Moon Madness - 3, Copyrightę 2001-2006 By
Larry K. Hockman, "All RIGHTS RESERVED"
gusty north wind rattled the remaining leaves on the solemn trees as Vince and Moon angled south to intersect the river, downwind from a perpendicular line to the cabin. They would slowly hunt the bottomland adjacent to the river where the hogs preferred to forage for food. Numerous, naturally concealed vantage points and blinds would be at their disposal along the thick tangles of the swampy terrain. Vince's plan of attack involved alternately walking and checking sign, coupled with frequent stops to take advantage of high probability areas.
Vince marveled at the vast assortment of tracks they encountered before reaching the river. He had not realized how much game called his piece of the woods home. He was glad he had purchased the property. The price had been more than fair, simply because the owners were city folks, and the land represented no practical or commercial value to them.
Moon carefully scrutinized every set of tracks they crossed. Vince noticed that he paid particular attention to rabbit sign. He was hunting, too. Moon had caught
numbers of the bunnies within the last year, always proudly dragging his trophies home to show his master before dining. Unfortunately for the rabbits, they seemed to be Moon's favorite prey. He was quite efficient at catching them.
Moon's keen sense of smell evidently recognized an unusually fresh track near a small patch of snow-covered blackberry bushes, for he emitted a low snarl and turned to first look at Vince, and then crouch low to peer under the prickly bushes. Vince encouraged him by saying, "Get 'im, Moon. I'll follow you."
The wiley predator proceeded to showcase his stalking skills. Vince could not help smiling with admiration as he witnessed the slowly advancing hunter assessing the best possible route for success. Vince strained to spot the rabbit in relation to Moon's direction of travel but could find nothing. He peered through the scope of his rifle when Moon emerged from the far side of the thicket into a small depression, downwind of a fallen willow tree. The snow was totally free of tracks around the cat. Vince thought the rabbit had outsmarted him.
Moon made an abrupt left turn toward the dead tree and raised his nose an inch or two, testing the wind. With ears laid back, he crouched low and began patiently inching
his way, one noiseless step at a time toward the log. The deadfall extended into the bushes, and Vince scanned its entire length through his scope. He could not find a solitary trace of the rabbit. He watched closely as Moon painstakingly covered the last foot of snow separating him from the log. Vince could see Moon's own breath drifting downwind over his ears, while the cat shifted his forward weight to the right side and planted his back feet solidly by rocking his rear from side to side.
Vince watched silently and clutched the can of cat-food in his pocket. It was well past lunch-time and he figured eating would console Moon's tarnished pride after being thwarted by the wily rabbit. He was about to whistle for Moon when suddenly, in a blur of movement, Moon's left paw hooked over the log and snatched a squealing young rabbit expertly back to his side!
The pitiful scream subsided the instant Moon latched onto the hapless creature's throat, and life quickly ebbed by nature's merciless methods. The kill had taken only scant seconds, compared to the slow, deliberate stalk, perfectly executed by the efficient predator. Even Vince was caught off guard. Never again would he doubt Moon's hunting prowess. His friend never ceased to amaze him.
Vince applauded Moon's success. Obviously pleased with himself, the cat dragged his quarry back and politely dropped it at Vince's feet for examination. Shaking his head in disbelief, Vince praised Moon's expertise and finished by telling him, "You know that's not fair. You get a hot meal, and I have to settle for a cold sandwich." Moon ignored the remark as if he knew Vince was only joking and started tearing at the warm flesh. Vince dug in the pack for sandwiches and chips and sat with his back to the wind in front of Moon while they replenished their strength.
Back on the move, Vince checked the Winchester as they neared the river in case they inadvertently surprised a herd of hogs.
Abundant hog sign was everywhere. The plowed up snow and fresh, uprooted ground indicated a group of nine animals had passed through the immediate area sometime after the fresh snowfall. Moon sniffed the tracks inquisitively, occasionally snorting his disdain of the musky smell. The pigs were heading north, skirting the river as Vince had predicted. He cautiously followed the tracks for a short distance to satisfy his suspicions that the animals would stay near the water. To insure his success, he knew he must pinpoint the herd's exact location and plan his stalk around the available cover on the occupied terrain.
Vince picked up Moon and scratched his ears while explaining, "They can't be too far ahead of us, so we're gonna change the game plan. If we're lucky, we can spot 'em without spooking 'em into a run. Then we can head 'em off at the pass.," Moon must have agreed. He started purring when Vince finished talking.
