Written by Conor Harrison for the Nov. 28 issue of Lone Star Outdoor News.
Alyssa Caldwell and her father, Joshua, were heading to what they hoped would be a great spot for Alyssa to take a nice bull elk on the edge of a meadow in New Mexico’s unit 52 just south of the Colorado border.
After hunting a makeshift aspen blind over a waterhole, dad and daughter decided to stalk to a meadow and see if any elk had come out to feed lower on the mountain. However, after about 200 yards, Joshua realized he had forgotten the shooting sticks back in the blind.
“I decided to head back up to grab them and told Alyssa to sit tight,” he said. “About 30 to 45 seconds after I had started walking, I heard a shot.”
He thought she had killed a big elk — Not exactly.
“I asked if she had shot a bull?” he said. “She told me she had shot a cat. He was only about five yards away from her. She thought quick. When I saw how close he was, I got emotional.”
Alyssa said she had no idea the mountain lion was there until she was looking him in the face.
“I saw him first,” Alyssa said. “I didn’t hear him or see him until he was really close. I didn’t know exactly what it was but I knew it wasn’t a bobcat. I raised my gun when he crouched down.”
The big mountain lion was only about five yards from the Odessa hunter when she shot it head on — killing the cat instantly.
“I knew it was stalking me,” she said. “I had a feeling right before that something was watching me. After I shot, I kept the gun on it the whole time. Dad ran back and he thought I had shot an elk. I told him I had shot a cat and he got real emotional.”
Joshua said the entire family was shaken by the experience.
Unfortunately for Alyssa, game wardens confiscated the cat. Considered a varmint in Texas, most western states have seasons and special tags for mountain lion hunting, and killing one without a tag is a violation, unless the hunter can prove self defense. Either way, the Caldwell family was unable to keep the trophy.
“They didn’t give us any grief,” Joshua said. “We didn’t move the cat until they got there. We couldn’t find the shell casing in the long grass. They let us take pictures and they took the cat and let us continue hunting elk.”
Two days later, the hunting gods smiled on the family and Alyssa took a big 6×4 trophy elk at 375 yards.
“We took the cat in the lower bowl and the elk higher up the mountain,” she said. “It was a great hunt. We are getting elk European mounted and we have a lot of meat for the freezer.”