I thought I knew what a big cat was — this was 30 pounds!
January 2007 I harvested my first bobcat, a beautiful 19 pound tom. To me, that was a very large cat. It wasn’t until last January I discovered that they can get a lot bigger.
I started getting ready for the 2008 season in December, 2007. I have a very isolated area near a swamp in northern Michigan to hunt. I placed a beaver carcass on the edge of the swamp. Bobcats love beaver meat. During a normal winter in northern Michigan we start getting heavy snow in December and it normally stays around for most of the winter.
Bobcats, like most predators, spend most of the winter hunting for rabbits, mice, weak or roadkill deer and just about anything else they can find to eat. If the winter is especially tough with cold weather and deep snow it can be very difficult for predators to find a meal.
This was much like the winter we had in 2008. Lots of snow and very cold weather. By placing a beaver carcass out near the area I am going to hunt, it keeps the bobcat and coyotes in the area, instead of roaming the countryside looking for a meal.
After I harvested a bobcat in 2007 my son decided that he would like to try bobcat hunting. So the plan was for my son to do most of the hunting in 2008. Because of his work schedule and the fact that he lives in southern Michigan he wasn’t able to get away until the bobcat season in my area was almost over. For some silly reason I told him I wouldn’t hunt the area until he was able to get the time off.
I set up a pop-up blind near the same time I placed the first beaver carcass out in December. So the predators were used to it by the time I started hunting. Bobcats and coyotes are very smart animals and hard to call in with a predator call. If they smell you or cut your tracks in the snow you will never see them. By using a blind it can also help you with any slight movements you might make while you are hunting.
My hunting is done on private property; please keep in mind there are laws in place covering the use of blinds on public property. My blind was set up on the side of a river and the beaver carcass was set up on the other side of the river with a canoe nearby that I use to get across.
With the cold temperatures we were having, most of the river was now frozen by the time we started hunting. The middle portion of the river was open, but the current was very fast with a lot of ice flowing down the middle. It was so bad that the week prior to my son arriving I couldn’t get across the river to check my trail camera or to place out another beaver carcass.
The day finally arrived and we were going to hunt. I set my Fox Pro predator call up outside my blind a short distance away and after letting things quiet down for about a ½ hour I started my injured rabbit call.
I normally play the call for a few minutes and then stop for several more minutes and then start the process over again. After about an hour we saw a very large cat on the other side of the river sneaking along the shoreline in some thick brush trying to locate what he thought was going to be an easy meal.
I believe the cat realized that his meal was on the other side of the river and then turned around and left in the same direction as he arrived. I would be lying if I didn’t say we were disappointed. I told my son, give him time and he will return. I waited for a while and gave a few more calls. Before we knew it there he was walking along the ice on the other side of the river. I am not sure what his plans were, but before he had a chance to do anything my son shot him and he dropped in his tracks.
We put our minds together and came up with a plan. I took an ice spud and broke up the ice along the shoreline on our side of the river. I took a very long rope and tied it to the canoe (in case something happens and my son can pull me back to shore). I put on my waders and life jacket. The plan was for me to paddle to the other side, grab a tree near the shoreline, brake up the ice on that side and get out and pull the canoe up on the shore.
Once on the other side I would use a boat hook to bring the bobcat off the ice, grab my trail camera and hopefully be able to paddle back to the other side against the current.
Our plan worked without a hitch; however I didn’t realize how cold I was going to be after stepping into the river on the other side with just waders on. The outside temperature was 10 degrees.
I couldn’t believe how big the cat was. He was a lot bigger than the cat I had taken the year before. Needless to say, my son couldn’t have been happier. The following day we took it to the DNR office to register the bobcat. It weighed 30 pounds. The biggest surprise was how beautiful the markings were on this cat. In fact while we were at the DNR office another hunter was checking in his bobcat and was admiring ours so much he offer to buy the cat. It is legal to sell the bobcat, but there was no way we were going to sell this outstanding trophy we had harvested.
There are several things to keep in mind if you are going to bobcat hunt. You must have a fur harvester’s license and obtain a tag for the cat. You must tag the cat right after you harvest it. The bobcat must be registered with the DNR with-in so many days after the season ends in the area you harvested your cat. There are different season dates and limits depending on the area you hunt in.
You can find this information from the hunting digest, a DNR office or www.michigan.gov/dnr.com. You can harvest two bobcats in the U.P. and only one bobcat in the Lower Peninsula. The season in the Upper Peninsula is longer and the season in the Lower Peninsula differs from one county to the next and not all counties have an open season. You must also wear hunter orange.
Make sure you take the time to find out what the rules are before you set out to hunt bobcats or coyotes. If you are going to hunt near water, make sure you have another person along with you and carry a cell phone. Getting wet that time of year can be very dangerous. This is a beautiful time of the year to be out hunting. Take a close look at the picture of my son, Joe Pendergraff holding his trophy bobcat with the river in the background along with the snow.
Author is Jeff Pendergraff, a retired Michigan Conservation Officer and owner of JP Trophy Hunts. Offering hunts all over the world – 989-344-9038, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.jptrophyhunts.com