FRANKLIN — Two weeks after 15-year-old Holden Bruce drew a license to hunt a mountain lion in the Pine Ridge Unit, he received an anonymous letter in the mail.
Bruce is one of two people eligible to hunt mountain lions from Jan. 1 through Feb. 14 during Nebraska’s inaugural cougar season.
He said the letter accused him of being a “sick person” for hunting a mountain lion. The letter went on to say “us rednecks could find better things to do.” The letter also said his parents must not be raising him right because he will be hunting mountain lions. There was no signature. The letter was stamped in Omaha and had “animal lover” written across the front.
“There were a lot of misspelled words. Some of the sentences didn’t make any sense. The (Nebraska) Game and Parks warned us not to open unmarked mail,” Bruce said.
The teen brushed the letter off saying it doesn’t really bother him. His mom, Michelle, was upset about the letter.
He has had some positive feedback as well. A teen in Hemingford has offered through Facebook to let Bruce use his hunting dogs. A man from Ponca also has offered to help with his dogs.
Bruce says using dogs in mountain lion hunts can be expensive. While he was on his hunt in Arizona, he learned one of the guides sold his dogs for about $10,000 a piece.
This will be Bruce’s second mountain lion hunt. About three years ago, his mother organized a hunt in Arizona through the Hunt of a Lifetime Foundation. The nonprofit organization sets up hunting and fishing trips for children who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. When he was 12, he was diagnosed with xanthoastrocytoma, a rare cancer that causes brain tumors.
“I was about 10 feet from the mountain lion. I shot it in the middle of the chest, and it still ran 50 yards,” Bruce said. The mountain lion he treed was about 200 pounds. He was able to have it turned into a rug for his bedroom.
If he shoots one this time around, he’s looking into negotiating some kind of deal with Cabela’s in Kearney to let them display the lion for a while. Regardless of what happens, he does plan to keep all rights to the mountain lion if he shoots one.
When he gets to Pine Ridge the first order of business will be to find tracks. Once he finds tracks the dogs will be released. All of the dogs will have GPS trackers on them.
Bruce is limited to one adult male or female. If Tom Ferry, a Nebraskan who bought a license for the first mountain lion season, shoots a female before Bruce, he will have to discontinue his hunt immediately.
His main concern is shooting the mountain lion without getting hurt. He remembers what it was like to be 10 feet from a mountain lion in Arizona. He says the most challenging part will be finding the mountain lion.
“Obviously the mountain lion is a lot smarter, a lot harder to get and harder to find,” Bruce said.
Bruce will be starting his hunt on Jan. 1 in the Pine Ridge with his dad, brother and grandfather.