Hunting Lions in the Sandias


By Alex Escué Limkin

We had just finished hiking and were taking a picture of our baby Escué lying in a snowdrift on the east side of the Sandias when the hunter came out of the woods carrying a crossbow.

His white luxury SUV had been at the trailhead when we arrived, partially blocking the entrance. After opening the rear hatch with his key fob, the hunter slid the crossbow into the cargo area, took off his camouflage clothes, and sat down. I could see that even his underwear was some form of camouflage. He started his engine but did not leave his parking space.

I’m going to go throw a stick for AB,” I told my wife. I moseyed over to the SUV with my canine companion in tow.

The hunter was studying his phone. I squeezed past his car and looked around for a stick. There was one near his front tires. It looked like it had broken and fallen from the weight of the snow. I made a show of throwing the stick for AB a couple times.

I had just been on the trail with my wife, dog and infant son, and I didn’t like the idea of someone hunting so close to us, lurking around, stalking. What was he hunting up there in the Sandias with a crossbow, anyway? What was up there that needed killing?

After a couple throws, I gestured to him and he lowered his window. This is how I remember our conversation:

Can I ask what you’re hunting up here?”

Mountain lions,” he said. I nearly dropped the stick.

Mountain lions? Really? I didn’t know there were any still up here. Thought we killed them all.”

Oh, they’re up here.”

The reason I’m asking,” I continued, “is because there’s a lot of families hiking up in these woods. Like me. With their dogs. It would be a tragedy if you made a mistake out there with that crossbow.”

Anyone who would make a mistake like that has no business hunting.”

True,” I said, “but it happens. Like when Cheney shot Rumsfeld in the face with a shotgun.”

The hunter didn’t blink. “I don’t know anything about that. Didn’t kill him, in any event.”

I fished around for a way to continue the conversation. There were so many things that needed saying. “You sure there are mountain lions up here?”

Oh, they’re up here. There’s a 30-bag annual limit in the Sandias. But they don’t permit firearms. That’s why I’ve got the bow.”

I wondered who regulated and tracked mountain lion kills. 

What do you do to hunt them?” I asked.

I got a call. I make a call just like a mountain lion makes, and any mountain lions in the area will come around and check it out. They’re territorial and don’t appreciate intruders.” 

Any luck with that?”

He shook his head. “Just a matter of time, though. With hunting, you have to be patient. Sometimes you wait your whole life for just one shot.”

I didn’t want to be there all day talking hunting, but I wanted him to know he wasn’t welcome with his crossbow so close to the city, with families and children around. I didn’t care if it was legal or not. But it had to be done delicately.

Maybe there are some better places you could go than the Sandias,” I offered.

There are, but I live in Albuquerque, and this is the closest place to hunt what I’m after.”

The truth is, it wasn’t only the safety of my family I was concerned with. I was thinking about the mountain lions, too. I was thinking about the bison and the carrier pigeon. I was thinking about how willing we are to kill wild things for entertainment, for sport, for pleasure or for economic growth. It has always been this way with us. I felt sick to remember the bison, the millions left to rot on the plains. And here we were, still at it. Still finding pleasure in killing. Still denying the sanctity of life.

I was going to launch into the story of Aldo Leopold, the conservationist who founded the Gila Wilderness. He hunted wolves until one day he reached a wolf in time to see the “fierce green fire dying in her eyes.” He never hunted again.

I wanted to tell him that many animals shot and wounded by hunters, particularly with bows, are never found, and are left to die a slow, agonizing death in the woods.

I wanted to tell him that once a bullet or arrow severs your spine and paralyzes you, you’re never the same hunter again.

I wanted to tell him that once you’ve been wounded in the way we wound animals, you’re never the same human being again.

But there is never enough time to tell people the things they need to know. And often, they don’t care.

Anyway, it was what I wanted to do and not what I wanted to say that was important. What I wanted to do, as soon as I saw what he was up to—desecrating life for sport—was break his crossbow over his head.

Instead, I used words.

If you manage to find a mountain lion out here, or anyplace else, I hope you see a green fire in its eyes that changes your life forever.”

Then, there wasn’t anything more to say.

Author Alex Escué Limkin is forming an action and advocacy team, DVR-6, specializing in the recovery and aid of homicidal and suicidal veterans in the backcountry. He blogs about his experience as an Iraq veteran at

  • KR sheridan

    Cheney did not hit Rumsfeld in the face. He wounded Harry Whittington an attorney from Austin, TX.

  • Jackie Ericksen

    I was fortunate to see a mountain lion in the Sandias once, returning late (around 1 or 2 AM) from working up at the radio towers, down the Las Huertas Canyon road. Magnificent. Needless to say, my first thought was NOT that I didn’t have a gun. It ran ahead of the car for a bit, then veered down into Media Canyon. I hope it – or its kids- still live there.

  • Arthur Alpert

    Cheney didn’t shoot Rumsfeld.
    Arthur Alpert

  • gary richey

    This guys an idiot! Let the mountain lion eat your kid next time you hippie

  • http://N/a Eli

    I’m a hunter for food. Not trophy. It’s been done in my family for Centuries. I personally don’t eat other predators. I love animals and respect Mother Earth. It’s the cycle of life. We are predator. With canine teeth for eating meat.

  • hunter

    Get educated bro, without hunting in today’s society ,there would be NO lion’s or deer left, theydon’t have range like they used to so they populate killing the deer, then they themselves die off. Humans are part of the food chain. And you need to realize that mother nature isn’t all fun and games, animals are out there for one reason, to survive. Ever seen a deer get mauled by another deer? Or a Bear eat another cub? It’s not all lolly lolly. Most animals die from predation either young or old, not of age. And hunters are out they’re not just to kill something but for the experience, the love of the animal, the meat, everything involved. There’s a reason they call it hunting not killing, it’s not just this easy thing either. in fact the majority of yourr hunts which you spend large amounts of time scouting, paying for gear, and not to mention the amount of money it brings to societyWITHOUT HUNTING YOU WOULDNT BE ABLE TO GO UP THE NATIONAL FOREST AND HIKE WITH YOUR FAMILY, all national forest, wildernesses are almost completely funded by sportsman and anglers!!! I hope this steered you to do more research on why we hunt and how it actually helps the natural world to thrive.