When Cody Gray set up his pop-up deer hunting blind in a draw on a private ranch near Pandale recently, never in his wildest imagination did he think he was about to fulfill a lifelong dream of taking down a mountain lion.
What’s more, he never thought he'd kill the biggest cat he’d ever seen with one clean shot to the chest just behind his right front leg.
“The scales we used to weigh him at first turned out not to be accurate, but he’s at the taxidermists now so we’ll get an accurate weight. But people who have seen him estimate he weighs at least 160 pounds or more,” Gray said.
Now that’s a big cat, and according to statistics at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website, mountain lions range in size from 70 to 170 pounds
Gray had previously seen the animal on a trail cam from the ranch, and was hoping he might get lucky if he set up his deer blind in that area. Trouble was, he almost got too lucky, he says.
“Just before I killed him, the camera caught him moving in the brush not far behind me, so he knew I was there and wasn’t a bit afraid of me. Fortunately there was a doe and two fauns out in the draw so he got focused on them for dinner, not me.
“When I spotted him he was in full stalking mode, then went for that doe. When he made his move, I hit him with my .243 at 32 yards. He didn’t go down right then though; he ran about 20 yards and disappeared into the brush.
“It was about 5:30 and the sun was dropping behind the hills, so I wasn’t about to go in there after him in the dark. I was sure I’d hit him, but I wasn’t sure if it was a kill or not.”
Gray then called his friend, Jarred Pfeil - who he says is “kind of a big cat expert” and who owns hunting hounds.
On the phone he told Gray, “You definitely do not want to go out there. Stay put and I’ll get the family and we’ll drive out there with the dogs.
“He’s just a real great friend to even think about coming out there because he lives an hour-and-a-half from where I was hunting out near Pandale. By the time he got there it was about 8:30.
“We went straight out looking and his dogs found the cat in just a few minutes. He’d taken a deer sometime that day and was full; by the time we got him cleaned it was almost 10 o’clock,” Gray said.
The cat’s now in the cooler over at Non-Typical Taxidermy. On a call to the taxidermist, Nathanial Boisjolie, he said, “I’m busy all the time, so that job will probably take around a year to complete.”
Summing up the experience, Gray says, “It’s something I wanted to do as a hunter all my life. It’s like a dream come true.”
Gray just can’t say enough about the help his father gives him in setting up the hunt and what the Pfeils did.
“This was a real team effort,” he said. “My dad, Bert Gray, helps me set up the blind and generally get ready, he just doesn’t participate in the hunt once that’s all done. We really enjoy that time together and it’s a real privilege to get to be with him in that way.
“The only other thing I can say about this is that if Jared and his family didn’t come so far out at night like that - with the dogs - the cat would have been ruined by daylight. I owe them a lot and I’m just so grateful for what they and my dad did, because they’re really the ones that created a successful outcome.”