A Most Extreme Rugged Predator Hunt

This blog article was originally posted at MackayBarRanch.com in March 2014.   We’re republishing for those planners who want to hunt BIG CATS in the Frank Church “River of No Return” Wilderness with lodging, jet boat transport and outfitting services provided by Buck Dewey, chief guide and outfitter who knows the territory like the back of his hands.   Buck grew up in the Salmon River Basin as a kid and started guiding right out of high school.

Frank Church Wilderness Cougar Hunts
Hunting Giant Mountain Lion

Make no mistake, this outdoor adventure is designed for the human goat with extreme conditions and steep mountains that really demand good physical conditioning.   We can certainly craft your hunt to be less physically taxing, but the real fun and the highest success rate is experienced when you stalk the stalker.

Cougar habitat requirements:   good cover and large prey.  Idaho is home to an exploding population of cougar, and they’re BIG.  

Our guest hunters at Mackay Bar Outfitters are in it for the EXTREME SPORT and the rewards.   Cougar hunting is a heralded sport that is steeped in the traditions of what we like to refer to as THE PURSUIT.   Along with horses, hounds and tack, we start early and hit the ground running. We’re tracking, noting signs of deer kill, prints, and other telltale sign that we’re approaching a cougar cell. Often the female cat will circulate in a fairly localized area where she’s able strategically mount her attack on an unsuspecting prey.   From the Salmon River basins below, up through the draws and canyons above, Mackay Bar Outfitter Cougar Hunts represent a primed ALL-IN physical pursuit to track the big cats.   Your reward?  EXTREME SPORT in the form of an Idaho Cougar Hunt that celebrates the Idaho heritage and traditional hunting methods of days gone by.


The Canadian Grey Wolf  In the recent past, Idaho hound hunters enjoyed their leisure time activities in the mountain terrains with dogs afoot.  Hound hunting for cougar is part of our celebrated tradition of Idahoans and by treeing the cat for their owners, hounds assist in making cougars an easy target.  But many of these hobby hound hunters ceased their enjoyment of cat hunting due to another predator that began to roam their playgrounds in the west – the Canadian Grey Wolf.   In the past 5 to 10 years since reintroduction of this vicious predator, hound hunters losing their dogs to the ravages of wolves, couldn’t bear the loss of their pet dogs any longer, and gave up hound hunting altogether.

Without the pressure from random dog hunters with a license and a tag, cougar populations in Idaho have flourished. Idaho Cougars in the backcountry are big cats, with less pressure from hunters because of the rugged terrain and difficult access.    But there is another difference in the Idaho Cat Hunt:   Idaho is one of the only states that allows both COUGAR AND CANADIAN GREY WOLF hunts.   These predators are equally elusive, but where there is prey, there are both wolf and cat tracks.   If you’ve always wanted to hunt predators like the big cats and wolves that roam our neck of the woods, make plans for a lifetime experience at Mackay Bar Ranch. 

The area above the Salmon River in the exclusive Frank Church Wilderness country is the permit area held by Mackay Bar Outfitters  where high adventure and extreme hunts offer serious adventure to guest hunters.   During the winter cougar hunting season, we’ll transport guests to Mackay Bar via jet boat from Vinegar Creek Boat Launch near Riggins, Idaho.   In severe conditions where the river is freezing up,  landing on our private airstrip via air charter from McCall Idaho is an ordinary ingress and egress from our backcountry ranch. "Salmon


In the rugged high mountain terrains and low river basins of Central Idaho’s backcountry wilderness areas of the Frank Church “River of No Return” Wilderness,  big cougar enjoy a culinary feast of  large and small prey including elk, big horn sheep, whitetail, mule deer,  and even wild turkeys that roost in trees at night and present an easy evening snack.   Cougar are predators that simply need protein and they don’t seem to care where it comes from.   Certainly larger prey are an easier catch and fill the stomachs of their cubs for an extended period.

Mountainlion.org best describes the stalking habits of cougar and their affinity for a habitat with good cover:  “Mountain lions are stalking predators that must get close to their prey before ambushing from a short distance. They will take advantage of terrain (steep canyons, rock outcroppings, boulders) or vegetation (dense brush, thickets) to remain hidden while stalking. Cover refers to this combination of terrain and vegetation that allows the cat to stay out of sight while hunting and stalking; habitats that have good stalking cover attract mountain lions.”


In the remote wilderness of Idaho’s Primitive Area (now the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness), the cougars’ home range include steep, rocks areas and mountain draws covered with dense stands of Douglas fir and ponderosa pine.   That steep terrain makes for what we like to refer to as an “Extreme Rugged Cougar Hunt”.

Outfitter and owner/operator, Buck Dewey of Mackay Bar Ranch prompts his guests planning a hunt at this exclusive wilderness backcountry ranch to prepare themselves physically for the best hunt.   Endurance, stamina, flexibility and strength in the hunter will engage a higher margin of success when negotiating extreme rugged mountain terrains for big cougar.

Dewey, having grown up playing and hunting in the canyons above the Salmon River notes “we’re not just running the flat roads back and forth making sure we’re treeing the cat and then calling our guest to come shoot it.  Our traditional hunting methods involve our hunters in the pursuit and enjoying the experience hands-on”.


Cougar are the personification of power, stealth, grace and speed as they negotiate the rugged terrain of the Frank Church Wilderness.      They prefer a zigzag movement in their home range to preserve energy for the potential attack of prey, as they depend on an element of surprise and a burst of energy when its time for the kill.
Human hunters who want to experience the most extreme, rugged hunt at Mackay Bar Ranch, will take time, prior to a backcountry hunting adventure in the wilderness of Idaho,  to get into physical shape for this extreme sport.     With hound dogs in tow, moving across the rugged terrain, Mackay Bar guides and outfitters are savvy and fit from frequent navigation of the terrain throughout the hunting seasons from winter cougar hunts to spring bear and cougar to fall elk, deer and big horn sheep.   Moving along the rugged draws, rocks and steep mountain ridges with skill and physical endurance will engage your overall experience with a much higher level of satisfaction and success with a trophy big cat and many tales of your pursuit to share with your friends back home.

No matter if you’re seeking to hunt cougar, bear or other big game, Mackay Bar Outfitters offers EXTREME HUNTERS something special.   Not for the meek, our hunts cater to a brand of rugged adventure, in a stunning landscape that will produce an experience of a lifetime.

So while you’re getting in shape and planning your next cougar adventure in the heart of Idaho’s Wilderness area with Mackay Bar Outfitters, leave the rest of your backcountry vacation to us.  

When you’re not on a steep mountain ridge hunting your next trophy, we’ll treat you to the luxury of  warm hospitality, delicious home cooked hearty meals and beverages served in our main lodge to share the tales of the day and to relax in front of the warm fire and wind down after an adventurous day of hunting.

Top that off with a good night of sleep in our  beautifully furnished comfortable lodging accommodations, each with private bath.

Mackay Bar Outfitters is now booking for our 2014-2015 winter cougar hunts.   Availability is limited, so be sure to book early to ensure your Extreme Rugged Cougar Hunt is on your calendar and confirmed.

We can’t wait to provide you with one of the most incredible, rugged, extreme hunting experiences of a lifetime.

Contact us to arrange your hunting plans

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