When Animals Attack: The True Measure of a Man


Coyotes will eat just about anything. This makes them a bit
unpredictable at close quarters.
Image: Public domain, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

You never really know how you will respond until you get there. Most of us grizzled gun-toting types fancy ourselves amateur heroes. We imagine that should we find ourselves in the midst of some unexpected life-threatening peril, we might rise to the occasion and do something epically manly. And then there was this guy.

Now before you get all judgy, appreciate that this is everyman. He is both a patient and a friend. He looks like us, and he acts like us. His genus is Redneckopithecus Sapiens, as is mine. He likes guns, and he lives for the outdoors. His experience could have happened to any one of us.

Field Philosophy

I don’t hunt anymore. I used to a great deal and certainly do not harbor ill will toward those who enjoy the sport. It is simply that I don’t much care for venison. Additionally, as I get older, it gets harder and harder to strike out in the predawn darkness for anything less than a house fire. However, back when I was a kid, my dad and I hunted together constantly.

My lifelong tally is a pair of deer and 13 wild turkeys, along with squirrels, doves and rabbits uncounted. I shot a yellow-hued coyote when I was about 12, whose pelt produced $15. Those were 1978 dollars, mind you.

I have accounted for 61 water moccasins from my backyard lake. I’ve kept a record, but that’s hardly hunting. My war against venomous reptiles is more of a lifelong existential fight for survival. I’ve had some bad experiences with poisonous snakes.

Of the lot, turkey hunting comes closest to tripping my trigger. Our Easter and Christmas dinners were never without a wild turkey when I was a kid. It was always a bit of a game to see who first discovered a piece of lead shot in their entrée.

Deer hunting always felt a bit too random. It always seemed bitterly cold when we trudged out in pursuit of deer. Success or failure also seemed to be driven more by whether the beast happened to wander by than any skill on my part. By contrast, chasing wild turkey was an art.

Siting your blind was important, but you conversed with the bird. The mission was to convince him to drop by for a visit. As a guy, your tools that involved mimicking his fairer sex always seemed to be drenched in pathos. The poor randy gobbler just wanted a date, and he got a face full of number fours for his trouble. Back in my prime, when I chased girls myself, I suppose something similar could have happened to me.

What made it hard was the quarry. Wild turkeys are either too smart or too stupid to be terribly predictable. However, the inimitable satisfaction of cajoling a bird close enough to make him dinner was indeed unparalleled.

A coyote about the size of a fairly large dog. However, they are
tenacious in close quarters.
Image: Public domain, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

The Clinical Presentation

Our hero came to see me for an animal bite to his upper arm. I work in an urgent care clinic. Animal parts are background clutter. There was a bit of torn flesh, but it was mostly bruising. He earned the equivalent of a battle dressing, a tetanus shot and some antibiotics. Along the way, I got the story.

This is a big guy. He had been sitting at the base of a tree during the spring turkey season. He was chatting up a gobbler who was now within sight and moseying his way. The man’s heart rate went up commensurate with the moment as he shifted his shotgun behind the cover of his blind. At that very moment, a robust coyote grabbed him unexpectedly from behind and clamped down vise-like onto his left upper arm.

The man said the visceral shock was indescribable. He was utterly fixated on the approaching bird and had apparently exposed part of his shoulder to the predator as he shifted position. The coyote presumably was also on the stalk and simply lunged at the movement.

The hunter reflexively leaped to his feet. The coyote, for his part, clung on dogmatically. The man said the thing was shockingly heavy as it dangled from his injured limb. As I sat mesmerized by his story, I asked the obvious question, “Did you shoot the coyote?”

He responded, “Heck, no. I screamed like a little girl. My turkey call flew in one direction and my shotgun in another. I just ran around in circles trying to get that blasted thing off of me.”

The bird was gone in an instant. Once the coyote realized his mistake, he let loose and beat feet as well. The man was ultimately none the worse for wear save his sore shoulder and a bit of wounded pride. He indeed lost the turkey, but he gained an epic story.

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