This story is the second part of a 2 part story that documents the events of a difficult encounter that took place during my 2009 fall deer hunting season. Please read chapter 1 before continuing with this final part chapter. Please use caution in allowing a young person to read this recount as it may not be suitable for young children.
On the fourth morning I went back to square one and tried the same stand I had on my first morning. I heard a little noise from the creek farther down and some activity behind me but nothing in front or where I could see what it was. After I got down from my stand that morning I began to do more scouting, trying to solve the mystery of silence that embedded the forest and I was now concerned about the possibility of coyote pressure. Something had disturbed the wildlife or made a negative impact on the population of deer and other animals. I just was not sure what was wrong. Scouting the land I searched for clues, which only could be told by nature itself. I checked several creek areas, to see if they had run dry. I checked the browse of the sumac bushes and tops of grass to see if they showed signs of being nipped. I searched for deer droppings to find if there was much and to check for the age, weather it was old or slightly fresh. I looked for bedding areas to determine if they were still using the same areas to bed. I walked near more trails to find evidence of use. I checked the scent of the air for the musty smell of deer sign. I studied deer prints for age, to see if there were both old and new prints. I checked the size of prints to see if a variety of size existed, representing the young as well as does and bucks.
The results of my research made my heart sink and brought a heavy feeling to my whole being. While exploring the areas upon one of the knobs I found the hillside riddled with coyote dens. All of the trails normally beaten down by deer tracks which normally had overhanging branches snapped off due to their height were now grown over and the trails were somewhat used by obviously used by smaller animals. There were no rub lines, scrapes or bedding sites found on another ridge. Of the few bedding areas and droppings found, most were oddly down near the fields. The area was void of deer scent. As I continued to search the rest of the property I found an unusual pattern suggesting that the deer may be experiencing a lot of hunting pressure. I found just a few areas of dense cover showing signs of deer entering through them, but many of the normal main trails were grown over. It was apparent that the creek crossings had fewer deer prints which in prior years resembled a cattle crossing due to the amount of deer and turkey traffic.
Taking little time for rest that afternoon, I decided to take my climber and go to an area located very deep into the woods where the deer normally go when they have become nocturnal and reclusive. I had a sense that maybe the deer had moved to a different end of the property. I knew I would have to stick it out until after dark, because it would be likely that they would not come out until right at sunset. It had been tough getting in the area without making any noise, so I sat for quite some time before the day began to come to an end. Right at dusk I did hear some movement, but it sounded more like something running, then silence again. Then a few minutes later slight movement that then stopped. That was it for the night. Getting out was even harder, as I had to take my climber back with me again and drop it off at another location where I planned to use it again. Finally I was out in the open and after a while dropped my stand off. Then I just had the long walk back to the truck ahead of me.
After about 40 minutes I was about two-thirds of the way back to the truck. I was very tired and thirsty but did not want to stop to drink anything; I just wanted to keep going. I had never been afraid of the dark and in fact always enjoyed looking up at the dark sky to admire the stars that sparkled above me. Then I heard the sound of some coyotes in a pack off in the distance in a grassy field, which lay on the other side of a creek that separated the harvested bean field I was walking across. In the past I would hear 1 or 2 coyotes howling in a stationary location and it appeared to be calm and content. I had never experienced hearing them as a pack so close before. They all made a variety of sounds all at the same time; yelping , yipping, high pitched yikes and short howling sounds. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up and I wanted to get back to the truck all that much faster. The only light I had handy was a small pen light that shown in green at a maximum visual distance of about 10 yards ahead of me. I realized I was actually moving in their direction diagonally and started to feel uneasy about this. I could tell from the different voices that there were at least 4 different coyotes in the group. As I continued to walk, I came into an area where the fields gave way and converged into a wooded area that followed either side of the creek. As I started in a parallel direction alongside of the creek I started to hear the coyotes vocals change into primarily short barks. Where at first they had displayed excited howls and yaps, now what I heard was more threatening to me. As this continued intermittently I realized that I was being followed by this pack of coyotes, though they were still on the other side of the creek.
