I hunted for six days with Todd for mountain lion in Nevada. My father accompanied me as an observer. In January 1999, we agreed after one day in the Ruby Mountains and one day in the Jackpot area that the absence of snow on the ground made success very unlikely, so we arranged to resume the hunt in January 2000. In January 2000, we hunted in the Rubies for two days and in the Jackpot area for two more days. Snow conditions were markedly improved over 1999, however we tracked only one lion and never caught up with him. I felt that many aspects of the hunt were unsatisfactory and wish to share my experience.
Todd's accommodations were good and his equipment was with one exception good as well. Despite this my hunt was beset by problems. During the two snowless days in 1999, we were not able to track the lions, although we did spot one female with kittens on the second day. Around noon on the first day in January 2000 Todd let the dogs out without leashes. Four of them disappeared from sight and we spent the rest of the day looking for them unsuccessfully. Todd's guide Andy joined the hunt at this point. We recovered the dogs the next morning. Two days later Todd and his guide Andy again let the dogs out for water unleashed. Again two of the dogs ran off and were not recovered until the next day. This time we made no sustained attempt to recover them and instead took off on the one cougar track we followed during this hunt. Still, we would later need fresh dogs and not have them available. Todd's lapses in judgement cost us the better part of one day in hunting time including one early morning.
After the second day of the January 2000 hunt in the Rubies, we had not encountered any tracks which Todd judged "hot" enough on which to turn out the dogs. Todd decided to move to the Jackpot area and on the beginning of the third day we encountered a lion track shortly after abandoning the second group of lost dogs. We followed this track from about 10:00 AM until nightfall and picked it up again briefly the next morning.
On the last day we began by trying to pick up the signal from two radiocollared dogs which Todd had left on the track the previous night. At this point Todd experienced a significant and foolish equipment problem: The antenna on his telemetry receiver was in need of repair and not working properly, but worse, Todd had not verified the output signals on the collars after having the batteries changed. As a result we spent most of the morning searching for radio signals which didn't exist with semifunctional equipment. Remarkably the dogs found us. We were unable to re-acquire the lion track and shortly afterwards Todd called the hunt to a close.
It became apparent on the third day that Todd and Andy had a significant problem with telling us the truth. Among the things which they had told us were that if they turned out the dogs on a lion track, there was a "100 percent" chance that the dogs would eventually tree the lion and that, "they won't leave the track." We never treed the lion and when we recovered the dogs on the morning of the last day it was apparent that they had abandoned the track (At the site where we recovered the dogs we'd left out the previous night Todd turned out two fresh dogs. Neither of them turned any sign that the cat had been in the vicinity). Todd and Andy also told us that after the cat had been jumped it could only run "a quarter of a mile" before it would be forced to tree. On the third day Andy insisted that the cat had been jumped from a rockpile we encountered around noon. Miles and hours later Todd told us that we'd jumped the cat from another rock outcropping and that the dogs would have him bayed up shortly. Even the next morning he continued to insist that the cat was "getting tired" and that it wouldn't be long before we had him in a tree. Todd also made some factual statements which I would like to call into question: on the evening of the second day Todd told us that in the 1997-1998 season his hunters had taken "33" mountain lions. According to Sid Eaton of the Elko office of the Nevada Division of Wildlife, Todd and his guides checked in 10 mountain lions in the four-county area served by that office. This area includes the hunting areas in the Rubies and near Jackpot. It's possible that Todd killed 23 mountain lions in that season outside his principal hunting area, but if so then why weren't we hunting elsewhere?
On the last day Todd committed a particularly foolhardy mistake by putting two totally inexperienced riders with no helmets on a snowmobile intended for one person (and badged as such), then leaving us to find our way over a moderately technical track. At one point Todd encouraged me to run the sled "at full throttle." I don't think I need to go into how stupid a hazard and liability risk this was.
The hunt was marred by many small things. The cats move at night, yet due to recovery efforts for the dogs and travel we were only looking for tracks at the optimal just-before-daybreak time on two of the six days. Perhaps this is not important as we didn't see many old tracks either. In fact, we saw no evidence that the areas in which we hunted have a huntable population of mountain lions. Perhaps these areas have lots of mountain lions and it just so happened that only one of them walked in the places where we looked for tracks, but we learned that the hunter before us had been unsuccessful as well. Todd and Andy had little good to say about other outfitters despite the glaring problems with their own operation, and I quickly tired of hearing them run down other outfitters. On the third day, as darkness fell the dogs were clearly spent, two of the four refusing to go on. Fresh dogs were desperately needed at this point, but we didn't have them due to Todd's earlier error in letting them out without leashes for the second time in two days. On the whole Todd's dogs displayed little of the abilities they allegedly had to track down mountain lions.
