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Outdoor tales: Hit men don't come cheap

February 15, 2001|By AL KALIN, Special to this newspaper

Let me and George do it — rid the county of coyotes, that is. We did it back then and there's no reason we can't do it again.

Of course we'd want to be paid up front in cash. The county Board of Supervisors was told crop depredation in the Imperial Valley was over a million bucks last year. But it included rabbit and bird damage, so we'd have to take that out before calculating our fee. I figure we're worth at least $250,000. Oh, and expenses, we'd have to charge for expenses, too.

We'd need a patrol vehicle. Maybe one of those new Mercedes SUVs would work, all tricked out with red dash lights so our night vision wouldn't be impaired. We could mount a fancy remote-control spotlight on the roof just like the game warden has on her SUV. Technology has come a long way since we quit the business.

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Maybe the county could finagle a thermal-imaging camera from the Border Patrol. Wouldn't that look neat with the monitor mounted in the dash of the new Mercedes? Oh, and a few sets of night-vision goggles would come in handy also.

And rifles — we both need new rifles. Mine got stolen a few years back and George's ex-wife sold his when she divorced him. I'll take a .223 built on a Remington 788 action with a 22-inch barrel. It needs to shoot ½" groups at 100 yards or I don't want it. A black fiberglass stock would be perfect and if the county could find a MkIII 4X Leupold scope with 60mm objective lens that would just be "peachy." Those fancy variable power scopes don't work for me when I'm doing night jobs.

George used to shoot a 22-250 but the muzzle flash kept blinding us. George always used the hood of my truck as a steady rest for the long shots, but the big gun's muzzle flash-burned the paint off the hood. So maybe George could ask for a little less gun this time

We'd need a new electronic game call. Mine doesn't work anymore. We'd want one that has at least 50 feet of speaker cord. George and I learned a valuable lesson when we got in the business. If I remember right, we were sitting in a field side by side. I was running the spotlight while George manned the electronic caller that was nestled between his legs blasting out the squeal of a wounded cottontail rabbit at its full 100-amp capacity. We never saw that great horned owl come in and slice the top right out of George's cap.

It took awhile to figure out what happened, what with George flopping around on the ground, holding his head and screaming louder than the electronic game call. It wasn't that big a deal, really. That red steak where the owl's talons parted George's hair barely even bled.

The whole incident certainly wasn't as humiliating as the time we set up a quarter mile from the New River and called in 25 coon dogs that belonged to the East L.A. Coon Club. Boy, was that spooky when the red beam of our special spotlight showed 50 glowing eyes bobbing and dancing in the dark as they advanced toward us. It really turned scary when we shut off the electronic caller and heard all 25 hounds baying and their owners cussing us as they swam the New River, chasing their dogs. Sure didn't take us long to pack up and leave Dodge.

Ya, we learned a thing or two back then, mistakes we won't make again. Like the time we set up on a field road and immediately spotted the gleaming eyes of a coyote a half-mile away. He was running to our call as fast as he could go. George dropped down in the road, 50 feet in front of the vehicle, to steady his shot. I was standing by our vehicle, holding the spotlight.

Over the din of the electronic game call I kept telling him to shoot but George couldn't see the coyote's eyes gleaming in the red beam of the spotlight. The angle was wrong and George didn't know the coyote was so close until I snatched the red lens off the spotlight and shined the bright light at the coyote a split second before the critter ran over poor George.

More screaming, followed by a deafening fireball as George's rifle went off, the bullet heading toward the moon overhead. The coyote, his mind on fresh rabbit, was confused and bounced off the bumper next to me, turned and ran over George again, this time kicking dirt in his face as he jumped the ditch and made tracks at top speed.

But hey! All those little mishaps are behind us. I look at them as professional learning experiences. We're retired pros now, ready to be called back into action. I wonder if they'll call us, or will we have to call them.

Outdoor Tales columnist Al Kalin may be reached by e-mail at akalin@quix.net

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