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Opening Day of Deer Season: The Fox

Published by bluedog in the blog How did this happen to a city girl?. Views: 704

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I doubt there will ever be an opening day of deer gun season like there was in 2016. The day started out like a normal opening day full of excitement and hope for a good week of deer hunting. My husband and I were up early to get dressed to deer hunt on our farm. We went to two separate locations on the farm. About mid-morning my husband sent me a text to say he had not seen any deer. He needed to do a few things in town before hunting our picked bean field in the afternoon. I had only had a brief glimpse at one deer. It was a rather slow morning of hunting with only scattered gunshots in various directions. At noon I decided to head home for lunch, walk the dogs and take care of the chickens. Yes, it was a very average opening day of deer season.

About 10 days earlier on a warm 60 degree November afternoon, I was outside walking the dogs in the pasture behind the chicken barn. On a mowed path about 40 yards behind the barn, I found the remains of a chicken. There wasn’t much left at all: some feathers, the very tip of one wing and a bit of the tail. While I have had chickens killed by stray dogs and I have had wild animals (mostly raccoons) try to kill my chickens, this was actually the first successful chicken kill by a wild animal since I got my first chickens 16 years ago. I’ve really been quite fortunate in that matter. The speculation began as to what killed the chicken. We hear coyotes a lot so that was the first thought. Someone else suggested fox. Definitely possible but we don’t see or hear near as many fox as we do coyotes. I also added a big hawk to the list as there is a dead tree in the pasture and I often see hawks perched in that tree. Others suggested mink or weasel but the timing didn’t quite fit for those.

In the next 10 days the chickens got let outside only once. We had some bad weather move in and then we left on vacation for several days so the chickens spent most of that time locked in the barn. But opening day of deer gun season weather was quite mild and so when I got back to the house for lunch, the first thing I did was let them outside to free range in the pasture and yard.

I spent a couple hours inside the house eating lunch and relaxing. My plan for the afternoon was to get in the truck and drive around to the north side of the farm to hunt. I had left most of my gear in the truck from the morning hunt, but I had brought my gun inside the house. I picked up my gun that was inside a case and my truck keys and headed out the door. I was about half way down the sidewalk to get to my truck when a group of around 8 chickens came squawking and running from the backside of our big bank barn and into the backyard. This is not at all unusual. Chickens run and squawk from all sorts of things with the vast majority of them being imaginary. But with the recent shredded chicken event, I thought it prudent to just stand on the sidewalk and watch for a bit. It didn’t take long for a second group of squawking chickens to appear. This group came running around the front side of the big barn next to the garage and out into the driveway. The group consisted of two hens and a big Barred Rock rooster that had a fox latched on to the rooster’s tail. Somewhere around the fuel tank, the rooster’s tail feathers came out and the rooster was free of the grasp of the fox. Then the two hens and the rooster met up with the eight hens that had come from the backside of the barn. The whole mess of chickens turned and headed back around the backside of the barn with the fox in hot pursuit and then they all disappeared from view.

I’m sure at this point in time my jaw had about dropped to my knees. I also know for a fact that my brain was having difficulty processing the events of the last, oh, maybe 15 seconds. As I started to comprehend that I indeed just saw a fox chasing my chickens, my first thought was I needed a gun. Which gun? Should I get the .17hmr that was handy inside the house? Maybe a shotgun would be a better choice? Whoa! Wait a minute! I have a gun in my hand!!!!! Well what do you know? That doesn’t happen every day especially when a fox just chased a group of chickens through the driveway. I knelt down on the sidewalk and unzipped my 20 gauge Remington 870 equipped with a rifled slug barrel from its case. I reached into my coat pocket and fumbled for a shotgun shell. For a brief moment I thought about the expense of the sabots I use for deer hunting and having to use one on a fox. Yes I really did think that. But I quickly erased that thought from my head as there were chickens to save and time was of the essence. I loaded a shell into the chamber and put another in the magazine.

I trotted across the driveway, past the garage and when I got to the front far corner of the barn, I slowly peaked around and into the pasture. There sitting maybe 30 yards away was the fox with his teeth tightly clenched on one of my laying hens. The opportunity was right now. I lined up the open sights of my deer gun and aimed at the fox. The fox made a small target down in the grass of the pasture and it was difficult to just pick a spot on the fox like I would a deer. The front bead on the sight nearly covered the whole visible side of the fox. I looked up for a brief second to fully view the fox and then lined up the sights once more. I pulled the trigger and other than the big boom nothing happened. The fox didn’t move. The chicken in its mouth didn’t move. Then I realized that the fox didn’t move because the fox was dead. Whoa! Did that just happen? The shot went right through the chest at a slight angle from just behind the front leg on the entry side to mid-chest on the exit side.

As I walked up to the dead fox with a chicken in its mouth, my first thought was I had to get a picture of this. And as I stood there taking the picture, I started looking at the chicken a little closer. Her head was up. Hmmm? No way. No way was this chicken still alive. She hadn’t moved a muscle but her head was up and her eyes were open. There were feathers everywhere. I reached down, lifted the fox’s head and pried its mouth open with my fingers. The chicken squawked loudly and took off on a run back to the barn where the chicken pens are located. Several weeks later as I write this, she is alive and doing well.

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In the aftermath I was shaking badly. I texted the picture to my husband and walked back to the house. He had just gotten home (after the gunshot) and was in the kitchen. He asked me why I left the gun case and the truck keys on the sidewalk. Hmmmm? I remember the gun case but have no recollection of dropping the truck keys. He pulled out his phone because he had a text message (mine) and I just stood there quietly. He looked up with surprise. Did this just happen?, he said. Yes it did, I replied. Then the story followed and we walked outside so he could see the scene of the fox’s crime. The story was as good as any deer hunting story. The emotion was just as intense. Yes indeed. I think it will be safe to say that I will never have an opening day of deer season quite like this one.
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