Close Encounters…….Of All Kinds

It is amazing how many unique things can happen when you spend a lot of time outdoors. The sometimes odd encounters with the creatures we share the area with are experiences that can last a lifetime. Some funny, some not so much. All make for good fireside stories, adding a little excitement to an already exciting event. All in good fun!           I started thinking about this the other day on my way back from a day of fishing. I was coming back from a location about 70 miles from my home. The time was about 4:00 in the afternoon. Halfway home, just watching the road in front of me, I see an animal step up to the side of the road from the ditch. Here in Iowa we are used to seeing many critters on the road. Skunks, raccoons, badgers, fox, and many more small to medium sized animals. The larger ones are fewer; deer or stray livestock of some kind. The animal in front of me was of medium to large size and brownish grey in color. It didn’t budge at all as I got closer. I started to slow down just in case it bolted out in front of the vehicle. As I got closer I could see that it was a coyote, large and very healthy looking. Mr. Wile E. Coyote himself. I drove by slowly, and actually made eye contact with the canine. He still didn’t move. I drove 50 yards past him and got out my phone to go back and take a picture if he would stay there. You don’t see a coyote in the daytime or out in the open very often, and if you do it is usually not well. This was a good looking animal, however, and seemed to be in great health. As I was backing up to take the picture, he got the idea and decided to recede back into the cornfield he came from. No picture but still very cool!  As I continued my drive home, the episode started me thinking about other unusual encounters I have had with some of Mother Nature’s critters. One stands out as one of those close calls that could have gone very sour, but ends up being a great tale.  I was at a musky tournament at the Chippewah Flowage in Hayward, Wisconsin. My partner and I were in a large RV that we parked in a spot at a great local campsite. We had arrived after a long day’s drive, and after the meetings and a meal, we needed a few hours shut-eye before getting up for the start of the tournament. In the RV all was well until my partner hit REM sleep and the snoring started. There was absolutely no way there would be any sleeping on my part. I swear animals were grunting and howling in response to the un-natural sounds escaping from my sleeping partner. If this would have happened to one of my buddies, I would have been laughing my head off at this alone. I decided that the only way I was going to get any sleep myself was to go sleep outside on the picnic table in my sleeping bag. All was going very well, sleep came fast and easy and with a smile. About 3:30 in the morning, there was a gentle nudging at my shoulder. I assumed this was my partner waking me up for the upcoming day. Without turning around, I looked at my watch and said there was another hour of sleep to be had. There was no reply other than the gentle nudging again. After the lack of sleep already, I was a little irritated by the early wake up call, so I turned around and pulled my sleeping bag down off my head.  I was now nose to nose with a very large black bear! Neither one of us made any sudden erratic moves. The moment just hung there for a minute, frozen in time. There is nothing quite like the smell of bear breath in the morning, coming straight from it’s mouth and nostrils. Wow. I just pulled my sleeping bag back up over my head and turned back around like I was sleeping again. There were only two things that could happen, either he would grab my sleeping bag and want to play, or he would just walk away. As luck would have it, he decided to just move on with his night and wander away. I was tired enough that I actually got back to sleep and got some rest. I was telling the tale in the morning at coffee when one of the locals told us of a bear attack just week before in the same area. Supposedly, there was a young woman attacked right in her tent by a black bear. The young lady survived the attack, but not without injuries. This adds to the ” Whew” factor, hearing that story after my experience the night before. It is a great reminder that we need to be aware of what critters we share our neck of the woods with, even more so when in new territory. In this instance, I give partial credit to my feeling of safety to the ferocious sounds of the sleeping beast contained within the walls of the RV.  Like I said, this turned out to be a great story with a lesson rather than a story with a sad ending. I can look back now and laugh at the situation. Luckily so! It is one of many more tales of great things that have happened in the outdoor world. Stay tuned………..Paul