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OPINION: Smarter Than the Average Hunter

November 18, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.

Just what was it? What was that story that was once told to me or possibly I read somewhere? I find that my memory is going from bad to worse and I now do my best recollecting in my dreams. However, the problem seems to be one of retention. After awakening, I recall some of the information contained in my dreams but it rapidly fades away. I don't know where it goes but it just seeps out of my head.

What in the world was that story? I knew that if I was given even the slightest of clues, it would come to me. Ah, I would look through my journals. When I come across a tale that interests me I reduce it to notes made in a journal. It is now around 2 a.m. but I have to find those notes.

There they are, the notes about the story which I am now going to tell to you. I came across this tale while reading an old newspaper. I suppose I could just attach a copy of the story or maybe use a couple of quotation marks to reprint it but, if you know anything at all about me, you know that I can't leave well enough alone.

I could re-read the story and paraphrase it but what fun would that be? So, I'll tell you the story based on my notes and recollections. Sure, it will be a little different than the original story published in the Thursday, Jan. 20, issue of the Pineville Democrat Newspaper but, like any story ever told, the tale just keeps changing.

It was in the winter of 1938 that N.C. Stafford, Jack Hampton and a few other men hatched a plan to go turkey hunting. The men were to meet at Hampton's home located in the Cyclone area of McDonald County and, with the abundance of game in the area, there was little doubt that a great many turkeys would meet their maker that night.

N.C. arrived at the Hampton place early and long before the morning sun made its debut. The other men hadn't yet arrived and, to his surprise, Stafford found a stand of timber and an outbuilding ablaze. He looked around for anything that might aid in efforts to extinguish the fire but there seemed to be little or nothing that might be of use. It was then that he heard an unfamiliar sound; maybe the faint sound of something sniffing the cold night air.

Illuminated by the glow of the fire, Stafford saw movement. He saw shadowy figures moving around and behind the fire but, at first, he couldn't quite make out what those darkened silhouettes were. Then one of the shapes came close enough for a good look. There was absolutely no doubt in his mind, it was a wolf; and the darkened night was home to more than just one lone wolf, there were several.

Having neither the means nor inclination to deal with the fire, and considering the ever-growing concerns over the interest in him shown by the wolves, Stafford took shelter in a nearby small log-constructed building that had once been a schoolhouse. It was still some hours before the morning sunlight would weave its way through the tree branches when he heard a man's voice. It was Hampton.

Stafford told Hampton and the others how he discovered the fire and he told the men about the wolves. Surprisingly, Hampton didn't seem overly concerned about the loss of one of his buildings or the story about the wolves as he was anxious to get after those turkeys.

The men had over time found a tried and true method for killing the birds. They knew where the birds nested and the men would surprise the birds where they roosted and shoot them just as dead as they could be.

Stafford didn't know if anyone believed his tale of the wolves' presence but it wasn't long before his words were bolstered. After traveling for only a short time, the wolves returned. The nervous dogs which accompanied the hunters whined and wouldn't stray more than a few feet from the men. Those dogs wanted no part of their distant kin.

As the men came upon a nesting area the conversation was evenly divided between the number of turkeys that would be bagged and the intentions of the wolves. Wolves were not known to be dangerous to folks but how would they react to the presence of dead birds. Well, that question was soon to be answered.

The men raised their shotguns as the turkeys tried to flee and the sound of shots filled the quiet woods. It was after the first few birds were killed that the wolves' strategy was revealed. When the wounded or killed turkeys fell to the ground they were quickly gathered up by the hungry canines. The wolves' plan was almost flawless as the darkness revealed only quickly moving silhouettes.

Several roosts were visited that night and quite a few turkeys were slain. The hunters lost whatever fear of the wolves they might have had but that fear was replaced with frustration. After all, the men were doing all the work but the wolves seemed to be getting most of the fallen turkeys.

The men were determined but the wolves were opportunists. Stafford and his friends were crack shots but the wolves were quick and stealthy. The hunters were smart and knew where the turkeys roosted but on that cold night in 1938, the wolves were smarter.

When all was said and done, the final score for turkeys actually in hand, or in jaws, was Stafford and his cohorts 3, wolves 10. Although the hunters left the woods that day somewhat disappointed, it was estimated that the shrewd wolves were well pleased with the unexpected meal of wild turkeys.

Was Stafford's account of the hunt and the wolves factual or was it slightly exaggerated? One of the turkey slayers, J.H. Cowan backed up Stafford's wolf and turkey story saying; "That's as nearabout to the truth as a fella can get."

.....................

Stan Fine is a retired police officer and Verizon Security Department investigator who, after retiring in 2006, moved from Tampa, Fla., to Noel. Stan's connection to Noel can be traced back to his grandparents who lived most of their lives there. Stan began writing after the passing of his wife Robin in 2013. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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