We did not question any of Todd's decisions during the hunt, even the foolish ones, nor did we complain. We were quite willing to walk until the dogs, guides and hunters were mutually exhausted and would have gone further had Todd decided to do so. Our 20-mile up and down hill chase being insufficient to tree the one mountain lion which we tracked has grave implications for the ability of any hunter to catch a cat with Todd. But the largest loss to me in all of this hunt is the loss of time to a frustrating and unenjoyable experience. I have few opportunities to take trips with my father and resent the lost opportunity to spend quality time together. Perhaps everything would look different if I had been successful, but the lack of tracks, dogs that ran off and lack of functioning telemetry gear, made success very unlikely.
Clients considering booking a hunt with Todd would be well-advised to call all prior-year hunt clients and at the minimum demand evidence that a huntable population of mountain lions has returned to Todd's area.
Also on the hunt was RD Jensen, 58 years old and in excellent physical condition.
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To: The Hunting Report From: Todd Schwandt of Nevada High Country Outfitters Date: July 17, 2000 Re: Rebuttal to Mr. Jensen's report.
Please accept this letter of rebuttal concerning Mr. Jensen's cougar hunt in January 2000.
This hunt started in January of 1999. The Jensens arrived for their cougar hunt at the start of a poor hunting season. We had very little snowfall prior to their arrival. We hunted for two days on bare ground and were able to jump a lion that turned out to have two kittens with it. This was in an area that has produced some good cats in the past. I made a decision at the end of the second day to give the Jensens the option of continuing the hunt or returning again in 2000 for a new hunt. They opted to return next year for a full six day hunt at no extra charge.
On the return hunt in January 2000 we started hunting an area that I had seen a torn track in about two weeks before the Jensens arrival. That day I had two new dogs with me (puppies) and two of my old dogs. They did run off as we headed out of the area and I didn't recover them until the next morning. I left my coat at the end of the road and they were located at that spot the next morning around 5:00 a.m. so no hunting time was lost. The next time we lost two dogs at water they had jumped a bobcat in tall sage and gave a chase. I knew that my dogs would not pull off a jumped cat so I left them to ensure that the Jensens would not lose any hunting time, because we still had six other dogs.
The last snowfall had been several days earlier before the hunt started. Many of the tracks we located were several days old and would have been very time consuming to try to freshen up. When we went to a new hunt area, the third day I located a tom track made the morning before. We turned out the hounds and began a 28-hour run chasing this lion. This lion was in an area called the Bad Lands. It is any area of cliffs, rim rock, and jumbled boulders with sage and aspen. This cat did in fact ledge up several times, and would jump whenever we would approach the dogs. In fact one time the lion ran back down our footprints in the snow. The clients were headed back to the truck with the other guide when they became lost in the darkness and made a long back track to get to the truck that evening. I continued on with the dogs until about 10 o'clock that evening. I could tell the dogs had in fact gone over the mountain when I returned to the truck and clients.
The next morning I tried to get a reading with my telemetry equipment and could not receive a signal. I then took an extra collar and turned it on and still had no signal. It was at this point I found that the wire from the antenna to the receiver broke off. This equipment is very fragile.
We then headed around the mountain in an attempt to locate the hounds. As we drove up the mountain, we were hit by a snow squall that dropped about three inches of snow in thirty minutes. While this snow storm hit, the dogs came down the canyon walls to the truck. We ran down the canyon to the point where the dogs came off the hill and tried to locate the lion, but the new snow had covered up the tracks.
This client, as many others become armchair experts in hunting when they have had an unsuccessful hunt. As you know and anyone else that has hunted lions they have very small lungs. This gives them very little endurance for a long run, once jumped. Lions that have been chased many times become quite smart to the hounds and become quite devious and hard to keep bayed in the rocks.
I have been lion hunting since I was a Government Trapper in the 80s and have owned my own guide business since 1985. In this time we have taken more than 100 cougars in the state of Nevada. My reputation has and is well known for producing lions. In the winter of 1996/1997 we did tree 33 lions and harvested 14 of those cats. I have been and continue to serve as the President of the Nevada Outfitters Association for more than five years, and as Chairman of the Guides Advisory Board to the US Forest Service. My business has been featured in magazines and mentioned several time in hunt in reports for The Hunting Report, Safari Club International and The North American Hunting Club.
It is never a good feeling when a client leaves my camp without game. We make no guarantees as to any hunter leaving with an animal. In this case it was a happy ending for us as the client did not have a cougar tag, only a hunting license. I feel I was honest and forthcoming with this client as I am with all my hunters. This client has expressed his displeasure with his hunt, and it is ironic that the unhappy people in the country never call the person or business that they have a beef with. This letter is the first notice that Mr. Jensen had an unhappy hunt.
I hope this answer your questions, should you have any more or request further explanation. Please contact me in writing at the address below.