Mitchell, S.D. resident shoots one of world's largest mountain lions
MITCHELL, S.D. - After five long tiring days of hunting, a 200-plus pound mountain lion fell from a tree, possibly putting Mitchell resident Jeff Jarman in the record books.
Four years ago, Jarman, an Aberdeen native, went to a convention in Reno, Nev., called Safari Club International and met long-time mountain lion hunting expert, Marc Hubbard.
Although there was a four-year wait to hunt with Hubbard in his hometown of Penticton, British Colombia, Jarman wanted to cross a big-cat hunt off of his bucket list. So they made the appointment.
Jarman, who works at American Garage Door, hunted at Hubbard's business, Okanagan Outfitters, a guide service that has led over 400 hunts to mountain lions in Canada, including four of the top 10 in the world. Little did Jarman know, Hubbard's son, Russ, would lead him to the fourth-largest mountain lion in the world.
"The second I pulled the trigger, he was coming down out of that tree," Jarman said. "Usually around here when you shoot a buck, and as you get closer to it, it has ground shrinkage. As we kept getting closer to the cat and looking him over he just was bigger and bigger. I couldn't get my hand around his tail."
When Jarman was traveling to the Hubbard's outfitters club in Canada earlier this month, he said he thought he was headed to the boondocks. Instead, when he arrived, he saw beautiful mountain ranges surrounding a huge lake with wineries along the shore. Penticton sits on the south side of Lake Okanagan, which is over 80 miles long and three miles wide.
The hunt was scheduled for seven days, and Jarman and Russ looked for lynx and mountain lion tracks while riding snowmobiles on trails in the dense, tree-filled, snowy mountains.
Russ guided the hunt for Jarman. Russ, 23, said he shot his first cat at the age of 12 and has been guiding people under his dad's business alone since he was 18. Russ had guided at least 100 people cat hunting, he said.
After the fourth day of snow fall and not finding many promising tracks, Jarman admitted he was getting a little nervous. He and Russ were working from sun up to sun down, not wasting a minute of daylight, looking for a cat. His $500 license for an international mountain lion was running dry.
The next morning the fun started. Russ spotted some tracks at about 9:30 a.m. on a blue-bird sunny day, giving Jarman the decision to go after the cat.
"(Russ) explained that before the hunt, he said 'even though I tell you the track is average size, it could be a small cat or a big cat or even a female,' " Jarman said. "He had a hard time telling exactly the size."
Russ explained the fresh snow gave him some trouble indentifying the size of the tracks, confusing him on the size of the cat.
But Russ told Jarman he thought the cat had probably been through that area the previous night, could be an average-size male and had "good stride" on it.
Three English Red Tick dogs were released after Jarman made the decision to go after the cat.
"That's when the fun started, when the dogs went crazy and started howling," Jarman said. "Once you release the dogs, it's a full-day deal."
Russ described the dogs as like a German-shorthaired pointer, while Jarman said they were like bloodhounds.
Each dog had its own separate GPS unit on its collar, allowing Russ to track the dogs while they tracked the cat. Then, while the dogs were out, Russ and Jarman drove around to the opposite side of the mountain, near where the dogs had posted. At about 2 p.m., and over 10 miles from the original track sighting, they got within roughly 1,000 yards of the dogs, and they hiked on foot the rest of the way.
But as Jarman and Russ were about 100 yards from the dogs, they quit barking. The guide didn't like his ears.
Russ explained then that sometimes the cats will jump from tree to tree, and the dogs will lose track of them, but that time, the dogs did a great job finding the cat.
As they reached ground zero, where they found the most tracks, they spent about 20 to 30 minutes with their heads raised to the sky, looking for a treed mountain lion.
"After searching for that thing I about had enough, but he called me up to where he was with his dog, and calm as day he said, 'the cat's right above us,' " Jarman said.
Russ pointed to a 100-foot spruce-like tree, which was canopied above him and Jarman.
"The dogs came back toward me, and I was joking with the lead dog, like 'find the cat,' and then he was barking at the tree, and I saw a little twitch of the black trail," Russ said. "Then I spotted it."
With his heart pumping and after the dogs were tied up, Jarman positioned himself, looked through the scope of his .270 caliber and thought, "that's a little guy."
Quite an interesting thought from a man who was about to the pull the trigger on a 200-plus pound mountain lion, but Hubbard assured him it was a good animal.
"I could tell from his body and head alone he was huge," Russ said. "I told Jeff to set up against a leaned-down tree. Then, one shot dropped the cat. That cat didn't move an inch."
Added Jarman: "I hit the cat square-on in the chest, probably about 50-70 feet up in the tree. There was no hesitation. He just fell from the tree immediately."
That's when Jarman saw exactly how big it was.
The mountain lion had about a three-foot long tail and was roughly 10-feet long from nose tip to tail tip. Each razor sharp claw was at least three inches of shredding power and Russ said, by looking at teeth length, the cat was 8 to 10 years old.
"He was much more excited about the size of the cat than I was," Jarman said.
While taking photos of the animal, it took both men to lift it up initially. Then, they skinned it and drove back to camp on the snowmobiles, as the dogs rode happily alongside on the sleds.
When they got back to the house, Russ explained to Jarman the cat he shot may be a record holder. Marc Hubbard is an official measurer and initially said the skull size gave it the fourth-largest mountain lion in the world title.
"We have to re-measure the skull, it's a length by width measurement," Russ said. "I'll measure it first and get it down to 1/16th of an inch. Then, once it's certified by my dad, than gets submitted to Safari Club International trophy record book."
Since the cat was shot recently, it needs to wait 60 days to dry to become an official measurement, but Jarman said he feels good about Hubbard's measurement.
"It's a feeling of luck," Jarman said. "If it was a cat half as big as that, I would have shot it. But to have it hit the record books is just the cherry on the cake. It's pretty exciting."
The skin won't be shipped back into the United States until March or April, Jarman said.
This wasn't Jarman's first big trip. He said he's gone to New Mexico hunting elk, Alaska hunting brown bear and to the Arctic Circle for polar bear.