high at places making going more strenuous. The higher we climbed, the more breathtaking the scenery became and I suppose that filled me with renewed vigour and energy. But even after 2 hours of climbing, there was no signal from the dogs. 

“They must be over that mountain”, said Jake pointing at the next hill. I don’t know how high that was; but his arm, while pointing at it, was raised at an angle of 45 degrees. 

He must have seen the expression on my face for he said “Don’t worry, we’ll get there we just got to keep moving” I had told him that I planned to dedicate this hunt to my grandfather so he used that to encourage me “do it for your grandfather”. At this time I felt really bad for slowing him down. I told him I was sorry that I couldn’t keep up the pace and requested him to take a few breaks which he graciously agreed to.

It took more than an hour to climb that hill. It had stopped snowing by now and the snow had covered every inch of the mountain. Every fallen tree branch, every rock and stone was covered by a fresh blanket of snow. This made footing dangerous as the snow made everything appear flat and steady. To make matters worse, I had forgotten my sunglasses in a hurry and realised for the first time why it is difficult to see without them on snow covered mountains
Jake told me to place my feet in his tracks. I slipped and fell a few times but managed to reach the top with all my bones and spine intact. The view from there made sure I’d never need to take a Grand Canyon helicopter tour.

It had been four hours since we began our trek but still no sign of the dogs. But our other dogs had smelled something and left us. We could just about hear their frantic barking. 
“They are probably there” said Jake pointing halfway up a still higher mountain in the distance. 

Even if there were no tears in my eyes, I’m sure my expression was as miserable. 
“Do you see the small straight line without any trees?” said he. “That’s a private road. We could follow it to the next canyon; that will make our going easier.”

Climbed down to the road and suddenly the GPS beeped!

“All the dogs are in one place and not moving. This means they have treed a lion and are holding him. Come on we must hurry. They are only 1.8 miles away”

1.8 miles; most of it on a road doesn’t sound bad does it. Well it wasn’t but it wasn’t a cake walk either. In the hills, the trees had sheltered the ground from the snow so at many places it was calf high but only ankle high at others especially the steep gradients. Also while climbing; ones feet go up and down so the most tiring part is the climb itself. But on the road it was uniformly calf high plus while walking ones legs go forwards and backwards. It’s amazing the amount of resistance that calf high snow can give.

I just put my head down and put one foot after the other in his tracks and repeated this action for a couple of minutes and then rested to catch my breath. The multiple layers and the heavy parka and shoes etc I was thankful for were now being cursed for piling me with their extra weight. The intervals to catch my breath got shorter and shorter and the time taken for Jake to stop and let me catch up with him got longer.

“Come on. Only 1.6 miles to go” Said he.

“1.6”? I asked flabbergasted. ”I’ve been walking for 10 minutes.”

“The lion jumped the tree. The longer we take to get there, the more the chances of the lion jumping and getting further away. Its treed at the moment so the sooner we get there, the better it is”, informed Jake.

Once or twice more the lion jumped but I was too tired to care. By the time the last kilometre remained, I was stopping every 15 steps to catch my breath and rest my tired limbs. I now know why the NFL player had thrown up. I asked Jake to go ahead to the lion and I would come following. He told me it was no good him getting there but I insisted he go on. 

After a few minutes, I heard frantic barking and Jake shouting me to hurry up. I understood they had located the lion and were calling me. But my legs belonged to someone else. They refused to obey me. Even a gradient of a few feet appeared like a hill. Finally I was near enough to see the dogs. It was a narrow canyon with the Virgin River flowing through it. The base of the canyon must have been 50 metres wide and hills on both sides surrounding it. The dogs were at the other side maybe 80 metres up the hill and had surrounded a tree. Jake was there waving at me and pointing to that tree.
He said there was a crossing 100 metres ahead. When every step is a struggle, one can’t walk 100 metres. Since I had my waterproof clothes and boots on, I decided to wade through the ankle deep stream. Reaching the other side of the canyon, I began climbing the wall like hill (or so it seemed). 
Every time I stopped to take a breath Jake would say, “It’s getting nervous, it’s going to jump”. This got me moving. Close and closer it got till I was only 20 metres away from the tree. And then I saw it. A magnificent golden brown feline, graceful in its movements, in its jump. 

