ARTICLE: THE GRAY FOX by David L Falconer
I am not an avid predator hunter, but I have killed my fair share of coyotes while hunting and scouting and just enjoying the outdoors. The season is open year round on the small prairie wolves in Oklahoma and while I won't shoot one during the year when they are denned up and having pups, they are fair game the rest of the year.
Over the years I have seen many wonders though.
Most recently as I was going to my bow stand, I turned in under the mountain on the southernmost edge of my property and a half grown coyote ran out in the road in front of me and sat down.
I stopped, bow in hand and I started knocking an arrow and he sat there looking at me like he was trying to figure me out. When he cocked his head to one side and yipped like any other dog would I laughed and put my arrow back in my quiver.
"You better get up the woods! The next human you meet might not like you so much," I said with a laugh.
The coyote stood up as I sat down and gave the 4 wheeler gas. He ran to my right on up the hill and out of my headlight. As I rolled on down the road he ran out in the light and stood there and watched me some more. When I got even with him he ran along ahead of my 4-wheeler and stopped at the edge of the first food plot. I stopped and we just looked at each other. Finally I took off again and as I rolled past him he just sat there and looked at me.
Several years ago in a tree stand I watched 11 coyotes come through hunting as a pack. I have never seen that before or since, but over in the northern part of Haskell County a man killed a female timber wolf that the game department believed had been part of a fur farm and turned loose when fur prices went to nothing. She had had several litters of pups and they determined her to be an old wolf and in the wild for a few years. The coyotes have gotten big and they run in packs occasionally. Hmmmmm.
Another time I was driving down the long driveway to my in-laws home and I saw a life and death race! A beautiful gray fox was racing across the hay meadow like his bushy tail was on fire! Behind him running just as fast was a coyote intent on killing his distant cousin.
Slamming the brakes on the truck, I peeled my ever-present SKS from the back seat, jumped out and slammed three shots at the coyote as fast as I could pull the trigger. He tumbled head over heels and the fox got away unscathed, never looking back to see if he was safe until he made it to the woods along the big pond.
I have only seen a gray fox in the wild four times. The first time I was in high school and I watched one just out of range of my .30-30 catching mice in a brush pile along a new pipeline. Another I saw was crossing a ridge, taking a stroll as though he was out for his Sunday walk. The third time was the time I just wrote about.
And the fourth…… A couple years ago I was hunting this food plot down the hill from my in-laws commercial hog barns. It was a minimum 135 yard shot to the food plot and the far edge was right at 200 yards. Normally I hunted this food plot with a 7mm Rem Magnum or my .308 Winchester. For some reason I cannot explain I picked up my daughter's little Savage Rifle in .243 Win to hunt the plot that evening. The .243 is a good cartridge, but I definitely had better ones for the distance I was shooting. Still, it is what I took.
The Bermuda grass is thick on the side of the natural earth dam holding tanks and I always rested comfortably that far above the food plots. As I sat there I could see two young does eating at one end of the plot. They were yearlings, their mama sending them away as breeding season came into play in the deer world. I had seen them several times before and while I would quickly take a big mature doe, the two young ones were as safe as they could be.
The problem with this place was I had taken more than one nap there. The evening was pretty darn cold, but I was bundled up warm and I felt my eyelids grow heavy. I had my shooting sticks up, but the rifle was in the grass beside me propped up on my backpack.
If you have spent a lot of time in the woods you know that when you feel like you are being watched, you normally are. I moved my head around slowly, looking to either side as my hand had moved to my .44 magnum revolver. This would not be the first time I had a doe on top of me.
Looking straight down the hill below me I saw two eyes peering up at me through the brush.
It was a gray fox and he was no more than 25 yards from me, his sharp face barely visible through the thick Sumac and Indian grass on the side of the hill.
I was in full camouflage, the orange vest I was wearing was camo-orange and I knew that the fox should not be able to see me, but he might have seen me move before I had seen him or became aware of him. I froze, refusing to make eye contact. As I sat there the fox walked out of the brush to the flat bench below me and lay down in that thick Bermuda grass. As I watched in amazement, he curled up and went to sleep.
Slowly I moved my hand to the rifle, lifting it gentle from the pack, freezing in place each time the fox raised his head and looked around before putting it back down and dozing some more. It took me a full 20 minutes to get my rifle in place.
He was beautiful and I told myself I would not shoot him unless I could do it without tearing him up. I sat there with the rifle ready for another 10 minutes before he finally got up and scratched. I held the crosshairs on him and then he leaned forward and stretched. I shot him right behind the leg, straight through the heart and he nosed forward into the grass.
He didn't even kick.
I sat there, glancing at the now empty food plot. Gathering up my stuff I carried them up the steep embankment and to my truck at the hog house. Walking back I felt a strange mix of sadness and elation at taking this animal.
Standing by the fox I marveled at how beautiful this small predator was lying there in the grass. I wish I had a video camera to capture the entire nap. I picked him up gently and carried him to the truck. Laying him on the tailgate I felt of the soft fur and already knew how I wanted the taxidermist to mount him.
Up until that point I had never done a head mount or a full body mount of any animal. I have no desire to kill another fox and to me that makes this one an even more special trophy. He sits over my fireplace now -- vigilantly guarding my living room. I hope to take a bobcat this year to go on the other side.