9/12/2012 6:01:00 AM Predator, Arizona style: Hunter aims at lion
DON MARTIN/Special to the Miner
Don Martin and his client, Lake Havasu City resident Mike Hulsey, heard a mountain lion kill a fawn like this one. That led to Hulsey getting a shot at one of Arizona’s deadliest predators.
It is a sound that, if you ever hear it, I guarantee you'll never forget it.
I'm talking about the sound of a mountain lion when it kills a young deer fawn.
It happened about two weeks ago while I was on the Arizona Strip with my friend Mike Hulsey, who had drawn one of the 25 archery deer tags for Unit 13B.
Though I have been hunting on the Strip for many years, every time I go up there I learn something new about this magical place.
It is 1.5 million acres of public land that seems like a place that time has forgotten.
Many consider the Strip to be the top area in the southwest for hunting heavy-racked mule deer.
The wildlife there is managed by the Arizona Game & Fish Department, while the public lands are under the control of the Bureau of Land Management.
Both, in my opinion, do an excellent job.
Now sit back as I share with you just exactly what we saw and heard on that fateful morning while we were scouting for deer.
Hulsey and I were out at dawn, looking over a giant brush-covered basin that is the summer range of some of the estimated 3,500-plus mule deer that inhabit Unit 13B.
Even with the latest top-notch spotting scopes and binoculars, finding bucks in this area isn't easy. There are thousands and thousands of acres to look at, and remarkably, there are some areas that are not home to the mule deer.
Scouting there is a process of eliminating areas to glass.
Hulsey and I had found that this giant basin this year seemed to have a good number of mule deer.
We had previously seen a number of does and their fawns in this rugged and remote area. We had also seen a number of mature velvet-covered bucks that were the subject of our attention.
But before this day would end, something else would be the focus of our attention.
After hearing a lion kill a young fawn, the roles were reversed. We became the predator, and the lion became the hunted.
The sound we heard was obviously a death scream of a young fawn deer, which had been hunted down and killed by one of Arizona's top predators of mule deer.
After the death scream of the fawn, we heard a loud growl and then a scream from the lion, proclaiming the kill.
Then the unfortunate mother doe came charging out of the thicket, snorting, wheezing and stomping as she tried unsuccessfully to save her offspring.
"What was that?" Mike asked me.
I told him that a lion had just killed a fawn in the thicket about a quarter mile from where we were sitting.
We continued glassing until Hulsey asked if I thought it was possible to call in the lion.
"Maybe," I answered, not really sure if we could call a lion off a fresh kill.
We both had purchased mountain lions tags prior to the hunt, as in the past my archery hunters there have seen several lions and one had actually taken a lion on his hunt.
We were not very far from our camp, so I went back and got my scope-sighted AR-15 rifle and the Fox Pro varmint caller.
I came back to where Hulsey was and waived him over to my location.
We walked to the edge of the mesa and got set up.
The call hadn't been on for 10 seconds when I saw a dark shadow moving through the trees below.
At first I thought it was a coyote.
But then, in the morning sunlight, out stepped the lion.
The lion sat down and looked up at where we were sitting, which was 287 yards away.
"It is a big lion!" I told Hulsey. "Take it."
Hulsey, who had never fired this rifle before, took careful aim.
In a scene as old as time itself, the roles had changed for this predator. It was the lion who was now in mortal danger.
The angle was steep as Hulsey aimed at the big cat.
At the shot, the lion jumped and whirled in the air, its long tail flashing brightly in the morning sun.
I had heard what sounded like a "whop," a sound made when a bullet strikes home.
Hulsey was actually shaking as we looked at each other in disbelief.
One of his stated goals when we got to the Strip was to take a lion. The other was to take a non-typical mule deer.
Here, the day before the archery season was to open, Hulsey had just had the chance to fulfill part of his dream.
But had the shot been true?
Did Hulsey have the trophy of a lifetime that he wanted?
You'll have to wait until next week for the answer to those questions.