Yes you heard that right. It jumped. While I was 20 metres away. And to make matters worse, went in the direction I came from. The dogs followed and the GPS showed they had treed it again. 

“Come on, it’s only 200 metres away” said Jake and set off towards the it, towards where I came from. But at this place the snow was hip high. It was 4 feet deep and for a minute even he seemed to struggle climbing the hill. My heart sank. How would I ever make it to the top of that hill? Just as I was struggling to get up the slope, the lion jumped again and went where I had missed it originally. 

“Come on buddy, It’s gone to where it was previously” Said Jake. 

“Jake, I can’t”, I said. “I can’t move or take another step”

“You have to” said he. “This lion is jumpy. Probably been treed and fired at before. It only sits on the tree long enough to catch its breath and then it jumps. We need to get to it before it regains its breath”

Is he kidding me, I thought. That’s a Mountain lion, an animal. Here I am catching my breath before I can start after it. Who do you think will catch its breath first? There’s no way I could do this.

“No Jake I really can’t. I never realised it would be this bad. I’m not used to the mountains and the altitude and the snow. I had a good time but next time I’ll be better prepared”

“You can’t turn back. Think of your grandfather”, he said.

“Man I can’t even breathe, let alone walk. And there’s no way I can regain my breath before the lion”, I said. 

“To return, you have to go back on to the road 200m away. The lion is 400 m away. If you walk away now, we are done. Do you want to walk away from a treed lion?” he said visibly angry (and rightfully so). “It’s your decision. This is what separates the men from the boys”.

“Ok I’ll do it but I can’t walk fast. I’ll try”. I said.

At this point he took a rope and slipped around my wrist. He held the other end and pulled me. This went off for a few minutes when my legs buckled and I fell. He waited patiently for me to get up and told me I could do it. Soon we were at the foot of the hill where the lion was.
We decided that I would shoot it from a distance rather than climb all the way up. Jake agreed that I could shoot if I could see it.

Unfortunately due to the trees being dense, it wasn’t possible to get a visual even from 30 yards away. I had to get to the base of the tree. Jake kept encouraging me and I kept climbing. The final 50 metres were really steep and hard climbing. I slipped and fell twice but finally as I was 15 metres away, the lion jumped yet again!

This time it crossed the canyon and climbed the hill on the other side. Another 300 metres. 

This was getting nowhere. I told Jake that I didn’t want to shoot the lion. I told him to take the shot and keep the lion. I would return to the UK, get fit and come again.

“You will do it” said Jake. “You have come here all the way from the UK investing so much time and money. It’s your lion and no one else is going to shoot it but you. Just think if you can’t get this one, you will have to do the same thing tomorrow.”

That did it. There was NO way I could have done a similar trek the next day or even for the next week. He was right; it had to be done today. I realised one way of saving on walking and running was to roll down hill. The knee high snow would cushion my fall and I could cover half the way really fast.

I knew from my antics in the hill stations that rolling down on snow covered slopes deposits snow in ones backside but since I was wearing bibs and parka, I wasn’t worried about that. So off I went but what happened was that my trouser legs tucked into my boots became un-tucked and snow went into my boots from the top. This small inconvenience, ignored then was going to have a bearing on the later part of my story.

I again crossed the river and started the climb uphill. This time the slope wasn’t very steep and I tried to press the pace as much as my weak body would allow. I finally reached where Jake stood ready with the rifle. I took the rifle and was just looking into the scope when the lion jumped again!
I knew this was all the punishment that my body could take. I sank to my knees, my face in my hands.
So this is how the day ended. And we had to start looking for the tracks again, climb similar mountains again.

“Hey” Jake’s voice jolted me back to reality. The dogs had treed the lion just 20 metres uphill. I gritted my teeth and somehow managed to get there. Jake handed me the rifle saying we didn’t have enough time for me to catch my breath as it might jump again. I put the crosshair on the chest and fired and could see the white hair fly in the scope. It was a hit. The bright red spray confirmed a lung hit. 

