The Fox and the Chicken
by Dan Gustafson

The late afternoon March sun cast long shadows in the forest located a twenty-minute walk from my house. Snow covered the landscape showing signs of surrender to the warmth of the changing season.

I walked alone through the woods bearing my 22 caliber single-shot rifle. At age 14 it was my first adventure into the woods with a gun. I was a fox hunter! The ad in the hunting magazine boasted that the small gadget, when blown like a whistle, made a sound like a wounded chicken to lure a fox.

It sounded easy enough. Just blow and the fox, curious, would come. Yet a fox is not dumb. People say: “Smart as a fox,” for a reason.

There would be a need for stealth. Where to hide so as to be heard but not seen?

The woods were dense. In summer visibility would be no more than 30 yards. But in winter, one could see over 100 yards on the gently rolling forest floor. And the crusted snow enabled the fox and me to be heard with the slightest movement.

The perfect place to hide would be at the base of a fallen tree that had been the largest in the forest. A tree that when it fell, had clung to its roots forming a canopy like an open umbrella on its side.

I huddled in the protection of the base of the trunk, sheltered on three sides and began the whimpering sound of the wounded chicken.

The late afternoon drifted into dusk. Nothing! I knew I must leave soon or I would not be home before dark. I knew these woods very well, but not after dark. The overcast sky and the new would moon would offer no help.

Suddenly I realized I was not alone. My eyes strained to see something move. Nothing! I heard it again, but where?

Then, as quickly as a beat of my nervous heart, I turned around and our eyes met. I was face to face with the startled fox, not more than two feet away, looking down on me from on top of the log.

In an instant the fox leaped over my head and ran toward the forest I had so carefully guarded.

I stood up, knees weak, so nervous at first that I could not walk. As I headed home, I picked up my pace, at first to a jog and then to a run. The fox had outsmarted me and my tin gadget.