Robert Hitt Neill column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Something smells at Brownspur

Spring is not only the time for celebrating Easter, and the Resurrection of our Savior, but it is the time in the wild when many of the birds, bees, and animals go a’courting. Sometimes that stinks, literally!

I was once walking back to the jeep from turkey hunting in the woods on Montgomery Island, and just as I rounded a canebrake, the road dropped into a draw, and I slowed to check for turkeys.  

Sure enough, I glimpsed two snake-like gobbler heads and necks twisted together in a duel, so I dropped to the road and crawled, visions of getting two birds with one shot dancing in my head.  

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But before I peeped over the edge, my nose told me that I was NOT stalking turkeys! Somewhere close was an unseen moccasin, and I quickly arose, to see that the two snake-like heads were actually large poisonous snake heads, wrapped around each other, straining in a duel for the favor of what I assumed to be a lady viper who was viewing the battle by the side of the road.

Just as one male got the advantage and more-or-less flipped his opponent, my shotgun spoke three times! The snakes’ musky courting-scent had given them away, and once more Good triumphed over the symbol of Evil. Gave me the willies for a week.

Readers will surely recall that we here at Brownspur have also been treated to odoriferous mating rituals the past three springs, that caused me to declare war upon the local tribe of skunks, during which I discovered the true sporting aspects of hunting courting skunks at night, with shotgun, flashlight, and headlight.

A half-dozen times I have been within touching distance of skunks, though (knock on wood!) I have yet to be sprayed. However, to the delight of our neighbors, (none of whom have admitted to skunk-skulking themselves) I have reduced the stinky denizens by close to two dozen over three springs.

I’ve also learned that when skunks are cavorting about in pairs, and one of them is flattened by a shotgun blast in the dark, the surviving skunk will more often than not charge in the direction of his enemy, who more than likely has dropped the flashlight in a frantic attempt to pump another shell into the gun to stop the charge.  

Thrice I’ve had seemingly-mad skunks run right by me as I stood stock-still, my light on the ground, then loop around the other side of me to return to their fallen comrade. Apparently, if I was still, they didn’t detect me as being the shooter. Twice I bagged the second one.

One skunk that I saw a couple of times that first spring was almost totally white – his tail and topside were white, his underside black.

The first time we met, I had him dead to rights, except that he was right outside the den door, and my bride was right inside, watching TV. But he had to move, so I stood where I was, careful not to alarm him.
Boy, was I successful at that tactic! He laid down outside the door!

He really was pretty, if I may be permitted to mirate over a skunk. Actually, a Texas reader says that the white skunks are referred to as polecats, which I had always thought was just another name for skunks. Anyway, lying down spread out the hair on his tail and back, so I could see no black fur atall.

I must have looked around – and one looks around a LOT while skunk-hunting in the dark! – because suddenly the polecat had disappeared. Never saw him again that year, but I got another look at him earlier this spring, but couldn’t get a shot as he zipped around behind a cedar tree.

Then last night, we sniffed the familiar odor, and I grabbed the shotgun, my light-cap, and the big flashlight. I glimpsed the reflection of an eye out behind the fig trees, and slipped thataway, gun ready. Sure enough, a skunk scampered through an opening between the weeping willows, but another was following close behind – and it was the white skunk! I flattened him, then pumped and refocused the light just as the leading skunk returned to the scene. Two within six feet!

It will probably smell better at Brownspur for a while now.