Some of my most memorable hunts are hunts of opportunity. They are not planned, they just fall into your lap. This predator hunt turned into one of those. Now, most of you guys think we have nice weather here in Southern California! Let me tell you, when the storms come down from Alaska and hit our High Desert area, the cold, coupled with the winds, make for some brutal hunting conditions. I went out with my buddies’ Matt and Jon looking to call some predators in the Eastern High Desert, right smack-dab in the middle of one nasty, cold storm. I knew things were going to go poorly when we saw the trees being blown around furiously by the wind, with tumbleweeds passing us on the shoulder while we were going 70!! Okay, maybe not THAT hard, but it felt like it. Add cold air to the mix and it makes things very uncomfortable, to say the least. I also realized that getting ready for our first stand was a lesson in preparedness. As in, next time, I’ll dress for the cold before I step into it! After we got ready, we made the long trek to our first stand. It was in the desert, so we tucked ourselves into some greasewood bushes and tried to protect ourselves from the battering wind. Other than the wind messing up the sound, the stand looked and “felt” good. Then the caller died. It was the batteries and the only extras were way back in the truck, along with my hand calls.
The rest of the day went pretty much the same. If the wind didn’t ruin the stand, then something out of the ordinary did (like someone parking next to my truck while we were calling a few hundred yards away).
We finally decided to call it quits in the area and head West towards the main part of the storm. We could see the snow dropping in the hills above the valley, so my thoughts were that if anything was moving, it would have to be over there. As we pulled into a property owned by one of my good friends, Matt spotted a Bobcat standing between some rows in the orchard. It was keyed in on something and attempting to make a stalk. We all bailed out of my vehicle and Matt grabbed his Savage .17HMR rifle (Savage 93) and shooting sticks, while I grabbed the video camera. We followed the cat while it moved from row to row, creeping closer to its prey, until it finally laid its body flat on the ground, readying for a final pounce. Right then, Matt took the shot.
The 15.5 grain lead-free bullet hit with a “wop” and the Bobcat jumped up in the air and ran. It only went a few feet and tumbled over. The bullet had pierced its heart, killing it almost instantly! The wind made for a confusing few minutes, but Matt emerged from the orchard with a huge smile and a nice Bobcat in hand. Jon and I congratulated him, then Matt tagged it. We then headed to another area to get some pictures.
This all happened within a few minutes, at 2:15 in the afternoon. I realized that the Bobcat was about to kill a domestic cat that roams the area around the ranch house. If Matt had hesitated just a few seconds longer, the Bobcat would have made his kill and the ranch would have lost its last domestic cat (all the others had been killed off by the Bobcat and Coyotes). For Matt, it was only his second predator killed, with both of them being Bobcats. Not bad for a new hunter!
We plan on heading out again soon and will probably be hitting the same areas we tried earlier in the morning. They were all good, with plenty of sign; It was just the wind that was wreaking havoc on our opportunities. However, this Bobcat goes to show that opportunities come out of all situations! Even cold, windy and snowy ones!
A note about using the 17 HMR for Bobcat sized predators. I don’t recommend using the 17 HMR for any of the larger predators (coyote, bobcat, badger, or raccoon) when you are calling. However, this Bobcat was within 60 yards and Matt had ample time (albeit rushed) and a good rest to place his shot perfectly. The bullet pierced the Bobcat’s front leg and entered its chest/heart, killing it almost instantly (click here for graphic wound shot). In a calling situation, where the animal is almost always on the move, in my opinion, it is not enough gun. I would recommend something with a heavier bullet, meaning more energy. His only other choice was a .243, but that would have blown the Bobcat up at this distance.
— By: Eric Mayer
A Short Video of the Shot is Below: