"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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So What About That Big Cat of Boone County?
Copyright © 2001 by Bill Scifres

Well, the general firearms season on deer closed half an hour after sunset Sunday, and so far as this department has been able to determine, nobody was eaten alive by the "big cat" of Boone County. True, there have been several reports on sightings and other circumstantial evidence that there was/is a big cat of some kind on the prowl in Boone County (primarily the Big Springs area…where your reporter hunts.

A week ago last Saturday there was a story making the rounds that thisbig cat—presumably a mountain lion…cougar—had attacked a dog so viciously that the dog had to be destroyed. Another story had the cat killing a deer in the Big Springs area; which, if so, made this feline more successful that your reporter.

Your reporter will not speculate on whether this cougar exists in any form other than the proverbial "figment of imagination." But I can say this: The stories are sufficient to make one look often over one's shoulder when walking in to his deer stand or back to his car when the light of day is poor. With the potential presence of a cougar in mind, in one's stand one also looks over his shoulder more often when strange sounds are heard (somewhat similar to things that go "thunk" in the middle of the night when the house is dark).

In any event, your reporter did not see the proverbial "hide nor hair " of this big cat during the 16 days of firearms deer season. Moreover, said hunter has high hopes of being no more lucky—at least in big cat sightings—during the late bow season which opens (along with the season for muzzle loading rifle hunters) this Saturday, Dec. 8. If you will tolerate a further smattering of my thoughts on facing a big cat with bow in hand—as opposed to a 12- gauge, semi-automatic shotgun that spits one-ounce balls of lead at something like 1,400 feet per second—it would not be a lie to say there is a considerable comfort deficit in hunting with a primitive weapon.

In any event, the late bow season will open—big cat, small cat, no cat—and your reporter will undoubtedly be siting 12 feet up with his back against the same old black walnut tree. But given this marked deficiency of weaponry, you can bet that your reporter will look ofte and long over his shoulders with a hefty billy club in hand. Still another smattering of thought: Anti hunters could be wringing their hands in glee at the thought of a bowhunter-big cat confrontation.

So what about this "Big Boone Cat?" Is it for real? If so, what is it? Bobcat (certainly within the realm of possibility when one considers the fact that the species is on the comeback trail in Southern Indiana's hardwood hills county), or cougar (mountain lion) At least one report on Boone County sightings specified that this cat had a "long, curled tail." The long, curled tail is a strong physical characteristic of the cougar. The bob cat, contrariwise, is characterized by a short (bobbed) tail, not totally unlike some hunting dogs.

If this big cat is as real as some of its encounters purport it to be, there are salient facts that could point to either cougar or bobcat. This, of course brings up yet another question: From whence did it come? Biologists (including one the most knowledgeable wild critter experts we have ever known) tend to believe that it would be an animal that escaped confinement (or was purposely freed).

However there are numerous scenarios in which it would be possible for either a wild bobcat or cougar to visit Boone County.

If it is a bobcat, the Division of Fish and Wildlife has documented the movement of a Hoosier bobcat from Bedford to St. Louis where I was killed by a car. It would be considerably less complicated for a bobcat to roam from Southern Indiana to Boone County.

Cougar? This would be more complicated, but there is some evidence (albeit shady) that cougar have moved into parts of Wisconsin and Michigan.

If this cat is real…if this cat is wild…how does one explain this strange behavioral movement?

To this, after three-score years of watching wild things that "liveth and creepeth" upon God's Good Earth, we would offer our best advice on understanding the critters: Never Say Never!

In the final analysis, one must remember that the greatest characteristic found universally in the critters is that they reserve the right to act uncharacteristically.

All columns are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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