“Hit it again”, said Jake and explained before I could protest. “It might die in a few seconds but even a few seconds are enough for it to attack us or the dogs.”

I certainly didn’t want to be attacked by a wounded cougar so fired again. This time it fell down dead on the ground.

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Note my trousers and visible right boot and see the ice forming on them.


We both realised there was no time for arranging the carcass for a picture and getting the pose right. It was 1630 and getting dark. The wind had picked up and the temperature was falling. The snow which had entered my boots and turned to water was now beginning to get cold. You can see in the picture my trousers and shoes are white. This isn’t the camouflage pattern but the ice crystals on them.
We needed to skin the lion and then make our way back before nightfall.

We just took some pictures hastily. And started skinning and cutting the back straps for the meat.

“Jake I don’t think I’ll be able to walk back.” 

“We have two choices. Walk back or freeze to death. Which one is it going to be?” He asked.

“Man we started at 0930 and reached this canyon after 5 hours. The last mile took me almost 2 hours to walk. And now I am tired. My socks and shoes are soaking wet. How long will it take for us to get back?”

We had seen an abandoned log cabin on our trek here. Jake suggested I start for it immediately and start a fire there and he would finish skinning the lion and catch up with me. He gave me a lighter and I set off. By now the wind had picked up and it was shaking them, forcing them to deposit the heavy snow on their branches onto the ground. So the snow was a few inches higher now even under the trees.

While I was halfway to the cabin, Jake caught up with me. He had finished skinning and packing the lion and was overtaking me on his way to the cabin. We agreed he would go and make a fire and I follow his tracks as quickly as I could. When I handed him the lighter, we realised it was broken, but only the part that supplies the gas; the part that made the sparks was still intact.

We would figure something out but the first priority was to get to the log cabin. It took me over an hour to get to the cabin. In so much snow, there was no dry firewood to be found. Jake had stripped the walls of the cabins of planks of wood; cut opened the rifle cartridges, sprinkled the gunpowder over them and thus stated a fire inside the cabin.

By this time it was 1800 and almost nightfall. It was too late to go over the mountains we came from the road was private so Jake didn’t know where it led to. We should have been hopeful that a road must lead somewhere but many people had built holiday homes in the vicinity of the national park and they might be empty. 

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The abandoned cabin

Jake told me I had to find more firewood and keep the fire alive. He left me the survival tools knife, lighter, gun and said he would come back on his snowmobile to get me as the road had knee high snow.

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knife and lighter

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rifle



“No matter what you do, do not fall asleep, otherwise you could freeze to death. I will come back to rescue you. I just need to find a way of getting back”

“In case you can’t make it by the morning, my passport and driving license will have the contact details for my family”. I said

“Don’t be ridiculous. Just keep the fire alive. Do NOT let it die. I will come as soon as I can. Break off all the walls of this cabin if you have to but keep the fire going. As long as you have the fire, you’ll be alive. If you freeze to death, it’ll be because you let the fire die.” Saying this he left.

Tempting though it was to sit by the fire and warm myself, the first thing I did was to break branches from the nearby trees, rip the shelving off the walls of the cabin, unearthed a cache of old firewood next to the cabin from under the snow, dismantled a cupboard plank by plank and arranged them neatly next to the fire in the cabin.

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The fire in the cabin

I then filled my empty water bottle with snow and placed that next to the fire to make water. I was determined to keep myself warm and hydrated. Though I hadn’t eaten anything since the morning, strangely, I wasn’t hungry.

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Making water from snow 

The cabin itself was old and dilapidated. It had no door or flooring. It had gaps in the planks on its roof. Many of the window panes were missing and the windows boarded up. It had the broken metal frame of an old bed. This became my seat after I dragged it sufficiently close to the fire and began the task of thawing myself. 

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The doorless cabin. You will notice some planks missing from the front, left of the doorframe.

