New experience pour moi! Read on...
Ok, perhaps around this corner there will be a moose. Or…perhaps this one? No wait…maybe this one?
I’ve been hoping to come across a bull moose all morning and as the morning wears on, it feels like my chances are getting less and less. A deer or even a grouse would be nice too; anything that gives me a chance to fill the freezer or make a meal with.
Guy and I round another bend in the dirt road and witness a flurry of movement a few meters off the side of the road. Crows and ravens fly up into the air, cawing their annoyance with the disturbance.
Guy stops the truck. He looks over and raises his eyebrows. “A Kill…gut pile?” he asks rhetorically.
I purse my lips and nod in agreement. I know it is. I’ve been hunting long enough to know what ravens and crows mean in a clear-cut during hunting season. But what Kill? Is it a deer or a moose? I hope it is a deer gut pile and not a moose. If it was a moose gut pile, it would have most likely come from a bull moose and that would mean one less in my area. One less opportunity for myself to hunt that bull.
Guy leaves the truck running and we exit the truck to go investigate. We take our rifles with us just in case there is a predator on the kill. As we stand on the side of the dirt road we assess the clear cut. The clear cut is getting densely over grown with 5-6 foot high Willows, bush Alders and small young Poplar trees. The dense scrub runs about 100 yards before it meets the forest line.
I can’t see anything. No gut pile in plain view, but I can smell something rotting. Something dead is definitely around. Guy stands taller than me and he can’t see anything either.
I look down and just ahead of me where the dirt road meets the clear-cut, I make out a game trail. It’s only about a foot wide and it looks like it has been heavily used and recently too. I conclude it’s the trail used to drag the animal out, whatever it was.
I move beside Guy and whisper “Guy, let me just jump up onto the truck to get a better look. Perhaps I can see where the kill is.” He nods with understanding and continues to look out over the small clearing.
I climb into the back of the truck. We have our ATV loaded in the back of the box and I stand on top of the seat. I have a better view. I can see between many of the bushes and trees now, but I cannot see the gut pile. I can see, however, a lot of disturbed soil between the bushes and small trees. I can tell the kill was very close to the road, only 20 yards or so away. Perhaps there is not much left of the gut pile? Based on the smell, the kill is a least over a day old, if not more.
Scanning the area one more time, I conclude there are no bears on the gut pile (or whatever is left of it). Too bad. I like black bear meat too. I wouldn’t pass up at a chance to harvest a black bear either. Even if I don’t see a black bear, it’s always best to exercise caution as I don’t want Guy and myself to walk in and disturb a bear. Based on the concentration of crows and ravens flying up from one spot, I don’t think there is a bear. But you never know, one could be napping a few feet away with a full belly…content and sleeping off its breakfast. If that was the case, the crows and ravens would have moved in for their chance a morsel or two. I mull over the idea for a bit…have I ever seen a bear on a gut pile before? No. It’s mainly coyotes and birds. Who’s to say though this is even a gut pile? It could be an actual bear kill. Not likely – but possible. Go in alert and with caution is the standard operating procedure.
I go to jump down to report my findings to Guy but something catches my eye – movement. I see a young Poplar tree shake and keep shaking with the slightest of movements. I look harder, but I can’t make myself see through the leafy trees and branches. It’s early October and there are still lots of leaves on the bushes. The bushes seem ‘extra bushy’ and dense the first few feet off the roads. For some reason the Willows and Alders grow extra thick for the first ten feet, give or take. Whatever is causing that tree to shake is just hidden enough that I can’t see it. If it was 2 feet over, I would see it in a bare patch. It figures…just my luck.
I jump down and briskly walk over to Guy. While I was doing my thing, he made his way a bit further down the road to see the area at different angles. “Guy! There is something there!” I excitedly whisper. I lead him over to the spot where I can see the small Poplar tree. “Look there…see it moving?” He shakes his head no. “There again! It’s moving. Wait…listen!” I now hear something. The noise is very faint. With the truck still running, it’s harder to hear and make out the noise. “Sounds like tugging or pulling” I say to Guy. He shrugs his shoulders still unable to make it out (I always had keener eyes and keener hearing than Guy in the bush). Still unable to see the culprit, I jump back up onto the ATV seat. Guy looks at me and mouths the word ‘Bear?‘ I shrug my shoulders and place my left foot onto the hood of the roof of the truck. I get a glimpse now of what it is. It’s a coyote and it is close – 12 to 15 yards away. It’s tugging on something.
