After the Big Cats with Bow and Arrow
B. G. Thompson, Corvallis, Oregon
For the past two or three years a party of archers,including the writer, has made an annual hunt into the north Umpqua forest. This country abounds in deer and bear with an occasional panther (mountain lion) known locally as cougar. The panther is the largest cat occurring in America and is quite destructive to deer and domestic stock. It is said that an adult will average one kill a week, the victim usually being a deer, so we are always on the lookout for cougar.
Our party usually consists of Dr. Geo. Cathey of Portland, Capt Styles of Los Gatos, California, Earl Ullrich of Rosburg, P. W. Lyndon of Waldport, and the writer. This year Cathey, Styles and Lyndon were unable to go, so the party consisted of Ullrich, known to his friends as "Yew Wood", Ward Cummings, a new recruit, a good archer and a splendid fellow, formerly of Denver but now of Roseburg, who answers to the name of "Judge", and the writer.
We decided that one man would hunt with Perry and the dogs each day and the other two still hunt for deer or bear. We drew lots to decide who would go first. The lot fell to me. "Yew Wood" drew the second day and Judge the third. We were up early the next morning, had break fast and Perry and I were on the trail shortly after daybreak About a mile from camp the dogs picked up a bear trail. It was too cold to work out so after a couple of miles we gave it up and called thc dogs off. We crossed the summit of ringtail pine and dropped down toward Fish Creek. The old hound picked up another trail, also cold, but was able to follow it. It was just slow enough that we could keep within hearing of the dogs. The trail circled around a couple of swamps, headed two or three canyons and led back toward Fish Creek. It appeared to have been made by some animal hunting. Perry remarked that he had struck a trail of a large cougar here last winter and that it acted just like this. The snow was soft, going was bad and as darkness was coming on he had had to give it up. We had now come about 10 miles and I had about made up my mind that I needed a rest, but this remark set me going again. We followed the trail for about 4 miles when Bess, the Shepherd, began to bark, as she barks only on a hot trail, we knew that we were about to jump something. We forgot how tired we were and started on a trot after the dogs. By following up the ridge we were able to keep within hearing of them. We had about made up our minds that we could not put one foot in front of the other another time when about a mile and a half up the creek the dogs barked "treed." Talk about music. When the old hound opened up at the tree he had the ordinary band or orchestra backed off the map.
We forgot we had legs. They seemed to move automatically, and we covered that last miles and a half in nothing flat. When we were about 100 yards from the dogs, our quarry broke and took off up the side of the mountain with the dogs in hot pursuit. In about half a mile the dogs barked "treed" again. This time we took our time in following them, partly because we didn't want to scare our game out again, and partly hecause we didn't have it in us to go any faster.
When we came in sight of the dogs we found they were barking up a large pine. We took one look at the tree and our hearts most stopped beating for there, partly rapped around the tree, but standing upright about fifty feet up on the first limbs was an eight foot panther. Its mouth was partly open, with the lips rolled back in an ugly snarl and its eyes flashing fire. I never have seen a more ferocious looking animal. I fitted a good broadhead to the string, drew it to the head and released. The arrow struck the cougar squarely in the center of the shoulder and down it came end over end. Down tto the canyon it went with Bess in ot pursuit. I drew another arrow from my quiver and slid down after them. There in the bottom of the canyon, backed in under a bank with overhanging vine maples, was the panther snapping and snarling at the dog. As I hit the bottom of the canyon I landed in water up to my waist and about two bow lengths from the cougar. When I hit the water the cougar swung around towards me and gave a vicious snarl. I released my arrow and hit back of the shoulder but the shot was unnecessary as the cougar was already beginning to wilt from the first arrow. It was dead in a few seconds. We dragged it out to an open glade and, after measuring it, took some pictures. It was approximately eight feet long and weighed over one hundred and fifty pounds. We would like to have taken it into camp but found it too heavy so after taking our pictures we skinnd it out and took in only the hide and head. We examined the carcass and found that the first arrow had penetrated through the shoulder bone, cut both lungs in two and severed several large arteries. The stomach digestive tract was entirely empty. Before we reached camp we were glad that we had only the hide and head to carry. We hit the hay early completely exhausted but thoroughly happy.
"Yew Wood" hunted the next day and got two young cougars about five and one half feet long and weighing about fifty pounds apiece, and "Judge" the following day got a beautiful lynx cat but we shall let them tell their own stories.