TSgt Jason Chavies is stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base. The 33-year-old is a Huey helicopter crew chief with the 36th Rescue Squadron. His job title with this unit is the contracting officer representative, which means he coordinates activities between the unit and the civilian helicopter maintenance personnel.
Jason’s love of the outdoors has been carried forward from Missouri, where he grew up, and, more recently, from Georgia. He was excited about hunting in Washington and last fall’s deer season was his first chance.
Fellow flight engineer TSgt Chris Pound and Jason spent time hunting on Independent Mountain, which is west of the town of Orient, a small unincorporated community in northeastern Ferry County.
“We hunted a total of four weekends during the season,” Jason said. “But we were able to take Friday off to have three days of hunting time.”
The first weekend found the hunters sleeping in the back of their pickup, a situation considered to be unexceptionable at the end of the weekend. A small pull-behind trailer, rented at the Fairchild Recreation Center, made the camping part of the other trips a bit more comfortable.
“We found a spot to hunt on Independent Mountain,” Jason said. “The first chore was to blaze a trail from the forest service road to the top of the mountain. This was not an easy chore, as thick brush and fallen trees covered the hillside.”
Each hunt weekend the two would drive to their campsite as early as they could get away on Friday. Then establish camp and head to the hunting area, a mile away from the campsite. They setup ground blinds, Chris at three-quarters to the top of the mountain and Jason at the top or near the top. The blinds remained in place for the entire weekend.
On Saturday, Oct. 22, the two hunters were in their blinds for a morning hunt. It was common for them to jump deer on the way to the blinds, which adds to the excitement of a hunt.
After spending the morning in the blinds without having a legal deer come within range, they headed back to camp for lunch and to rest a bit.
“We made sure to get back up to our blinds early in the afternoon for a long evening hunt,” Jason said. “By this point we were both feeling a bit hopeless and experiencing the sinking feeling that you’re not going to fill your tag was setting in strong.”
Sometimes a small sound changes an entire hunt, as it did with Jason this time.
“I was in the blind for close to three hours that afternoon and was really starting to let boredom set in when I happened to hear a twig break,” he said. “It didn’t seem real to me when I looked up to see a cougar no further than 20 yards from my blind crouched down like it was stalking. Our eyes met and for what seemed like two minutes we just stared at one another. I don’t think she was ready to strike, but this is the first cat I’ve ever been close to in the wilderness and at this point I don’t know what to base my knowledge of cats on other than house cats, so I knew I had to do something.”
He pulled his gun to his shoulder, put her in his sights and pulled the trigger. He was shooting a Rock River Arms AR-15 chambered in .458 Socom with a red dot scope.
“Now, I’ve killed a lot of whitetail deer with my .458 and every single time I’ve pulled the trigger with a deer at the other end of the barrel, it’s like turning off a light switch,” Jason said. “When I pulled the trigger on this female cougar, she didn’t drop.
“Rather she did five back-flips and spun around 10 times while tumbling down the mountain and coming to rest within 90 yards of Chris’ blind. The cougar traveled about 200 yards from the point where she was shot.”
They tried to drag the animal in a dead sled, but it would turn and tumble. Finally, Jason threw the 120-pound animal on his shoulders and hiked down the mountain.
The excitement didn’t stop with notching the cougar tag. After the morning hunt the next day, the two hunters checked their trail camera before packing up to head home. There, among the images, was one of a male cougar.
The cat was taken to Scott’s Taxidermy in Colville, with a full-body mount ordered.
Both hunters still had unnotched deer tags. They participated in the late white-tail hunt in another Game Management Unit. On Nov. 12, Jason downed a 4 by 4 during the hunt.
Jason, his wife, Kristina, and their five children will make good use of the deer meat and cougar meat, too.