With some hunting and fishing stories, you’re never quite sure if the storyteller is stretching the truth when there’s an unusual twist to the tale.
That may be how Leif Holman’s friends at Sweet Grass County High School felt when he told them about the mountain lion he shot in the foothills of the Crazy Mountains on Feb. 20.
They weren’t sure what to think.
He was amazed, too.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Holman said.
Turns out the 2- to 3-year-old female lion, which had no cubs, had traveled all the way from South Dakota. Holman found out after giving a radio-tracking collar the cat was wearing to Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Big Timber FWP biologist Justin Paugh tracked down the source of the collar — a cougar study south of Rapid City, S.D. The lion was collared last summer.
In the time since the 76-pound lion was collared and when Holman shot the cat, it had traveled about 500 miles, crossed two interstate highways and several large rivers.
Holman’s journey to find the cat was almost as unusual. His father, Dave, picked him up from school at about 3 p.m. after a family friend and lion hunter had found a fresh set of tracks.
Before that day, the Holmans had “looked and looked and looked and never found a track,” said his mother, Sandy.
Cerebral palsy has made it difficult for Holman to walk, requiring him to use crutches. So as he trailed the lion and dogs through 3 inches of new snow, the going was slow and difficult. That’s when family friend Shawn Peters picked up the 100-pound 15-year-old and began climbing up the hillside near the small community of Two Dot.
“We were going so fast that everyone else was behind us,” Holman said.
It took only about a half-hour for Cody Peters’ dogs to tree the lion. Once Holman got situated with the 7mm-08 rifle that his grandfather had bought for him, he shot the traveling cougar.
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