Given their game-, livestock- and pet-killing ways, booming numbers, spring’s prime time to hunt coyotes.Story by Jim Dickson
Coyotes are most prone to prey on pets and livestock in the spring because this is when they are having to feed their pups. They breed around mid-February and have their pups 63 days later in mid-April. At first, the female stays in the den with the pups and the male hunts and brings food back to her in the den. Later, they both hunt and feeding all those hungry mouths becomes an intense full-time job for both of them.
Any farm livestock that they can bring down is on their shopping list. They have been known to snatch small dogs that were on a leash, come up on porches and even go through pet doors to kill pets inside the house.
This is also a very bad time to leave babies and toddlers outside, as coyotes have been known to attack small children. So far the only confirmed fatalities are 3-year-old Kelly Kleen in Glendale, California, and 19-year-old Taylor Mitchell in Nova Scotia, Canada, but it’s important to realize that the coyote is technically a small species of wolf.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN hunting, you need to be aware of how to tell a dog from a coyote, lest you shoot someone’s pet by mistake. There are three coyote identifying features. Their nose is very sharp, narrow, long and pointed for sticking down holes after ground squirrels and other burrowing animals. The tail is bushy like a fox instead of like a dog’s tail. The ears are sharp and pointy, never drooping over like some dogs’ do. Coyote tracks are more oval and compact than a dog’s and they have less prominent claw marks in their tracks. The tracks will go in more of a straight line than a dog’s will.
Coyotes also have a big home range, just like timber wolves, and may only show up in a given area once every several days. While everyone knows they are there when they are howling, they actually don’t howl most of the time. You may not know they are there until they strike and the chicken you had planned for Sunday dinner or your Christmas goose is gone. At all times, there are three types of coyotes out there: territorial adults, this year’s pups, and adolescents looking to establish their own territory.
In the spring, you can call females up using a pup-in-distress call. The use of a cur dog that the coyotes will chase is very effective, provided the dog will come straight back to you and not head off for the next county. A well-trained dog for this kind of work will hunt for the dens and when the coyotes come after him, he will lead them straight back to you and your waiting gun. When using any kind of call, you need to realize that you may need to stay in one spot longer in the spring than you did in the winter.
COYOTES ARE MOST active in the spring when deer fawns are being born. In Georgia, this is from about May 10 until June 21. The pups are weaned about the time this starts, and since a fawn has no scent for the first 10 days, this is the one time the coyotes concentrate their hunting in the daytime. Once the fawns develop a scent, they go back to predominantly night time hunting.
During this period of daylight hunting, coyotes can often be seen in fields hunting for the newborn fawns, which are hiding by lying still in the grass, as they have no other defense.
The coyote can’t smell them, but he will root them out visually. The coyotes can be incredibly aggressive during this time. One Georgia woman looked out in her field and saw a female coyote hanging from the throat of a black angus heifer trying to choke it out, while the pups stood around watching her.
The woman ran the coyote off and called the vet. The injured cow was then put up safely in the barn. The next day, the coyote was back hanging from the throat of another black angus heifer with the pups looking on again! The coyotes do inestimable damage to the deer population by decimating the fawns every year. I have seen many does with no fawns thanks to the coyotes eating them this time of the year.
When you don’t see any deer come hunting season, just remember that without a fresh crop of fawns each year, the herd dies out. What they do to the grouse and turkey populations is equally devastating. I used to have flocks of over 200 wild turkey on my farm. Now it’s 10 or 12, the family one old experienced hen raises each year.
I used to be able to go out during grouse season and always get a grouse. Now I am down to one or two grouse, so I don’t hunt them on my farm anymore. Spring is also the time of the year when trapping coyotes yields the biggest bags. Georgia has one of the nation’s best coyote trappers, Marty Adams aka “Mister Coyote,” and he has been the Lone Ranger to the rescue for many of the deer hunting club land plots in Georgia. We need more like him.
THE COYOTE IS not native east of the Mississippi River. The bridges spanning the great waterways and the removal of the timberwolf, the coyote’s nemesis, have enabled it to spread outside its former range. The highly adaptable predator definitely needs to be pushed back to its former range and out of the eastern states, where it constitutes an invasive species.
It should be noted that some coyotes were introduced to the east by a fox hunting club wanting something for their hounds to chase. There needs to be heavy penalties for stocking non-indigenous game in the wild, as these well-heeled gents are not deterred by normal fines.
Coyotes have been known to interbreed with timber wolves and domestic dogs. The cross with a timberwolf is called a coywolf and the cross with a domestic dog is called a coydog. These can be a lot bigger and more dangerous than the regular coyote, which will normally scale from 15 to 45 pounds and stand about 2 feet high at the shoulder. This relatively small size makes it easy for them to hide in the brush, and locating one yet being unable to get a shot is one of the classic frustrations of coyote hunting.
SINCE COYOTES OFTEN come in packs, I always recommend a semiauto with a high-capacity magazine so you can get all of them. The M1 carbine is the fastest-handling of these, enabling you to get on target with snap shots that you might not have time for with other guns. AR-15s and AK-47s are also effective for dealing with packs of coyotes.
Full-power military rifles like the semiauto G3 and FN FAL are also effective. While the intermediate power rounds are powerful enough, there is no such thing as too much power, unless you are worried about spoiling the pelt.
Since coyotes normally hunt at night, thermal and night vision devices are a sound investment. They also respond to calling. Burnham Brothers in Texas makes a full range of calls for them, including electronic calls. In July, they are coming out with the first electronic call to cover the full range of sounds that coyotes hear.
Humans can hear noise up to 22,000 Hertz. Canines hear up to 45,000 Hertz. Burnham Brothers’ revolutionary new call goes from 200 to 47,000 Hertz, covering the full range of sounds a coyote makes. Previous calls fell short and therefore had an unnatural quality about them that coyotes could learn to recognize.
The most popular year-round calls are coyote howls and rabbit calls. Wear camouflage and keep still, just as you would turkey hunting. An electronic call on the ground covered by a shooter in a deer tree stand is perfection. Coyotes travel the game trails, so cover them. Have someone drop you off and then keep on driving or park at least a quarter mile from your hunting spot, or the coyotes will take notice of the vehicle and depart.
Baiting works well and carrion or a gut pile will draw coyotes as fast as it will buzzards. Carrion is always on the coyote’s grocery list. Glassing open fields with binoculars is especially effective in the spring, as the coyotes are looking for newborn fawns out there. Large fields offer opportunities for long range shooting.
COYOTES ARE AN invasive species in the east and exterminating them is a challenge. Kill them all in an area and more will arrive in a month or two. They breed incredibly fast. It requires killing 90 percent of them to make an impact on the population and that won’t last long if the hunting pressure lets up in the least.
These are not game animals to be conserved in the east. They are a major threat to game populations and other wildlife, as well as livestock, pets and even humans.