In Mississippi’s woods large predators are few and far between. We do not have grizzlies or wolves and contrary to what your buddy Robbie says there hasn’t been a confirmed panther sighting in decades. What we do have are bobcats.
What is a Bobcat?
With a scientific name like Lynx rufus, the bobcat is a true and native Mississippian. Full bodied and about twice the size of a large domestic housecat, they are easily identified by their nub of a bobtail. Yellow/grey to red in color with horizontal lines of black broken stripes and small tufts on the ears, they resemble the lynx to which they are closely related. The bobcat is muscular, and its hind legs are longer than its front legs, giving it a characteristic bobbing gait.
Life is hard on a wild cat. While some bobcats have lived up to age 32 in the safe confines of captivity where food in regular and predators are non-existent, the average lifespan of these tuft-eared felines in the wild is about half that, with most never even making a decade. Coyote predication on bobcats occurs although studies by MSU have shown them capable of co-existing in the same area as long as the food supply is adequate. Besides coyotes, young kittens have to worry about eagles, hawks, foxes, and raccoons.
They grow fast and by their first birthday, provided they make it, can be up to ten pounds. Typically, in Mississippi large adult cats taken by hunters and trappers range from 15-20 pounds and are up to a yard long, although it is possible for them to get much bigger. These bad boys get huge in northern states and in 2009, an 18-year old 52-pound male was taken in Minnesota.
Habitat and Habits of Bob
In a 1989-92 study that MDWFP did on adult bobcats caught, radio collared and released, they found that these short-tailed sneaks live in just about any environment but tend to slightly prefer farmland and to pine plantations to other areas. Bobcats are the absolute nemesis of wild rabbits, field mice, cotton rats, and squirrel throughout the Mississippi woods. Your best bet for finding bobcats is to find an overgrown area thick with the above. Eventually old Mr. Bobcat will try to move in and set up residence. Once they do, they will set up a den and move out in radius from it, marking their area. Although you may smell the strong urine or find the occasional bobcat scat, be aware that they often wade into water to do their business, especially if there is a healthy population of coyote in the area. Males often also are noted to use creek banks as travel and hunting lanes, so you may be able to find prints in those areas if muddy enough. Remember even though they have five toes on their front paws, only four will be present in their tracks.
Bobcats are crepuscular, which means they are active primarily during twilight. This puts there stalking time as a few hours just before and after sunrise and sunset. However, during the cold winter with short days, especially in December and January, bobcats break this normal habit and are often seem poking around during the regular daylight hours.
Tips and tricks for hunters
Most Mississippi Sportsmen get their best luck with Bobs through trapping but a few make a good sport of hunting these fellas. It is not uncommon for hounds to flush these felines out during a deer or hog drive and remember, if it’s an open gun season, then bobcats are fair game too. According to MDWFP, there are no daily or possession limits or minimum size on bobcats from November 1 to February 28 each year due to the predatory nature of these bad boys. Any caliber from 22LR on up is a good bobcat round but if you are looking for a nice mount then shotguns may be a bad idea.
You can specifically target these cats and call them in to a stand using mouse calls and rabbit calls but be sure to be in close touch with your camo as their eyesight is almost as good as a turkey’s. If no response to your calls after an hour or so, scoot off to another area a set up again.
Remember, old Mr. Bob, aka Rufus is a cagey feline of the woods but every one you manage to collect saves a legion of rabbits, a few fawns, and makes an interesting mount.