KSL Outdoors: Hound Hunters

Coming up tonight on KSL Outdoors. It’s the love the chase, not the kill that drives this houndsman to pursue the biggest feline in Utah.

One of the biggest thrills is right there in the tree. Come along as we tree a mountain lion. I’m Adam Eakle and this is KSL Outdoors.

It’s five am, on a cold winter morning as the Leifting brothers set out in search of the secretive, elusive, mountain lion.

Who does this? (nick) You know what I don’t know. Seriously I never thought of doing this but I did it once and I thought that would be pretty dang cool and now I’m into it and I couldn’t imagine not having dogs because it’s just so fun.

The brothers are new to the sport, they got their first dogs just four years ago. They share these two Red bone hounds, nine year old Gage and year old puppy, Penny.

I met Nick, when he submitted this snapshot entry of his 8 month pregnant wife Whitnee and his two year old daughter Ariah at the girls first treed mountain lion. Nick is in his last year of graduate school at the University of Utah, where he played football for the 2009 Sugar Bowl Champs.
I did more bench sitting than much of anything. (adam) but you were at least at the Sugar Bowl. (nick) Yeah I was at the Sugar Bowl, got a Sugar Bowl ring. Got some free clothes. That was fun. (adam) Did you ever get in? (nick) That was a good experience. No! I didn’t get in, not on the Sugar Bowl come on man.

Today we are out with some of Nick’s old high school buddies, including Minnesota Vikings running back Matt Asiata.

We are going to set the Guinness Book of World records, first polynesian in the woods. (laughs) (matt, Asiata, Former U of U running back) yeah, so big buddha, I beat you to it.

Mountain lions are one of the most reclusive animals in Utah. So how do you find one? Well, houndsmen will drive around, looking for a lion track crossing a snow covered road. It’s called “cutting a track.”

Once one is found, the dogs are released to track the lion to hopefully scare it into a tree.

It’s kind of a different sport. it’s kind of hard to get into it to because you’ve got to have a dog that knows what to smell, what to chase and obviously sit underneath the tree and bark until you get there.>

Today we weren’t so lucky. So a few days later, Nick and I are back at it.

Trying to find a fresh one, great conditions. It is cold, we will find one though. Got to have faith Adam.

It was a beautiful morning and I can understand the allure of this type of hunt. But from covering this story before, I know these houndsmen will spend countless early mornings and long days often leading to frustration just find a mountain lion track to chase and they tell me, it’s only getting harder.

They are secretive, they are not easy to see. A lot of times when you go out to pursue one, even if you are using dogs or hounds, you are not going to see one every time.>

John is the biologist in charge of managing Utah’s mountain lion population. Like any wild animal, it’s tough to give a population estimate. I asked him to give us his best guess on cougars.

It’s probably around three thousand, give or take a thousand or so. so we don’t have a precise estimate, but we have a pretty good guess, just based on the densities that we expect them to be and the amount of habitat there is in the state.

I would say that’s even a high number, just because I always thought there was lions everywhere. Deer hunting, lions are killing all the deer, they are everywhere. Then I got hounds. Then I started coming up here, cutting tracks. I’d cut for days and come up with one track. If I was lucky.

Go out with any houndsman and they’ll tell you the same thing. some areas there’s more than others but for the majority, they are not hiding under every rock.

we didn’t go that far the first day, but today we’ve gone 15-20 miles on your machine. (nick) yeah easy. (adam) We have yet to see, we saw one old track. (nick) yeah that’s it. It’s been tough. that’s a long day. have faith, you are putting the pressure on me. We have some more roads to cut? Little bit, we’ll get it done. We’ll keep at it, if we don’t get it done today we’ll definitely come back. The rest of our chase coming up but first tonights Burt Brothers Quiz question.

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