Fortunately for the freshly fallen snow, I am able to track the wily old buck from where he crossed the fenceline out onto the snow-covered canola stubble. “Looks like he’s heading for the bush next to the hayfield,” I think to myself and trudge off across the stubble. As I near the bush I can see the tracks veering north to a different bush, and follow the plain tracks where they lead. I had seen the buck earlier in the morning when I was out feeding the stock. “What a trophy,” I thought. “I probably won’t be the only one looking for him.” I just hope he hasn’t gotten too far away. By the look of the tracks he’s walking now, not full-out running like when he came through the pasture; that’s a good sign. Maybe he’ll tire out before I do.
After about three-quarters of a mile, and still not in sight, I elect to go back for the truck. Who knows how far he’s gotten by now. Back home I tell Kathleen my plan, and go out to start the truck. Not plugged in with the overnight low around -18C it doesn’t want to start too easily.
Back to where I left off tracking, I pick up the trail on the field, going west now. It’s tough to see from the road, and I wish I had brought my binoculars. I lose sight of the tracks, and then at the mile road pick them up again where they change direction and head north. Thankfully, close enough to the road I can still see the general direction – straight for the neighbour’s evergreen shelter belt.
I drive up through the yard and try to see any tracks going past. Can’t see any, so I go back and ring the doorbell to let the neighbour know what’s going on. No answer at the door.
As I circle around the evergreens I once more pick up the trail – straight through the trees, and across the front lawn. Cautiously, I approach the house. I don’t want to spook him now. I see the tracks disappear under the porch, and I don’t see any more. I get down and peer under. Sure enough, there he is. I bet he’s cursing his luck, and the freshly fallen snow. I wonder if he’ll want company under there, but I have to get him, and I sure doubt he’ll come out if I call.
I start in under the porch, and he doesn’t move. Well, that’s good. I get closer and his mournful look tells me he wishes he picked a better hiding spot. Within arm’s reach now – still no movement. So I reach out, and snap the lead shank onto his collar. Mission half accomplished. Part two is getting that stinky old billy goat into the truck, and back where he belongs.
You know, in retrospect, he had displayed a blatant disrespect for the electric fence when I picked him up to borrow him. Next time I’ll be a little more wary when the owner asks me if I have a lariat when I phone to make arrangements. Now I just need to call the neighbour and explain the footprints leading from the shelter belt and disappearing under the deck – straight for his basement window.
– Tim Freeman farms with his wife, Kathleen, and their four boys near Ninga (Wakopa), Manitoba