A Little on the Wild Side
I was out at the lower end of the driveway
last week, banging away on the split-rail fence. The air was cold, but when the sun
finally found its way through the clouds at midmorning, I was a bit overdressed, and
decided to change out of the sweat-soaked clothes.
Our bathroom has a full-length window on the
north side of the house. While bent over the sink washing the salt off my face and neck, a
movement outside, below our little garden, caught my eye. I turned to look. A full-grown
bobcat was standing broadside just below the retaining wall, looking at me through the
window with considerable curiosity. By any guess, the cat wasnt 20 feet away from
It was a remarkably beautiful animal
black, tan, white and shades of brown running through the hide and ear tips. My guess is
it would weigh a bit more than your average dog upwards of 50 pounds or more.
Remembering back over the 14 years weve
lived in our home on the edge of what was once known as the Morgan Ranch, some 20-odd
miles north of Prescott, Arizona, there have been a number of critters in the yard, mostly
coyotes, javelina and bobcats, and one ner-do-well mountain lion that had a decided
preference for dog food.
In the early years on the place, coyotes
became real pests, no doubt because we had two house cats. One day my daughter Alicia
then in grade school was standing on the back porch playing with her cat. A
coyote came out of the brush at a full run, grabbed the cat and hauled it off toward the
wash, with Alicia screaming in hot pursuit.
The coyote must have been totally confused by
the event, as it dropped the cat and ran off. The cat was in pretty good shape,
considering, and it survived in short order by rubbing its dislocated shoulder over
the brace on the bottom of the coffee table. In a few days, it was back to normal.
My son Jason, then about 13 years old, took
umbrage to the attack on the cat and asked if we could call the coyote in and shoot it.
Since the coyotes in our neck of the woods are somewhat accustomed to folks, and cars, I
didnt think it would respond to a call, but a leg of barbecued chicken might do the
With that, I hauled out the barbecue, spread
out the chicken parts and added a bit of sauce, to add to the tantalizing aroma just a
bit. As the chicken started to brown, I gave Jason the Winchester Model 73 .44 WCF rifle
and suggested he find a hideout on the bank of the dry wash below the house. I turned the
chicken over and went to the back of the house where I had a commanding view of the brush
and cactus from the back patio.
It wasnt 15 minutes before the coyote
came in at a trot, zigzagging through the brush on the south side of the house. I yelled
to Jason that the coyote was coming straight for him. In another few seconds, the sound of
the Winchester and the smack of the bullet echoed up from the wash. Scratch one
That winter another coyote starting hanging
around the house so even though there was snow on the ground with the temperature hovering
barely above zero, we barbequed another chicken. When the chicken was done, the coyote
still had not come in, so I threw a couple of wings out into the brush below the house and
went out back to sit on the patio and wait. Within a few minutes a rather scrawny looking
coyote ran by the patio with a chicken wing in its mouth and caught a 180-grain cast
bullet from a Winchester .38 WCF in the shoulder.
The coyotes stayed away after that,
restricting their visits to serenades in the moonlight outside the bedroom window, where
the cat kept a vigil on the wide windowsill.
A year or so after the cat-snatching incident,
the coyotes came back, with a vengeance three or four every night for several days.
In short, they became a real pain in the neck, howling and yapping outside the house and
ruining any semblance of a good nights sleep.
One afternoon I was sitting on the back patio
watching the quail on their daily migration around the house when I noticed a coyote
moving through the brush to the south. He was headed for the other end of the house, so I
jumped up, grabbed a Winchester and hid behind the east side of the house and watched. The
darn critter walked right through the open dining room door!
I swung around and entered the sliding glass
door to the back bedroom and trotted down the hall toward the living room, fully expecting
to see the coyote at the dogs dish, or milling around in the kitchen. Nothing.
As I glanced down the hall toward the garage
door, I could see the tip of the coyotes tail in the main entrance way. I
wasnt sure the front door was open, but I hoped it was. The last thing I wanted was
a coyote running down the main hallway trying to get out the way he came in, through the
kitchen door with me in his way. Shooting a coyote in the living room would make a
terrible mess, not to mention a bullet hole in one or more pieces of furniture, or the
As luck would have it, the front door was open
and the coyotes tail disappeared. I ran out through the kitchen door and caught the
coyote with a 200-grain .44 WCF bullet in the chest as it trotted up the path toward the
cattle guard at the top of the driveway.
That was the end of the coyote problems until
a big mature male started hanging around. Our 11-year-old dog is deaf, and has been since
birth, so its necessary to keep close tabs on her from time to time, especially when
her particularly keen sense of smell put her ill at ease. Sometimes its javelina,
sometimes a cat, but more often than not, a wandering coyote. The problem was, and is,
with a deaf dog, you cant call her off. Unless she looks back, for a hand signal,
I let the big male go twice when he kept his
distance, circling around the place to the north. Then, one day, the dog cut loose, and I
knew immediately we had a serious problem to contend with.