Volume 8, Number 4 - Summer 1983

My Battle with the Varmints
by Loma Shupbach

I am 87 years old and I live alone on Woods Fork of bull Creek in the southern part of Christian County. Missouri. In August, 1981, when I was 85, I had an experience I don’t want to repeat. I have always been an outdoors person and I raise some chickens and furnish eggs for some regular customers. I keep the very best laying hens, paying 83 cents for day-old chicks and I do not like to have my hens carried off by predators.

I had been losing one of my hens every day and I thought it was a coyote. I was mad at the coyotes anyway after I caught one carrying off my pet gander. That time I rescued the gander before he was killed, but later the coyote came back and killed him. One afternoon about five I heard the geese and chickens and my two dogs raising a commotion down in the chicken yard. I had just come in the house after working in my garden and was barefooted. I rushed out in my bare feet and opened the gate to the chicken yard and then had to run back and get my shoes, so the animals got a head start on me. When I got out there I could see some animal carrying one of my hens. I came to the place where the varmint and the dogs had gone under a washed-out place under the fence but I had to climb it. If you have ever climbed a woven wire fence about 4 feet high with barbed wire on the top and steel posts you will know I had quite a time getting over. But I made it! The animal, had dropped the hen in the road; she wasn’t dead but in pretty bad shape. I put her back into the yard and crossed the road and rolled under the barbed wire fence and prepared to go up the steep rough hillside in pursuit. I knew there were copperheads and seed ticks there but I would have gone through fire to get that thing. I climbed quite a ways and came to where the dogs had bayed something. You know what it means by "bayed"? It is where the dogs have something facing them on the ground. "Treed" is where they have it up in a tree or somewhere they can’t reach. There was a ditch and an old dead tree that I could see through the branches and I saw something yellow facing the dogs. I thought it was a coyote from the color. It was down in the ditch with its back to the bank and the dogs couldn’t get to it. I got to within 10 or 12 feet of it. He was where he could get to me, but I knew if he made a move the dogs would have him. I reached down and picked up a good sized rock and let it fly and hit the cat right between the eyes and it sort of fell over, giving the dogs a good chance to get hold of it. The old dog had him by the throat and the young one held on to his back part. I could not for the life of me find a proper weapon. All I found was a branch of an old oak tree. I scrambled across the ditch, fell right on my face, but I managed to beat the cat with the limb while the dogs finished him off. Then the dogs and I were plumb give out. We had to rest before we could go home. I dragged the animal by the hind legs. It was a yellow Tom cat, bob cat. Its teeth were as long as my finger and sharp as a razor.

I have killed numerous varmints since Fred and I moved to this place about 14 years ago. When we first came here I had white Leghorn hens and white gunieas. One morning we found 18 hens and 2 guineas lying dead. That was done by a mink. A mink will kill every hen but a raccoon will just kill one and eat what he wants. I never would kill a raccoon if they would stay in the woods, but when they invade my chicken house I get rid of them. Fred and I killed 5 mink and 1 weasel, the first weasel I ever saw.

The dogs and I have killed numerous opossums. My old dog will tree a possum and stay at the spot of the tree all night or until I go out and help him get it out of the tree and kill it. Several times I have to go back to the house and get my chopping axe and cut the tree down.

My latest encounter with a possum was in May, 1983. It had been raining and I was tired and I neglected to go out and shut the chickens. When I went into the chicken house the next morning I found a dead hen and I could tell by the way she had been killed and partly eaten it had been done by a possum. Later in the day I went to gather the eggs to keep them from being soiled the nest. I saw a hen on a nest, reached under her and got some eggs. Then I went to another nest and I thought there must be two hens on that nest. I reached under her and instead of eggs I got hold of hair. There was a possum asleep in the back part of the nest. I rushed to the house and got a big meat cleaver, grabbed Mr. Possum by the tail and whacked his head almost off with the cleaver.

I know the Conservation Department frowns on people killing forest animals but I am within my right when I catch them killing my property. It’s against my law for mink, bobcats, coyotes, possums or raccoons to kill my hens.


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