Record lion killed
Published: Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011
Frank Schmidt knew he was tracking a big mountain lion. Just how big, however, he had no idea.
On the morning of Friday, Jan. 21, Schmidt was on another day of mountain lion hunting when he discovered the tracks of what appeared to be a large mountain lion south of Custer. He had been hunting hard for nine days, doing a lot of walking and tracking with minimal success. If he was going to take a lion, he wanted it to be a big one.
He was about to get his wish.
After following the tracks for a while, he discovered the lion’s kill site, where a deer carcass sat, partially buried. He worked his way to some rocks, roughly 80 yards from the site, and waited. About an hour later, the lion came back for another meal.
Once the lion was in view, Schmidt raised his .270 rifle and peered at the animal through the scope. It was at that point Schmidt began to realize just how big of an animal it was. As a professional taxidermist, Schmidt had just worked with two other large cats, and he knew the one in his scope was a big one.
“I thought, ‘I’m not going to watch him anymore, I’m going to take him down,”âï¿½ï¿½Schmidt said.âï¿½ï¿½“A little gust of wind or whatever, and he (could have been) gone.”
When he first started hunting lions, he took out a .223 rifle. However, once he began skinning the cats as a taxidermist, he decided to go up to a .270 because of their muscle mass.
“This was a bigger animal than any deer in the Hills,” he said.
After shooting the lion, he walked over to it, and that’s when the sheer enormity of the lion set in.
“When I walked up, it was the biggest cat I had ever seen,” he said.
It wasn’t just the biggest cat he had seen.
Luke Neduna, a resource biologist with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks, helped check in the lion. The cat, a 5-year-old male, weighed 177 pounds and was 88 inches from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail. Neduna confirmed it is the largest lion that has been taken in South Dakota since the hunting season began for mountain lions in 2005.
“It was definitely a big cat,”âï¿½ï¿½Neduna said. “It was pretty impressive.”
Neduna said a male lion that large could have a range of up to 300 miles, making the fact Schmidt was able to track it down that much more rare. A lion that big will also often consume one big game animal per week.
“Iâï¿½ï¿½saved a lot of deer,”âï¿½ï¿½Schmidt joked. “Iâï¿½ï¿½was really lucky to cross one (that size). About the only way to do it is to cross a kill site.
“His forearms and paws are just amazing. It’s scary to think he was only a couple of miles from where I live.”
Neduna said the cat was the picture of perfect health and is the biggest cat he has ever seen personally. He did say there are reports of mountain lions over 200 pounds wandering in the Hills, but they are “few and far between.”
This year’s mountain lion season will end when either 45 lions are killed, or 30 females are killed. As of now, 31 lions have been taken down, 18 of which have been female.
Schmidt said this was the first year he had “legitimately” gone lion hunting. Although he has been here for five years, he said he never wanted to go out and randomly shoot a lion because he had seen too many small ones shot.
“Iâï¿½ï¿½was pretty particular,”âï¿½ï¿½he said.âï¿½ï¿½“Iâï¿½ï¿½didn’t track any small tracks.”
Since he is a taxidermist, Schmidt said he plans to do a life-sized mount of his prized lion. Once he finishes it—which he said could take up to a year—he will display it for a while at Top Pin Archery.
“He is special, so I will make sure it is done right,”âï¿½ï¿½he said. “I’m going to take my time.”
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