FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Coyote Hunt

I walked up the mountain in the howling snow and the drifts and the flashing of the moon behind the clouds, looking for coyote traps to sabotage.   The coyote hunt was on that weekend, and I heard there were traps up on Hubbell Hill.

It was snowshoe, mitten, balaclava weather.  I brought several flashlights in case one or the other went dead, and I wished I’d brought a gun, because you never know.  A 19-year-old folk singer in Canada was killed not long ago by coyotes.  Nothing amiss with the animals.  They were healthy and strong, no rabies, not starving, which are the usual reasons wild canids attack and kill people – and we should remember they almost never do so.

Here in New York State I get into arguments with both sides, the hunters who kill with a passion and the animal rightsers whose love is as irrational.  I’m told by the hunter crowd that coyotes in a ravening state will eat your balls off.   God bless the coyotes! Let them feast – especially on New Yorkers, who are too many and need to be culled.

With the wind-ripped saplings of fir pulling like oarmen, with the branches of the hardwoods toppling into the fat of the snow, with the light of the moon behind the storm emitting an obscene purple light, up the mountain I go.   My snowshoes plummet and splash, the wind in the trees seems to cavitate the sky, the old oaks groan and call, and a cold white exploding pillow-fight of down blinds me.

Into the ice temple among the hemlocks: these last pillared behemoth remnants: the sad lone grandsons of the firs that once covered the Catskills, raped and pillaged for the chemicals in their bark, chemicals that tanned leather for a short while before the rapists moved on to other more efficient means of tanning.

Beyond the hemlocks, a bluestone wall is buried under a foot of snow or more, and beyond the wall is a vast field where the trees were cleared a hundred years ago.

And beyond that is the height of Hubbell Hill.

I went out one night during the annual February coyote hunt to a local restaurant off Route 28, in the valley below Hubbell Hill, where the owners, Tina and Doug, keep a stuffed coyote at the door to the kitchen.   Doug, the chef, joined in last year’s contest, but he regretted he couldn’t make it this year.   Last year he used a caller and a rabbit pantomime and scent to draw them toward his hunting blind.

Sometimes he uses a turkey call.  “They come right to it,” he said.  Then he excused himself to get back to the kitchen, as it was a busy night, and Tina, who was tending bar, explained that she was an animal lover – but the love did not extend, for some reason, to coyotes.  “I can’t stand killing.  When the men go out and bring back a deer, I don’t wanna even look.  But coyotes. I don’t know why.  That’s the only animal I could shoot.  I just hate them.  Maybe it’s that screaming at night they do.  I can’t think of anyone up here who likes coyotes.”

Her dishwasher, a fresh-faced man no older than 20, emerged from the kitchen and showed me a picture of a handsome coyote he trapped on Hubbell Hill. In the photo he holds the animal by its hindquarters so that its body stretches out and straightens, forelegs pointed down, as if diving into deep water.

Tina called across the room to a party who were celebrating a birthday.   One of the men in the group had attended last year’s hunt in Sullivan County, the county to the south.  Immediately he went to swiping at his smartphone, looking for a photo of the trophy he had gotten.   It seemed that everybody in the place, at one time or another, had been busy trapping or shooting the poor dogs.

Tina said again, “It’s that horrible screaming at night.”

“Coyotes need to eat too,” I told her.  She poured me another Jameson.   We talked for a while.  I told her that I had spent time around coyotes.  We talked about how they sing complex songs – it isn’t screaming – how these are family groups singing together, talking with one another, establishing territory, how sometimes it’s a form of play, an expression of joy that has no purpose beyond expression.

We talked about the pups and their play, the way the families stick together, the cohesiveness and fidelity of coyote families. “It’s like they’re around a campfire, like us? Well.” She thought for a moment.  “Now I feel bad about bad-mouthing the coyotes.”

I told her I thought it was a form of madness to kill wild animals who no one would eat, whose only purpose in death was to serve as a stuffed manikin at the door of restaurants.

A few days later, another storm.   The usual crashing white wind of the Catskills, brought from the Great Lakes.   It was a burning bush of white, and after it passed the coyotes sang and I went up to Hubbell Hill to sabotage whatever traps I could find.

More articles by:

Christopher Ketcham is the author of the forthcoming “This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism and Corruption are Ruining the American West,” out in July 2019 from Viking-Penguin.  He can be reached at cketcham99@mindspring.com.

February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
Mitchel Cohen
A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”
Jake Johnston
Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System
Dave Lindorff
It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans
Laura Flanders
An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.
Patrick Walker
Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal
Natalie Dowzicky
The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall
Nick Licata
Of Stress and Inequality
Joseph G. Ramsey
Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump
Elliot Sperber
Greater Than Food
Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
Nicky Reid
The Councils Before Maduro!
Gary Leupp
“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail