By STEPHANIE BUNKER
Moapa Valley Progress
Logandale resident Travis Draper had luck on his side when he went hunting for a cougar over Thanksgiving weekend. Draper had been putting in for the tag for the last 10 years. He was fortunate to draw the only nonresident cougar tag given out in the Utah Wasatch Strawberry unit, an area where only 10 cougar tags were given out total.
Originally from Payson, Draper was excited to be able to go back out and hunt cougar in the area where he grew up. It was something he had never done before.
Draper had foot surgery only a month and a half ago, so he was a little nervous for what to expect on this hunt. But luck was on his side and he got the best circumstances he could have ever asked for.
Draper hired a guide service called Sportsman Dream LLC to help him hunt the cat. The season for this tag is open for 6 months, from November to May. Draper and the guide service decided to give Thanksgiving weekend a try since he would be in the area anyway and had time off work.
“We hunted Friday and didn’t see anything, so we decided to give it another try on Saturday,” Draper said.
That day the party came across some land tracks. So they let the dogs loose to see what they could find.
Draper explained that it is more difficult for the dogs to pick up a scent when there is no snow on the ground. So the guide was patient with them.
The dogs had been gone for a while and the hunting party was hanging out and chatting. One dog came back up the road so they checked the GPS to track down the other dogs. According to the GPS the dogs had a cat cornered in a tree. So they took off to go take a look at the cougar.
According to Draper, cougar hunting parties have been known to have to hike 10-15 miles just in chasing a cat down. But on that lucky Saturday they found the cat up the tree only 150 yards from the road.
“We could see the cat from the 4-wheeler!” Draper said.
The group took pictures of the cat and thoroughly checked to determine if it was the cat he wanted. “I decided I wanted him so I took a couple shots at it and it came out of the tree.”
The hunters got the four wheelers close enough that they only had to carry it about 45 yards.
From what the group could tell the tom cat was a mature four year old. But they won’t know the official specifics on the animal until the Utah Fish and Game Department comes back with DNA tests. Draper explained that after the cat is shot it must be taken it into a game officer where they extract a tooth for DNA testing and put a tag on the pelt.
Draper wanted to hunt this specific area because it was close to home and it was a tag that wasn’t easy to acquire.
“In Nevada you can go buy a cougar tag,” he said. “But in this area you can be up there for a week and not see anyone else that is hunting the same thing.”
Draper also expressed how he enjoyed that the area was so close to the home he grew up in. “It gave me an excuse to go back home,” he said.
Draper enjoyed the hunt and couldn’t believe how everything came together so perfectly. “It was good to be with confident people that know what they are doing,” he said. “And, of course, luck had a huge part.”