Vince noticed a gradual drop in the temperature as he and Moon quietly retreated from the riverbank. He intended to travel along the higher ground overlooking the basin, but still relatively close to the path of the winding river channel. He would descend every so often to check on the pigs' progress. They appeared to be steadily feeding, and therefore, should pose no problem to intercept before passing the perpendicular path to the house. The advantage of making the kill close to the house added its own merits to the plan. Thinking out loud, Vince said, "This is gonna be a piece of cake. This day might even make the outdoor magazines." Moon had stopped to listen, slightly puzzled, but continued on when he realized that Vince was not talking to him.
A light snow had started falling after the temperature change as the icy north wind increased its biting grip on the frozen forest. The size of the flakes increased dramatically within the next hour, drastically limiting practical vision to a mere fifty feet. Moon seemed totally engrossed with the swirling flurries, snatching individual flakes adroitly from mid-air, only to have them vanish before his eyes upon contact with his own body heat.
Vince quickened his pace with the additional factors of adverse weather conditions and decreased vision to complicate the hunt. Darkness too, would cloak the thick woods with astonishing speed under these conditions.
An instinctive safety consideration to break off the hunt and return to the warmth of the cabin was mentally canceled when Moon suddenly stood up on his hind legs, sniffing and snorting several times. Vince asked him in a muffled voice, "You smell 'em between us and the river, don't you?" He patiently watched the cat's combined senses scan the elements, trying to assess the overall situation and precisely locate the hogs. Lowering his profile, Moon finally advanced to a small deadfall, staring nervously down the slope towards the river. Vince could tell by the restricted movement of his head that Moon knew exactly where the hogs were, but simply could not see them. Moon acted unusually apprehensive, even flinching and ducking once as he turned his attention downriver momentarily. Vince suspected a deer had caught wind of them and the pigs, causing a panicked retreat.
Confident of Moon's accuracy, Vince told him to stay behind him for this stalk and clicked off the safety on his rifle. He also removed the lens caps from his scope, being careful to hold the gun horizontally to keep snowflakes off of the lenses. Satisfied of his personal readiness, he whispered to Moon, "Let's do it. Time to rock-n-roll."
Vince moved slowly forward, angling slightly downwind to keep the pigs from scenting him and Moon. He knew the pigs had poor eyesight but possessed a keen sense of smell. The wind and snow would help to muffle his approach. The sandstone wash he was descending culminated at a group of small, snowcapped cedar trees growing amidst a jumble of various sized rocks and a thick tangle of leafless honeysuckle vines.
Vince carefully moved to the perimeter of the vines, instantly freezing when low grunts betrayed the presence of the herd immediately to his left beyond the cedar break. His pulse raced with anticipation. Through a tiny gap in the cedars he spotted a small, solid black piglet, probably pushing sixty pounds. Vince wanted one in the two hundred
Scarcely breathing, Vince pulled back the hammer on the Winchester. Carefully choosing his footing on the slick rocks, he sidestepped to the edge of the cedars. Through the branches of the last tree, he counted eight pigs of all colors, ranging in size from the small black one, up to a huge red sow of about four or five-hundred pounds!
Vince's heart pounded as never before. He decided he wanted the only boar in the group. The critter was literally plowing the frozen ground with a formidable pair of three-inch tusks! Easily tipping the scales close to three hundred pounds, the coal black tusker looked utterly awesome against the white snow background and far exceeded Vince's wildest expectations.
Vince paused a few seconds to catch his breath and regroup. The boar was rooting in his direction and would be facing him head-on. Vince figured a head shot to the brain to be the safest choice in light of the extremely close quarters. He reassuringly glanced back at Moon, took several deep breaths and leaned out just far enough for the Winchester's barrel to clear the cedar branches. All Vince could see in the scope's range-limited field of view was the base of the hog's ears at the top and his menacing
eyes at the bottom. Had it not been for the light dusting of snow on the animal's forehead, the black background would have made correct centering of the fine crosshairs almost impossible. Vince realized how lucky he was, given the tiny timeframe in which to make the shot, before the pig saw him only ten or fifteen feet away.
The crosshairs settled halfway up the center of the forehead, the same instant the beady eyes shifted their unsettling gaze upward to lock directly onto Vince's. In the millisecond before the hog could react, Vince squeezed the trigger. Staring death in the eye proved to be a fatal mistake for this boar. He was dead before his chin hit the snow!
The unexpected explosion caused immediate pandemonium among the other herd members. High-pitched danger squeals and grunts, mingled with sounds of crashing brush, shattered the tranquility of the silent snowfall. Moon wisely retreated a few feet up the side of the wash. Frantic, disoriented hogs ran blindly in all directions, and Vince even had to sidestep a small sow charging in his direction!
Without warning, at the height of the chaotic frenzy, all hell broke loose! The unaccounted for, ninth member of the herd, suddenly appeared behind them. The monstrous,
six-hundred pound dominant boar, the undisputed leader of this band, had lagged a full hundred yards behind the main group.
