The snow had been falling throughout the day, suddenly stopping right at dark: just when bobcats do their hunting. Instead of playing with the latest technology and electronic gizmos I’d gotten as gifts, my heart longed for something else, something as old as the dawn of time … the hunt.
The sound of the hounds barking was a delight and just what I wanted Santa to bring for Kruger and me. Dane, Rooster and Fletcher, some of the best bobcat hunting dogs around, are exactly the company I want my hound to keep—they’re the dogs that I want both Kruger and myself to learn from.
Watching the dogs—how their tails twirl on track, the change in their bark when they strike scent, the way they yearn to run the mountain—is a treat. I learn more from these dogs than I ever thought possible. Their determination; the will to continue beyond being tired, hungry or cold; the will to live in the moment as is if it might be their last; giving 100 percent of their heart to the pursuit … it’s all remarkable to experience.
During the first year of Kruger’s puppyhood and in the excitement of his arrival, I might have spoiled him a bit. Okay, he’s a very spoiled dog. Now that he’s more than a year old, it’s time for him to learn for himself the positive work ethic that I see in Dane, Rooster and Fletcher. It’s important to me that my hound has a well-rounded disposition and character. That takes time, that takes the mountain and that takes some hard hunts.
Here We Go
My head bounced around like a sleeping kid on a car ride. My eyes were heavy and I was passing in and out of sleep, trying to stay awake and pay attention to the snow-covered road and the tracks that crossed it. I tortured my hunting partner, Ty, by singing—it was the only thing that seemed to break the desire to sleep.
Rabbit, squirrel, deer, repeat. Wait—is that a coyote track or is it a bobcat track? The two can be easily confused in certain snow conditions. Nice and round track, no toenails … definitely a bobcat. We had found what we were looking for. The track was aged and would be difficult to follow, but it was worth a try. No guts, no glory.
The cold mountain air bit through my lungs as we climbed up, high toward the sound of the hounds. Rooster and Fletcher had gone to the right, Dane to the left. Which dog(s) do we follow? Which was on the correct track? The mountain was black, making seeing the track very difficult. We decided to follow Dane because he was heading toward the rock cliffs, which is a place where bobcats love to go.
The rocks were slick and covered in a dusting of snow. One slip would be a disaster. Dane was not barking treed, but he was frantically running circles around the rocks. We followed in his and the bobcat’s footsteps, catching up shortly after 2 am. The bobcat was perched high on a rock face, watching Dane run circles trying to figure out where it had gone.
We were fortunate that the bobcat had not taken cover. Dane had done his job and brought us to our quarry. The bobcat had eluded my hunting partner for some years and was a known runner, but we had been blessed with success.
Fletcher and Rooster were still on the hunt and could not be caught—the hunt was over and the dogs didn’t know it. Dane had done the job. Two hours passed, and it was after 4 am before we were able to catch the strong-willed dogs.
With the pickup at idol to keep us warm, the front seat was my bed for the short night. The thrill of the hunt, our determination and our success … it was all worth it.