I am hiking across acres of Southwest Colorado with my fabulous best friend, a Black Mouth Cur that I named, appropriately, “Blessing” on our morning “walk” through the fields and woods of the farm where we now live. It is out here where Blessing is learning how to hunt rabbit. I flush them, she chases them, eventually my one-year old Big Girl will have her hunting skills honed and will bring a rabbit back to me. Prepping skills underway and forthcoming. Well, eventually.
As I trudged through the recently fallen snow I began to notice what looked like drag marks. I looked closer and the further I went, it became abundantly clear that this was a kill that was being dragged to a more solitary location. I noted the paw marks on either side of the drag marks as feline, and from the depth of the drag markings, this was a sizable animal relocating its sizable kill. Too big for a bobcat; clearly I was trailing a mountain lion, the prints were too distinct to be a Lynx. Hmmm…
I had been distracted by my “this is like an animal documentary!” findings and Blessing was now more-than-usual ahead of me, out of sight. Had she found a rabbit and is on a hunt? I softly called for her, the norm for out “hunt”. Nothing. “Nothing” longer than usual, so either she has stumbled upon some cactus, or is very far away. I called louder, waited and again: nothing. My heart-rate is climbing.
I begin forward, in the same direction I was previously trekking, noting the sheared fur/hair now along the rocky areas of the drag marking. This is getting interesting, but where is Blessing? As I round an awkward corner, I spot Blessing ahead of me, her nose deep to the ground. Why didn’t she respond to me?
Well, duh, she has found the partially buried buck that had been dragged across more than 10 acres of the Colorado southwest. She is at a food cache and I am deeply upset! This is incredibly dangerous, those drag marks in the snow are FRESH!
Despite my concern over her well-being, I too approach the food cache and snap some photos, in between each shot I’m looking up, over and under. I’m excited at the fresh find, and I’m scared that we are in enemy territory, because INDEED we are. I want the antlers for Blessing to get a fresh calcium infusion and a good tooth/jaw workout and consider coming back with a hacksaw. Do I dare? I decide to think this over more carefully, but for now Blessing is learning a very bad and dangerous habit. She is feeding on this food cache, meaning she is distracted and is making herself (and me) an enemy of, if not an additional prey, in the eyes of this mountain lion.
She is difficult to get away from this fresh kill but eventually heeds my calls and warnings. Throughout her training, (I have only had her five months), I have always told her “danger” when it fit. She knows this word, yet is drawn to the fresh meat nearby. Obey me or the stomach, I can see her struggle, but we indeed are in dangerous territory, it is past time to get clear of the area. I make a mental note of the additional training she needs for her preservation and for my protection.
The next day I am visiting with friends and I mention this “discovery” and how I would like the antlers for Blessing, (salvage and use EVERYTHING, right?) but that I feared putting myself in a vulnerable position. I’m told, hey if you have a weapon, just take that with you in case the cougar shows up, and I thought, well? Maybe I will.
Day three of this “event” and Blessing and I are hiking our usual trails, the difference is that I’m packing hacksaw and handgun. It doesn’t take long when we are near the original food cache only to find it empty. Oh well, I figured and moved on with our rabbit hunting practice. Silly, naïve me.
Next thing I know, as I allowed Blessing to move on, she is barking (HIGHLY unusual for her!) and growling. She is really getting into it, not only standing her ground but gaining. I call for her and she is ignoring me. Now I’m REALLY scared. Then I hear it. It is DISTINCT!
The feline growl and hiss. Deep, really deep, the sound seems to literally penetrate my body.
More threatening growling and Blessing continues to advance with her own growling!
“NO! Danger! Blessing HERE!” She doesn’t come, she continues to growl right back at that very big cat.
Weapon holster safety off. I begin to approach. No cat is going to hurt my dog, no sirree! Am I prepared to kill? Yes. Kill or be killed.
I can not see the cat, I can not see where Blessing (who is the same coloring as a cougar!) is either. I think my knees may buckle, but I continue. Calling, searching, weapon now drawn, trekking pole and hacksaw tossed aside. I am on a mission; find my best friend.
I see a flash of tan, it is fast and is heading AWAY. Is it Blessing or the mountain lion?
And we are reunited, everybody is safe.
Yes, she has MORE training, much more to learn, and so do I!!
Folks, do NOT listen to people who say that cougars are more afraid of you, because no one can predict what a wild animal is capable of. Every morning I pray for protection and provision (along with a plethora of other things) and if it were not for the grace and protection of God, things could have gone horribly, horribly wrong.
I’m a city girl recently transplanted to the wilderness, and I have MUCH to learn. Be VERY CAREFUL when you are out and about, honing YOUR prepping skills and learn from the mistakes of others!!
Now, if I had just left it in the Hands of the Lord in the first place! If I had JUST BEEN PATIENT! As Blessing and I were on our usual trek, low and behold there are the antlers that another animal had carried off!! It’s amazing how the Lord provides, He is such a good God! Now Blessing has her “treat”, I have learned yet another valuable lesson, and both of us are a little wiser and certainly safer!
Be blessed my friends!
And this, because it is just SO IMPORTANT!