The Most Dangerous Game
Sometimes the hunter tries to become the hunted.
One of the most exciting of all my outdoor experiences is to become the hunted by nature's larger predators. In such experiences, the abnormal seems to become the norm.
Over the years, I've had many such encounters and in every instance, I was never bored!
When I become the hunted, I endeavor to sound like a small critter of some sort that is being torn limb from limb by a predator. I use handheld calls that have a reed and I blow air over the reed and through the tube in which the reed resides, to mimic the sound of terror.
The American Indians accomplished the same thing way back when, using a piece of wide-bladed green grass that they stretched between their thumbs. They blew air over it to mostly mimic the sound of a tortured rabbit. You and I probably did such as kids, too.
I remember my first experience of feeling like the prey, at the tender age of 15. It had snowed during the day, and I ventured forth along about midnight to a deserted country blacktop road. I sat up on a bank about 12 feet above the surface.
My new call consisted of two pieces of plastic, three inches long and a half-inch wide. Stretched between them, sandwich style, was a taut, wide rubber band. I blew air over it in a forceful manner, producing a very high-pitched squeal.
I hadn't called too long until I kept hearing a flap, flap, flap every minute or so. It took a while before I realized that the sound was coming from above me. I looked up just in time to see one very large great-horned owl with a nearly five-foot wingspan, diving towards my head, its talons outstretched below its body! I ducked down as it passed very close over me, waving my shotgun at it to keep it away. Talk about an adrenaline rush!
A little over a decade ago, a friend and I were again calling at night, somewhere south of Silver City on a ranch. It was about midnight with a full moon. My buddy was doing the calling not too far from where I hunkered down, when all of a sudden we heard the loud squalls of hundreds of ravens — and they were mad!
Soon they were diving en masse on my buddy's head, as he tried desperately to lie flat on the ground, all the while with me laughing heartily. It was so unnerving that he declared that he was quitting right then and there!
As a side note, we had a curious experience as we drove north from the spot on a two-track: We climbed out of a deep arroyo and saw what looked like a huge angus cow lying in the road. My pal had to suddenly swerve to miss the apparently sleeping or dead bovine.
The jeep skidded to a stop and we proceeded to back up so that I soon was peering down upon the critter from my side of the open jeep. I was shocked to see that instead of the expected cow, it was three illegal border crossers lying side by side under a black plastic tarp with their heads firmly planted on the right track of the road!
Even though I sat not six inches from them, they never moved or twitched a muscle the entire time, even as my buddy and I spoke back and forth. We left them in that exact position, thankful that my pal had good reflexes that night. I'll bet that they all had brown shorts that night and a good tale to tell their relatives!
The first time I called in a cougar, the event gave me brown shorts, too. Lions are supposed to come to a call slowly and deliberate-like, but this one ran through the brush full speed in less than five minutes from the time I began my squallerin', and he came right for me. I was frozen stiff and could not twitch a muscle as he closed on me. At 10 feet he suddenly swerved and was into the brush in the blink of my eye — if I could have blinked, that is. My eyes were far too large to do so at that moment!
Javelina have made for some interesting moments of terror, too. One time I sat upon a ridge overlooking Saddlerock Canyon, screaming like a jackrabbit. Here came a small herd of five peccaries and they were indeed ticked off. As they got closer, I heard them all making a "chuffing" sound and alternately clacking those rather imposing teeth.
When it looked like they were going to overwhelm ol' Lar, I quit calling (I wanted to see how close they would come). They were at about 20 yards or so. When I quit the call, it was like I turned off a switch; they just stopped and meandered about, before slowly moving away as if nothing had ever disturbed them in the least.
I remember another time in my youth when I was trying to call red fox in the early evening. All of a sudden here came this guy running right for me with a very big, double-bit axe held high. I moved before he got to my spot so that he could see what I was; he declared that he'd never heard such a racket and he had come to rescue whatever was being torn asunder. We both had a good guffaw over that one.
Speaking of calling in humans, one time a little over 15 years ago, I was sitting along the now-Continental Divide trail above Silver City, when two hooded persons came charging up, both holding clubs. They were from the nearby monastery and were again coming to see what was making that horrific noise! They seemed pretty shook up and scared in spite of their bravery.
On that same trail but a mile farther on, another time I called in a frightened mother and her son, who were hiking the trail. It was long before it was designated as part of the Continental Divide trail. When I saw her, I recognized her as a casual friend, and I stood and let her see my figure.
I was chuckling as I took off my face mask. When she saw it was me, she scolded me good and explained that I really scared them, but she had come on anyway.
Over the 52-some years that I've practiced my sport, I've called in all manner of critters. There was the mama woodchuck that would have torn me apart had she reached me (a pond separated us). There have been many bobcats, 12 more cougars, many hawks, some bald and golden eagles, mule deer, antelope, curious jackrabbits, myriads of screaming bluejays, and docile, curious cattle.
I've had a menacing German shepherd dog come at me, as well as a coupla farm dogs and several domestic cats. In fact, early on, I was calling while standing in about 12 inches of fresh snow near a woodlot, when I suddenly felt something brush against my leg as I stood there. I looked down to see a tabby cat rubbing up against me purring for all it was worth!
Some critters have defeated me soundly; I've never called in a raccoon no matter my best efforts, and I've never called in a bear. On the latter, I've been somewhat tentative in calling bears unless I have a good solid backdrop like a cliff or big, big tree. For some strange reason, I don't quite want to be on Bre'r Bruin's menu!
As always, keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face and may The Forever God bless you too! Happy New Year!