Stalking The Big Cat

Shane McCollum is an inside salesperson for the electrical segment at DSG in Fargo. He’s in his 40s now, but when McCollum was in his late 20s, he decided that he really wanted a bobcat mount.

Over the next few years, he taught himself how to track and trap, and his first trophy was a bobcat that he still has today. Since then, McCollum has become an accomplished trapper, with his favorite quarry being beaver.

A decade later, McCollum’s 14-year-old nephew asked him to pass on his knowledge. McCollum agreed, and it was a cold, wet December morning when the two set out near Bemidji, Minn., to scout for prey. Anyone who has ever been to this part of the world knows that the trees are thick, and the weather can be fierce. They slogged through rain and snow for miles, occasionally setting a trap for beaver or mink.

Then they saw them: cat tracks – big cat tracks. McCollum explained to his nephew how bobcats have a habit of walking in their own tracks over and over. This meant that the animal would almost surely return. It was the opportunity they had been hoping for.

They followed the tracks until they found a suitable choke point – a spot on the trail where trees on either side would force the animal to follow a narrow, predictable path. McCollum showed his nephew the time-consuming steps involved with preparing a blind-set snare, which included arranging the restraint cable at head height for the bobcat to walk into. With any luck, the cat would find himself quickly caught by the neck, and McCollum’s nephew would have his own prize mount.

But trapping takes patience. For the next three days, McCollum’s nephew roused him out of bed so the two could hit the trails before dawn, hiking up to eight miles a day through dense brush, thick snow and freezing temperatures. Every day they would see deer and grouse. They even managed to trap two mink and a handful of beaver. But the bobcat snare stayed empty. McCollum had seen similar traps stay empty for months, but he kept that to himself, not wanting to dampen his nephew’s enthusiasm.

On the fourth day, McCollum saw fresh tracks as they approached the snare. He held his breath but said nothing. When they saw the bobcat in the trap, McCollum’s nephew literally jumped for joy. The male bobcat was even more incredible than he had dreamed: 34 pounds, 54 ¼ inches from nose to tail – a big cat for sure.

“I’ve spent my whole life walking through the woods,” McCollum’s nephew told him with a smile that put the December sun to shame, “but I never looked down. I never saw that there were tracks and that I could follow them.” His uncle shared his pride, and now both have bobcat mounts to provide vivid memories and exciting stories they can share.