I can’t tell you how much I loathe paper, rock, scissors. I mean deep down to the core type of hate. No matter how much I practice, I never seem to get better at it. The countless hours of calculating the odds, practicing until my hands are numb from pain, the relationships that have suffered due to my obsession, all for nothing. I still suck at it.
“Paper. Damn you! Why did I throw rock? Rock is like betting on the horse with the broken leg.” I muttered in disappointment.
For better or worse, I lost the opportunity to take the treed mountain lion’s life.
I don’t know why I would think for the worse. This is what I do, I am a hunter. Whether it be spearing a fish, shooting a deer or in this case killing a mountain lion, the end result is all the same. We take an animals life to continue ours. Whether they are pretty or ugly, it all serves the same purpose, right?
For some reason the charismatic megafauna (excellent description Steve Rinella) have more of a right to live then do the “lesser and uglier” animals. Or at least is what the public pressure indicates.
Many non-hunters appear to feel this way. Hold up a picture of a fish you just caught and they don’t bat an eyelash. Kill a cat or bear and you’re going to be hung up on a cross.
Us as hunters should not be affected by this. Meat is meat and as long as we go about taking it ethically we don’t discriminate. A life is a life.
In theory this is how it should work. Still… I am a product of my culture. Despite me knowing that this is a fucked up and a hypocritical way of thinking, it still had a small grasp on me.
I wanted to experience in a bad way what it is like for the ultimate apex predator (yours truly and hell for that matter, most of you reading this as well) to hunt another apex predator and kill it. Not just a creature that was used to getting hunted, a creature that served the purpose of feeding those higher up on the food chain.
That opportunity would not come on this hunt to be the killer. What did come was the opportunity to experience and document the emotions for three very different people. This is a role that I’ve been taking more serious as of late and enjoying it immensely.
At first as I approached the three hound dogs howling in ecstasy, all I could see was the rear end and tail of what was the first mountain lion I would see in the wild. The fevered pitch of the bone jarring howls came from what only could be an animal that was performing to perfection its sole calling in life.
The cat stared down at the dogs, not exactly knowing what to make of them. Threat yes, but could she take them? That was what she was deciding as we approached her. She must have sensed that there was more on her trail than just the three jabbering dogs.
Then she looked at me.
Not looked, but stared deep into me, analyzing me, deciding who was the apex predator.
Then for the first time in my life came the feeling of being unsure of my position on the food chain. This was the first lion I had ever seen in the wild. This was the first time I had seen something that could make the decision whether to kill me or let me live. This was the first time I felt what it was like to be possibly hunted.
She was not stupid. She calculated her odds and decided one against six was not in her favor. She lept from the tree and decided to try to find a place that would adjust the odds to allow her to come out as the winner.
The race continued and so did my emotions about what I was doing.
Part of me said the only way this would be a fair battle between apex predators was to go at it with here one on one.
Part of what has separated us from the majority of other species is the ability to create and use tools that give us the advantage in any given situation. In this particular situation we are using hound dogs, bows and safety in numbers to our advantage. We are doing what all humans do when at all possible, we are tipping the odds of success and safety in our favor.
She trees but does not feel her surroundings are quite right.
She takes off again.
The dogs do their job and pin her one more time. She knows the gig is up. Running has proven fruitless so far. This is what worries me as I approach.
Fight or flight. Flight was now out of the equation.
We approached the tree. Steam from her forceful hisses eject from her mouth as a warning. I questioned what I would do in order to survive in this situation and the thought makes the hairs on the back of my neck prick up.
I knew I was attaching human traits to this creature and knew the dangers it can cause. But still… a living creature is a living creature and their number one priority is to keep the “living” part in front of the “creature”.
We tie up the dogs knowing full well that they would attack the cat after she was shot. With a broadhead in the cat’s carcass it would not be a pretty sight.
As we circled her she never unlocked her eyes from me. Maybe she is curious to the contraption pressed against my face, recording the last minutes of her life.
Or maybe it was something more. Part of me said she knew I was new to this and therefore perhaps the most susceptible to her pleas. But a bigger part of me said she knew I was the only one not holding a weapon and if shit hit the fan, I was the one she was going for.
The shooter moved in to position and I right behind him. The houndsman gripped a 9mm in his hand with the false sense of security it provided in case he was called upon.
As the bowmen drew back I watched her through the camera. The hunter was becoming the hunted and she showed no fear whatsoever in the end.
I prayed for a clean shot.
My prayers were answered.
She died and with it my question as to what we were doing. We were doing what we have done since the beginning of time. We were as involved as anyone could be in the this freaky thing we call life. We were surviving, like any every other creature in this world attempts to do. We were a part of this process first hand, not hiding behind money and the deaths you can buy with it, not behind hypocritical social media posts that proclaim our superior morals and certainly not disconnecting ourselves from our role in the animal kingdom.
Make no mistake about it, we are killers in every sense of the word. We are ALL killers, whether we know it or not. Some of us just decide to take the responsibility of it into our own hands. We decide to stay as absolutely as connected as possible. We decide to stay human.
// Fred Bohm