Mountain Lion Encounter: A Weaponless Hunter Finds Himself Face to Face with a Cougar

By Chris Jackson
September 2, 2011

A Face to Face Mountain Lion Encounter

Growing up in the mountains and semi-arid canyon lands of the Northwest United States of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, I have had several experiences realizing both how peaceful and dangerous the outdoors can be.  I have logged many days hunting, fishing, hiking, but it was not until a few days after my 31st birthday during an early season archery mule deer hunt that I truly realized that us as humans are not exactly the top of the food chain.

The Hunter

Cougar Country

A picture showing the semi-arid canyon lands where the mountain lion encounter occurred, as well as the primitive road (that is steeper than this picture gives it credit, down to the creek.

We were only a few warm days into the archery mule deer hunt, as my brother (Shawn) and myself road double down a steep four wheeler trail on my Honda Trail 90.  On the way down it was obvious that the trail was steeper than I had expected and that we were surely going to have fun trying to get out of this hole with the two of us on the little trail bike.  A four wheeler was sounding real good at the time.

We spent a fair amount of time down in the canyon that morning looking for deer.  As it began to heat up, we decided we had better think about getting us and our gear (back pack full of water, supplies, and two bows, out of this hole.

We gave it a little go and realized pretty quick that we were going to have to start by packing our gear out first, and then attempt to ride both of us out.  So the plan was for Shawn to drop off the gear at the top and then come back and get me.  But instead of me waiting around for him, I decided to hike up the hillside with only my hunting binoculars, and then side hill on a rim around to a timbered, north facing slope.

The Hunted

Walking line to where the cougar encounter occurred.

The orange line shows the path I took, with the blue dot being where the mountain lion encounter occurred.

It was very steep (at least a 45 degree angle) as I walked along some rim rock.  The rim petered out and I circled down below it.  That is when I caught some movement in the vegetation above the cliff.  I thought “that was more movement than what should have been,” but I figured it was just grass popping back up from where I had stepped even though I thought I saw something black!  Then, not more than a few seconds later up jumped a mountain lion atop the cliff 13 yards away from me and probably 6-8 feet higher (I actually went back and ranged it).  As soon as it realized that I had seen it, the big cat stopped and just stood on the rock starring a hole through me.  He was expressionless and just looked at me without any fear whatsoever.  The feeling was not mutual.  I yelled at him and threw my hands up to make myself appear intimidating.  The big, full grown Mountain Lion just looked at me, both frightening and beautiful at the same time.

Unfortunately I was weaponless as Shawn had all of our stuff.  At this point a knife was sounding real good. I tried throwing rocks at the cat, but they were in short supply and too big to throw accurately.  One rock landed right at the cat’s feet, but did not phase him.  After 3 or four rocks, my supply of throw-able ones was exhausted.  I tried throwing up my arms and charging at the cougar, but he was not scared.  Even at this point, I felt that he realized I was not exactly the food he was after and he would keep his distance (13 yards) so I stayed relatively calm and knew that I should not turn my back and run as he could surely out run me in any country, let alone that steep, rocky, brushy hillside.

Mountain Lion Encounter

I photo shopped the picture of a Mountain Lion where the big cat first appeared and stood on the rock. I was standing in the spot I took the picture from. Too close for comfort.

After at least a minute of him patiently watching me, I guess the Mountain Lion decided I was nothing to be to scared of.  That is when things got extremely intense. He jumped down off the cliff and was heading right at me at full speed.  He moved at me just like you see them as they are going after a deer on T.V., only more intense. That is when my instinct took over and I threw my hands up and ran at him yelling as loud as could. At no more than 5 yards he halted, turned around and headed back to just below the rock he had been standing on.  I backed up and then charged him again, yelling as loud as I could.  Finally he took a few leaps the other direction and was out of sight.

I sighed a huge sigh of relief as I began backing down the hillside, but it was premature.  Just as quick as he left I heard foot steps coming my way.  The cougar came back to its spot just below the cliff and again starred me down.  That is when Shawn called me on the radio.  “Copy Chris?”  I glanced over to see his white pick up 600 yards away as far down the road as he could back it down the four wheeler trail as the Trail Bike had overheated on his way out.

