This was no turkey coming to the hen “dekes.”
Looked like a fox, trotting this way.
“Way too big,” I thought.
“It's a ‘yote, and a big one, ‘bout 75 yards away. Comin’ in fast.”
The beautiful wild dog, light blonde. An image of a German Shepherd, but with a much finer build, fox-like on its feet and trotting directly toward my big maple tree.
Thirty yards, 20 yards, and then peeking around a tree like a character in a cartoon with its eyes burning into my turkey decoy.
A flash of nervousness popped my sleepy eyes wide!
At 10 yards, the shotgun safety was slightly rubbed as usual prior to the beginning of the shooting motion.
A bit nervous, “How close is this coyote gonna get?”
“Don’t wanna get bit,” was the worry.
A defensive instinct, (just in case), finger on the trigger, thumb on the shotgun’s safety.
At four feet away, seemed like my dog was there.
Felt the wildness and personality of the animal's presence.
Yellow eyes though.
Piercing, deadly fixated and aware and very, very, shy.
Almost stepping on my boots!
At three feet. Suddenly!
Total surprise and awe!
And it fell back upon itself, "ass over teacup" with its bushy tail between its legs.
Scared. Couldn't run away fast enough, gone in an instant.
And I laughed out loud, knowing it was good fortune to get that close to a coyote, and thankful it didn’t turn on me.
But funny thing.
That big 'yote heard the laugh and glanced over its shoulder my way just before it disappeared. And I swear to this day, wore an expression of embarrassment or shame, a bit like one of my dogs when they do something bad.
Shame more than fear.
And that wasn't the first and only coyote to come in to a turkey call, and/or a decoy setup.
A couple years ago two plastic brown hen decoys were set on the edge of a hidden field at dawn.
"Sally" and "Jenny’s" artificial guile and feminine ways had been the cause of the demise of more than one tom, falling like a sap for the two gals' painted-on good looks out of a bottle.
A young coyote with a white blaze on its chest was fooled one early May morning too forgetting that “all that glitters is not gold.”
However, romance was not the yote’s passion that day.
His downfall was a different yearning.
Breakfast, yum yum.
Turkey dinner with all the trimmings and two of them!
A double helping!
"I'll take seconds."
The little 'yote was part domestic dog back as its DNA had emblazoned a distinctive white blaze on its chest, proof of his genetic diversity.
Coyotes, dogs, and wolves do interbreed, driving the taxonomic question, "Why are they classified as different species?"
After all they are simply different strains of the same critter or they couldn't interbreed.
Dog and wolf crosses are common in northern Canada and Alaska, especially useful as sled dogs. "Coy-dogs" are ubiquitous throughout the Appalachians. And coyote-wolf crosses have been studied for years.
Recent genetic research studies in Canada show that indeed Timber wolves are in fact part of the "yotes" we see here.
But this coyote, about 40 pounds, stalked the plastic turkeys like a cat, carefully using every bit of cover, log, and tree. And then rushed in for Turkey Breakfast!
A wall of "man scent" stopped the hungry critter in its tracks.
Maybe it heard my breath get sucked in; after all it slammed on the brakes only 10 yards away.
Its expression went from one of enthusiasm and seriousness to - "Oh NO! What do I do now?" And looked over its shoulder, kind of like when you surprise a bear in a cornfield, just before it bolts for safety.
Then the little "yote" disappeared in an instant, but not before yielding that last telltale flash of embarrassment.
The humbled glance over its shoulder.
Fooled by one of those clumsy, slow but dangerous human beings and their plastic decoys.
Some of my tom turkeys have melded back into the fog of time and forgetfulness.
But those two embarrassed coyotes and my decoy setups are like yesterday.
Oak Duke writes a weekly column appearing on the Outdoors page.