It took two days, but 16-year-old Holden Bruce of Franklin got his mountain lion.

Bruce killed the 3-year-old, 102-pound male Thursday afternoon, the second day of Nebraska's inaugural mountain lion hunting season.

The former Bennet teenager was one of 397 hunters who entered a lottery last year for a chance to hunt a mountain lion.

He was accompanied by his dad, Jeremy, older brother Tristan, a guide and others on the hunt that started Wednesday, opening day of season one.

"We hunted from daybreak to about 4 ... in the afternoon," his dad said. "We seen older tracks ... but the dogs couldn't bite on them."

They went out about the same time on Thursday and ran across a mountain lion sitting in some brush. They thought they had the animal treed several times but it got away. The dogs cornered the cat in a tall cottonwood tree in Sowbelly Creek in Sioux County.

"He was laying flat on top of the tree about 30 feet in the air, and we couldn't get on the other side to make a shot," said Holden.

"I feel great," he said by phone on his way home from Chadron on Friday morning.

Earlier Thursday, Tom Ferry of Ponca Creek killed a male mountain lion that weighed 138 pounds in Dawes County. Ferry bid $13,500 at the Nebraska Big Game Society banquet and auction in October for the chance to hunt.

Two permits were granted for season one — Jan. 1-Feb. 14, or until two males or one female were killed. Both hunters used dogs.

Under rules approved in July by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the limit for the first season was two male lions, so the season has ended.

Season two, in the Pine Ridge Unit, will be Feb. 15-March 31 with the same limit. Hunters must check in daily to find out if the season is still open.

That season will be restricted to 100 hunters whose names were drawn in the lottery. They will not be allowed to hunt with dogs.

The commission also sold 490 hunting permits for the Prairie Unit, which covers about 85 percent of the state, but officials say it's unlikely a mountain lion will be killed because the big cats are not as concentrated in that area as they are in the Pine Ridge.

Some environmentalists have decried the state's season, approved in July, saying there are too few mountain lions to justify it.

Mountain lions are native to Nebraska but were wiped out by early settlers and essentially vanished after 1890. A century passed before the next sighting, in 1991 near Harrison in Sioux County.

Since then, they have recolonized the rugged Pine Ridge area, where a breeding population of about 22 exists today. But sightings of young males have been reported as far east as Omaha and Des Moines, Iowa.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers has vowed to introduce a bill this month to repeal the ability of Game and Parks to set hunting seasons on mountain lions. Until that happens, he said Friday, he will fight every bill and issue in which the commission is involved. 

"When these killers, because they are not hunters, are allowed to use dogs to chase these animals until they are virtually exhausted and terrified and they're in a tree, then this killer comes and shoots the animal, that's not hunting, that's slaughter," Chambers said when he heard about the two kills.

He's furious, he said, and he will avenge their deaths.

"I assure you, the issue does not die with those two lions that were killed."

Jeremy and Holden Bruce both said Chambers is entitled to his opinions.

"It doesn't bother me at all," Holden said. "They can have their opinions and I'm going to shoot one anyway."

This is his second mountain lion trophy. Three years ago, he killed a mountain lion in Arizona during a hunt sponsored by the Hunt of a Lifetime Foundation, a nonprofit that grants hunting and fishing dreams to people younger than 21 diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses.

The teenager has battled brain tumors for years but said he's feeling well and a brain scan in July came back clean.

He said he plans to have the lion he shot made into a rug or a mount. The Arizona mountain lion skin hangs in his bedroom.

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Reach Algis J. Laukaitis at 402-473-7243 or alaukaitis@journalstar.com


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