The Elusive One

By Randy Burtis
Wyoming, DIY, Public Land

The Elusive One - Randy BurtisSeptember/October 2013 EBJ (Issue 79) - The ice cold breeze burned as it froze our skin while I gathered my gear from the truck and readied my dogs for a day of hunting. My friend Kai was along and hopes were high for a cougar chase. With fresh snow on the ground we were excited about the potential the day held. I grabbed the final, but most important piece of gear, my Stalker Stickbow. The warmth of the truck quickly faded as we set out into the cold mountain slopes in search of a cougar.

Three years ago I got my first hound. Timber was worn down, beat up and in desperate need of a little love. I spent a lot of time and money getting him healthy, teaching him the basics, and refining his hunting skills.

One year later I met a houndsman in Wellington, Colorado who gave me a puppy free of charge as long as she got to hunt. I chose to name her Aspen. Little did I know at the time how much a friend that houndsman would become and how much time he would spend giving me advice and teaching me what I needed to do in order to improve my hounds and more importantly myself.

After countless days of training, Timber and I were hunting cougars in southern Wyoming in our second year as a team. This time however, we were hunting with a year’s worth of training, backing up a puppy who wanted nothing more than to get it done.

Since the season started we had run six cougar tracks and were not able to tree any of them. Southeast Wyoming, with consistent high winds, cliffs, and rock piles everywhere, seldom provides optimal snow conditions and can prove to be a real challenge to even a seasoned cougar hound. These chases gave us valuable experience though. Timber and Aspen never lost a mountain lion without good reason and my confidence in them kept growing. I knew if I could do my part as a woodsman and houndsman to put them on tracks, help them through the rocky spots, and keep up they would do their part.

There was something about that day giving me a good feeling. I don’t know if it was the fresh snow or the dwindling westerly winds, but as we trudged along I had a comfortable feeling of confidence. Elk tracks were plentiful and a few deer tracks were periodically mixed in. We were off to a good start.

About a mile and a half into the hike we cut a big cougar track traversing the ridgeline. Instantly, Aspen had her nose on the ground and went to work. Timber is a notoriously slow starter but this track was different. He was quickly in his groove, taking the lead as they picked up the pace. Within a hundred yards we came across a cougar kill covered up under a tree. Due to the amount of scent on the ground around the kill, Timber and Aspen took a minute to sort out the situation. I made sure they were on the right track, snapped a few quick photos, and hurried after the hounds to help them if I could.

Within minutes of leaving the site of the kill I heard the dogs change pitch and tone from periodic trailing barks to quickened excited vocalizations. We knew they had just jumped the cougar. Kai and I moved quickly to close the gap and found the dogs stuck on a cliff. I was able to find where the cougar escaped and get Timber and Aspen back on the track.

The Elusive One - Randy Burtis

For a full account of Randy's adventure, go to page 30 in the September/October 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.