Idaho is one of the best places in the world to hunt mountain lions. Here, the combination of isolated habitats and plentiful deer allow cougar populations to flourish. Plenty of Idaho residents pursue lions through the state’s mountains, fields and forests, but out-of-state visitors pour into the area each fall to try their luck hunting these predatory beasts as well. Here’s a quick guide to Idaho mountain lion hunting with hounds.
Mountain Lion Hunting with Hounds
Perhaps the most elusive game in North America, you’ll need to find tracks to have any chance of success. And they must be fresh, or you may travel miles in vain, chasing after a ghost. Most mountain lion hunters use a small-caliber rifle and a pack of well-trained hounds to hone in on their prey. Typically, hunts begin with the search of isolated roadways and logging trails by truck or all-terrain vehicle. After finding fresh cougar tracks, one of the best dogs in the pack will be released from the kennel, leashed and put on the track. Once he locks on to the trail, the others can be allowed to follow.
Most hunters equip their dogs with GPS collars, enabling their location to be identified from afar. But a pair of good old fashioned ears will also work well. Because they instinctively howl while they track, you can hear the hounds as they make their way through the bush. When the dogs tree or otherwise corner a cat, it is the hunter’s job to catch up and do the rest.
Dogs for the Hunt
Idaho mountain lions sit at the top of the Rocky Mountain food chain. They typically have no reason to fear four-footed predators. But a pack of well-trained hunting dogs is a different story. The dogs will worry the cougar, causing him to seek the relative safety of a tall tree.
Because mountain lions are both large and formidable, mountain lion hunting with hounds usually involves larger breeds to handle the tracking and treeing duties. Blue tick coonhounds are the preferred choice for most, but black and tan hounds, leopard curs and redbone hounds are also used. The most important thing for a good mountain-lion-tracking dog is a “cold nose,” which refers to the ability of a dog to trail an old track—a crucial skill for Idaho mountain lion hunting.
Catching Up for the Kill
Once the dogs have treed the cat, you’ll need to catch up. Slinging your rifle across your shoulder, you start off in their direction. You follow their barks and bays, while glancing down periodically at the GPS monitor. Seeing that the blinking dots have converged, you know they’ve treed something—you just hope they didn’t become distracted by a bobcat or raccoon.
Trudging through ankle-deep snow isn’t easy, and it takes you the better part of an hour to catch up with the hounds. Along the way, you’re forced to scamper under a dozen downed trees and navigate boulder-strewn hillsides. You even have to leap across a small but icy riverbed. The cougar certainly tried to lose the dogs.
Finally, you round the corner of a precarious ledge and see the dogs circling a lone pine tree. Your eyes trace the trunk skyward, stopping about 30 feet up the tree. It’s hard to make out a silhouette from this distance, but from the size and color, you can tell that the hounds accomplished the task at hand.
Now it’s time for the NOMAD to finish the job.
Gear Up For Your Next Adventure
You’re a NOMAD, and NOMADs are always prepared. Clad in the finest outerwear available, you know you’ll stay warm and comfortable while pursuing your prey. But this isn’t a casual pursuit. You are hunting an apex predator on his turf. You don’t have the luxury of being cold. Shop our collection of high quality hunting gear today and overcome your quarry.