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Snow covered gaps in the roof

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Broken windows


I fed two planks into the fire at a time. Those of you that have seen wet wood burn can imagine what it must have been like to be next to a bonfire of wet wood in the middle of a cabin with no chimney.
My gloves had frozen solid since I had taken them off to shoot the rifle and help in the skinning of the cougar. They had now taken the shape of the pocked and refused to slip onto my hands. So they were the first to go near the fire.

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Gloves frozen stiff in the crumpled shape in my pocket.

Next, my boots; the upper part was encased in ice, the laces frozen solid. Wanting to thaw this, I threw my feet into the fire. Gradually the ice melted and I could get them off but not before a bit of the sole on the side melted. Seeing that my hands were a ghostly white, with the skin peeling off, I couldn’t even imagine what were feet were going to be like. I couldn’t feel them and there were ice crystals on my socks. My pants had frozen solid in the crumpled shape they were in when I was rolling downhill. They stayed at mid calf length and wouldn’t come down. Due to this, a part of my leg had been exposed to the elements and ice crystals were beginning to form on my socks.

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Melted sole of the hunting boots


I plunged my feet a good way into the fire. Just before the feeling returned to my feet, I saw smoke emitting from my legs. The pants were thawing! Soon I felt a sharp stab at my feet. I looked down horrified. My socks were burning! My brand new under armour heavy duty hunting socks! The last thing one worries about at times like these is losing incidentals and I was happy to be alive and warm.

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Burned socks

The smoke from the burning socks and the steam from my clothes mixed with the wet firewood smoke in the cabin and made the atmosphere difficult to breathe in but warm.

Drip.

Drip.

What was that? Surely it can’t be rain. It was too cold for that. 

Drip. This time on my head. Yes that was water all right.

Drip. Drip. Drip. The rain was everywhere. It was raining!

But how could it be. With the temperature so low that even the snow in the cabin or even my water bottle wasn’t melting despite the fire, how could it rain?

Then I saw the answer. The snow on top of the cabin, covering the gaps in the planks was now melting due to the rising heat and was dripping down!

I put my hood back on and huddled close to the fire bending down. My chest was warm, my back and head wet, my limbs had feelings and my lungs had smoke in them. It was so cold in the cabin that the falling water was forming icicles on the metal bed frame 4 feet away from the fire!

Thank goodness for my waterproof parka that kept me dry and under armour that kept me warm. I didn’t want to feed the fire too fast as I wasn’t sure how long it would take for Jake to return. In a way it was good that it was ‘raining’ as this would prevent me from falling asleep and I could keep the fire alive.

I kept feeding the fire at regular intervals, comforted by its warmth. At around 2130 I heard an engine far away. Soon Jake was there on his snowmobile

But the adventure wasn’t over yet. 

“Where are the dogs?” he asked.

“I thought they were with you.”

“No. I had gone to get the snowmobile. I thought they had followed you to the cottage.”

“No. Only one did. He is right here, curled up by the fire.”

“So the others are still out there. We can’t leave them. They will freeze to death”.

He set out to get the dogs. We later found they were with the carcass of the lion in the canyon up the hill.

To cut the long story short, it was 2300 by the time reached the camp. We spoke about the day and how I was lucky to get a lion on the second day of my hunt. I asked him if I had been the worst client but he assured me that it was a difficult hunt and now all other hunts would seem easy compared to this. He was surprised at how much distance the lion had covered and how many times it had jumped. This was probably due to someone treeing and shooting at it before. I told him this was the hunt of a life time and we agreed the next time I would go in May to track the lions in dust and mud; a different experience altogether.

My future hunts may be easier or may involve a bit more adventure. However this Lion of Zion shall always be etched in my memory till the day I go to the happy hunting grounds.

3 comments:

  1. That must have been some adventure! How about a post telling us how you set it up and the gear you used - with revisions for stuff you'd leave behind and its replacements?
    SBW

    ReplyDelete
  2. What an adventure! I found your blog here from SBW, and I am having a wonderful time reading it.

    I hope you got to keep all your fingers and toes.

    ReplyDelete