Never worry about a wolf in sheeps’ clothing. A wolf that needs clothes is a wimpy schmuck of a wolf. Beware instead, of a wolf in wolves’ clothing….
Remember the traps I had set around Oka Lake in the fall of 1938, right after I got the contract? I spotted blood on one of them, one frosty morning that December.
It could have been anything but I knew it was the Outlaw. Well, he got his foot caught in one of the traps but he had somehow managed to extricate his foot and flee. I hadn’t been watching that particular trap, so I didn’t know what exactly went down out there, but I found blood around the trap.
It is understandable that traps will have blood on ‘em, but these spring-loaded steel jaws are vicious, sharp and jagged. Step on one and for sure, you can kiss your ankle goodbye. I couldn’t for the love of me understand how the Outlaw had managed to get out of it, but he had, so that’s that. He had obviously been hurt, though how badly I could never know, but I knew that his being hurt didn’t bring me a better chance to get him. Wild animals have this immense capacity ta ward off infection, heal their wounds and continue on with their lives.
Don’t ask me how I knew it had been the Outlaw’s blood on that trap. I just knew. Another thing – you might not be able ta recognize any one particular wolf, since they all look pretty much alike to you, but me – I can identify ‘em. And the Outlaw was special. He was humongous, over six and a half feet in length and four, in height. He had an angel-white diamond-shape on the otherwise dark grey fur on his forehead, right between the eyes. That still could be on another wolf but one of his ears had lost a tendon, maybe in a fight when he was hot-headed young brawler. That made the ear stick out horizontally, even when he perked his ears up ta listen. That ear was the giveaway.
I finally got the Outlaw on June 12th. I remember that afternoon clearly. Days were long that time of the year. It must have been around eight in the evening and still bright as day. I was in the thickets, surrounded by some pretty tall oaks, at the edge of a large mom and pop poultry farm that also grew Mackintosh apples and strawberries – the Quinn Farm. They grew so many apples that, come fall, they opened their doors to the public to come pick as many apples as they could, for just five bucks.
I had just about given up and was preparing ta call it a day and go home, when the Outlaw came into view, having emerged into a clearing around twennie feet from where I was perched. He didn’t seem in a hurry and when I trained my Bushnells on ‘im I realized why. He had stepped into one of my traps, probably the one I had laid out by the water’s edge. This time the trap had gotten a good grip on him and held. He had obviously tried ta break free, but he had only managed ta break the swivel of the trap. Realizing he couldn’t get it off him he must have decided ta simply run on with it.
So there the Outlaw stood, his rear left foot firmly inside a trap, his fibula stripped off flesh, the skin peeled off and hanging loosely over the jaws, covered in naked muscle and tissue, frighteningly bloody, the magnificent charcoal grey mane under his chest heaving at the effort of having ta lug that 25-lb trap around. I said ta myself, Jesus, that must hurt like a bitch. But strangely his eyes were still cold, blue and scornful – just the way I had always seen them. His lips were pulled back over his jaws, his teeth bared in a snarl.
One thing became clear – there was no way that the Outlaw would get rid of the trap and there was no way he could run with it for long. Did he know this was it, the end of the road? Was he programmed ta take defeat as calmly and stoically as he would take the sensation of a kill? Do wild animals know the moment they are about ta die? What goes through their minds? Defiance? Anger? Resignation? Satisfaction – of a life well fought and lived?
Probably all of the above, but the Outlaw’s emotionless eyes let on nothing. I didn’t wait to debate how he felt. I had a job I was being paid ta do. I rose from my crouch and took my time picking my way through the underbrush, making no effort ta crouch or be silent. The Outlaw wasn’t going nowhere.
He was still there, in the middle of the clearing, now sitting on his rump, his front legs straight. Like the dog on those old HMV vinyl records. The heaving had stopped, so I reckoned he had got his breath back. When I emerged out of the brush and approached him, I noticed that the snarl was gone. Somehow, at the point of death, one rids himself of hate and maybe this happens with wild animals as well.
The Outlaw regarded me silently as I came and halted five feet from him. A widening pool of blood was forming where his mangled foot rested inside the trap. As I waited, he raised his magnificent head up at the sky and let out a long moan that in the end died out in an agonized splutter.
I took that as a signal. The Outlaw wished to tell me something, maybe…‘what are you waiting for, now get it over with’. I retrieved Buster from my shoulder holster. It is illegal ta have a handgun on you when you’re out on a hunt, but I still toted one anyway. Hey, its my ass, okay? And I intend ta see it doesn’t get chewed off, that’s all.
I held the muzzle an inch from the side of the head just below the ear that wouldn’t straighten up. I didn’t want ta mess up that snow white diamond on his forehead. His eyes had dulled a bit as he stared up at me unflinchingly, looking me directly in the eye. He just sat there and waited, awareness writ large over his every sinew, every hair, that this was the end of the road. Perhaps it is the feeling a batsman in cricket has, when he has been trapped, LBW – he knows, if he is out or he isn’t.
Anyone will tell you that the cocking of a .357 Magnum is the loudest of all handguns. In the eerie silence of the woods, Buster cocked with a loud Crraack! The cocking was so close to his ear, the Outlaw visibly flinched, but he remained sitting where he was, the blood now in a pool all around his butt. For no reason, in my mind I said to him, “Pity it had ta end this way, bud…”
I pulled the trigger.
Ps: I am an occasional hunter myself but I have never killed a wolf. I have seen many in the wild, though. Once, a big charcoal grey m—her f–ker walked right up to the SpyPoint camera I had installed on a wedge in a tree trunk and craned his neck to sniff at it. I could have had him then, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. He was so magnificent. And cute.