To get in a week of hunting a year, the average American must carefully plan his escape from the shackles of city living. In the dry rangelands of southwestern New Mexico, for Rancher Bill Miller life is different. Rancher Miller often is forced to leave his work of raising cattle and Angora goats and go hunting. He seldom has time to plan; the hunt is usually thrust upon him. Any day Miller may come upon the tracks, the scratchings or the meticulously covered dung that indicates another mountain lion has moved onto his range. Lions in the past have killed half a dozen of his livestock in a single night, so Miller wastes no time. He collects the simple essentials: a Manila rope, two clotheslines, a .22 pistol, leather hobbles and a piece of haywire to use as a muzzle. If he has time, he will pick up a neighbor, but most often he sets out alone with his durable hounds.
If the trail is fresh, the hounds will sometimes tree the lion in half a day. Most often, however, Miller follows the sounds of his hounds for a whole day, two days or three, through scrubby manzanita, in and out of canyons and along the rimrock. The mountain lion's consistent habit of seeking sanctuary in a tree most often proves its undoing. As the treed lion snarls down at the yawping hounds, Miller can, and half the time does, finish the cat off with his gun. But in the past 20 years he has taken more than 100 of the cats alive, selling many for $250 to Hollywood, circuses, zoos and lion lovers. Once he has a rope onto the cat, Miller literally swings it from its perch by running the rope over another branch to check the cat's fall and to curb its fury on the ground. To do this without strangling his prize, Miller often must get up on an adjoining limb to try to work the rope over the cat's head and one foreleg. From where Miller sits, just out of reach of teeth and claws, $250 for a live lion looks like a real bargain.
CLOSING THE GAP
The tough, durable hounds, though not so fast for a short stretch, inevitably will wear out a fleeing lion. If finally cornered in a rock cul-de-sac, the lion will turn and fight, but most often it heads for a tree and, once treed (above), it is a sure loser
Lassoed and yanked from his perch, a treed mountain lion snarls at Rancher Bill Miller. As his hunting companion holds the lasso taut, after a dozen tries Miller succeeds in getting two more ropes around the flailing forepaws of the cat. Once these ropes are lashed to a tree, Miller will tie the hind paws and muzzle the wriggling lion to take him home alive
After trussing up the 125-pound lion so it is as harmless as a house cat, Rancher Miller rides home with his prize. Getting the lion off his range will save at least a dozen head of livestock. He will recoup expense of the hunt by selling lion to the movies, to TV or to private sportsmen