Encounters With The Wild
When I was nineteen
Back in the late Sixties, I was a beginning hunter and fancied myself as quite the outdoorsman.In those days. I was lucky enough to live near a heavily wooded area, and I had gotten permission from the land owner to hunt or fish whenever I wanted. There was about sixty acres of prime land there and no one would be around to interfere with my out door exploits. I used to go out with a predator call and make the sounds of a trapped rabbit. This call was effective in bringing fox and wild cats into shooting ranges and I tried them out a lot. I did bring in a few red fox and Bob Cats on occasion and actually never shot at them. I suppose that it was because I loved seeing the wild game so much and I had taken a great interest in painting them at every chance, and I really enjoyed my treks into the woods. My last attempt at calling in a wild cat was very effective. I only found this fact out later, after I had left the area and was nearly back at home. As I was about to cross a roadway, I heard a loud Meowing sound. To my surprise, I saw a fat grey bundle of fur and whiskers bounding in my direction. It was a baby Bob Cat and it thought that I was going to either feed it, or I would help it get back to its momma. It appeared to be lost, and I decided that I would have to try and direct the critter back in the direction of the wooded area from which it had come. The little kitten would have no part in my every effort in tying to pick it up and point it toward the woods. After I had been exhausted in continually picking the baby up, I decided to take it home across the roadway and I placed it in a screened enclosure. With its bobbed tail and dark spots, I was certain that the kitten was wild and most likely a Bob Cat.
After giving the kitten a bowl of water and some scraps of food left over from dinner, I asked my father what to do. He was an old outdoorsman and knew his way around the back woods. My dad told me to take the kitten back out as far away as I could from the house and deep into the woods. He said its mother would probably come to it as it called. I followed his directions and took the little kitten back to an area that I felt was far enough away, and let it go. The kitten had now become attached to me and only followed me home once again. I took the kitten and let it stay in our back yard without confining it, hoping that by some miracle, it would be reunited with its mother. I fed the cat for three weeks and it really became attached to me, and me to it, as well. I worked in a grocery store back then, and one day as I came home from work, I could not see the kitten anywhere around our house. I searched all about and even went down into the woods as far as I could, to see if I could hear the kitten, and even tried to call it to me. It was to no avail, and I never saw the wild critter again, after that. I could only hope that it was reunited with its wild mother and would grow up to be a big cat one day. I hunted many times in that area and hoped to see the cat once again. I only hunted crows, and swore that I would never try to shoot a cat or fox out in the wilds.
A year later, after winging a wild crow on a hunt.The critter landed in some thick brush and finally I was able to get it out with an old shirt and carried it back home with me. I did not have the heart to kill the bird and especially since it was already wounded by me. It appeared to be shot in the wing and was unable to fly at all. I took the crow and placed it in a wire enclosure that I had used for my wild cat earlier, and left water and bread scraps for it to feed upon. After a few days the crow began to heal. I tried to put hydrogen peroxide on its wounds and this seemed to help. It fed upon the scraps that I left for it to eat. I made sure that it had plenty of water and watched after it very carefully. I guess that I felt guilty for having shot the bird in the first place, I decided that it needed some exercise and I tied a long string onto its leg. I then allowed the bird to scamper around in the back yard, and it actually tried to fly only a few feet above the ground. I had the bird about seven weeks and the last few times it was allowed out, it appeared to be more fully healed. I allowed it to fly freely one day and it still returned to its enclosure.
The following week, I let my crow out and he flew up into a tall pine tree in our yard. I heard a distant group of wild crows calling in the distance. Suddenly, the crow began to fly around our house, as if to tell me a so long, and the next thing I saw was him then winging his way back toward the distant flock of his waiting relatives. They called to him way out in the woods, over the hill, and I saw him head toward the last tree tops, as he called in return, as if to let me know that this was our final good by. I never hunted wild crows again after that. I was resigned to go on an occasional deer hunt and was happy to harvest a fat deer because it helped to feed our family, and made it a worthy endeavor for this reason. I will write a short account of my last deer hunt, later on, and you will see why it was, and how I felt at the time. Until then, happy reading to one and all. The beauty of the wild has become of great importance in my life and I have written of it and painted its wild creatures for more than fifty years. There can never be a way to bring back wild animals, once their lives have been taken, and over time, I have learned to appreciate the essences of the wild and their wonderful spirits with a much greater respect and understanding. I have become a devoted supporter of wildlife and hope that everyone will understand and join in their protection.