Ed Beall has been a Montana bowhunter education instructor for 5 years, and owns Capital Sports, an outdoor sporting goods store. Though he is a life-long hunter, there was one hunt he'll never forget: when he was nearly a mountain lion's prey!
I have enjoyed instructing bowhunter education for the last 5 years. Actually, I am surprised that it has been that long...it feels like I just started! The great thing about teaching is being around folks, young and old, who have an interest in hunting with archery equipment and the challenges and opportunities that come with the experience.
One of the experiences that I share in the class is about dealing with the top-tier predators that we have here in western Montana. We teach about “being bear aware.”
We do this because grizzly bears have expanded back into more of our state—the whole western half and most of the southern area is known grizzly habitat. So, we teach students to recognize bear signs, defensive bears compared to predatory bears, and their characteristics. We teach them to carry and use bear spray.
When we bowhunt in Montana, we may forget that there are top-tier predators in this wonderful wild place we hunt. When we are crawling and calling, we expect to hear and see our prey. One fresh September day, I was alone, honing in on a herd of elk that had answered my calls in the dim pre-dawn light. I felt the hair on the back of my neck creepily standing up! I was on one knee, looking at elk moving through the timber about 60 yards out. I craned my neck somewhat to the right and backwards and was shocked to see a mountain lion staring at me....a mere 30 feet away!
30 feet you say? Yes, 30 feet ...I know exactly because that is about as far as bear spray goes!
With the spray and the sound of the can going off, the cat ran back to what I think was more than 30 yards. Yeah! But it did not leave. There was a crosswind when I sprayed, and the spray appeared to barely reach the lion.
My next thought was that we teach hunters to look big to try to frighten a mountain lion off, so I tried that. I opened the zipper on my coat, stood up, and while trying to make myself look "big" by holding out both sides of my coat, I yelled "get out of here" at the mountain lion. I hoped I would shoo him away, but NO! Instead, it got in that slinking low cat crouch and “grwoowohled" at me!
I pulled out my Glock .40 and fired two rounds toward the cat. THAT DID IT! Off it went, to never be seen by this weak-kneed bowhunter again.
The point is, while bowhunting in Montana, ALWAYS be aware of what's around you: look for sign, carry bear spray, maybe even carry a sidearm. Make sure you remember the possibility that something other than an elk may come in to your cow call. Think and practice how you should react if you are cornered by a predator. And maybe, just maybe—hunt with a partner! Your wife will be happier.
Montana bowhunter education instructor Ed Beall
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