It must know we are here? Doesn’t it? I deem it doesn’t know or it doesn’t care. With the crows and ravens gone, it seized its opportunity for lunch. It’s either bold, desperate or it really has no clue we are standing there.
I jump back down off the truck and report to Guy what I saw. “Guy it’s a coyote on the gut pile’. I’m going to do some predator control”.
With my heart beating a bit faster, I move away from him down the road. I stop every few feet trying to get a clear shot at the coyote. It’s hard to see through the branches and leaves. I’m tempted to jump back onto the truck; I would see the coyote then but it is against regulations: both feet must be on the ground, you cannot shoot from the vehicle. Shooting from a vehicle gives an unfair advantage for the animal.
Hmmm…maybe I can use that game trail and walk in on it, all stealth like. The thought entices me – predator hunting predator. Coyotes are clever. Would I be able to get to it before it knows I’m there? It seems like that is my only option.
I start to go back towards the game trail, and then a thought occurs…crouch and get low. I do so and now I can see in-between the base of the bushes and young Poplars. Bingo. Fifteen yards away, I see paws and fur. As the coyote is dragging whatever it is dragging, I notice it will come into view any minute. I sit myself into a kneeling position for shooting. I put my sights on the coyote and wait. I wait what seems like forever, to have the coyotes’ vital area come into view. It does. I see the area behind the shoulder and pull the trigger. The shot rings out over the clearing. It’s done. It’s down. It lays still.
I look over at Guy and give him a nod, signaling to him I got it. He smiles. “Right on” he says with a normal voice this time. We walk in. I stay ahead of Guy with my rifle loaded, just in case there are more coyotes that I failed to see, or if the coyote I shot is just injured and wants to flee. The last thing I want is a suffering wounded animal. I know in the back of my mind though, the coyote is dead – a 300 Short Mag bullet at 15 yards in the vitals…well, enough said.
If the smell was bad at the road, it was worse in the bush. We come across a deer leg. Oh! Not a moose. I look back at Guy and point at the deer leg. We smile at each other knowing what this means…a bull moose could still be out here, somewhere. A few feet away from the deer leg is a deboned deer carcass. Someone shot a deer and deboned the meat off of it and took the head. Based on the size of the deer’s hooves, it was nice buck too. Lucky buggers whoever got this nice buck just off the road. Good for them.
This is what the coyote risked sticking around for. Whether it heard us or not, as soon as those crows and ravens left the carcass, the lone coyote seized its opportunity for a meal.
I see the lump of fur that lay beside the deer carcass. I put my gun safety on, kneel down beside it and place my hand into its soft warm fur. I go to thank the animal for its life and I found that the words get stuck in my throat. I normally thank an animal for its life because I will eat it. This coyote I won’t. I know this animal eats the animals I eat. It is a potential fawn killer and it’s a grouse and rabbit killer. Still, I never experienced this emotion before while hunting; it’s a bit of confusion and a bit of remorse. I have killed predators before – bears. However, I eat the bears. I wrestle with my thoughts. I am elated with a successful hunt and doing my part for predator control (there are a plethora of coyote’s by-the-way) and I’m a bit poignant that hunters are encouraged to do predator control for the sake of prey populations. A coyote simply does what it is born to do (and so does a Mosquito for that fact and we have no problem laying the smack down on them). Our world is much different than 100 years ago, even 50 and it’s all about finding that balance for life. As a ‘meat’ hunter, I want to insure ‘meat’ remains available for future generations. This will remain an ongoing topic forever.
I also come to the reminder that this is my first time even having a chance to shoot a coyote since I began hunting at 13. It could be another 24 years until I have another opportunity to shoot another coyote. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen tons of coyotes out while hunting, just never got an opportunity to put my sights on them.
I will take this hunt as a positive experience.
Guy and I talk about the experience, the area and the deer carcass for a few moments. We move onto talk about what is next on our agenda; finding a place to walk and call for a moose seems like a good idea. He takes a few pictures of me with the coyote before we head back to the truck. I unload my gun before getting into the vehicle and crawl into the passenger seat. It is now late morning and we head off down the road to see what is around the next corner and the corner after that and the one after that one.
That bull moose has to be out here somewhere.