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Cougar hunt was unique and exciting
Mar 15, 2012 12:00 am
There is an ongoing debate about whether cougars are prowling the wilds of Tennessee, but there’s no dispute about how exciting hunting the big cats is out West.
“It’s something special,” says Lebanon’s Vincent Lenning who bagged a cougar during a December hunt in Montana. “It’s a different type of hunting for a different type of animal.”
Lenning, who owns and operates Burdine Supply in Mt. Juliet, traveled to Stanford, Montana in December specifically to participate in a cougar hunt. He killed a 115-pounder on his third day in the mountains.
“Cougars hunt primarily at night, so we’d leave before daylight each morning to drive around and look for fresh tracks in the snow,” Lenning said. “Finally we found some, the dogs were let loose on the trail, and after a 15-mile chase they treed the cougar.”
Lenning shot the big tawny cat, which he plans to have fully mounted.
“My hunting buddy Bob Northern got a cougar out there the year before,” Lenning said, “and I wanted to get one too.”
Lenning is a veteran of Montana big-game hunting.
“I know a family who lives there and they invite me out to hunt every year,” he says. “I’ve hunted elk and mule deer in the past, and this last time I went out specifically for a cougar.”
Cougars – also known as mountain lions, catamounts, pumas and panthers – are abundant in most Western states, so much so that they take a heavy toll on deer, their primary prey.
“The area where we hunted had a limit of five males and four females, one per hunter,” Lenning said. “The season runs from Dec. 1 through April 1, and a special $340 cougar tag is required in addition to other licenses.”
Lenning has followed the debate about whether cougars exist in Tennessee. The animals were plentiful during the 1700’s and even into the 1800’s, but wildlife experts insist they vanished during the early 1900’s.
Despite numerous credible reported sightings, the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency’s position is that there is no wild, breeding cougar population in the state. The TWRA says if any cougars are out there they are exotic pets that have escaped or been set free.
If, however, there are any wild cougars, they are protected under law since there is no established hunting season for them.
“I believe there’s some out there,” Lenning says. “I’ve never personally seen one around here, but I’ve talked to people who claim to have seen them, and I believe them. Cougars have such a wide range that they could migrate in from hundreds of miles away.”
While the debate continues, one thing is certain: there will be at least one wild cougar in Lebanon before long. It will be mounted, snarling and crouching, in Lenning’s den.