MOST OF THE PEOPLE pay no attention to the scowling predator, the hapless unicorn or the steaming parasites they speed past on their way to their next pickleball match. But we hunters, who have a special interest in all creatures and deal more than most with life and death, take it into account. We slow down and watch it with at least a little morbid curiosity, if not a pang of hunger. Here’s how we remember five of those flattened to death.
A tough truck driver
This was in the early 1970s, when truckers were heroes in the less cultured parts of the United States and country music was filled with songs about them.
An acquaintance of mine drove an 18-wheeler in Montana, and one night, along the east side of I-90, he saw a mountain lion crossing the highway. It was too close to turn, and 18-wheelers don’t accept sudden direction changes, so he hit the poor cat and then pulled over.
He knew a mountain lion skin was probably worth some money, so he couldn’t afford to leave it on the side of the road, but he didn’t want to walk over a cougar with bare hands, even one that was almost certainly dead. He dug around until he found a tire iron, then walked off along the shoulder a few ways, and sure enough, there lay the beast, its skin almost entirely intact.
The truck driver tossed the dead cat over his shoulder and returned to his rig, tire iron in hand, lit by the headlights of the occasional passing vehicle.
He pulled onto the freeway and a minute or two later, over his CB, he heard, “Uh, 1-9 breaker, whoever’s listening, I want to tell you there was some tough truck driving here in Montana. . . I just saw one carrying a mountain lion that he killed with a tire iron.” – DEP
Tracks of the Wolf
While working as a special agent for the railroad police in the West Virginia coalfields, I investigated several unusual occurrences, none more so than a track homicide involving a locomotive and a large predator.
I was called to a taxi driver’s shop to investigate an incident in which a coal train had run over and killed a large dog-like creature. Upon arrival, I found the taxidermist and a game warden staring at a large furry beast lying on a workbench.
Although wolves are not native to the Allegheny Mountains, the taxidermist was convinced that this was what we were looking at. The guard had a different opinion. When I asked him what dog was in front of us, he took a deep breath, buckled his gun belt a little higher and, with all the authority and wild game expertise he could muster, announced, “Well, I’m sure it’s not a wolf, and I don’t even think that it is a dog.”
As the game warden was the most official person in the room, I was left with only one workable conclusion. What we were looking at was a wolf. I put his statement and my conclusion in my incident report and it was not questioned. Most likely the creature was a wolf hybrid, crossed with a malamute or German shepherd. Despite this, lodged somewhere deep in the annals of official railway police history is a report of a dead wolf. -RM
Now it’s “My Dog”.
That night the deer season was over. I came home shivering and hungry from the last evening hunt of the year, and complained to my wife, Robin, all through dinner. “I can’t believe I didn’t get my deer.”
I don’t always tag many deer in a season, but I’m confident enough to get at least one for the cooler I refer to as mine the deer (though I doubt the deer thinks so). And other people say, “Hey, Dave. You got it YOUR deer this year?” And I say, “Yes, of course I did.”
Over the many years of our marriage, Robin and I have reached a kind of unspoken agreement in which I pretend to care when she talks about gardening (“A hybrid cucumber with no mouth? No way!”) and she pretends to care when I talk about hunting . . She didn’t look up from her plate, but said, “This is crazy. You always get your deer.”
“I can’t believe we’re going to go the whole year without venison,” I said. And just then the doorbell rang.
I answered and found a worried couple standing at our feet, talking frantically. They had had an incident on the road near our road but were in a terrible hurry to get where they were going and could I help you?
“Absolutely,” I said. “I can take care of it.”
“We never saw it coming,” they said. “He just entered the street and BAM!”
“Do not worry. I only know what to do,” I told them. “Okay. Goodbye. Drive safe.”
From the dinner table, Robin couldn’t make out the conversation, so he asked, “Who’s that?”
I turned to face her, beaming, as the strangers returned to their car.
“It’s my deer!” -DH
My first vehicle was a 1993 Chevy Suburban. My mom was nervous about a 16-year-old driving such a big car, but my dad said it was safer to be in a truck with a little more metal. I thought it was great, but it took me a while to develop a sense of spatial awareness while driving such a beast.
One day, on my way home from school, I rounded a blind bend and saw a large snapping turtle burrowing across the road. I had helped box turtles across before and thought about getting out of the truck to get it, but this turtle might bite again.
As I sized up the situation, a soccer mom in a Subaru approached from the opposite direction, heading toward the school. She stopped and motioned for me to go, but with a worried look on her face.
There was no shoulder room to go around, but I figured I could step on the turtle, no problem. I let the big diesel inch forward, careful to let the tires fall on either side of the shell while keeping an eye on the Subaru in the opposite lane. When I felt my driver’s tire start to lift, I knew I was off the mark. As I continued to drive higher, and the woman in the Subaru looked more and more worried, I tried to put my truck into reverse…but it was too late. The full weight of my ¾-ton went down hard.
I couldn’t tell if I had rolled the turtle or squeezed it – until I saw the look of horror on the soccer mom’s face. She sped off to school shaking her head and I headed home, avoiding the rearview mirror at all costs.
Looking back, I still regret not getting out of the truck to get that turtle. After all, there was a point where it just couldn’t bite anymore, and I’ve always wanted to try turtle soup. — ME
Thank you, Santa!
Michelle had considered hunting from her favorite stairwell on that sunny, cold December Saturday morning in 2016. Instead, she decided to take our 2-year-old son to the state park for Christmas morning. and photos with Santa. I don’t remember what all Anse said to the big man she wanted that year, but I knew what Michelle was hoping for – a very good buck to walk on the range after a long, hard season.
When we got home from the park and checked the trail cameras that afternoon, an SD card showed that a giant G2 buck with two forks had been feeding in the corn pile just 18 feet from Michelle’s step stand for nearly half an hour. We had never seen the deer before and haven’t taken more bucks on camera on our 70 acres before or since. Michelle named him Kringle and hunted him for the next three days.
She never saw the buck, and there was a good reason for that: it was lying dead and bloated on the side of the road 300 yards from her stand the whole time. Shortly after getting a corn belly, Kringle had walked two lanes down the ridge from Michelle’s stand, where an elderly woman killed him instantly with her Buick. My neighbor — who also had pictures of Kringle — said he drove by and looked at the dead buck, its antlers broken off just above the brow ridges on either side. “That shelf just broke,” he said. “There were spots and big old pieces of beams lying everywhere.”
Michelle was sick when she saw it. On the other hand, the irony of it all didn’t seem lost on her. “Well, Merry Christmas!” she said.
Then again, she says that every year. – BB
This story originally appeared in the Disk Issue of Field & Stream. Read more F&S+ stories.