Have you ever had that eerie feeling that someone (or something) was watching you? Me too.
Which is exactly why I don’t understand how a mountain lion followed me for almost a full mile while I was hiking through the woods the other day. I didn’t have a clue.
I distinctly recall trudging through the fresh powdery snow, boasting to myself that, “… If anything moves on this mountain, it’s mine!”
I was mule deer hunting near the Saint Joe National Forest in Idaho, and every track was, at most, a couple of hours old.
Fresh snow has a way of boosting one’s confidence when heading into the woods.
The stealthiness of your gait, the ability to see everything for miles, the delightful ability to identify animals that have been walking through your area.
Upon further reflection, I realize I had an overinflated understanding of my abilities and situational awareness.
After hiking to the base of my glassing knob, I scaled a slippery rock face and vowed to finally breakdown and buy some crampons (which reminds me that I still need to buy some crampons).
When I started working my way back to the trail, I saw the undeniable sight of a mountain lion track walking down the same path I had just come down a short time before.
Mountain lions have a very distinct track, as they are virtually perfect in appearance. Most animals drag their feet ever so slightly, but a lion will leave a perfect set of tracks every time.
I could see where the lion was getting close to me, its footsteps would get closer together as it was closing in. I could then notice when the distance between us had grown greater as its stride became much more predominant.
I could just imagine that thing watching me as I walked, sizing me up the whole time.
It is amazing how quickly you can be humbled in the great outdoors. All too often we are deceived into thinking we’re the ones at the top of the food chain and the most dangerous thing lurking around in the woods.
You can imagine how surprised—and humbled—I was when I saw those breathtaking tracks walking intently in my footsteps from just a few short hours earlier.
It was a feeling I’ll never forget. I remember looking over my shoulder and all around wondering if I was still being followed. It was one of those moments that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck.
I was certain every shadowy silhouette was the masterful hunter closing in, ready to show me how a true hunter does things.
As I worked my way back to my truck, I realized that this lion had been trailing me for almost a full mile.
Whether the lion was curious or hungry, I will never know.
One thing is for sure; it has my respect. From now on, I will always remember my place when I pass through as his guest, in his back yard.
I was very humbled and very grateful that day for my opportunity to experience the amazing and powerful relationship that exists between the hunter and the hunted.
Mike Willis, North Idaho