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Tall tales beyond belief... but true

No truer expression has ever been coined than "Truth is stranger than fiction." One problem is that in telling of strange and almost unbelievable happenings, the listener or reader might doubt the honesty of the speaker or writer. Be that as it may, I am going to relate a few such happenings that I've experienced over a long lifetime of hunting.

One of the most intriguing occurred while I was on a spring turkey hunt with my brother-in-law Pete Leird. Well up in the morning, having had no luck, we took a final stand in a rather dense thicket-like place that showed some sign. After getting comfortable side-by-side against a good-sized log, we sat, occasionally calling with no real expectations.

After being there 20 minutes or so, we suddenly became aware of a field rat out in front of us, crossing our line of vision no more than 12 feet away. The peculiar thing about this rat was that he was traveling backwards! He moved along slowly and seemed to be heading for the end of another log, all of his path being covered heavily with leaves and other debris.

Very slowly he moved along until finally we realized that he was a mummified carcass of a field rat and was being nudged along by an almost totally hidden chipmunk. The chipmunk suddenly took fright and darted under the end of the log, leaving his mummified burden lying in plain view.

We sat still with hardly enough movement to breath. After five minutes or so, he very cautiously stuck his head out, looked the place over and hopped over to the rat carcass and began shoving it along again.

Twice he sensed something wrong and scurried to his place under the log, later regaining his nerve to come back and shove the rat along. Finally he lost his nerve for good, and we went over and picked up the nicely mummified carcass of a very large field rat. The hide was in good condition, and we could only think that the chipmunk wanted the hide in making a nest.

The shooting game also brings about hard-to-believe happenings. Once when walking up to a point on a covey of quail, I flushed them for the shot and was amazed that most of the covey darted in a bunch between the forked limbs of a sweetgum tree just as I pulled the trigger. Both I and my dog were amazed to see that I had bagged five birds with this one shot!

On another occasion, while duck hunting with my late friend Jesse Bonner on DeSoto Lake, a drove of six mallards came dropping into our decoys in a solid bunch. One shot from each of us killed the entire group of six - four greenheads and two hens.

One afternoon on a fall-season turkey hunt in the Arkansas portion of the old Miller Point Club, I scattered a drove of jakes, hid myself and began trying to call them back. Several soon answered and some of them began coming my way until eventually I saw that I had a nice clear shot at the head and neck of a fine bird.

When I shot, however, I thought something must have been in the way since he took off flying out of sight so quickly that I could not get in another shot. Disgusted, I got up to go. I heard flopping in the brush and found that I had killed another fine jake that I had not even glimpsed.

The weirdest happening of them all occurred when I was still in high school and was quail hunting with my father. We were working on a well-scattered covey in a huge abandoned gravel pit. Our dog was pointing singles with precision.

We were taking turns with shots, and when Dad bagged his bird and began moving forward, a bird flushed wild right under his feet. The bird flew to his left and he swung around automatically and shot. The bird fell dead in a flurry of feathers.

Twenty steps beyond the bird, a cottontail rabbit flopped out of a clump of sedgegrass from the side of a mound of dirt and gravel directly in line with Dad's shot. Dad had killed a quail and a rabbit with the same shot. I dare anyone to top that.

My only regret is that I have no way to prove any of these tales. As my friend Edgar Hobbs likes to say, "It's the truth on my Boy Scout honor!"

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