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 2006 issue
of the Northwoods Sporting Journal.
Marie’s Big Tom
By Paul Laney
When you are a bobcat hunter and there is a blizzard scheduled for the next day you have two options. Option one: stay home and watch it snow, or; Option two: spend $60 in gas driving around the Northern Maine woods in hopes that a cat might move. I always choose option two. Many days you ride in the truck and on the sled all day with no luck, but when lady luck is on your side the reward of running a cat with a great pack of hounds in a snow storm is priceless. This season my girlfriend Marie Gilman and I had this golden opportunity.
I had been guiding in Jackman since December 3rd. The first week was tough going but the client I had went home with a cat which the dogs bayed in the middle of a river on some thin ice Friday afternoon. The next week brought better conditions and a bagged cat on Wednesday. This good fortune freed me
up for the rest of the week. So I called Marie and she made the drive from Grand Lake Stream to Jackman and arrived on Thursday around noon. We went and checked one of my old haunts, which I had not yet visited this season and the place was full of cats. Six different ones to be exact. Two big Toms and four 20+ pound cats all traveling together. The dogs cut their tracks six different times. The last time I cut their track it was too late in the day to run them, but they went into a place that was small. I had run cats there before and it was a place that you can drive to. This is the ideal set up for a good chase. I told Marie that we would start checking before daylight the next day looking for the big Tom first and then the four cats together. With a big storm scheduled for the morning surely they would come out during the night. Well, I was wrong. We
searched the whole place out the next morning and not a cat track. As a matter of fact, for the next four days of hunting I checked on the four cats and and they never came out of that piece of woods. That just goes to show how many rabbits there are and how great the habitat is for bobcats in Maine now.
She fired and the cat ran. The dogs this time backed him up against a log. It was so thick that you had to lay down to take a shot. Marie was laying across me and fired twice still not touching the cat. I moved and pulled her into the spot where I was laying and said, “Now shoot him.” She did.
The snow started falling at about 8:00 a.m. and it snowed steady all day. We cut a few fresh coyote, deer, and fisher tracks. On one ride we rounded the corner and saw an animal sitting in the road, which appeared to be a bobcat until it turned. Then we saw the red bushy tail of a fox. About one in the afternoon
the snow stopped for about a half hour. I was telling Marie how often times the cats will move when you get a little break in the storm, especially at that time of day. I think I have killed as many cats late in the day as in the morning, sometimes not putting the dogs on until 3:00 o’clock.
About 1:30 p.m. the snow came back in heavy and at two o’clock the Chevy came to a screeching halt. The track that crossed the road looked like the one we wanted. I checked it close in the thicket as it had already filled in out in the open. After a close look I hollered to Marie, “Put your boots on.” I let Lilly, who is three, and Nellie, who is one, go on the track. They both went out screaming and had the big Tom jumped in no time. Marie and I raced behind the Plotts, and not long into the chase they already had him circling good. We moved into position to try and get a shot. The dogs swung and started
driving right for us. Marie was armed with my 20 gauge Winchester 37. I could hear the cat coming, panting like they do when the dogs drive them so hard. I pointed and whispered to Marie, “right there.” She made a big sudden move with a noisy snowmobile coat and the cat bolted like a 10 point buck. I now have her wearing good old fashioned wool. The dogs came by and drove right out of hearing. I told Marie not to worry with the cat panting like that they would catch him soon.
We walked and walked and walked just barely keeping the dogs in hearing while the snow started coming down harder by the minute. It was now after three and the dogs were running the cat around a big stream. The old Tom would cross the stream and run south for a quarter mile then cross again never really circling. The good thing was this stream crossed the road the truck was on. Marie and I walked the stream dodging to
open water and trying to keep up with the dogs. Darkness was now fast approaching and I was starting to get nervous, hoping Lilly and Nellie would make a final push, which good dogs so often do, to finish. This is exactly what they did. The circles kept getting smaller as darkness and heavy snow both came and with minutes of light left they switched over to that sweet baying bark. Marie and I moved in for the shot. Well, this cat did not want to play by the rules. It took one look at me and bolted. The dogs chased him about a hundred yards and caught him again; this time they held him. I handed Marie my Colt Woodsman and told her to try and hit him behind the front shoulder. She fired and the cat ran. The dogs this time backed him up against a log. It was so thick you had to lay down to take a shot. Marie was laying across me and fired twice still not touching the cat. I moved and pulled her into the spot where I was laying and said, “Now shoot him.” She did. We dragged
the cat back onto the stream so we could get a good look at him. I could not believe the size of the big Tom. He looked like he had a belly full of deer meat to me. As it turned out we were only 50 yards from the road when this all happened. Of course it was a little over a mile back to the truck, but still much better than walking back through the woods.
Marie’s first cat was one of the biggest cats and one of the most memorable cat hunts I have been on. She spent the next three days in the western mountains cat hunting. On Saturday she got to go hunting with two of the old veterans of the sport, my father Dick Laney and Bob Purington. Later that evening while having supper Jack told me that any girl who walked through what we went through and did not complain I had better hang onto. I agree. Marie is the type who loves adventure and loves the outdoors, one of the benefits of growing up in northern Maine.
Marie has grown up around hunting, fishing, trapping, and guiding. It would be great to see more young women getting involved in these great Maine traditions, many of which are now under attack in Maine by the national animal rights group. If we all stay united like we did during the bear referendum young sportsmen and women like Marie will be able to enjoy our traditions forever and the old timers like Bob Purington and my father will enjoy them for years to come.
Paul Laney is a veteran houndsman and bobcat hunter who lives Downeast.