By Clay Newcomb
Editor, Bear Hunting Magazine
Mechanisms of human communication are at a disadvantage and merely scramble to describe the week we had in Northern Idaho. Leaving early Monday morning from Arkansas, Forrest Teeter and I drove 26 hours to Clark Fork, Idaho to meet up with friend, Leon Brown of Clark Fork Outfitters. We returned yesterday afternoon with an ice chest full of lion-related wildlife assets not excluding tooth, fang, claw and meat. The wildlife conservation components of legally harvesting a mountain lion over hounds in an ungulate-rich region of the North American West have left my mind and spirit idling near giddy. This isn’t the whole story, but the highlights will do for now as we’ll be running a feature article on this Mountain Lion hunt in Bear Hunting Magazine in 2017.
In preparation for "shooting up" the author hoisted a black bear target into a tree for practice. It paid off when a similar shot presented itself in the Idaho wilderness.
A 26-hour drive to Northern Idaho from Arkansas ended up being well worth the effort. The author hunted with friend and outfitter, Leon Brown of Clark Fork Outfitters.
To expel any urban myths, hunting with hounds can be one of the most physically demanding and difficult hunts available to the North American hunter. Cold temperatures, long snow mobile rides, steep/snowy mountains and rangy cats are the tetrad of foes to overcome. However, defeated foes are the fuel of satisfaction craved by all hunters. Don’t let the difficulty, however, deter you from attempting a hunt like this. I’ve found that a positive attitude and a never-quit demeanor are more valuable than six months of cross fit training. You need to be in good shape, but don’t wait for the mythical “sheep-shape” syndrome to overtake your existence before you try a hunt like this. That being said, this hunt was physically challenging. Maybe one of the most I’ve been on.
Temperatures hovered in the single digits making quality cold weather gear a must. First Lite Sanctuary bibs and jacket were critical along with the Grizzly Cold Weather gloves.
The real heroes of this hunt were the hounds. A historical appreciation of hound hunting is necessary to comprehend the breadth of what you’re partaking of. Leon and his family have bred Plott hounds since the 1960s and they aren’t just a means to end, but they are the end. The relationship of a houndsman to his hounds is unique and reflects a powerful component of our humanity. The ability to leverage the strength of domesticated animals to achieve goals unattainable by our natural capabilities is unique to our species and in essence defining a component of our humanity. Shooting a lion over the baying of a treed hound is in the same category as other human-only activities like “making fire” and altruism.
Leon Brown and his family have been breding Plot big-game hounds since the 1960s. Bootjack, Leon's go-to 7-year old hound, prepares to be released on a lion track on the first day of the hunt. Clark Fork Outfitters guides for Mountain Lion between the first of December and February.
Outfitter Leon Brown and the author in route to a treed lion on the first afternoon of the hunt. They ended up passing it because they couldn't get a bow shot.
On this hunt I used a 64-pound takedown recurve bow made by Kent Roberts of Timberghost Archery in Springdale, Arkansas. I have to admit that it was the most stressful archery shot I’ve ever taken. Traditional bows have a knack for making a hunt special. A lot of investment was at stake and there was no room for error. However, the shot placement was excellent through a softball-sized hole between the cat’s shoulder and the tree. You’ll be able to watch the entire hunt on the next episode of Bear Horizon that will be released this coming Friday (December 23rd).
The author with his Northern Idaho Mountain lion on the third day of the hunt. He used a Timberghost takedown recurve at 64-pounds to make a complete pass through on the male cat.
We treed two male Mountain Lions in three days of hunting and I passed the first, and larger, cat because I couldn’t get a bowshot. Northern Idaho is a mecca for Mountain Lion hunting, features spectacular American wilderness, and Leon Brown and Clark Fork Outfitters are the real deal. You will not want to miss the full article and the episode of Bear Horizon.
The Idaho wilderness was spectacular.
*Gear Note: First Lite gear was made for a hunt like this. An arctic blast of cold air made daytime temperatures dip into the single digits during our hunt. Base layers of Merino wool and the Sanctuary bib overalls and jacket were the foundation of my warmth strategy. Secondly, the First Lite Grizzly Cold Weather gloves performed flawlessly on long snow mobile rides. However, my favorite piece of gear is the North Branch Soft Shell pants. They are water resistant, tough and were perfect for long hikes in the snow. I often slide down the mountains on my rear and they never tore or got wet. I wore the Soft Shell Pants under my Sanctuary bibs. Gaiters are also crucial for traveling in snow by keeping it out of your pant leg openings.
Forrest Teeter traveled with the author and filmed the hunt for Bear Hunting Magazine's show, Bear Horizon. The video will be released later this week. You can watch Bear Horizon on Carbon TV, Vimeo, or on the home page of Bear Hunting Magazine.
Leon Brown and Clark Fork Outfitters: