Tracking big cat

Husband and wife team up for successful hunt

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There are those couples who enjoy a night out on the town or a quiet dinner at home, but Pat and Rene Calicura enjoy spending their free time together pursuing mountain lions.

They went on a venture in December that produced one big cat.

According to the Calicuras, it was a cold December day with at least a foot of snow on the Bureau of Land Management ground in Unit 22 south of Meeker where they decided to hunt.

The Calicuras hunt with three hounds, one Walker hound and two English red ticks. Both Rene and Pat Calicura participate in the handling of the dogs and the year round caring for the dogs. This day, their work paid off.

It wasn't long into the hunt before they were on the trail of an adult, female mountain lion.

"We ran her for an hour," said Pat Calicura. "The snow and the steep terrain made for a lot of flopping around."

"It is a real big adrenaline rush," said Rene Calicura. "It is also exhausting."

While the dogs were pursuing the female they ran across the trail of a male and started off after that lion. This cat was wise and it had a few tricks up its sleeve for the Calicuras and their dogs.

"A few times when we got him treed, he would jump from tree to tree and then back onto the ground and start off in a different direction," said Pat Calicura. "They get real smart when they get that old."

Rene Calicura had never tracked a lion that was as elusive as the one on the frigid December day.

"This was a very wise cat," said Rene Calicura. "He was wise to the dogs and he knew the game and how to play it."

But even though the lion was cunning, one of the Calicura's dogs had some tricks of its own. The dog is what they referred to as a "wind dog," according to Pat Calicura.

A wind dog is one that can track from the scent a lion leaves in the air. It does not have to rely on the scent that is left in the paw prints. With the help of their wind dog, they got back on the trail of the lion.

The Calicuras thought the chase was over when they finally treed the cat in a short juniper.

"We had him treed but one of the dogs climbed up into the tree with the cat," said Pat Calicura.

The dog was dangerously close to the lion and Pat Calicura ran up and grabbed the dog out of the tree.

"I wanted to get him out of there before he got eaten," said Pat Calicura.

By the time Pat Calicura had removed his dog from the tree the mountain lion jumped out and was off again.

Three hours into the chase, the Calicuras finally ran up to a 50- foot Douglas fir where the hounds had the lion at bay. After all was said and done, the mountain lion turned out to be a huge one. It measured 8 feet, 10 inches long and weighed 206 pounds. Both Pat and Rene believe the experience meant more to them because the other was along for the hunt.

"It is a lot more fun to share the experience with someone," said Rene Calicura. "Especially when they enjoy the experience as much as you do."

"It is a once in a lifetime cat, but it made it even better to have Rene with me," said Pat Calicura. (View a photo of the lion on Page 2).

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