MACHIAS — Opening day of turkey season turned out to be a bit more than Bill Robinson had in mind Monday when he set out his decoy at dawn’s first light.
“I’ll never forget looking up and seeing a jaw full of teeth coming at me,” Robinson said Tuesday, the day after being attacked and bitten on the right arm by a coyote. The wild canine sprang while the Maine Guide was hunkered down in the brush, using a mouth-call to lure a turkey into the open while hunting on private property near the Washington County community of Cooper.
“I had placed my turkey decoy in a field in front of me and then positioned myself in some cover,” said Robinson, 39, who lives in Edmunds Township, near Dennysville. “It was about 10 minutes after dawn, and right beside me was a short, thick spruce tree that had grown so thick you couldn’t see through it. That coyote came up the edge of the field and was one side of that tree, with me on the other.
“The distance involved was only about four feet,” Robinson said. “But that tree was so thick that he couldn’t see me, and I couldn’t see him. He was determined to have turkey for breakfast and was also determined that the sound he heard was a hen turkey.”
Robinson said the coyote “came in high,” a hunting maneuver designed to ensure his feathered prey couldn’t fly off.
“When he bit down on my upper arm, he went through four layers — a heavy jacket, a sweatshirt, a long-sleeve shirt and a T-shirt,” he said. “As I peeled off each layer there were two holes in each one. When I got to my arm, it was just burning and bleeding out of two holes.”
Once the coyote realized it had jumped a human, not a hen, it sprinted away.
“It turned and ran 100 miles an hour across that field,” Robinson said. “It was as shocked and surprised to see me, as I was to see it. I took a shot at it, but it was too far off by then. I turned it around for a second when I hit him in the haunch with a few pellets from my turkey load, just to say goodbye.”
Robinson packed up and headed to the nearby home of a friend, Joe Gardner, who is a district game warden. Gardner examined and took pictures of the wound before counseling Robinson to seek medical attention at the Down East Community Hospital in Machias, where he began a two-week regimen of precautionary rabies vaccine injections.
Robinson was given seven shots Monday, four in his right arm, where he was bitten, and three in his left. There are, he said, many more shots in his near future.
“I walked into that hospital with one sore arm and left with two,” he said Tuesday. “But I don’t blame the coyote. It was doing what coyotes do, hunting. My guess is that coyote was perfectly healthy and was not rabid. He was big, probably 50 pounds. I’m just glad it didn’t grab my neck.”
So is Gardner, who has been friends with Robinson since they were boys.
“That was a first-time event for me,” said Gardner, who patrols the Pembroke area. “I’ve heard people tell stories about coyotes coming into an area where they are calling turkeys, but then running off when they realize what they’re hearing are hunters, not turkeys. I told Bill that he must be really good at calling turkeys.”
A Maine Guide for eight years, Robinson said he’ll be turkey hunting again soon.
“I’ll be a little more prepared next time, in terms of not positioning myself where there’s a blind spot,” he said. “It was a freak thing. And an unforgettable thing.”