I can only imagine the sound of my voice when I responded “I have a Cougar at ten yards, do you have your rifle?”

“Come back and talk slower I can’t understand you?” he replied.

Again “I have a cougar at ten yards, do you have your rifle?” I think I may have even had to say it once more.

Mountian Lion Attack

The orange dot is where the Cat stood and I at the blue dot.

Then I just put my radio back in my pocket and began whistling as loud as I could (which is loud).  I followed that up by another charge and yelling “GET OUTTA HERE!” several times.  Just as he turned to leave, pistol shots began to ring out across the canyon as Shawn emptied his clip, followed by another clip full.  I began backing down the hill side and once I felt I was a safe distance away I turned and bombed down the hillside, making it down to the four wheeler road just as Shawn went running by, loaded pistol in hand.

We sat there discussing what had just happened and what we should do about it.  We decided we would have to come back with more fire power as there is a possibility that the cougar had a kill in that area and was just trying to scare me away.  If that is the case, he did well, as I was not sticking around to find it.

The Return

We found ourselves back at the mountain lion encounter area the following  day with shotgun, rifle, pistol and a video camera.  We crept in there quietly and did some “deer in distress” calls to see if we could get the lion to show itself one again, hoping he’d be in the same location if he had a kill close by.  He never did come in, but at least we gave it a try.  We never did find any lion kills in the area either, so why he came after me is still to be determined.  You’d think if he wanted to eat me, he would have, but maybe I caught him off guard with my aggressiveness.

Side Arms

I know.  Most of you are wondering why I did not have a pistol on my side for protection.  Well, I do now!  I have always figured there is more chance of shooting myself or someone else than there is me needing to defend myself against a wild animal.  Now my opinion has changed and I think I will just rely on extra safety while packing around a pistol.  A pistol would have been looking real good about the time that cat jumped on that rock at just a few cougar strides away.

I would not want to relive that exact experience ever again, but give me a weapon to level the playing field, and then I might feel a little more confident.  Now that it is over and everything turned out fine, I am glad it happened as it makes for a good story.  I hope you have enjoyed it.  You can read more of my articles at http://www.BestforHunting.com

 

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8 Responses to Mountain Lion Encounter: A Weaponless Hunter Finds Himself Face to Face with a Cougar

  1. hunterboy says:

    Wow…what a good story…my wife even enjoyed it and was biting her finger nails as she read it…..

  2. Dwight Curtis says:

    Excellent story. I had a similar incident a few years back, but fortunately I had my rifle with me. One shot at the ground near him, and he was gone. Good story Chris.

  3. Kelly Jackson says:

    Great story Chris, wish I would have been right beside you during the encounter.

    Dad

  4. Mrs. ALF PETA says:

    Why on earth would you want to hurt that wonderful animal? He probably just wanted you to pet him. Next time carry some cat food and make friends, you silly redneck.

  5. Randy Price says:

    Chris
    Wow! My heart rate is up just reading your story! Glad everything worked out for you! What kind of pistol are you now carrying!
    Randy

  6. bobby wochnick's grandpa=bob says:

    hi chris!! well you did the right thing,and now are packing a side arm.i too have met mista cat and it is very scary.have you ever heard one scream? that will put your hair on end.did you get your deer???

  7. frankie says:

    Great story…here’s a similar one from England.

