January 2007 Editor’s Call
By Paul Wait
In Pursuit of a Bobcat
One of my hunting and fishing companions often opines, “The pleasure is in the pursuit.”
I’ve noticed that his popular axiom is never uttered on days when the bluegills are biting or the ducks are decoying. No, it’s a phrase reserved for days when the quarry is elusive and our game bag is empty.
According to my friend’s logic, I’ve experienced countless hours of pleasure in my eight seasons as a trapper and predator hunter, at least when it comes to bobcats.
In December 1999, on my second trapping trip, I knelt in a Mississippi creekbed to photograph a bobcat another trapper had caught. Ever since that ‘cat hissed at me and pierced my soul with its wild green eyes, I’ve longed to get one for myself.
A trip to Montana the next winter to ride with John Graham on his longline reinforced my desire to conquer a ‘cat. Graham caught six bobcats in the four days I traveled with him. I photographed each of them. More importantly, I watched a master trapper make sets, soaking in as much information as possible about locations, luring, attractors and trap placement. When I left Montana, I was ready to try on my own.
Unfortunately, I live in Wisconsin, where bobcat tags are limited, and they are doled out on a preference point system. With the current harvest quotas, it takes four to five years to draw a kill tag.
However, I have been fortunate enough to travel outside of the Badger State on trapping and predator calling trips — many of which took me into prime bobcat country.
As a result, I’ve had several bobcat encounters while calling predators. On my second predator hunt — in 2000 with Roy Greenfield — a Nebraska bobcat circled unseen behind us on a bitter cold night, its tracks evident in our boot prints after we abandoned the stand.
In 2001, while on a sweepstakes hunt in Texas, our winner shot a female that walked calmly in during our second stand of the night hunt. It was the very first time he’d ever tried to hunt or trap a bobcat.
On the very next stand, with me as the primary gunner, another bobcat closed to within 75 yards looking for our hurt rabbit, but melted into the darkness — a bit out of range for my shotgun.
The following year, while calling coyotes in southern Colorado, a handsomely spotted bob loped across in front of our truck between calling stands. None of us had purchased the required furbearer permit to take a bobcat, so the animal slinked into the brush with nothing to fear from us.
In December 2003, I finally drew a Wisconsin tag, so I tried to trap a bobcat. In three nights, I had a bobcat step over my trap, another step on the trap pan but not set off the trap and a third that was caught, but pulled its foot free.
In January 2005, a bobcat dashed from cover during another sweepstakes predator hunt in Kansas. Trouble was, we were riding in our trucks, not set up, when we crossed paths with the ‘cat.
Last winter, while on a calling trip with Lohman Pro Staff hunters Tad Brown and Bob Ott in Missouri, a bobcat poked its head out of the switchgrass within 25 yards of our camera man. No one else saw it, but it was certainly well within rifle range of every hunter toting a gun.
I did not draw a Wisconsin bobcat tag this year. I have three points, so there’s a chance I will have a tag in 2007.
If I persist in my quest to trap or call a bobcat, I can’t help but think luck will eventually deal one my way.
Until then, I have no other choice but to take pleasure in the pursuit.