I was recently asked what was the most frightening moment I had while hunting. I am sure the images conjured up from the person consisted of encounters with mountain lion in the Arizona high desert, or perhaps wrestling with an alligator as we tried to tie the legs together and tape the mouth shut. The black bear that scared away my chance at my first turkey this year may have even been on his mind considering I was within a few yards of the potential mauler with nothing more than a camouflaged pop up tent between us.
Although looking back at my answer I would have thought I would have needed more time to come up with the appropriate response, it really just rolled of my tongue. “I would have to say the time I walked up another hunter who was on the land I was about to hunt.”
A situation like this happens all the time to wildlife officers. They will receive a call that someone is trespassing or poaching on someone’s land. While the officer is not quite sure of how the situation will play out, you know they run through their mind’s eye several scenerios for preparation. While there is uncertainty to the outcome, they know going in that the person they are there to see has a weapon of some sorts.
The same thing played out with me. I wasn’t sure if the person was purposely on the wrong property or how they would react. I was fairly certain they would have a weapon, and likely a firearm.
It was not the only time something like this had happened. My father and I were sighting in his rifle before an out-of-state hunt one day when a dark Suburban drove across the back side of our property. It turned, coming down the path towards us. Once it crested the hill approaching us, it braked, then backed up and turned around. They knew they were on property they were not supposed to be on.
I was also hunting game lands once in which I feared an altercation may ensue. I was set up early in the morning for turkey, decoys already out. I spotted a flashlight shining several hundred yards away. I heard some talking but could not make out what was being said. The light made one more sweep and then was extinguished. No big deal, as it is pretty easy to have several hunters trying to hunt the same patch of ground on game lands. The problem came to when I spotted the hunters in the tree line near me and a barrel edging out past the one of the trees. I turned on my light, blinking it several times.
The next thing I heard was a few words not appropriate to put in a story as the person realized he had just stalked up on my decoys rather than an early morning brood in the field. He then walked right through the middle of my set up as he exited the field.
Just to show how the chase of the game can alter one’s ethics and present a dangerous situation, I’ll share a quick story from a few years ago. A gentleman had several teenagers driving on his land after dark for a period of a couple of weeks. About every other night, the man reported gun shots. Finally, he convinced the wildlife officers to come out and find the poachers.
The gentleman was reassured that his land would be patrolled but had not seen the officers for a few days. As he drove into his driveway, he paused, backed up, swept his high beams across the land, then pulled back up to his house. He hurried into his house, turning off the porch light as he entered. He then came back out of the house, 30-06 in hand. He rested it on the ledge of the porch and fired.
The deer didn’t fall immediately. He then shot again. This time it dropped where it stood.
He laid his rifle down and grabbed his four-wheeler driving out to where he had killed the deer. Just as he approached the fallen buck, headlights popped on a truck concealed nearby. Two wildlife officers stepped out and asked the landowner what he was doing. The deer he had just shot was an electronic decoy the officers were using to try and catch the potential poachers.
“It was the largest deer I had ever seen on my land, and I won’t about to let those teenagers come by here and kill me deer!” responded the confused and excited gentleman.
By far, a human is the most frightening thing in the woods.