    Sometimes You Have No Choice But To Stand Your Ground If You Want To Survive

    One night in March 2008, I was out with my two cracking dogs Buster & Murphy in my local Country Park. I had taken to using the park at night to walk my dogs because of a problem Buster had developed with other dogs, after being attacked by a Staffordshire Bull Terrier in the said park during daylight hours when he was a young dog. The park in question is quite large & i’m always in there for at least a couple of hours. The park features woods, streams, a marshy area & a Railway Line running through it. There are also many seperated open green areas that are accessed by gates. On this particular evening, I was to experience my first encounter with an animal that would later threaten my life!
    I had taken my usual route through the park & was about two thirds through my walk as I approached a stream that was easily accessible & a usual spot for my two beautiful boys to quench their thirst. The dogs were off the lead as usual & a little in front of me, suddenly the dogs nose’s were sniffing the scent of something & they quickly approached a row of large bushes to our right before the stream, that were aligned next to a Raiway Embankment & just before a tunnel that passed right through it. I didn’t take much notice at first as this was nothing really unusual & just par for the course. I covered the relatively small distance quickly between myself & the two boys who had started to bark very aggressively at one particular bush. As I drew level & then passed the dogs who were still going ballistic, I attempted to call them away from the bush but they were having none of it…so I decided to investigate. I approached the bush expecting to catch sight of a Fox or Rabbit that had taken cover within as we had started to draw near. I held up my small police type torch, that was suspended from my neck by an old Lanyard that I keep specifically for this purpose & would be too embarrassed to wear anywhere else & shone it into the bush. As I peered about three feet into the bush & about a foot & a half below my level, there was a pair of bright red eyes. They were larger than human eyes & for a split second I thought I was hallucinating! WTF is that I asked myself? I’d never seen anything like this before in the wild or anywhere else come to that & i’ve been an angler most of my life, spending many a whole night fishing in this country & abroad…but a sight like this just totally shocked me, it was like staring into the eyes of Dracula!
    I realised at the time that this must’ve been a large animal sitting on its haunche’s because of how high off the ground the eyes were. After standing there for around 20-30 seconds staring into these bright red demon like eyes, I decided it was time to go & headed off out of the park in quite a hurry…checking at regular intervals behind me to make sure that nothing was following me & the boys. Once i’d exited the park, I began to question again what i’d seen but still became none the wiser.
    A few nights later I was back with the dogs & our walk was without incident. I continued to frequent the park on average about four nights a week as I have a dog walker who used to get mine out for me three times a week. Within a fairly short space of time, I had once again become completely at ease on our walk & put the demon like eyes incident behind me.
    Almost exactly a year later in March 2009, I found myself in the park again at around 1.am. We had nearly completed our walk & was crossing a wooden walkway over the marshy area of the park, when Buster jumped off onto the soft ground about two feet below & headed over to a large bush shaped tree about 60-70 feet off to our right, whilst Myself & Murphy remained on the walkway watching Buster approach the tree. Once Buster was within approximately ten feet of the tree, he came to a halt & began sniffing the air & ground before cautiously continuing on to the tree’s edge. It was then that I heard an unmistakable sound, a sound that you really don’t want to hear at 1.am when it’s pitch black & you’re out in the open in the middle of a large deserted park. It was the sound of a Big Cat…a Big Cat that was warning Buster not to come any closer or else. If you hear this sound in these circumstances, take it from me, it’s a sound that instills immediate fear to anything that recognises it & is lower down the food chain! This hissing sound was very very loud & although it emanated from somewhere around eighty feet away, it sounded like this Cat was two feet away. Every single hair on my body bristled with trepidation! The volume of this warning hiss, scowl, snarl or whatever you might call it, left me in no doubt what was in that tree!
    I responded to the sound almost immediately by calling Buster back to the walkway, where myself & his brother Murphy were waiting. Buster responded immediately by sheepishly jogging back toward me with his tail between his leg’s & his head down…with a sorry look in his eyes like he’d just been given a good ticking off by me. I know my dogs very well & I assure you, he knew he was well out matched by what was in that tree!
    Until this time, I had never seen either of my dogs scared of anything, Buster’s a real terror in his own right & is the one on the right in the picture.

