My 10mm vs. a Mountain Lion
March 9th, 2020
5 minute read
As a full-time fly fishing guide, I’m often on the mountain scouting multiple fishing spots every morning and evening. It was a beautiful, warm evening in June when I decided to make the long trek to one of my favorite spots. This spot is a hike-in lake, about a mile and a half each way or so, to the most beautiful alpine lake filled with hungry Colorado Cutthroat. I set off around four o’clock in the afternoon, which would get me at the lake for the prime-time evening bite.
Now I know this sounds crazy, but on this particular day I was hiking with my cat, Brookie, named after my favorite type of trout to catch. She was about two months old and she had been on fishing hikes with me since she was three weeks old. I travel a lot, and fish alone a lot, so the plan was to find a good fishing buddy that wouldn’t tell others about my favorite places and could also be left home while I traveled. Brookie has always liked sitting on my shoulders as I hike, and she was doing that on this day.
About a quarter of the way into the hike, Brookie started meowing like crazy. I figured it was because she was young and still new to this hiking thing that I was making her do. She was meowing so much, and sounding so much like a young kitten, that I thought to myself “you are going to call in a predator.”
After another quarter mile or so, her meowing had increased and she was moving around on my shoulders. When she is in the mountains with me and sitting on my shoulders, I keep her harnessed to a leash that I hold in my hand. With her freaking out and moving around, I felt the leash pull tight around my neck as she had wrapped it around me. I stopped for a second and turned my head over my shoulder to unwrap the leash from my neck and backpack.
As I turned, I saw a big, strawberry blonde-colored mountain lion about 10 yards behind me. My stopping to fix Brookie’s leash had surprised the mountain lion, and it shot off to my right and into the woods. I’ll never forget seeing it crouch down like a housecat in full pounce mode as it weaved through a thick forest of aspens. Its long tail was really recognizable as it ran away through the aspens until it was eventually out of my sight.
My Other Partner
This was a very eye-opening moment in my life, for I had just been stalked by a giant mountain lion in the middle of the woods while alone. As fate would have it, that was actually my first day open carrying my new Springfield Range Officer Elite Operator 10mm in the backcountry. Previous to this day I had always open-carried the Springfield XD-S in 9mm. After seeing a giant male bear on a trail camera in a place I fish often, I knew a 9mm wasn’t going to cut it. I decided that I wanted a round with more of a punch, and a magazine with increased capacity in case I needed to unload on a threat.
From reflexes or instincts, that day that the mountain lion stalked me I had my pistol immediately drawn and in position. As soon as it started to run away, it was clear I wasn’t going to need to use it, but it gave me confidence to know it was there and that I was ready.
I know a lot of people may fear going deep into the backcountry by themselves. There literally could be lions, cougars and bears at every corner — and you never know when you’re going to bump into an aggressive one. Having a reliable pistol on my hip gives me the confidence to go on the fishing and hunting adventures that truly are my favorite experiences in the world.
Looking back on that June day, I remember the mountain lion’s features so vividly. When I turned around and first saw him, he was close and low to the ground in his “stalking” or “sneaking” position. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes, which seemed more out of curiosity than aggression. I’m sure this big tom heard my little kitten crying and had to come investigate. I’m also sure that my little kitten Brookie sounded like a tasty snack!
On the hike back from fishing I paid attention to my tracks and that of the mountain lion’s. He was stalking me for at least a half a mile. He was so quiet and stealthy that whole time that I probably would have never seen him if I didn’t turn around.
From this June day, I learned that it is always important to glance behind you while hiking. A quick glance 360 degrees around you can give you more time to react to a predator that might be stalking you. I also learned not to take my cat into really wild places. She still goes fishing with me a lot, but I make an effort to keep her out of places where I know there are lots of bears and mountain lions. I know that because of her smell and meows she could act as an attractor to animals that I’m not looking to be stalked by.
Stay safe out there and remember that carrying a reliable firearm like the Range Officer Elite Operator is the greatest confidence boost that you could ever bring to the backcountry. Thanks for reading!
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