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Hamburg hunter lands a big cat

Hamburg hunter Jim Holland Jr., 53, keeps in shape to head out west for his hunts.

An avid deer hunter, Holland set sights on some day taking a trophy-class mountain lion. He booked a trip with Iron Wheel Guest Ranch at Whitehall in the Beartooth Mountain Range in southern Montana in 2010 and saw some nice country but did not take a "tom," the area nickname for a male mountain lion.

Holland booked a follow-up trip in late January 2011 and arrived in Whitehall Jan. 20, a Thursday. "We hunted all day Friday to Sunday and saw good signs, but could not connect," he said of the arduous hunt days.

His guide, Scott Cargill, said of these outings, "This is probably the roughest country to hunt, with big, steep rocks and hard hunts."

Cargill keeps GPS readings on his dog runs and recalls Holland's kill on Monday required a 7-mile run before the tom was treed.

"I've had them run as far as 17 miles before hunters got their shot," Cargill said of the past season's hunts.

Most hunters get into the field at or before sunrise. Well-planned mountain lion hunts usually begin somewhere near 2 a.m. "These cats mainly move at night, so we get out early and look for tracks crossing roads well before sunrise."

After finding sizeable tracks, Cargill puts his dogs on the scent of the largest prints.

"The day before I got my tom, a cat turned on the dogs and injured one," Holland said. "She got scratched up in the face but survived and is now back and ready to hunt," Cargill said of the injury.

Finally, after a morning and half the afternoon on a trail, Cargill guided Holland to a treed tom. His trophy measures 8 feet, nose to tail. A game biologist estimated its weight at 165. This male has whiskers about 8 inches in length.

Skull measurements were a bit shy of Boone and Crockett record-book entry; qualifiers usually weigh in closer to 200 pounds. But for Holland, "This one is a true personal trophy and will be a full-body mount," he said of the taxidermy work being done at Iron Wheel Guest Ranch.

Hunters can take all kinds of trophy deer, bear, elk, and mountain lions in this beautiful country, but guide Cargill and hunter Holland both suggest getting in the best walking and endurance shape possible. Even with snow machines, the chase may require an arduous romp through the rocks. "After this hunt in a good pair of boots, both my feet were calloused," Holland recalls.

For details on hunt options in this area, check with Cargill at (406) 494-2960 or e-mail cargill@ironwheel.com.

e-mail: odrswill@gmail.com

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