There are times when I really want to kick myself for forgetting my digital camera.
Saturday I took a little turkey hunting trip. Over all not a bad day, the weather was reasonably nice. The snow was off most of the southern exposures and only about 4in or so deep on the north slopes. The drifts were deeper. I saw a few birds but I didn't get a shot at a gobbler. I did see another kind of Tom .
I was working my way along a southern ridge when I saw brown movement up ahead and slightly to my right. The birch trees and the snow covered ground made the movement easy to detect. My first thought was deer. The animal had slipped behind a stand of pines about 80 yards from me, and I lost sight of it for a second. Then it came out into the open and sat down on its hind haunches behind a stand of birch trees. Deer don't sit on their haunches, ever, at least I've never seen them do it.
I grabbed for my field glasses even though I knew what was staring back at me. His head was huge, the size of a basketball. He was turned so I could see his face and massive chest. He didn't blink, growl or move. He sat still sniffing the air and looking me over. 80 yards is almost a football field in length, when the animal in front of you can go from 0 to 45mph in less than a second, 80 yards is little more than handshake distance. Still, I didn't touch my rifle. I had loaded it with 55 grain Sierra fmj's at 3,200 fps, perfect for popping a turk, of no value for what I now saw. The HP's were in my drag bag, behind the seat of my locked truck, and not even in a magazine. I knew what I would do when he stood. If he came towards me, I would draw my side arm and wait for the pounce. Then I would tuck tight and shoot center of mass. I wasn't going to move first.
Utill then I would watch. I saw his breath in the frosty morning air. I watched him and he watched me back. He stood and streched out just like a kitten. His tail was as long as his body and thicker than my forearm. He twitched it back and forth. As he stood and turned away from me I could see his belly sag and drag in the snow. He had recently eaten, and was positivly gorged. He weighed more than a fat man, at least 265 lbs. I found his tracks in the snow. My hand could fit inside them without touching the sides. I don't know how to put into words how large yet gracefully athletic this beast was.
I have been closer to wild cats and worked with wildlife bioligists tracking and studying them. This was by far the largest one I have ever encountered in the wild. I'm sure it is the largest in Wyoming. Here is a recent Wyoming lion The one I saw Sat would have dwarfed it. In case your having a hard time wrapping you head around what I am claiming, I'm saying the cat I saw would beat, at least in weight, the current worlds record .
I wish I had taken my camera. I figured that if I got a turkey and it was worth taking a picture of, I could always do it at home. In case your wondering, no there weren't any turkeys in that hollow.
I just got off the phone with Berger. They have added a second shift and should be meeting demand in about 6 weeks.