I began to walk briskly but did not run. Then they became silent but I could hear small branches snapping and still an occasional short bark as they began coming closer toward me. By this point I was only about 10 minutes from my truck. Based on their nearness and the creek that separated us, I realized we could possibly reach an intersecting point once I reached the last creek crossing. I would have to cross there to get to my truck though. I gripped my bow as I approached this creek bed, which dropped in elevation. I did not hesitate to cross the creek as I hoped that I had arrived ahead of them. It was hard to tell since I only occasionally heard their barks or yips. I could not tell where they were for sure. I had just come up onto the other side of the bank about 10 feet from the creek when I first heard rustling in the grass from about 8 yards way. When I shined my pen light that direction I saw 4 coyotes. One stared at me while two of them nervously stood on one side of it. A fourth one began to walk around to my side toward the path between me and truck. I made eye contact with it and stomped one foot in its direction while I raised my arms up and yelled at it. It stopped and jumped back a bit but calmly went toward the pack. I knew that it would be useless to try to use my bow, since I could neither see my peep sight or pins in the dark. These animals were not intimidated by me either. The fact that they outnumbered me may have given them more courage. Then without warning I heard something coming toward me at a dead run from behind me, through the CRP grass. I was instantly stricken with fear and felt completely vulnerable. Not sure what was about to happen next, my instincts kicked in and I retreated back to the creek. I decided to put my bow down and pick up a large rock. Holding my light in my mouth I threw it at and hit one of the coyotes nearest to me. It yelped and scrambled about. But the others just sort of stood around. These animals were treating me as prey. They may have been enticed by the smell of doe scent I carried in my backpack, which had spilled on my pants and hands some throughout the course of my hunting. I threw another rock but missed. Then a 5th coyote came bursting into view from the CRP grass, from the position that had been behind me. I began to yell and growl through my teeth and throw more heavy rocks at them as fast as I could pick them up from the creek. Finally the coyotes took enough hits from rocks that they began to back off and look confused. They eventually disappeared from sight. But I could hear them still in the grass about 20 yards away. I decided to try to make it back to my truck. With my bow in one hand and an extra rock in the other I jogged backwards toward my truck, so that I could face their direction. It was uphill and took a lot of energy to do this but my adrenaline was running in full gear. As I started to get closer the truck I could hear them as they began to come back my direction. I assume they sensed my brisk movement. They trailed me all the way back to my truck. Occasionally I would get a glimpse of movement down the trail or the reflection of eyes, but they stayed about 15-20 yards behind me. When I got to my truck I jumped up into the bed, put up the tailgate, got my backpack off and pulled out a larger flashlight. It was brighter so could see better with it. I only got a few glimpses of them after this. But I stayed back there for some time until I heard them walking through the CRP grass the opposite direction and there was no more sign of them. But even after their was silence I was afraid to get down. It was a long time before I got down to open my truck door. I felt like my heart was pounding on the outside of my body still.
I could not believe how persistent they were. I am not sure if this encounter happened because they were curious about what I was or if they had already decided that I smelled like dinner. I use a doe scent that I put on a doused cloth in the areas where I hunt. I keep these in a zip lock baggie and put them in my pack. It's often hard to get that smell off of your hands or clothing if you get some on yourself, which I likely had. While none of them lunged at me, their intent indicated they would not leave. They had used some cunning maneuvers by keeping all but one of the pack together having another one rush in from behind.
Once inside the truck I started up the engine and left, but within a mile had to pull over. I felt cold and began to shake. I sat there until I could get the heater going full blast and managed to cover up with an extra coat from my back seat. When I finally calmed down I drove the rest of the way back to my camper, physically and emotionally exhausted. It took a long time to go to sleep that night and I just could not get warm enough for some reason. I finally had to put in ear plugs, because I could hear some coyotes off in the distance and did not want any reminders of how the evening had turned into a nightmare. While God will not put us in a position that is more than we can bear, for the first time ever I found myself questioning God's will and His presence.
The only other time I had felt such fear for my life was when I was in about 18 years old and had the throttle stick open on my car while I was on the highway. The regular brakes were not strong enough to stop the car and I thought for sure it was the end. I ended up using my emergency brakes which gradually stopped the car after about 2 miles. Once I had it stopped I was able to shut the engine off. But the feeling of having a situation out of your control with eminent danger gave me the same sick- to- my- stomach feeling.
After this incident I was deeply impressed with the need for all women, and all hunters for that matter, to have the right to protect themselves in such given moments of absolute danger and from being attacked when they are bowhunting. I know there are many nationally documented cases of coyote attacks, but I had not heard of any in Kansas. Additionally, hunters which hunt mountainous areas in other states where bears are present have a greater danger of being attacked and have been. While some hunters have the advantage of a rifle while they are hunting, bow hunters do not. And still yet most hunters do not have a second form of protection such as a hand gun. The right to bear arms means that constitutionally we have the right to protect our lives and ensure our survival. Now we are at the mercy of the states we hunt in, to allow us our God-given right for survival.
While I stayed and hunted for 2 more days after this, I did not use any more scent spray or oil. Additionally, a friend ended up coming to hunt with me which made me feel safer, otherwise I may have decided to just pack it up. However our next 2 days of hunting did not produce any success nor sign of deer. While I did not know how severely I had been affected by this incident, 5 days after the occurrence I had what is called a TIA (Mini Stroke) which affected my right side. It is not known if this incident triggered it, as it was also discovered that I had high blood pressure and a heart condition as a result. This of cours, ended my 2009 deer hunting season completely. It has been 6 months and I am just now writing about this for the first time. I went through a period of temporary numbness on my right side which lingered in my face. I had several months of difficulty; not being able to speak clearly and get my thoughts put into words, taking a long time to respond and sometimes responding with words that did not make sense. I am finally able to say that I am mostly recovered, with the exception of my heart condition. I am now exercising regularly, working on getting back into shape and hoping to regain my strength. I have been able to return to work, without assistance and lead a normal life again.
It is my request that if you took the time to read this article that you will take the initiative to contact your state's Wildlife & Conservation legislators to bring up the issue of protection for hunters to defend themselves, much as National Parks now allow.
(I have included a sound track of the type of sounds coyotes in a pack make so you can understand the chills that went up my back when I heard them so close to me.)
WomenHunters, Pro Staff