Hunting Bears & Cats in Southern Utah
I have been running hounds in Southern Utah for most of my adult life. Every year I buy an over the counter Cougar tag in hopes that we tree a giant tom on an open unit. Unfortunately, bear tags are a little harder to come by. After years of putting in for the bear draw, it was finally my turn! I had drawn the Premium Panguitch Lake Zion tag, which meant that I got to hunt in both the spring and fall hunts.
The spring didn't go great for me. I treed a few sows and ran some mean boars that put the whoopin’ on my hounds! I wasn't too worried because I figured it would be easier in the fall. Wrong! The bears seemed to have packed up and left all of the areas that we had hunted in the spring and summer. Well, all of the bears except for one big boar.
This giant bear had been getting a little too close for comfort to some cabins during the deer hunt and the landowners wanted him gone. I put several good runs on the bear but I couldn't shut him down. With only five days left in the bear hunt and two days left in the cougar season, I was about to give up. It was then that the snow began to fly. If I was going to get him, I needed to act quickly. I went up the mountain looking for any sign that the big ol’ chocolate bear was still out feeding. There was no sign of him. The snow had fallen all night long, making the animal footprints harder to distinguish. We came across some tracks that we thought for sure were too big to be a mountain lion so we dumped the dogs and the chase was on!
After a long uphill hike, we peeked out and could hear the dogs treeing. As I approached the tree, the wind was let out of my sails when I saw the long, yellow tail hanging out of the tree. A lion. I started taking some pictures of the lion and realized that this wasn't just any Cougar. This was a Boone and Crockett record book mountain lion! I checked my tag, and decided to punch it on this giant tom! I let him have it and he fell out of the tree and off a big cliff.
About an hour later we found the big cat. It was bitter sweet as we dragged the lion to the truck. Yes, I had just killed a trophy tom, but the reality was sinking in that I was about to eat tag soup on my long awaited bear tag. We loaded the dogs and realized we were short a couple (not uncommon). We looked for a while but couldn't find them and it was getting late so we decided to come back in the morning. The next morning while looking for the lost dogs, we found the big bear track a few hundred yards up the road from where we dumped out on the lion the night before. Luckily we had brought the dogs again. We dumped the box and I started hiking with the dogs, as they were not shipping out on the two-day-old bear track very fast. About 500 yards into the hike, my buddy started screaming on the radio, "There he is! Shoot him!” I wasn't able to see him through the trees, but the dogs sure caught wind of him. Away they went! After hiking straight up hill into the same bluffs that we killed the lion in, I could hear the dogs baying the bear. I gave it all I had to get there, but I could only see a big brown bunch of fur running down the other side of the mountain. My buddy had driven the truck around and started screaming on the radio again. I got another burst of energy and ran down the mountain, only to find that the bear was already to the top of the other side. I scrambled my way toward the top and my energy was spent. It took me about an hour to climb the mountain. When I reached the top and looked into the bottom of the next canyon, I could see the dogs and the bear fighting. I pulled up to aim but my scope was fogged over. With shaking hands, I rubbed it good enough that I could make out the bear and bang! Bear down!
I will never forget the satisfaction I had that day. With only a couple of days left in the hunt, I was able to punch both my tags with amazing animals. I decided to taxidermy the bear and the lion together because they were old buddies from up on the hill!
If you are interested in hunting bear or cougar Email me at