NOTE: This is the first in a series of blogs that will share interesting experiences in nature. It is always our goal to help people to enjoy spending more time outside, and to do so safely.
Right off the bat, allow me to say this. I can count on one finger the number of times that I have heard of a Lynx rufus (bobcat) ever jumping on someone’s head. So, don’t go using this true story as an excuse to be afraid of the woods, because it isn’t. This story is definitely one of those that falls in the category of “truth is always stranger than fiction” and a rare circumstance to say the least.
Grouse hunting for me has always been more of an excuse to get out and walk in the winter woods than actually going hunting for grouse. I have only been fortunate to bag a handful of “thunder chickens” as they are so often called. Before I was married and still living at home (and without much responsibility) getting out of the house during the winter time was definitely a welcomed event. Grouse hunting has also been very special due to the typical conditions in which we engaged in such fun. Nearly always, when getting out of the truck to start a hunt, I would get that bristled feel on my neck and slight pain in my nose from the cold air. If you hunt grouse in January and February, you know what exactly what I mean.
The beauty of such conditions is that although it is alarmingly cold, the hunt itself changes that for you rather quickly. Grouse love the clear-cut habitat of these hilly Kentucky mountains. Hunting up, down, and through these types of habitats definitely warms your soul….. and every other part of your body.
So it was, on a very cold February day many years ago, that my dad and I were in the Daniel Boone National Forest, Pioneer Weapons Hunting Area about to head up a rather steep hill in search of grouse. Back then it was not uncommon for my dad and I to use muzzleloading shotguns to hunt squirrels, grouse and other game in this area. This particular Wildlife Management Area is set aside to be used only by those who utilize these weapons. Muzzleloaders (Blackpowder) shotguns and rifles, bows and similar tools of the trade.
My dad and I always walked together on such trips, many yards apart so as not to be dangerous but also to be there if one of us jumped a bird. In this manner either of us could possibly get a shot. We did not have hunting dogs to utilize during these endeavors. Grouse are hard to bag without dogs. I mention this method to point out that we always wore hunter orange hats and sometimes vests to make sure we could see each other well. This was beneficial in a two-fold way. The first is that we could always make quick visual contact with one another. The second was that it is easier for other hunters to see us coming through the woods. This is public land and is therefore used by a number of people. Keep this in mind as we go along with the story, because my orange hat is going to play a key role in the bobcat jumping on my head.
As we parked and were about to head out, there was a old logging road making its way up the side of a hollow towards a ridgeline. My dad and I (and later my son and I) had a typical method to our madness when it came to hunting grouse. One of us would walk along the road and the other would be out in the woods “bird doggin'” the surrounding area in an attempt to jump a bird. On this particular day, it was decided my dad would take the first walk on the road, and I would go straight up the hill. We had not been in the woods more than 30 seconds when I heard the bobcat in the tree.
What I am about to tell you will most likely take up several words and sentences. What happened seemed like it took a full minute of my life to endure. Since the truth needs to be told, it most likely only took about 1.8 seconds. Sorry I could not be more exact, I did not have a stopwatch.
Now let me be clear here, I did not know it was a bobcat when I heard it. I simply thought it was a squirrel startled by our actions and had then taken off through the trees. Nevertheless, I cocked my head to look above me and there in mid-flight (please note bobcats don’t fly) was the bobcat coming directly at my head. Let me also be clear on this as well. When I cocked my head to see what was above me, I immediately made direct eye contact with the bobcat. As I locked eyes with it, it most definitely had the look of “UH OH”, not “OH YEAH I GOT YOU” in it’s eyes as gravity pulled it toward my noggin.
Did you watch Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons as a child? If so you remember the many times the Mr. Coyote found himself at a high rate of speed and then a rock, cliff, or critter gave him good reason to attempt a slow down. You know what I am talking about, legs flying, arms flailing about, dirt kicked up and more. Even if you have not seen those cartoons you probably get the picture. Well, that is a fairly accurate description of what the bobcat was doing. While in a direct line toward my head, he (or she) was doing all it could to put on the brakes during its quick descent. The last time I did the research, I found no evidence that bobcats even have air brakes. This one certainly did not.
Shortly after this eye contact, lack of air brakes, Wile E. Coyote type incident, the bobcat crashed into my head. He never struck me with his paws, never tried to scratch or attack, he mostly just hit me like a bobcat falling out of tree and onto my head. If you are wondering how that feels let me give you a way to experience it. Contact your best friend, have him gather up a 20 lb dog, have him then climb a ladder to the top of your house. Once there have him drop said dog alive and kicking on your head. You will then have a pretty good idea what it feels like.
That is the word I would use to describe my thoughts at the moment directly after it hit my head. It did not knock me down, although it did rattle my brains pretty good. I saw it hit the ground, falling on its side. (That whole line of cats always land on their feet is bogus by-the-way). It then immediately ran off into the woods rather quickly.
No kiss, no wave good-bye…nothing. I just stood there and watched it run away. Trying to make sense of what had just happened.
Here is my theory on the incident. By all means if you have a better one, please share it with me. I think the bobcat was snoozing a bit. They are mostly nocturnal and hunt heavily at dusk and dawn. This trip started at mid-morning. I am guessing the bobcat had been doing his thing all night long, found a safe place to perch and rest in a tree and just as we he was snoozing away…. he heard a little critter (me) coming close to the tree he was in. He got ready to pounce and when he saw movement, he jumped and on the way down realized I wasn’t what he thought I was.
Or, he just fell out after being alarmed by my presence. Actually, I have no idea why he hit my head, only guesses. I can’t imagine anything in his habitat that is hunter orange in color that he would normally want to take as food.
Soooo yeah, that is the time the bobcat jumped on my head.
Follow our blog, I have a pack full of stories that I hope you find entertaining. I am going to be pulling them out from time to time along with our regular educational fare.
Craig Caudill is the Founder and Chief Instructor of Nature Reliance School. He specializes in teaching outdoor related topics to include, survival, tracking, go-bags, nature awareness and gun safety for private and public groups, and government agencies. Craig’s first book is Extreme Wilderness Survival from Page Street Publishing, distributed by Macmillan Publishing
Craig is a also frequent contributor to TV outlets, blog sites, magazines and is a popular online outdoor educator on his YouTube channel. Pick up the book, subscribe to him on youtube, or join Craig in a class so he can help you be more safe and aware in the outdoors.