I saw the advertisement for the fox call in an old Outdoor Life magazine. A neighbor gave me all his old Outdoor Life and Field and Stream magazines, and I devoured them like candy.
I was 12 years old.
The advertisement read: “Drives fox crazy. Guaranteed to bring fox to you, even in over-hunted areas, or your money back.” The price was $12.98. I couldn’t resist.
It was the middle of an Iowa winter, and I had a little money left over from chopping thistles and walking beans. My mother had taught me how to write a business letter.
“To Whom It May Concern: Please send me the Professional Fox Call. Find enclosed my address and a money order for $12.98. Curtis W. Swarm”
The money order cost a dime at the post office. I slipped it into the envelope, along with the business letter, and sent it off. Then came the unbearable wait.
Two weeks later, there was a package waiting for me on the steps to my room. With fevered fingers, I tore it open. The device didn’t look anything like I had imagined.
There was a black rubber pumping device attached to a wooden whistle or horn. When I pumped it, a squeak or squeal emitted. Something must be wrong. How could this call fox? I considered sending it back and demanding my money.
However, Saturday was fast approaching. I would at least give it a try. I had heard that the best place to call a fox from was up a tree. There were some climbable hawthorn trees on the creek bottom. I would perch myself there, and see what I could rustle up.
I could hardly sleep the night before, and I was up way before daylight. The temperature was hovering around zero when I started off at sunrise. I debated whether to take my single shot .22 or the double barrel .410.
I settled on the double barrel .410. Two shots were better than one, although I didn’t want to damage a hide with shotgun pellets.
There was a foot or so of snow on the ground, and it crunched and gave way with each step. I had on two pair of socks, and was wearing my father’s insulated boots, which were about three sizes too big.
Making my way to the hawthorn thicket was hard work and noisy. Every critter in the area had to have heard me. I was sweating profusely before I even got there.
Climbing the hawthorn tree was tricky, with all the clothing, and trying to hang on to a shotgun. I kept snagging on the three-inch long thorns and having to unhook myself. The thorns were supposed to be poisonous.
I perched myself in the crook of the tree, and gave a honk on the fox call. It sounded stupid. I felt stupid. I waited and waited. It was extremely uncomfortable in the tree, and I had to keep repositioning myself.
I gave another honk. Even though I had been sweating when got to the tree, my feet were now froze, along with my fingers. I wouldn’t be able to shoot the .410 even if I did see something. I gave one last honk.
Discouraged, and so cold I could hardly move, I jumped down. I would finish the morning by rabbit hunting. But. off to my side something jumped.
It was a fox!
Up and over the hill it tore before I could even bring the gun to my shoulder.
I had called in a fox and hadn’t even known it.