Around a winding turn there was a lot of movement in the woods. Black shapes scattered at the sound of Kendrick Lamar coming too fast in a truck too old. At first I thought it was a flock of turkeys but it turned out to be crows and the mountain’s resident pair of raven. Among that murder I saw a body surrounded by too-red blood. It looked like a dog. Whatever happened to the dog it wasn’t pleasant. The body was about 30 yards from the road. I made a note of it and decided to check it out on my back from town. He certainly wasn't going anywhere and ravens need to eat, too.
It was easy to spot on the way home. I pulled to the side of the road and left the truck running. Friday watched from the window as I made my way into a ditch and across a stream. I knew the landowners and I wasn’t worried about anything but the victim. As I splashed through calf-deep water I thanked my boots for the thousandth time and made a promise to oil them that night if I didn't fall.
I hoped it wasn’t a dog I knew. I didn't want to have to tell neighbors. When I came up to the carrion, I blew out a cheek full of air.
I'm not ashamed to say I was relieved when I saw it was a very young deer. I will always feel relief when I see a dead herbivore as a opposed to a predator, especially a larger canine. A coyote would have to come at me with a knife while I slept in my own bed to dare hurt it. I have shot mangy (literally manged) young foxed that have stolen birds in broad daylight, but never would I dare shoot a coyote. I love those song dogs. I once saw one trotting up a dirt road on this mountain in late summer. It was large as a German Shepherd and moving casually between two walls of goldenrod. When it shook out its coat I gasped at how thick it was and how it caught the sunset and turned flaxen. If Beyoncé was reincarnated as a coyote, this was her. It made me happy for about 2 weeks.
I really do love these beasts. I have laughed seeing their pups play in the middle of my road. I fall asleep smiling at their jocular yodeling. If I hear someone hunts them for sport I instantly want nothing to do with them. It's like hearing someone shoots stray cats from their porch. Coyotes are friends. Dogs are family. Wolves are sacred.
This hunt happened this morning. The blood was still bright and everywhere. If I was the set designer for a CSI-type nature show I would tell the crew to rein it in a little. Too much. It was dramatic and horrible, but the hunter in me felt some serious pride for Beyoté and her family. The canine paw prints were plenty and large. I could see each toenail on the large prints (something you never see in the rounder and far-more menacing) cat tracks. The fawn was fresh and there was no smell. It had no eyes (the crows) but other than that looked healthy and braw. It had on a good winter coat. It was around the side of a Labrador. Born to die.
The pack had taken this small whitetail, dragged it, feasted. I made note of exactly where it was. If Aya saw this from a decent soar she would leave me and land on it. What would take me half an hour to hike to would take her about 50 seconds to fly it and land on. Aya and I were also hunters on this mountain. We'd cause just as much carnage to other mammals. I nodded to the prints in respect, red and silent and perfect. I was glad I didn’t have a camera. I didn’t want to document it that way.
I’m proud of these fellow hunters. They managed what I haven’t in years on this mountain - which is hunting a deer. I also know plenty of my readers dislike coyotes, have killed them, and perhaps feel the need to share some story about poor lambs, goats, or chickens. Please don't. I’m not defending wild dogs I am sharing my feelings about them - and I’m not going to argue with anyone. You can’t argue with someone about how they feel. You can just react.
Before you do that, understand this wasn’t a campaign. It was a moment of country life I chose to share because it moved me. I hope you saw what I saw in your own mind. I hope the next time you see a coyote you see what I see in this stunning mountain pack - breathing August and vicious songs.
*Note - I have never lost an animal to a coyote. They are nervous of my farm and keep away. I have found other deer killed this way on the outskirts of it. Which is interesting since my fat sheep would be A LOT easier to kill than a healthy deer. They also don't get along well with foxes and tend to not share the same territory. Foxes have killed livestock here. Raccoons have killed the most. I am grateful for song dogs as police, crooners, and hunters.