The older we get the rarer it is to find new experiences that give us a sense of wonder and a moment of surreal stupor. I was recently given a last-minute opportunity to join in on a lynx hunt with hounds in British Columbia that provided that for me. The experience rekindled my hound hunting roots and grew my appreciation of a new wild critter, earning my respect alongside those who pursue them.


Growing up in a rural town in East Texas in times predating the internet did not provide a great pool of knowledge to saturate my understanding of wild places or animals outside the lifestyle afforded to me. The hunting community I was exposed to and interacted with included three counties and some VHS tapes from Walmart, which were dominated by whitetail hunting and the pursuit of green heads (Mallard Ducks). Going through school, I felt like I learned more about African animals than the animals just outside my reach in North America. The funny thing was that I had a deck of cards with pictures of endangered species on it and Lynx always stuck out to me. It wasn’t something I ever thought I would be able to hunt, and I knew when I got the call much later in life that this was something I had to experience.

Over two decades later, I flew into Portland and met up with Buddy Woodburry from Double U Hunting Supply.  He already had the snow mobiles loaded, so all that was left was to throw my gear in, get a short night’s rest, and load up the hounds the next morning. This would be a long road trip, especially with the flooding in southern British Columbia. A 12-hour drive became closer to a 20-hour trip due to the new route.


We didn’t know how difficult it would be to cross the Canadian border during Covid and found it wasn’t difficult, even though I got selected for a random Covid test while crossing the border. We only needed to be vaccinated and have a negative molecular Covid test within 72 hours of crossing. All the paperwork was in order for the hounds and the snow mobiles just in case they asked, but they didn’t seem concerned.  


We stopped every few hours to let the dogs stretch their legs and empty their bladders and also found hotels that allowed pets so they could stay in the rooms. Houndsmen take their hounds’ health and welfare seriously—no matter the conditions, the dogs are cared for. For a houndsman, the pursuit of game is about watching his dogs work and helping them get better as a pack, just like with children. 


Day 1 – Sunday – The Arrival


After getting to our destination and meeting Stewart Frazier with Itcha Mountain Outfitters, we took the dogs for some exercise on a nearby road and tragedy struck: my new 360-degree camera got run over by a one ton and became a 180-degree camera with no mic.  This would become the running joke of the hunt as we started referring to the hunt as the circus, even through the trip stateside.

Before we dive into the actual hunt, it is prudent to explain that we were not hunting with the outfitter’s experienced lynx hounds. One group had hounds that had chased lynx several times, but the rest of the hounds we were running had little to no experience except with lions and bobcats. The outfitter has a very high success rate with his own hounds, but that was not the point of this hunt.


Day 2 – Monday – Snowmobile Breakdown


            The day started with hopes and expectations of what the day would hold for us as we unloaded the snowmobiles and hit the road. Conditions were less than ideal with no fresh snow on the ground, and I was impressed with the guide’s ability to see and identify tracks in the hard, icy pack. With fresh wolf tracks in the area, we were slow to turn out. We turned out once on a fresher lynx track and hounds cold trailed it to a big blow down and the track was lost. In the meantime, we had a snow machine overheat and then not crank back up. Then, someone locked their keys in the truck.


Day 3 – Tuesday – Snowmobile Bail

            We set out in the same conditions as before and I truly hoped to see a lynx in a tree.  We were able to navigate the roads in trucks while the outfitter rode on a snowmobile to check for tracks on side roads as we came to them. We found the track of a medium-sized cat, and the dogs began following it. I was pumped that we might finally have a race on our hands as the hounds’ bawls tickled the strings of my adventure-seeking heart—until the outfitter came back with the one word that changed everything: WOLVES!  The alert came at the exact time the Garmin showed them as treed. The outfitter had ridden up roads that bordered the section of timber the hounds were in. Wolf tracks went into that block of timber, but never came out.

            We jumped on the snowmobile with him three deep and took off through areas a snowmobile ought not to go. We hit a dip and the snow machine started to turn over and I dove off that thing. I looked like I was flying for ten feet until my body formed a new chasm in the hard pack. Some may cry or crack jokes but this was not the time for drama—we’re saving dogs. By this time, the snowmobile was back right side up and I jumped on without even brushing myself off. We’re GOING TO THE TREE!  However, my hopes were dashed once more as we reached the dogs and found a slick tree.

