Picture of the Week
Bobcat In Your Face!
Would I have been killed? Possibly — if a claw or fang had made its way into my neck and connected with the artery. However, better odds are that I would have been chewed a bit and had my hair combed by those needle-sharp claws, then left to ponder my medical needs as the woods fell silent around me. The least I could have had to deal with would have been some scrubbing and stitching, and a long series of rabies shots. Yet the outside chance of pulsing my life’s blood into the forest floor was a real one and the thought of watching the canopy of trees overhead fade to black in my fogging eyes was not in my game plan… instinctively I pulled the trigger!

I had finished cussing the piece of white surveyor tape twisting in the afternoon breeze, and started with my pleading hen yelps once again. I was hoping to convince the turkeys that the movement of the ribbon on the tree limb was of no concern for either of us. They were nervously putting and milling in the brush below the bench where I sat. I had been leaning against a fir tree for two and a half hours trying to convince the turkey across the ravine to come and visit the decoy standing in front of me. The bird had rapidly answered my first yelps from far nearer than expected. I had been forced to hunker down upon a small level spot in the open timber, quickly staking my decoy too close to where I sat. I had been caught unprepared and it was deal with being only 12 feet from the faker, or go home.

The turkey had appeared on the ridge across the cut in the timber, showing an interest in my calling, yet with the cautious reserve of a survivor. As we talked back and forth, more birds joined our banter and moved up from the oak brush at the bottom of the hill. The woods pulsed with the chatter of the birds, then silence. Closer, then silence — except the one turkey. It stood, then marched cautiously a few yards, then stood sentry again. Listen and watch, then march a few steps back again. The white ribbon continued to twist on the wind, causing me to silently curse as I believed it was the reason the turkey was hung up and staying distant. Yet the flock of birds below the edge of the bench was out of sight of the marker and they had pushed closer to where I was hidden.

Several birds were marking my quiet calls with pleading of their own. Pit, putt, putt, yelp… and I would answer. The question of whether there was a tom with this group was only a wish and no answer was yet forthcoming. For more than a week the pressure of other hunters had stopped the gobbling of the males. The big fella across the ravine was a benchmark of this caution. Pit, yelp, yelp, purr. Except for the drop-off of the bench, the flock was within killing range.

YELP, CACKLE, PUTT, PUTT, PUTT! suddenly screeched from below, and birds rocketed skyward and through the lower limbs of the cedars. The surveyor ribbon was twisting in the breeze again. I swore an oath at my luck. The sentinel broke his stance and moved slowly down into the ravine. Placing the slate quietly in the leaves to my side, I shifted the gun to my shoulder, holding its weight upon my knee and finding the familiar feel of the trigger and safety. Purr, yelp, yelp from the diaphragm I held in my mouth. The distance was closing and I locked myself into the grip of it.

The flash of movement came slightly to the right of my front sight. A blur of grey framing odd powder-blue orbs. Pounce and stretch, and I pushed the forearm of the shotgun to the right. The angle of attack instantly changed as my movement was recognized. Pounce, stretch, I realized the decoy was no longer the target. The bobcat was in total assault, and I slide my safety forward. His body compressed as it took the ground and his front legs rotated outward and above its shoulders as he lunged past the decoy.

The white bead at the barrel’s end centered just below his chin, and the two ounces of shot took him squarely in the chest, instantly punching him back past the foam hen. The image of the shiny, powder-blue, chrome reflectors in the back of his dilated eyes, staring directly into the opening of my camouflage mask was burned into my brain. I cautiously held him in the sight picture, assessing his condition, and slowly slid the safety back into position. Standing, I muttered, "What the heck was that all about? "

Nine feet! In a fraction of a second he had closed the distance to nine feet, and was in mid-pounce when the shot and wad coursed into him. He lay there with an inch hole in his chest and the light fading from his eyes. As I stood above him, I caught the flicker of white from the corner of my eye. I walked to it and jerked the ribbon from the limb. I knew the rush of the cat had sent the flock of turkeys into panic. And failing to catch one, he settled in on my position. Whether the ribbon had held the other turkey from coming to me or was simply the caution of survival, I don’t know — It wasn’t a question I would have to deal with in the future. It was also an action that allowed me to push the reality of the attack from my mind, if only for a minute or two.

In retrospect, I don’t believe the cat knew that I was anything other than a movement and a chance at an evening meal. My friend Doug had a very similar situation, at roughly the same distance, while sitting on a rock during deer season. I do not believe either bobcat recognized us as humans. Though my bobcat made a terrible error during his attempt at dinner, the other bobcat had boldly made an unprovoked attack and paid exactly the same price. Having once witnessed a single bobcat attacking and killing a healthy mule deer doe, there is no doubt of the lethalness of the smaller felines around our woods. It’s a roll of the dice whether I would have come out of this unscathed if I had not reacted so quickly. In this case, I put my money on boxcars. Sixes, that is. Six shot!

Whether you are predator calling, cow calling during elk season, or yelping like a turkey during the spring, you are making dinner sounds for bears, cougars, coyotes and bobcats. A little extra caution could save you a roughing up — or possibly your life!

THINK A GOOD THOUGHT!‘ Frank Medicine Wolf Springer

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