Mountain lion offers big surprise when we’re the predator
Predator calling is one of the most challenging and exciting sports many hunters in Arizona participate in.
When hunting and calling in predators, the hunter becomes the hunted. When hunters are in the field using a variety of handheld calls that imitate a dying rabbit or other creature, they never know what may come to the distress calls.
The most common animal predator hunters see when calling in Arizona is the coyote. In Arizona, there are thousands of them throughout the landscape, from the desert to the pines.
But those aren’t the only predators that will come into a call. Other predators include foxes, bobcats, badgers, bears, and even mountain lions occasionally come.
In predator calling circles, the most sought after predator is either bears or mountain lions.
Bears and lions are extremely difficult to call in. With bears, it’s because their attention span is so short. If they hear a call and are interested, they’ll start coming knowing full well they can kill both the prey animal that is making a distress sound, and the predator that is causing the animal a lot of anguish.
Stop the calling and often times a bear will just stop, look around, and walk away.
Mountain lions are one of the most secretive predators in the wild. If they hear a distress call, they know they can kill both the prey animal and the other predator. After all, they are at the top of the food chain.
Typically mountain lions come to a call cautiously, slow and deliberate. But that is not always the case.
A few weeks ago former Kingman resident Brandon Tyree and his girlfriend, Teri Stevens, decided to go out and do some varmint calling in the pinion pine and juniper areas west of Williams. Both are avid hunters and enjoy calling predators. Brandon, unlike many predator callers today, is “old school.” He uses a hand held Circe jackrabbit call that has been around for ages.
He likes the idea of mimicking the distress sounds one of the most common prey animals on the Arizona landscape, the jackrabbit, to lure predators into range.
Brandon has been calling predators for many years, and he noted that in addition to coyotes, bobcats and foxes, he has called in deer, javelina and even antelope in the past.
But on this morning, on the very first stand of the day, they got quite a surprise.
“I had been calling for about 15 minutes in an open juniper push when I saw this mountain lion at 75 yards running in toward us,” he said.
Brandon said the lion ran up to within 20 yards when it suddenly stopped and sat down, while looking straight at them.
That gave the veteran hunter time to get his 6 mm rifle on the big cat and fire a shot. The lion went down and tried to get up, so he fired again. The lion, a male, went down and stayed down this time.
Brandon had done what many predator hunters believe is the ultimate goal of predator hunting, taking a lion.
Tyree brought the lion into the Region 3 office of the Arizona Game & Fish Department as per regulations and checked it in.
He said the officers aged the tom at 3-4 years old, a lion in its prime. Biological samples, including a tooth, were taken from the big cat.
Tyree plans to get a life size mount of this unique trophy in the future.
Lions in Arizona are considered big game animals, and as such, hunters must have a tag, which can be purchased over the counter.
While it’s difficult to determine the exact number of lions in Arizona, Amber Munig, Big Game Management Program supervisor for AZGFD believes there are between 1,700 and 2,600 lions in the state, and they are well distributed.
Hunters annually take only a small number from the population. In 2016, hunters took 313 lions, while in 2017, hunters harvested 252 of the big cats.