On November 11, at about 3:45 in the afternoon, Ben Karash shot a mountain lion that was stalking him in Buffalo County, Wisconsin. Karash was belted into his tree stand, hunting deer. He saw the lion coming closer from about 40 yards out. He shouted. He waved his arms. The lion knew he was there. The lion knew he was not a deer. The lion kept moving closer.
Have you ever watched a house cat stalk a bird? Mountain lions stalk their prey in a similar fashion.
I was able to talk to Tom Bilski, the District Attorney of Buffalo County. Tom was wonderfully open and transparent about what had happened. In recent years, people have thought the purpose of a prosecutor is to prosecute crimes. No. The purpose of a prosecutor is to see justice done. It is equally important to decide not to prosecute people as it is to prosecute them.
Tom said the local game warden, representing the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) asked him if he wished to prosecute the hunter who shot the lion. The local game warden, Bob Jumbeck, had investigated the incident after Ben Karasch called it in on the DNR hotline.
Karash had seen the big cat stalking him. It had come closer and closer, no matter what he did. He was in a vulnerable position, strapped to the tree, on his tree stand, with limited movement. As the cat neared the base of the tree, he drew his bow and fired an arrow into the upper body of the cat. The distance was later measured at 13 yards from him.
Tom Bilsky stated he was told the arrow passed completely through the body of the mountain lion, which was measured at 128 lbs. The mountain lion ran about 120 yards after being shot before it expired. It was discovered the next day by the investigative team from the DNR, accompanied by Ben Karash. This was the first mountain lion recorded as being shot in Wisconsin in 115 years. David Zeug wrote a good article about the incident.
Tom Bilsky, Barron County District Attorney, was asked by the DNR if he wanted to prosecute the hunter. Bilsky recalled this from his conversation with Warden Jumbeck.
This cougar was stalking the hunter. The cougar knew he was in the tree. The hunter yelled at the cougar to go away. The cougar kept on coming to the tree stand. Now logic would suggest that the cougar was coming to the tree stand to kill him.
When the game warden told me, when Bob Jumbeck told me, what had happened, my first thoughts are we should be putting a medal on this person, not worrying about charging him.
In my opinion this cougar would have killed somebody.
The District Attorney asked Warden Jumbeck: Did Jumbeck want to charge the hunter who killed the lion? Jumbek said no. In the investigation, all the physical evidence confirmed what had been said by the hunter.
Tom said he had been contacted by someone who wanted the hunter prosecuted. The person demanded information Tom did not have. Tom told them to contact the DNR for the information they sought.
Tom told the person he might have a different opinion if he saw the mountain lion stalking him. If he saw the lion kept getting closer and closer, and the lion would not be deterred by yelling and arm waving, he might think differently.
The District Attorney said if a person would not shoot the mountain lion under those circumstances, he was “dumber than a box of rocks.”
Tom Bilski is the sort of level-headed district attorney this correspondent wants to see in office nationwide. Human access to and expertise with weapons are what keep more humans from becoming the prey of large predators.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.