For plenty of hunters, taking a trip to harvest a mountain lion – the largest cat in all of North America – is on their bucket list of dream hunts. The environment of the hunt, the different methods for undertaking it, and the challenges it presents make for a unique opportunity.
Mountain lions really are majestic creatures, but they can also be dangerous. This means that even if you’re not specifically out hunting for one doesn’t necessarily mean you might not end up with one of these ferocious felines in your sights.
You should be prepared for the unexpected if you’re out and about in mountain lion country, even if you’re not on a hunt. Hikers, joggers, and mountain bikers can easily find themselves coming face-to-face with one of these big cats. Most of the time, the situation can be diffused peacefully, but there’s always the possibility that force may be necessary.
Our Top Picks For The Best Caliber For Mountain Lion Hunting & Self Defense
With that in mind, let’s go over some of the caliber options out there for mountain lion. Because the situation could vary dramatically, here are two picks for hunting and two picks for self defense. Really and truly, though, all four could be used for hunting if you wanted to go that route.
.223 Remington / 5.56 NATO
With the popularity and downright market saturation of AR-style firearms today, it seems like everyone owns a gun chambered for the .223 Remington or 5.56 NATO cartridge. Some animals require specialized guns in specific calibers for a humane harvest, and this can create a barrier to entry for some hunters. This is not the case for mountain lions, as they can easily be harvested with an AR-style firearm.
In a similar vein to the .223 Remington / 5.56 NATO, there are plenty of old deer rifles floating around in .30-30 Winchester. You may have inherited one from your granddad, picked one up at a pawn shop, or even bought one new because of the cartridge’s versaility for lots of different hunting opportunities. Whatever the case, there’s absolutely no reason that you can’t take a mountain lion with the old “Thutty-Thutty” standby.
The 10mm Auto cartridge has proven its worth as a self defense caliber. In more recent years, it has gained popularity with handgun hunters, too. Plenty of people have harvested deer, hogs, and more with this pistol caliber. Gun companies have taken note of the 10mm’s popularity and there are more choices than ever before so that you can find the right handgun that fits your 10mm needs, whether that be for hunting or self defense – or both.
There’s good news if you’re more of a wheelgun fan, and that is that the venerable .44 Magnum – Inspector “Diry Harry” Callahan’s caliber of choice – is also a viable option for mountain lions. Whether its specifically for hunting or self defense while in mountain lion country, it makes no difference. The .44 Magnum cartridge has proven its worth in both realms for almost a century, and there’s no reason to think that you couldn’t harvest or protect yourself against a mountain lion with a .44 Magnum revolver by your side.
THE BEST HUNTING RIFLE CALIBERS FOR EACH TYPE OF GAME
Mountain Lion Hunting Tips
Bring the Dogs
The vast majority of mountain lions – some 95% of all recorded successful hunts in the last 20 years – are harvested with the help of dogs. Unless you’ve got your own trained hunting dogs that can successfully tree one of these big cats, then you’re going to want to find a reputable outfitter who can put you on a mountain lion and also has trained dogs to assist with the hunt. This also means that it’s highly unlikely that you’ll need to take a shot from more than 25 to 30 yards, so there’s no need to become a long-range marksman if you’re planning on a hunt like this.
Be Prepared to Move
Mountain lion hunts aren’t static hunts. You won’t be in a ground blind or a treestand waiting for them to come to you. Instead, you’ll be covering quite a bit of ground. In most cases, the initial tracking stages will be done from some kind of vehicle, but once you find tracks and get on the trail of a mountain lion, then you’ll be on foot. More often than not, you’ll find yourself on terrain that is hilly or mountainous and rocky in nature. This means that you not only need to have a sturdy, comfortable pair of boots but you also need to be physically able to meet the strenuous demands that are necessary if you plan to harvest a mountain lion.
Don’t Go Alone
Even though we’ve stated that most successful mountain lion hunts have involved a trained guide and their dogs, it doesn’t mean that every single successful hunt has been done in this manner. With that said, don’t go off on a mountain lion hunt alone. This is not like deer or elk hunting. These big cats can be very dangerous, and it’s always a good idea to have a second person who’s got your back just in case you need a helping hand or if things go wrong.
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