“UFOs” may be a stretch, and that’s just because the unidentified object wasn’t flying. What was flying, however, was a group of turkeys after being chased by a coyote.
I saw the scene a couple days ago while hunting outside of Louisville. A group of turkeys were feeding in a field, with the toms taking frequent timeouts to bow out their chests while the hens putt-putt-putted their way through the field.
Then, a group of hens scattered through the field, some running, others flying, as a coyote bound toward them … with a friend of some sort.
As soon as I saw the small, squatty animal, my brain thought “badger.” Then I thought raccoon. Whatever the coyote’s accomplice was, it was no coyote. Short, with stumpy legs, it waddled more than ran toward the group of birds.
I thought about this scene a lot that day, telling several people of the coyote and its little buddy.
“Probably a small coyote,” one person said.
“Why didn’t it eat the badger?” another person asked.
“Are you sure you saw that?” a third person commented.
Then I called NEBRASKAland contributing editor Michael Forsberg. He’s spent as much time in the field in the last 10 years as anyone I know. When I told him about my morning, he paused briefly and spoke.
“Could have a been a badger. Could have been a raccoon. Could have been a lot of things, Jeff,” he said in his low, often philosophical audio-book reading voice. “I think too often we try to put animals in boxes, saying they wouldn’t do this or that. But, the way I see it …” and then he paused, “you ever seen the cartoons when all of the animals in the forest are hanging out together…” and that’s all I needed to here.
But his point was well made, and for the first time in many years I felt fully confident about a scene I saw as a teenager that I have always questioned in my own mind. Frog hunting with friend Tom Densford outside of Millington, Tennessee when I was 17 years old, we spotted a wall-hanger of a frog with a head as big as a baseball. With Tom shining the bright light in his eyes, we neared him as I readied to grab him. When we were only a few feet away, I turned to Tom and whispered, “Get me out of here. Really, really slow.”
Tom immediately reversed the trolling motor, taking us out to the middle of the lake. “What was wrong?” he asked.
I shivered all over. “There are no telling how many water moccasins there were on the bank right next to that frog. They were everywhere.”
“Really,” Tom said, “I wonder why they weren’t eating the frog?”
I could answer that question then no better than I can now. All I’m sure about now is that sometimes everything you think you should see in nature isn’t what you’ll exactly see. Which is all the more reason why you should be outside in the first place.