September 25, 2017
Monday
Chasing Lions

Chasing Lions

The 2011 hunting season started early for Miller Mathews guides Clayton Miller and Kasey Peters. The South Dakota mountain lion season began on January 1 and we were in hot pursuit on day one. Our strategy was to put in as many miles as we could on mainly untraveled logging roads and attempt to cut a fresh track crossing the road.

Clayton had recently returned from filming his hunting buddy Dustin Lutt on an archery lion hunt in the Southwest Desert Region of Utah. This hunt was conducted with dogs and turned out to be successful within the first 6 hours of the hunt. The dogs treed a world class 170 pound tom. This hunt will air on American Archer in the fall of 2011. The hunt was a breath taking experience in more than one way. Any type of mountain hunt is a blast, but finding a set of 330 inch elk sheds at 9500 feet, harvesting a Boone and Crockett lion with a bow 8 yards away on film, and being able to share stories with the guides was a once in a lifetime experience.

The Utah lion hunt was conducted by Reed Dalton who is a guide for Doyle Moss. Doyle is world famous for their Utah and Nevada elk and mule deer. Needless to say there was more time spent talking about giant mule deer than anything else. We did however manage to pry as much useful information from the guides about lions as we could so that we could apply it towards our South Dakota season where we are not permitted to use dogs.

There suggestion was to cut a track and follow it just as we had done with the dogs. We were going to have to hope to catch the cat unaware of us following him and hope to catch up with him. This is a daunting task, but it was one the we were more than ready to embrace.  They personally felt that attempting to call in a lion with any type of distress calls was going to be a unlikely way to put a cat in front of us. Statistically there just aren’t that many cats in a given area. A male lion can have a home range of up to 120 miles! That is a little bit out of the range of my rabbit distress call.

With calling of the agenda we cut our first track about 20 miles into our first logging road. The track was over a day old, but we decided we were in the mood to put in some miles. We strapped on our snow shoes and shoved a days supply of gear into our Sitka packs and took off. Nine miles later we ended our first attempt in fear of not making it back to the truck before dark. We didn’t make up a day as we hoped we might.

Our theory on following an old track was that the cat could stop at any point. For example if the cat made a kill somewhere we could get lucky and stumble on to him at any time. It was amazing to follow the tracks as we slowly began to learn the types of areas the lion wanted to follow. Any type of edge or thick cover was sure to be hugged by our lions tracks. Rim rock as well as dog fur seemed to be his main highways.

The next day we set out to see if we could cut the same cats track on a different road in the direction of where he was headed. It was snowing heavily as we made our own fresh tracks down an untraveled road. Kasey spotted what he first thought were human tracks and as we backed up we were excited to find that they were actually lion tracks and FRESH! It had been snowing so heavily that we knew the tracks were less than an hour old and size wise very comparable to the Utah lion.

Almost racing to get our gear put together we set off. The tracks zigged and zagged much like they had the day before. Each hill that we crested we took our time to look ahead to where the tracks lead in hopes we would see a long tail ahead of them. We took turns watching the tracks as the other would watch ahead of us for the cat. Within 3 miles of the road we found where the cat had laid down under a small ponderosa pine tree. We became anxious and realized that if we had stumbled over the last hill at just the right time we would have had a 150 yard shot.

We followed the tracks straight up the hill to a rock face. It almost looked like the cat had dissapeared into the cliff. We soon realized that he had gone up the cliff. We thought we were going to need a rope to get ourselves over the top, but we managed to keep our pursuit. From there the cat went a couple hundred yards and had sat down looking our direction. After that the tracks picked up the pace and we followed for several more miles until we were again out of light.

We didn’t make it back to the truck untill an hour after dark that night. It was a big day and we were tired. We decided to regroup and come back in the morning.

After following several other sets of less fresh tracks we ended up giving up on day 5. The most difficult part we found was getting lucky enough to stumble upon a fresh set of tracks. As always hunting is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Weather we are following the deafening barks and howls from the dogs in Utah or stealthily slipping through the silent Black Hills in South Dakota we will be back to chase lions again next year. Our chances may be less than one percent, but we know we won’t be able to catch up to one sitting at the lodge in Draper.

Clayton Miller

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July 6, 2011
Spring for Miller Mathews Outfitters means two things, sheds and turkeys. This year we seemed to find plenty of both. Teaming up with Kyle Metzger of Newcastle, Nebraska, and Trent Siegle or Dwight, Kansas was another awesome season. We set out to film a short highlight video of how we hunt turkeys and ended [...]
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