In 13 years of hunting, Trevor St. Germain says, “I’ve taken some pretty nice bull elk, [and] some whitetail.”
But last weekend, the 34-year-old logger emerged from the woods with a much bigger prize: a 156-pound mountain lion, measuring 7 feet, 8 inches from nose to tail.
“This is the first year I’ve ever pursued any mountain lion hunting,” he told the Daily Inter Lake. “I never thought that this was gonna happen.”
After St. Germain drew the coveted tag, one of seven available for male lions in Hunting District 103 this winter, he got support from his longtime hunting partner Darrell Primmer.
“I’ve been running mountain lions with my hounds for quite a few years,” said Primmer, a Toyota technician from Kalispell. But he and St. Germain returned from their first few weekends cat-less.
On Saturday, their luck changed.
Trever, Primmer and Lawrence Bedford focused their search that day on the Pleasant Valley/Lost Prairie area. After daybreak, they sent out five dogs in search of their target. Three started going in circles, but two soon found a scent.
“It must have taken 5 miles for the dogs to get the cat close enough to get him up in the tree,” St. Germain said. GPS collars on their hounds allowed the hunters to follow in their truck.
The first tree, he continued, was too close to the ground for the lion’s comfort. He leapt down, outrunning the dogs to a nearby creek bottom, where he sought refuge in a tree that St. Germain estimated at 180 feet. “He knew that those dogs had no chance of getting near him,” he said.
From the truck, it took the hunters nearly an hour to reach their quarry.
“That’s a nice cat,” St. Germain remembers his friends telling him. “You’re not gonna find much better.”
Even so, the next step in the process gave him pause.
“I’m an avid hiker, an avid horn hunter, but that’s one animal that just intimidates me,” he said. He even worried that it would survive his shot and the fall. “It’s just one of those moments where you don’t know what’s gonna happen.”
But after so long in pursuit, it was time to act.
“I made a great shot,” Trevor said. When the feline fell. The cat was dead.
“It was so overwhelming at the moment ... We had been running around for about five weekends and it finally happened.”
“When it came out of the tree, we were surprised at how big it was,” Primmer recalled. “There’s lots of hound guys in the valley that’ll shoot anything they find...We prefer to shoot mature animals that are trophy quality.”
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks warden Wes Oedekoven saw a high-quality cat when he looked it over.
“It was a nice tom,” he said. “It’s not the biggest tom out there, but definitely a respectable, nice tom.”
It’s enough for St. Germain.
“It’s one of those animals that I really have a lot of respect for...I’ll probably never shoot another one in my life, but it was an opportunity I wasn’t gonna pass up.”
He’s now arranging to have the lion full-body mounted, at a likely cost of $4,000. In Trevor’s view, that’s worth it “for an animal that’ll last you a lifetime of memories”
Patrick Reilly can be reached at email@example.com, or at 758-4407.