Birds and animals are good listeners
By By Otha Barham / outdoors editor
Aug. 15, 2003
Around the first of August I was busy clearing brush around a ryegrass plot in Smith County when I heard a nearby barred owl sound off with one of those typical eight-note hoots that they are known for. Because it was mid-afternoon on a scorching hot day, the call surprised me. These predators usually talk most on cool evenings and nights, especially in the early spring.
So of course I answered the lonesome bird with a copy of its beckoning and got an immediate reply. We chatted for a while and then a second owl that had been stirred by the conversation butted in on our dialogue with an inquisitive call from down in the swamp. We welcomed another view and enjoyed a vocal threesome. Eventually we all realized that I had brush to cut and they had dinner to kill, so we said our good-byes and went to work.
My bet is that a lot of folks like to converse with birds and animals. If not, I plead guilty to being weird. I know at least part of the population has these leanings because turkey hunters and those who hunt deer, elk, coyotes, fox, waterfowl and crows all get vocal with the animals they seek. And I have found wildlife to be more interesting to talk with than at least a few of my fellow human beings, though I won't list names.
I have hunted all the animals and birds above and used callers to communicate with them. Plus I have successfully called squirrels and hawks. I talk to squirrels in my yard all the time and I enjoy the puzzled looks they have on their little furry faces. They probably hold meetings to discuss the huge cousin who speaks the language but has weird genetics and a food addiction. I have screamed at a few eagles and have uttered challenging grunts to bull moose and enticed them with sexy cow moose sweet talk.
When we had lots of quail I whistled up the bobs by whistling the rhythmic chirps of the female. When one got close I would whistle those little excited chuckles that are barely audible and he would get so worked up that he would strut in with both wings and his neck extended almost to the point of expulsion from his body. I suppose I disappointed a lot of boy quail but everyone needs a little mystery in life and I submit that quail are no different.
Doves are so easy to talk with. They are everywhere and I have never met one that didn't like to gab. They keep saying the same thing over and over with that mournful five-note alto whistle for which they are named. But they are so eager to communicate that you just can't resist them. You can never get the last word in with a mourning dove and so eventually you must finally break it off and get on with your life.
I once encountered a porcupine sniffing along a snowy mountainside out west. He was making intermittent sounds that I would describe as squeaks. What he was searching for in the deep snow I have no idea. Perhaps it was just companionship, because when I moistened the back of my hand, pressed my lips against it and sucked in air to mimic his squeaks, he started my way. We talked until he ended up almost bumping into me before he discovered my chicanery and fled the scene. Porcupines must be extremely shy or nocturnal. I see their work everywhere in the mountains but this is the only one I have ever seen.
I try never to miss a chance to reply to the call of a bird or animal. It is a ton of fun. If sometimes you get that deja vu feeling at cocktail parties like there is nothing else to talk about except subjects that have long ago been worn out, speak to the wildlife you encounter. Some will rebuff you, much like some humans do. But others will find you fascinating and are not likely to try to win you over to their view or sell you something.