Monday, October 29, 2007

From the Forest

One of the cats was lobbying me heavily to let her go outside. It's a crisp fall afternoon. The trees have roughly half their leaves, so the color scheme of yellow and brown extends from the lower branches to the ground. The wind moves the branches. Loose leaves lift and flop on the rust-colored ground. There's a lot of movement in the forest.

A more purposeful movement behind the first screen of trees caught my eye. The largest, healthiest-looking coyote I've ever seen was foraging just outside the clearing in which the house sits. This thing looked like a wolf. It was beautiful. Its fur was thick and full. The coyotes I've seen before have looked like mangy German Shepherds.

The coyote stayed for several minutes. It looked toward me several times, as if it sensed me watching. I saw it find something to eat back there, but I couldn't see what that might be. The Chicken Shooters across the street might have released more pen-raised exotic fowl for rich numb-rods to shoot with expensive shotguns this weekend. A wounded one might have breathed its last back there behind the compost pile. It wouldn't be the first time.

The coyote population surged around here when the Chicken Shooters first cranked up. The Chicken Shooters basically laid out a coyote buffet. They had pens of fowl of various ages, and the escapees from all phases of the operation scattered into the scrub with no wild heritage to guide them.

Interestingly, the coyotes used to call to each other while hunting, but now hunt silently. I'm guessing this is because of the ways the Chicken Shooters have tried to protect their investment in pheasants, quail and Chukar partridge. It's open season on coyotes all year 'round in New Hampshire. You need a license to hunt 'em, but then you can blast away at them like shooting rats down at the town dump.

When the gunfire gets really thick and heavy over there I have to remind myself that this operation did keep the land from getting broken up as house lots, each of which would have driven up our tax rates. But with all their various enterprises, they halted all the hiking, mountain biking and cross-country skiing some of us used to do on that land, as well as making the paddling dicey on the stretch of Pine River that flows past their property.

Somehow I haven't picked up any death hobbies as I've gone through life. There was the simulated combat of fencing, but nothing that purposely ends the life of an animal or person. As an omnivore, I can't cop a moral stance and say I don't eat face, but I also don't play noisy hand-eye coordination games that annoy the neighbors, either. Unless you count the fiddle. And the fiddle doesn't leave dead bodies of any size lying around afterwards. If you want to eat chicken, go buy some chicken.

It's rather grim that we can't maintain wild game bird stocks anymore so that someone who wants the primal experience of the hunt can go find one wandering around on its own. We have to have places that manufacture birds and simulate their last wild dash toward freedom. Their little bird brains don't know how good or bad they've got it, but it still seems a tad gruesome. Only a touch less gruesome than a commercial poultry farm.

Anyway, it was cool to see that coyote looking so fine.

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