If you are looking for a bit of good news about a huntable animal, consider the mountain lion, or cougar. Populations of these animals are exploding throughout the West. Every outfitter I talked with in preparation for this column said they had never seen as many cougars in their respective areas as there are now. In fact, there are so many cougars in some areas they have become important threats to other animals, especially bighorn sheep and mule deer. That aside, one of the big reasons to consider a hunt for these animals is the excitement it provides. Cougar hunts typically take place behind dogs and the chase, often as not, turns into a "hell-bent-for-leather" experience in some of the most breathtaking country in North America. Not surprisingly, the high cat populations we are enjoying right now have inspired new outfitters to enter the cougar hunting business. Some of them are good; some aren't. The key ingredient is good dogs. Without them, your chances of taking a cougar are extremely remote. What follows are mini-profiles of three cougar outfitters that I know to be good. Why not call one of them for a hunt this year?
Wade Lemon hunts the entire state of Utah. He has been in business for 25 years. Last year, Lemon produced cougars for 34 of his 35 clients, including two that scored right at the B & C minimum of 15 inches. He allows his clients to make the decision as to whether to take a female cougar, and it is not uncommon for clients to pass on a treed cougar and keep hunting. The cost of his five-day hunt is $3,000, which includes two guides per client and accommodations in a motel or ranch house, depending on the hunt area. Clients must arrange their own transportation to the prearranged meeting point. Hunts conducted in March or April are usually from horseback, but hunts between December and February are conducted from pickups and four-wheelers.
One bonus for these winter hunts is that you can take a bobcat on a trophy-fee basis of $1,500. About........(continued)