The first mountain lion of Nebraska’s 2020 hunting season was killed Thursday — on the first morning of the two-month hunt.
Travis Handy posted on the Nebraska Fishing and Hunting Bragging Board on Facebook that he shot the animal south of Chadron. He and a friend had used a distressed fawn call, waited for about 90 minutes and were moving to another area when they saw the cat at the base of a tree, about 50 yards away.
“He was looking right at us,” he wrote. “Sent one round right past his face and into the pump house. Dead before his head hit the ground.”
The 29-year-old from Grant was unsuccessful during the 2019 season. “But I learned a lot last year and applied it this year,” he told the Journal Star. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little boy.”
The mountain lion, the first and only cat killed so far this season, was about 1½ years old and weighed 115 pounds, said Sam Wilson, furbearer and carnivore manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
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The Pine Ridge Unit is home to nearly 60 mountain lions — two to three times the estimated population in 2014, when the state authorized its first hunt. Hunters killed five animals that year, and five more when the hunting season returned last year.
The hunts have been controversial, generating opposition from the public, the U.S. Humane Society and Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers. He successfully championed a bill in 2014 to ban the practice, though it was vetoed by Gov. Dave Heineman.
This year, Handy was among about 400 permitted hunters chasing one of the eight animals — or four females — established as the limit for this year’s season, Wilson said. The Pine Ridge Unit is divided into north and south subunits, with limits of four animals, or two females, in each.
Handy, who plans to eat the mountain lion meat, killed it on public land in the south area. But that’s about all he’d say about the location.
“Don't wanna give it away completely,” he wrote on Facebook. “Still got a buddy with a tag.”
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