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- Prostaff Member Trout Whisperer
Today, back from the tannery Im holding one fully furred red fox. It's prime as I run my fingers through the pelt, right out to the tip of its tail. I like red fox. I think from the dog family or as canines go, I would keep one as pet if I could.
In ancient times where I live they used to haul logs out of the thick northeastern Minnesota woods with horses. These hay burners skidded sleigh filled timbers on winter roads. After several years either from the draft horse hooves or the daily compaction of countless sledded logs, the paths were forever pressed into the forest floor.
Years later, these long ago white pine stands were being revisited for maple or aspen harvests. The newer logging skidders replaced the horses but reused the old paths. Today the old logging trails still remain open because guys like me drive over them trapping, grouse hunting or what have you. No township, county or state agency maintains these woodland arteries. They course quietly through the woods with out any fresh gravel or grading.
One reason I hunt these old tote roads is the clover the ruffed grouse enjoy. The clover was planted one road apple at a time by those long ago horses that did more than just haul logs. Fox, hunt the roads for little rodents as well. To hunt the fox, I trap.
So one day last October I was kneeling, feeling tired from a long day, resetting a trap where I had just outfoxed a yellow phased red. Above me a cloud without end all day was tumbling from molten gray, to wind whipped white, back dropped with the heavy black clouds known to carry cold raw rains. Weather was afoot. Probably why I got this fox today and not yesterday when I checked.
With the wind whipping I didn't bother to look up when I was sure I heard a flock of ducks soar over head. It had to be me my imagination back here in the late afternoon forest. Then it happened again, so I looked up and the sky was dirty with ducks. Sheets, squadrons and flights of ducks were pitching out of the sky into a low area less than a quarter mile distant.
Right there, in that moment. I wasn't tired anymore. I finished setting the trap in the catch circle, hiked all my gear and the fresh fur back to my truck and grabbed a compass. I can't run at my age anymore but my heart was pumping in high gear when I popped through a balsam stand just before dark and could barley see water with all the ducks that had set in for the night.
That night I drove into Bills yard and told him he was going to be busy tomorrow and so was Ed. Ed came over and relieved himself all over my truck tire. I have never liked Ed.
All year long I tolerate Ed. He jumps on me or my truck door scratching with muddy paws. My truck tires, are Ed's territory tires. When Ed was a puppy he ruined one of my boots in less then an hour tied up at my front door. He's not my dog, so he never minds me. Oh he's perfect with Bill and that's why Ed was there that day. I needed what Ed could do for me, as long as Bill was with.
We crept up to the shoreline and Bill tells Ed to sit. Ed sat. The wind was gusting, and just as quick, it would slowly fade. Then one long predawn blow through the trees only to change as it not quite roared out over no more than thirty wet acres.
I waded into the water with six decoys. If I shivered that morning from cold I know Ed was trembling because Bill heeled him close. Ed knew. Bill knew, and I knew, but the ducks, had no idea.
Its was a mashed potato graying in the east and true to form just before all heck was gonna break loose Bill said he was taking the dog farther down the lake. He figured wed drive the ducks between us and keep them flying once the guns spoke.
Bill starts to leave; I half whispered, hey, what about Edâ? Bill told Ed to heel and they crunched off along the shore. The sky was searing with ducks and he takes off trudging. I clipped the breech shut on two fresh tubes. I checked my watch and had to wait three more minutes. It was all over in fifteen.
Bill shot first, then second, then third. The last echo was coming down lake and I smashed a drake with two shots. Fumbley Reloaded I stood and dropped a double out of my over under. It's just a blur now of how many ducks on one smidgen of water lifted into the sky. En masse as my eye's, one ducks, a flock, a group, became a cloud of ducks that rose off the water and moved to cover a part of the sky. It happens so fast my brain couldn't keep up.
Three birds ripped past me and I didn't even lift the shotgun. Bill is firing, was it one shot or a stuttered double burst, two incomers throttle me from my duck dazed trance, I tumbled a hen that smashed into the horsetail reeds.
It's was all over, way to fast. My barrels were completely cooled when Ed sniffed up to me. I still feel a fierce case of duck greed from that day. We coulda shot a wagon full of birds. Then that stinking dog perfectly blind retrieved my ducks, and shook all over me. Today Im wondering what would happen if I pelted out Ed?