Close Call: Stalked By A Mountain Lion

Last fall, 15-year-old Eric Boyd shot a mountain lion while elk hunting near Butte, Mont. Eric tells the story:

cougar

IT WAS opening day, and around 4:30 p.m. my dad and I saw a cow crossing a field. We decided to split up, and after sitting for about half an hour, I heard a tree branch crack. I thought the elk was coming. Five minutes later, I turned around and this mountain lion was standing there, about 25 yards from me.

We stared at each other for what felt like a long time but I'm sure was just 20 seconds. What really struck me were its piercing, yellow-green eyes. At first I tried to make myself big by kind of throwing my arms in the air. But the lion just put its head down, hunched its shoulders, and started walking toward me. It kept its eyes on me the whole time, and I thought, I've got to shoot this. Once it came within 15 yards, I felt my face get hot. I knew I'd better hit it the first time or else I'd be a goner.

I picked up my gun, put it right behind its shoulder, and fired. It jumped up and started clawing at itself. I shot again and it dropped to the ground. After a third shot, it was still moving, so I shot it one more time in the shoulder. Then I ran to the road and fired a warning shot to my dad--I was worried he might run into some cubs or another mountain lion. After that, I just sat down.

I couldn't yell or cry at first, I was so shocked. I'd never seen a mountain lion before. My dad arrived thinking I'd shot the elk, but he saw how white my face was and knew right away that something was off. We left the lion where it was and called the game warden.

The next day we went back with the warden, and he asked me to walk him through it and examined the cougar. Even though lion season was closed, my kill was ruled justifiable. He said it is really rare that mountain lions show themselves unless they're hungry, and told me I did a good job.

I'm lucky I didn't panic. It's still scary going out in the woods by myself. But it's a cool story to pass on.