Guiding is our passion.
It’s not a hobby.
It’s not a part time job. It is our job!
This article, by Paul Laney of Laney’s Guide Service, appeared in the February 2012 issue of the
Northwoods Sporting Journal.
Bella’s 30th Bobcat
By Paul Laney
As you all know, this past fall and early winter weather has been anything but normal. Lots of warm weather and rain in December are a nightmare to an avid bobcat hunter and guide like myself. This sport is totally dependent on snow conditions so you can imagine December has been a total bust. This is the first time in almost 15 years we have not harvested a single bobcat before Christmas. Well Santa must have read my list and he delivered a fresh five inches of snow to Washington County on Christmas day and night. I had been watching the weather close and had been staying in close contact with one of my regular clients, Pete Gamache from Dracut, Mass. Pete comes bear hunting with hounds and bobcat hunting with me every year! He always comes for the first good snow in December, usually much earlier than the 26th!
Once I knew for sure we were going to have snow I called Pete and told him where we would meet up Monday morning. I was like a little kid at Christmas watching it snow that night and could not sleep, so at 3 a.m. I headed into the woods, cruising logging roads looking for a fresh set of cat tracks. The snow had stopped at around 2:30 a.m. and there were no fresh cat tracks, only coyote. If you think 3 a.m. is early, try 1 a.m. That is when Pete left Mass. and headed north to go hunting and he was right on time at our meeting place at 6:30. From there we headed back into the vast network of paper company roads where I hunt and searched until 9 a.m. when we crested a hill and started down into some low ground and there it was.
The track of a big bobcat had crossed the road and headed north during the night. Pete and I checked roads on both side of the track to see if the big tomcat had come out and he had not. Now it was time to get down to business. I decided to run my two Plotts, Lilly and Bella. They are a deadly mother-daughter combination. Lilly is now my oldest cat dog and her daughter Bella is entering her third season and has already had 30 bobcats killed in front of her. She is a natural at the sport and has the drive a good dog needs to be a real top cat dog. I released the dogs on the track and followed them in the woods to see how things looked. I found where the cat had bedded down for the night so I knew he would not be far, but I was discouraged when I discovered that almost all the five inches of snow we got was still in the trees and not on the ground.
Pete Gamache from Dracut MA with his 30 lb. Bobcat
This happens when the wind does not blow during the storm. The thick spruce and fir holds all the snow and this makes it hard for the dogs to follow the cat track but as the saying goes, “beggars can’t be choosers,” and in this case I was grateful to finally have some snow and a fresh cat track. Lilly and Bella were not long jumping the bobcat and the chase was on. The big cat made a circle and slipped back across the road before Pete and I could get a look at him, but the two Plotts where not far behind. As most bobcats do when chased, this one headed for the thickest place he could find and he started to circle. Under these conditions many dogs would have lost the cat and been done, but Lilly and Bella did great and kept him going. Pete and I got as close as we could with the truck and could just barely hear the dogs.
They were barking good and I told Pete we needed to get in there where the action was. Pete is a very good hunter and keeps up with me step-for-step in the woods, which makes my job much easier, no stopping to wait, just go! After about 500 yards of plowing thru thick jack firs we arrived where the dogs where circling. The spot was really thick and you could not see more than 10 yards any direction. We moved back and forth and stayed close to the circles. Several times the dogs ran the cat by us within 10-yards but it was so thick we could not see him. After two hours of this we finally arrived in a spot where we could see 15-20 yards and the dogs had been through there with the cat a dozen times. There was no snow left there just dog and cat tracks. I looked at Pete and said this is where we will kill him. The dogs ran the cat out 400 yards to the north and then came back at us. Closer and closer they came until they were within 100 yards.
At that point I knew we were going to see Mr. Bobcat. I was to the left of Pete and I could hear the cat panting coming in my direction and then I spotted him. He was about 15 yards away and I told Pete, “There he is,” but he could not see the cat. Lilly and Bella were right behind him and they went out 100 yards south then right back at us. Pete spotted the cat this time, he was crossing right to left and I told Pete to shoot! “No” he says. Then I see the cat stop broadside. I could see him from nose to tail. This time I say a little louder, “Shoot!” Again Pete says, “NO,” then the cat ran straight away and Pete fired! We are not sure if he hit the cat or not. Lilly and Bella were only 20 yards behind the cat at this point and in three tight circles they had him bayed up. We moved in and with one shot from his .22 Smith and Wesson; Pete killed the 30 pound male bobcat.
It was a great chase and we got to witness some great dog work. I am lucky to have a client like Pete Gamache. He truly loves the sport and loves dogs! He never complains and is up for any adventure I can throw at him. Several times we have been stuck and Pete is a great man with a shovel and can work a come-along with the best of them, all with a smile on his face! He was with me the day we treed my Suzie dog’s 200th bobcat! We have had several great hunts together and I look forward to many more! In these tough times it is hard to find good clients and hunting with guys like Pete makes us enjoy being a guide. I did discover this trip that he is not the best shot on grouse though!
Paul Laney is a veteran houndsman and bobcat hunter who lives Downeast.