The cacophony of terrified herd members had alerted the cantankerous old boar to viciously defend his lesser peers against any and all intruders. The boar, sporting deadly four inch tusks, had a bad attitude long before he had the displeasure to find Vince blocking his path.
The enraged hog lowered his massive head and broke into a silent charge behind Vince. Moon snarled a hasty warning, but the boar had covered most of the distance before even Moon was aware of his downwind approach. Vince was caught completely off his guard! The hog's tremendous inertia was barely disrupted upon the crippling impact with Vince's legs and hips. A searing pain wave assaulted his careening body when the unexpected energy transfer cleanly broke his left leg and one sharp tusk simultaneously ripped through the calf muscles of the right!
Vince turned a full flip while airborne, creating a gory shower of slinging blood to stain the white blanket of snow beneath him a vivid shade of crimson. Vince landed hard in the jumble of rocks, his own weight forcing the fractured end of bone to slice through muscle and denim, to surface just below his hip. The pain was excruciating. Blood flowed freely down his face from a nasty forehead gash as he struggled to maintain consciousness. A sharp, stabbing pain in his side signaled a broken rib.
The entire scenario shifted into slow motion as a snarling blur of tawny fur and claws landed squarely on the boars broad back, ripping and tearing with deadly efficiency as the surprised pig suffered the relentless wrath and fury of nature's most skilled group of predators. Spinning sharply to face his unseen attacker, Moon was inadvertently slung off by the centrifugal force of the turn. With instinctive feline cunning and agility, he gracefully twisted in mid-air, never losing sight of his enemy, and expertly hit the frozen ground on all four feet, plowing a shallow trench for several yards during his controlled backward slide through the snow.
Panting heavily, the boar glared through the vapor clouds created by his own breath, first at Moon, then to the downed hunter. When Vince desperately tried to reach his rifle, the boar snorted, dropped his head and charged again!
At the very instant the pig had turned his attention back to Vince, Moon launched his second assault. The boar had barely started moving when the cat's precise timing and accuracy introduced the hapless critter to the feline equivalent of hell on earth. The startled hog's charge ceased with the combined loss of both eyes which Moon had literally clawed from their sockets in the first seconds of the second onslaught. Blind and bleeding, the wounded warrior's attitude shifted abruptly from offense to the defensive as Moon's continued attack shredded one ear before focusing on the sensitive snout. When the pig's nostrils filled with a pungent mix of irate cat scent spiced with his own blood, panic and pure fear overwhelmed his pugnacious fighting instinct.
Squealing with pain and uncertainty, the sightless hog ran headlong into a large oak tree. The sudden impact broke Moon's grip, hurling him forward, across the sharp tusks and into the rough bark of the stout tree trunk. One tusk tore a shallow three-inch gash from his flank to the middle of his back, and a knot on the immobile tree dislocated his right hip!
The dazed hog could be heard crashing through the underbrush long after he disappeared from the bloody site of the ill-fated battle.
Dragging his useless right back leg, Moon limped over to his fallen master. Vince was busy tying a tourniquet at the top of his calf in an effort to stop the bleeding. Gingerly putting Moon in his lap, he carefully assessed his brave friend's injuries while explaining, "Well, ole buddy, I seem to be in a helluva situation. I can't walk or crawl, and it's gonna be dark soon. I'll probably pass out from loss of blood, shortly. I know your leg hurts, but you have to go for help." Hugging his friend, he continued, "Thanks for saving my life, too. I'm sure that boar would have finished me off if you hadn't whipped 'im. We'll take care of him another day . , if I make it through this one. I'm gonna try to build a fire while you're gone." Shaking his head slowly while scanning the scene for wood, Vince remarked, "Looks like a damn war zone, doesn't it?" Moon meowed a reply while Vince tied his house keys securely to his leather collar, instructing him to point them out to anyone he found. Once again, the cat meowed in understanding and reluctantly left his master in the blood-stained snow, dragging his useless leg in the direction of the cabin. He paused at the top rim of the basin as if to question the decision to go, but Vince waved him on. The vital last effort made him pass out, just when Moon was out of sight.
This space RESERVED For LATER USE--LKH
Author's Note: Feel free to copy/paste the text contained herein to build your personal copy of "MOON Madness". As this is COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL by ME, the ORIGINAL AUTHOR, please DO NOT copy for UNAUTHORIZED DISTRIBUTION in any form or fashion. "ALL RIGHTS RETAINED & RESERVED" by Larry K. Hockman! Please don't hesitate to E-Mail me for permission to use my works in the classroom, etc. ThanX for Visitin'! Hope you enjoyed the story and pass it on to your friends.
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