It was late afternoon on January 26th. I set out to try to call in some coyotes in a remote spot in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
I set up over a large valley in hopes of calling in a few of the coyotes that I knew were running in the deep canyon below. With the wind blowing right at me, I knew I had a good shot of calling in one or two. I hit the locator sequence on my Primo’s turbo dog electronic call and started to scan the trees.
After two sets or integrated howls I switched to a cottontail in distress. After about 5-6 session, it happened. I saw movement coming up the draw right at me. I knew it was some sort of predator coming in but was unsure. I waited. Finally, the animal came around a small parch of jack pine and I thought to myself, “No way!” I could see the animal had a huge head and was moving quite slowly. A very large tail swung behind. Knowing the area was very prominent big cat country I thought to myself, “No way did I just call in a mountain lion in under 40 minutes!”
The big cat then turned and walked broadside and that moment was when I knew that I wasn’t dreaming. At this point I’m shaking in my seat nestled in-between to large rocks and trying to keep my cool. This cat has no idea what he’s in for. He comes about another 75 yards and stops and looks up the hill in the direction of the call. I had a clear shot at his chest from about 75 yards. I slowly squeezed the accu-trigger on my Savage arms .223.
The next thing I see is the cat’s tail about three feet over the jack pine he was standing under. There was no movement. For about 1-2 minutes nothing happened. I was thinking to myself no way did I just drop that cat. And then I see him get up. I quickly chambered another round and fire off a second shot. Same thing, the tail goes flying and the cat hits the ground. A few moments later he gets up and starts moving ever so slowly, hurting with every step. I fired a third round and with what seemingly was a good hit he flopped over the hill. By this time its4: 35 in the afternoon and the sun was going down quickly.
I immediately pulled out my phone and called a longtime family friend Dave Hall. Dave and his son Dalton had just harvested a beautiful 136-pound tom just two days before. I had talked mountain lion hunting with Both of them many times before andI knew that he was the go-to-guy on in this situation.
So I called Dave… no answer. I knew I needed to let the cat lay down and expire on his own terms. I wasn’t entirely sure if that third shot had been true. It was getting late and I was all by myself and there was no way I was going to set out after that cat tonight. I knew better.
I get back to my pickup and called my mother. As I am making the call it’s starting to set in what I had just accomplish. I was breathing so heavy from excitement I could hardly stand up. I could feel my heart pounding out of my chest. This was the day every cat hunter dreams about. My mother answers the phone and I was still breathing so hard I could barely speak. I tried explain to her what I had just done but she could not understand what I was saying. Finally she just says “Andrew you need to calm down and tell me if you are okay.” I took a deep breath and just said “yes, I just shot a %#&@* mountain lion!”
Then she knew that I was okay and that I was doing this all out of excitement. I told her I was going to wait till the following morning to try to pursue this majestic animal. At this point I was praying to the good Lord and my grandfather up above to help me out in any way they could. I always seem to resort to talking to my grandfather in situations like this to help bring me back down to earth and help me make the right and ethical decisions. My grandfather, uncle, and mother and father taught me everything I know about hunting and I can’t thank them enough for that.
This had been a long time dream of mine. I get back to town and I go straight to game warden Mike Apland’s house to inform him of what was going on. He lined out everything that needed to be place for the following day. Later that night I finally got in touch with Dave to tell him what I had done. He said that he and Dalton would be at my house first thing in the morning to go recover this animal.
My mother and father had moved to Williston North Dakota a few years ago and my mother is a very avid hunter herself. I called her to inform her that I got ahold of Dave and Dalton and that they would be there first thing in the morning. She said, “Better open up a seat in the pickup because I am not missing this for the world kid!” She was loaded up and on her way.
I sure did not sleep easy that night. Waking up multiple times, checking my phone to see how much long till day light. Finally, daylight comes and I was ready to go. Everything was packed and ready to go. Dave and Dalton showed up and after a few hugs and big smiles we were ready to get to tracking.
The ride to the “unknown spot in the Black Hills” was filled with the stories of Dolton’s huge 136 pound tom that he had just shot two day earlier. After hearing that story I knew that today was about to bring a story just as great as his. We parked the truck and headed out to where I had been sitting the previous evening. Guns on our back and Dalton holding the tie-dye kid’s sled that we were going to use to haul him out. We got to the rim of the canyon and Dave, Dalton and I head into the canyon. We left mother waiting at the top in case we needed anything. I get to where I had shot the cat the first time and there was a very promising blood trail. I looked at the size of the cat’s print and could not believe my eyes. That cats print was just as wide if not wider then my size 11 boot print. By far the biggest cat print I had ever seen. And that’s when I knew we were dealing with a much larger cat then I expected.
After following the blood and the larger-than-life paw prints, we found a few spots where he had bedded down and was bleeding well. I thought to myself he’s going to be laying just up around this corner. Well that corner never came.
We tracked and tracked and tracked we followed him across the opposite side of the canyon into another little draw that split off. Battling God’s elements of beautiful canyon and kids sled in hand. We get to a little cave where little did we know he was hiding.
My gun was loaded and ready to go. All of a sudden the cat jumps out and heads back the way he had come and only 25 yards from us. When he came out of the cave, a clump of snow fell right into the opening of my scope. I had no chance to see clearly out of it. I used the length of my barrel and fired off two shots. We tracked him back into some very thick oak brush. I was in the middle of the thicket when I found out just how smart and nimble these cats are. He jumped back into his previous tracks and into ours to make tracking him nearly impossible. After tracking through the thick brush we lost him. We split up to try to find where he had run off to. Finally, after about an hour Dave being the mountain lion whisperer that he is, cut his track. The chase was on again.
The cat had backtracked up the canyon across the same hill side we were just on. We tracked and tracked. Blood growing thinner and thinner. I was beginning to lose hope. We then found that the cat had started to lay down about every 75-100 yards. I heard Dave say “He’s beginning to get tired, if we keep on him we have a good chance of killing this cat”. That sparked my flame back up quicker than ever.
We chased him back up the opposite side of the canyon that I had made the first shot. He took us op the canyon wall and onto the flats into another draw that split off the canyon. We tracked him all the way back to the start of the draw where a beautiful cave was located. We got to the mouth and noticed there was tracked going in, but not exiting.
He was in there.
We set up. Not long after, he tried to escape. He had heard us talking. He creeps to the side of the cave and stops. I couldn’t see him as he stopped right behind a patch or oak trees. He took two more steps in hopes of leaving and I fired a shot. He was only 20 yards away and this time and there was no snow in my scope. I could see clearly. I laid the shot right in the hunter’s honey hole; right behind the front shoulder. He turned and headed back into the cave. He was wrestling around and I finally got another shot off. His movements slowed. I ended up firing one more shot to in him. We slowly crept up to the cave as the cat expired.
At the point we were all grinning ear-to-ear and shared hugs and high-fives all around. It was truly a moment I will never forget.
Andrew Bressler's Male Lion was officially weighed in at 113 pounds.