    We once again hurried out of the park with me checking regularly behind until we were outside. I then started to foolishly doubt my own instincts & what I had heard, I think it was the thought of not being able to give my dogs what they really enjoyed…time off the lead running free in the park.
    Anyhow, I started to convince myself on the short walk home, that it couldn’t have been a Big Cat, not in England! Even though I knew what i’d just experienced, I kept on trying to convince myself that what i’d heard was a Fox…as I have heard Foxes make some very strange noises in the past. As many times as I told myself this, I knew in my mind that if it had been a Fox both of my dog’s would’ve been in that tree like a rocket & chasing after it!
    After dwelling on the dilemma for a while of whether to continue using the park or not, the love of seeing my dog’s enjoying themselves off the lead got the better of me & I decided to carry on with my night visits. I also decided on making regular checks around myself with the torch on any future trips there. I had always carried a stick that i’d removed from a tree for a type of walking stick that gave me extra balance & grip when negotiating muddy dips & inclines, this added to my sense of safety. Just over a month later in May 2009, I decided on a visit to the park after work as my dog’s had been cooped up all day in the house & found myself coming out of a wooded area & into a disused farmer’s field at around 1.30am. This was a route that i’d taken many times before although not usually that late at night. There are four fields adjacent to each other & I would regularly skirt around three of these because two contained high numbers of Pheasants & the third I would cut through to get back into another section of the park. The dogs used to love flushing out & chasing the Pheasants, plus this would add interest to the walk for them & was also good exercise; they would still be chasing the Pheasants even after they’d took flight & were fourty feet in the air. All of these fields were left to grow wild & the grass contained within was as tall as myself, giving good cover for Pheasants & unbeknown to me, something much more sinister!
    On leaving the woods, I turned left down the pathway along the edge of the first field as the dogs bolted straight into the tall grass of the field on the hunt for Pheasants. Once reaching the bottom of the first field, I called the dogs & ventured into the second through a hole in the dense brush of the tree line & continued down the field’s left side to the bottom where I ran out of pathway & cut through the long grass to my right to begin heading back up the other side which also lacks a pathway.
    The dogs had passed me as I was struggling to find a way through & were an estimated 30-40 yards off in front of me as I negotiated a Rabbit Run trying to make my passage through the very tall grass a bit easier. As I reached around a third of the way up the field, I decided to have a quick check around myself & looked behind myself using the torch.
    Approximately twenty feet behind me, in the middle of the Rabbit Run was a pair of large amberish eyes, at first glance it looked like they were stuck in the ground. As I was standing there wondering wtf it was, the eyes came slowly toward me about three feet then stopped. It was at this point I realised that I was in big trouble & that I was being stalked by a Big Cat!
    Everything that had happened previously suddenly made sense.
    My first instinct was to high tail it out of there but I realised to turn my back on this animal & run would be suicide & I very quicly came to the conclusion, my only chance was to stand my ground & look as big & as intimidating as possible. I raised a stick I was carrying above my head & began screaming & shouting as loud as I could whilst making threatening motions with the stick toward the Cat, then it slinked another few feet toward me. I called for my dogs & they appeared at my side within 10 about seconds & I desperately wanted to hook the lead to their harnesses as I didn’t want them mixing it with this animal but I was to afraid to divert my eyes from the Cat. I know many of you will not believe me when I say the dogs had no idea of its presence. The dogs being at my side didn’t seem to deter the Cat at all but I was absolutely petrified! I didn’t have time to dwell on my fear as I could now see the slitted pupils of its eye’s firmly fixed on me. I kept shouting, screaming & waving the stick above my head as it stalked another few feet nearer once again. I looked directly into it’s eyes & was convinced it was going to pounce at any second. Not knowing what else to do & out of sheer desperation, I made a really loud hissing type noise myself (as if trying to scare a domestic cat) & to my utter relief this did the trick. The eyes disappeared from the Rabbit Run & into the long grass to my left. I took this chance to hook up the dogs & managed to complete the task in about four seconds flat & that included unhooking the double ended lead from around my neck. As I straightened myself back up I couldn’t believe what I was looking at as I watched in the full moonlight, a jet black muscular Big Cat poised on it’s back legs with its front leg’s pulled in close to it’s body, leap into the tree line along the field’s edge to my right.
    The Cat was thought to have been a Black Leopard & I know how lucky I was to have checked behind myself when I did!