I was ready to head out early the morning following the discovery of an illegal hunter on the property next to ours. I intended to have a closer look at the area that I call “the island”, where I saw the hunter disappear to. This stretch of woodland juts out into a soybean field, creating a blind between our property and the river. On my hikes to reach the river, I had always walked along the last crop row near the island and around the peninsula at the north end of the stretch of trees. On the other side of the island, was more of the soybean field, and just beyond that lay the winding area of the river we call “the boot”. It was my favorite area to hike to in the winter months. If a person was not careful and familiar with the boot, it was easy to get lost or turned around. Going into the boot was easy enough but, often times, finding the way back out was confusing. One could get disoriented fairly quickly – I speak from experience.
Before I made it very far through the pecan orchard, I caught a glimpse of something shining as it danced in the breeze. I already knew it was a Mylar balloon. I constantly picked up trash on our property and Mylar balloons were a common find. If the wind was out of the north, we saw a lot of trash from the city park blow into the orchard. If the wind was out of the south, we got trash from the neighbors on the other side of the alley from our immediate ten acres, and further to the west in the orchard we accumulated trash from the high school and the Native American village to the south. Trying to get to the balloon, I stopped the buggy and maneuvered through all sorts of weeds and stick-tights. As I reached to snag the balloon that was entwined in cat brier, I scared up a pair of fawns who had been bedded down nearby. They did not seem to be in a hurry, as they were likely used to me coming through the woods in the buggy.
I parked the buggy at the upper west end of our property and crossed the fence into the neighboring property, making my way to the island area from the south. I decided to walk just along the treeline bordering the soybean field, keeping partially hidden, and headed to the north where I had seen the hunter the evening before. I was looking for clues and kept watch for anything – a ground blind or tree stand, feed or an attractant to lure deer, discards from a kill, or maybe the hunter himself, though I hoped not. Once I reached the north end of the peninsula, I crossed over to the old river channel area to make sure no one was parked at the entry to the soybean field. The last thing I wanted was to confront a hunter. I would feel much better if I knew I was poking around alone.
The old river channel area is a peaceful sanctuary where all sorts of wildlife finds refuge. It is really just a stone’s throw from the main road into town and somehow the area sits low enough that no vehicle noise can be heard. But this morning, I heard voices from the road as I climbed up on the dike. Men wearing orange vests could be seen all along the roadway. Not wanting to be spotted or draw attention to myself, I turned and made my way back towards the soybean field. Looking at my camo pants, I realized I had somehow managed to get Bidens, a needle-looking type of stick-tight, all over myself. There was no sense in picking them off now, since I would probably pick up more of these on my hike.
As I emerged from the thick brush and weeds, I saw an orange caution sign of some sort to the west. I knew that sign wasn’t there before – I had just come from that direction! I wondered if perhaps the harvest crew was getting ready to come in, but it seemed very strange to put a sign in the field and not along the driveway or along the road. Not seeing anyone around, I scurried across the field back to the peninsula and dove into the island in the first animal path clearing I could find. Animal paths were always the best trails to follow, providing a somewhat clear path to anywhere.
I carefully made my way to the opposite side of the island to get a better look at the sign. A “Workers Ahead” sign in a field made little sense to me, so I walked further to the south, and with my binoculars I could see pickup trucks parked at the fence where I often cross into the river area called “the boot”. Shifting my attention to the south of the trucks, I counted seven men at varying distances, walking along a transmission line. Some appeared to be checking the towering structures, but others were further back towards the river. As I peered through my binoculars it suddenly dawned on me – the other fellas were spraying. They had back packs with wand sprayers, and their heads were covered by hard hats with shields at the face (maybe respirators) and heavy cloth flaps around the chin and neck. They were killing brush and trees, and I was standing right in line with the west wind! I needed to get moving to the south to keep out of the line of chemical drift.
At this point, it made no sense to go on with my investigation of the poacher. I needed to get out of harm’s way if the air was toxic. I traveled quickly to the south end of the island and veered towards our property line, finally, climbing the steep hill to the upper west end where I had parked the buggy. As I made the final steps to our property fence line, I noticed a section of grisly spine laying in an area of flattened grass. Gnawed rib bones were scattered about. The bones were greasy and somewhat fresh looking, maybe a day or two old. I could not be sure, but the vertebrae could be that of an adult deer. A coyote had probably run off with his share of a kill, and settled in these grasses to nibble away at the bones in the night.
After discovering the vertebrae, I began a slow circle of the area, hoping to find more bones or perhaps more of a carcass, but it was impossible in the tall weeds. The huge soybean field to the south might also hold the answers to the bones, but with the crops still not harvested, it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. I glanced to the west and the fellows wearing orange were advancing again. I needed to leave. I gathered the bones in a trashed Walmart bag I had found earlier in the soybean field, and set out for home in the buggy.
What had started out as an investigation about a poacher, turned into anger about the returning coyote population. Just last week, I had seen two coyotes near our house, and one had ventured off our property, past the front gate and into the residential area to the east. FD had also witnessed two in the pasture just south of the house during the nighttime hours. I could not help but wonder about the disappearance of Emma deer. I knew there was nothing I could do, and that this was the nature of things – the circle of life. But I did not like it – not one bit.
© 2017 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…