            We drove for several miles and found a track fresh enough for the dogs to take. They cold trailed for a bit and then struck. We had a race!  We followed the race closely on the Garmin as they began running loops (a great sign when chasing lynx) and they were headed towards us. Thinking we were about to see a cat cross the road, we got into position to watch with our own eyes until the dogs crossed; but no cat came. We investigated and found the tracks of the lynx that ended with one track in the middle of the road. This cat caspered (ghosted) us and disappeared into thin air like some feline magician. We still don’t know what happened there but one thing is for sure, that race was done.


Day 4 – Wednesday – Snow

            Wednesday was like Christmas morning—we were getting the thing that we hoped would be the vehicle for success. SNOW!  It snowed hard. We wanted to stay there until the snow passed, but decided the best course of action was to shut our minds down and live from our hearts. What adventure would we find at camp that would be better than a day on the mountain?  Unfortunately, what day four held for us was putting chains on the truck and busting a break line on top of the mountain. We didn’t turn out at all.


Day 5 – Thursday – The Day of Promise

            The day of promise finally arrived, the day that our efforts would be counted and favor was on our side with the sounds of fresh white powder being compacted with every step. But man was it COLD!  It was ten degrees and this ginger originally from Texas did not know what to do. Just kidding, I actually did pretty well in the elements thanks to my new puffy jacket. The only thing I can say here to preface what is about to happen is, “THANK YOU BUDDY!”

            We’re driving like usual calling out tracks. Stewart in the passenger seat calls out, “Rabbit.”  Buddy replies, “That’s a big lynx track!” After further investigation, they were both right: there was a lynx track on the driver’s side and a rabbit track on the passenger side. We unload the box and the dogs hit where the track went out of the road, turned 90 degrees to the left, and ran the track parallel to the road. As Buddy goes up the road to turn the truck around, the barking changes and we have a strike—one partial loop in the race and we have a tree! What would typically be an hour race only took five minutes. As we approached the tree, there were rounds of high fives and excitement as both Buddy and Stewart, our outfitter, offered to shoot the lynx if I didn’t want the huge tom perched high in a cacophony of branches. This was the arrival of my stupor, the same kind of wondrous stupor I had when we recovered my first bear. As I looked at this beautiful creature, I loved him like a brother, I respected him as an adversary, and I looked to the community of guys around me to know how to respond in this moment of elation. We would later discover that this lynx was a once-in-a-lifetime cat weighing in at 27lbs!

            The rest of the day we had some promising tracks, but the dogs had trouble shifting from the snow to dry ground under thick patches of evergreens. We got on one good race that ended in a slick tree. During that process, we lost a Garmin and a phone that we luckily found by backtracking our steps in the snow. The day finished with us stepping on all the tracks while driving out so the next day we would know which tracks were fresh.


Day 6 – Friday - The Long Race

            We decided to stay an extra day to try and get a cat for our buddy, James. We turned out on a track and unloaded both his and Buddy’s dogs. This was the most impressive dog work of the trip. We got on a 20lb female that kept bailing out of trees. The cat went out as far as 800 yards and ran tight circles, running a total of 5.2 miles according to the tracker. Additionally, another phone was lost and eventually recovered before we made our way back home.


Looking back, I’m appreciative of the way that I was raised in the outdoors and at the same time, I realize that it created a narrow view of hunting. After this first lynx hunt, I learned that going to new areas, hunting new game by different methods, and interacting with hunters from places worlds away from the context of that young boy has made me slow to judge what others chase and how they choose to pursue them. I’m learning to run to new challenges and experiences because of how it expands my understanding and appreciation for the world outside of my own. I am also thankful that this trip taught me the good that happens when things go wrong sometimes. It doesn’t necessarily mean personal failure; those who patiently endure and keep moving forward win the race. I will always remember this hunt as the circus that I persisted through and finally received my reward that was so much more than just a card from my childhood.