GRAND FORKS -- Spend enough time outdoors, and you’re bound to see some cool stuff.
Such was the case for Byron Eilertson of Andover, Minnesota, on Saturday, Nov. 6, the opening morning of Minnesota’s firearms deer season.
Hunting somewhere in Kittson County of northwest Minnesota – without getting too specific – Eilertson was on the lookout for deer when he watched a cow moose walk up and check out his ATV.
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Judging by the trio of photos Eilertson sent me, the moose was downright intrigued by the machine, walking right up to it for an up-close-and-personal look.
“Lucky I took the key out, because it looks like she wanted to tip it over or take it out for a ride,” Eilertson joked. “This is a first for me.”
Originally from St. Thomas, North Dakota, Eilertson is a retired industrial arts teacher who also owned a remodeling business. He has a trailer at Rocky Point on Lake of the Woods and spends most of his summers up there .
During his many years fishing Lake of the Woods, Eilertson has landed more than 100 walleyes measuring 30 inches or longer, which is about as good as it gets when it comes to walleye fishing.
Chances are, though, the memory of watching a moose walk up to his ATV for a closer look will rank right up there.
In a state where moose numbers are dwindling, such sightings are memorable indeed.
It sounded like the makings of a good story, an email from a reader about an encounter from the opening weekend of Minnesota’s firearms deer season.
“Coyotes,” the one-word subject line read.
“I have what I feel is the amazing and troublesome story that I feel should be made public, pertaining to deer hunting,” the email teased. “If you could contact me … I would like to share it with you.”
I’m an easy sell when it comes to stories about outdoors encounters, and so I called the sender of the email Tuesday afternoon to get the low-down. Based on the subject line, I figured it had something to do with coyotes.
Brilliant deduction, that, I know.
As it turns out, the encounter didn’t happen to the person who emailed the teaser, and the person who actually experienced the incident said he “wanted to be left out of it.”
I cringe when people say that, but I’m generally inclined to respect their wishes unless I can talk them out of their reluctance to share the story.
Sometimes, I can, and sometimes, I can’t.
In this particular encounter, a hunter was in his deer stand in Polk County shortly before dark on Sunday, Nov. 7, when 14 coyotes showed up in a pack nearby.
The reader sharing the story, who describes himself as “pretty long in the tooth,” said he’d never heard of that many coyotes traveling together in a pack. The hunter fired a shot to scare them off, apparently, and that was the end of that.
Still, the reader who shared the story felt the general public should know about the potential dangers coyotes pose to pets, livestock and other critters.
“He thought, looking in the binoculars, that there were five adults and the rest were pups,” the reader sharing the story said. “I’ve been around awhile, and I’ve seen six together up in Saskatchewan once, but I’ve never seen more than two together here.
“It isn’t unheard of that they come by, but can you imagine what it takes to feed that outfit? People should be aware that they’re around – pets, sheep, turkeys, calves for that matter – and they weren’t just out for a walk; they were hunting.”
Based on his experience, at least, the reader who shared the story and now is in his 80s, said he believes coyotes are more abundant today than they were when he was growing up.
“There weren’t any when I was a kid,” he said. “I remember seeing one on a stormy day, it was so stormy we didn’t have school, and there was a fox sitting on the hill south of the house and there was (a coyote) sitting looking at that. I think that was a coyote. It could have been a wolf; it was stormy and ground drifting and a little hard to see.
“I have seen some timber wolves, but rarely – very rarely.”
Coyotes, of course, have even been known to wander into Grand Forks city limits from time to time – authorities receives several reports in September – and a small coyote in April 2014 found its way into West Acres Mall in Fargo, where an animal control officer managed to capture the coyote and release it south of town.
All’s well that ends well, the old saying goes, and that apparently was the case for both the hunter who saw the coyotes last weekend and the coyotes that may or may not have known they were being watched.
You just never know.