This was truly one of the dumbest things he had ever done in his life.
But considering the situation, there wasn’t any other choice. If it came down to being stupid or being cruel, he knew which side of the fence he wanted to stand on. He took a deep breath and dared to step closer.
John Oens was no stranger to the wilder parts of Wisconsin.
He also wasn’t shy to admit he enjoyed one of the more controversial hobbies – hunting. Also, when it came to bigger prey, he found it also served a sort of public service many didn’t realize.
Things like foxes and coyotes could be a problem for farmers and their livestock.
He had humane, catch-and-release traps for getting rid of pests or firearms if there was something more dangerous stalking the forests. But he had no idea that his “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” mindset would soon come in very handy.
John, his father, and John’s friend were walking the back trails of one of their favorite spots.
He breathed in the crisp, pine-scented air with a smile. Maybe they could bag a couple fliers before it got too late. But there were also special pre-set traps they had to check in on. These were particularly important for the entire community.
There had been reports of a coyote in the area that might have rabies.
So, when he heard growling from clearing ahead, they all go their rifles ready. He peeked through the brush and saw a flurry of brown and black fur. His well-placed trap had caught something else – a wolf. Its markings also told him something vital.
It wasn’t just any old wolf.
It was a Timber Wolf – illegal to kill and on the endangered species list. It sniffed the air, locked eyes with John and let out another deep, menacing growl. “Damn it,” he muttered. Was this the rabies-ridden creature? It was easy for non-hunters to confuse wolves with coyotes.
John and his group slowly went into the clearing, keeping their distance from the angry canine.
They were too far away to get animal control in time and there was no way they could just leave it there. He observed the huge wolf, checking for signs of madness. “Dad? Can you get the board from the truck?”
While his dad rushed back down the trail, John fought the urge to run up like an excited kid at the zoo.
His heart pounded with excitement. It was such a gorgeous creature even he didn’t have the heart to pull any kind of trigger against it. After careful, observation, he made two conclusions and finalized his rickety plan.
“What’s the board for?” his friend asked.
John flashed a brash grin and tapped his arm. “I need a shield.” Either this would unfold into an amazing story, or he was about to go down in history as the first-place winner of the Darwin Awards. He was going to try to set it free.
All of them agreed it showed no signs of disease.
The only danger was its massive jaws and sharp teeth. John held the board between him and the enraged Timber Wolf and slowly crept forward. All he needed to do was get close enough to pull at the trap release. The wolf reared back and flexed its hindquarters.
His dad held his gun ready – a last and worst-case scenario solution.
John knew he couldn’t leave it there. His friend held the camera with shaking hands and filmed everything. Animal control wouldn’t get there in time and by then it could hurt itself, bleed out, or gnaw its paw off. He was so close. John reached out as fast as he could.
He felt the hard slam against the board … then nothing.
John dared to peek over the make-shift shield. All he saw was a rush of brown and black through the forest. And, just before disappearing out of sight, something amazing happened. It would be something they would remember forever.
A rustle of movement came from beside them as the rest of the pack sprinted through the woods to join their brother.
John and his group turned pale. They had been there the entire time?! They had been in far more danger than they had realized. Still, they were in one piece and no shots had been fired. Also, the event ended with two memorable moments.
An older female jaunted up and licked the freed wolf’s face.
It must have been the young canine’s mother? The pack was reunited. Many thought people like John – hunters – didn’t appreciate nature, but it was the exact opposite for him. This was truly a beautiful moment.
Just before leaving, the wolf paused and turned around.
Its eyes locked with John’s again. The family rushed off into the thick of the woods. For a moment, it felt like the beautiful, wild animal was thanking him for taking the chance and setting it free.