Column: Hunting lessons we can learn from a cat

Published 9:50 am Monday, November 14, 2022

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The best hunting companion out there is probably a dog. Feists, hounds, labs are all bred to aid hunters in their search for quarry. Old outdoor tin advertising signs usually feature a man and a dog walking side by side afield. 

Cats are not exactly something I envisioned being useful for anything. They are just not an animal I have really ever cared for. My dad once wrote a story for his English class at Brookhaven High School about all the ways one could kill off a cat’s nine lives. It was a comedic jab at his English teacher who loved cats. 

This summer my wife made the decision to adopt a cat despite my protests. His name is Bruno and he has a coat of fur that looks like Mossy Oak’s Bottomland camouflage pattern. 

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Cats are crepuscular creatures similar to the prey we search for in the field. Deer, rabbits and squirrels are crepuscular, meaning they are more active during the twilight periods of the day whereas humans are active mostly during the day and sleep at night. Waterfowl are another example of an animal that sees activity during the twilight periods. 

Thanks to Bruno’s eyes, he can see better in blue light, the light present at twilight hours.. He tries to wake me up an hour before sunrise to go hunting. It makes me wonder if I should be following his instincts to get out and hunt. 

Perhaps it is a coincidence he wakes up an hour before sunrise. That is typically what time I get moving out of bed to slip out to the woods. There are days where he sleeps well past sunrise, but most days he wants to go out and chomp on the hay around the house.  

One thing that surprises me about cats is how quiet they are when they are walking through the woods. Once, my in-laws’ dog hopped out of the back yard and tore through a field to get to me. I thought a deer was crashing into every single bush until she appeared panting and tail wagging. 

Bruno has the ability to be at my feet one moment and slip away into the brush so stealthily I don’t know where he went. Through observation, I noticed he takes great care in where he steps and he will zig zag through the trees instead of taking a straight line. I’m sure we could all be better at walking quietly through the woods.

Having a cat as a hunting buddy helps too. I like to look at where his ears are pointed and where he is focused on. Cats can hear frequencies up to 64,000 Hz which is three times our hearing range. If he starts to try and triangulate where the sound is coming from while looking intensely at the tree line I try to figure out what he has detected 

Thus far, it has just been some squirrels and a bird or two, which doesn’t help because I am usually hunting deer. Although, he did tree a squirrel last week. Had he sat at my feet we would have killed it but he tried to pounce on it and the next thing I heard was a very angry barking bushy tail running circles around a pine tree.

Cats also like to have a height advantage, i.e. a tree or ledge. While tree stands are a great tool, they can be expensive and are a safety concern. Bruno and I like to find a ridge looking over a travel corridor but we try to be on the military crest, a portion of ridge a few feet below the actual ridge crest. 

Another lesson I have learned from watching Bruno is to be curious about everything. He likes to poke his head in brush, dig through fallen leaves and check out logs for prey. It never hurts to check with your binoculars if your quarry is 100 yards away or if it is just a funny looking branch or a perfectly shaped bush. 

During the freeze we had on October 19 to Oct. 21, another cat appeared on our porch. It is a year younger than Bruno with a similar coat and she has the tail of a white-tailed deer. My wife has decided her name is Penny. 

This weekend I slipped up to the gravel pit located at the top of a ridge for some hunting. The area sometimes serves as a bedding area for deer coming from one food plot to another. Penny and Bruno both followed me a long way around to our spot to minimize the chance of being winded by a deer. 

As I sat there waiting for a deer to travel by, they slipped off into the grass and bedded down. Again, their Mossy Oak Bottomland fur is like a cheat code when they are still. I knew where they decided to take their naps and still could not locate them.

As the day wore on, we covered a lot of ground to try different spots. I was impressed with their patience and ability to sit still, patiently waiting for prey and at times, they would move to close ground on a bird or other small fauna. 

Hunting with cats is an experience for sure but it taught me a few things. Pairing audio queues with vision is important, engage stealth mode to sneak from spot to spot, be still and patient, be curious and don’t be afraid to close distances. 

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