We’ve all heard their songs right before dark in the fall, the yips, barks, and howls of the crafty coyote. Now days there is virtually no place in the U.S. where these song dogs don’t roam. Their ability to adapt to urban sprawl and human intrusion is all too impressive. These canines can change breeding habits, diets, and pack dynamics to cope with the situation they find themselves living in. Females usually have a litter of 3-9 pups per year that are generally born in April or May. This coincides with the fawning season for whitetails as well.
Predator populations have changed dramatically over the past century. I’ve heard it explained by an old-timer that said, “before humans entered the picture an area would have 1 wolf, 2 coyotes, 4 fox and on down the chain.” Obviously, these numbers are fictitious, but the larger predators kept the others in check and on down the line. Now days with so many different factors influencing predator populations, I can’t imagine the challenges the states have in regulating harvest quotas and management plans for all game animals.
In my view, one of the major problems that we have had in the past thirty years is the anti-hunting/trapping public. Although they are the minority, they are very vocal. Through the 1980’s and 90’s, their push to ban trapping caused fur prices to plummet. Back in the early 80’s a trapper could get $120 to $160 for a prime “Christmas fox.” Now fur costs are about ¼ of what they were thirty years ago. My suggestions to hunters and trappers are to be more vocal than the opposition and use your vote!
Because of the decline in predator hunters and trappers, there has been a boom in smaller predator numbers in certain areas of the country. With the exception of the growing wolf populations in some western/northern states, a decline in cougars and wolves has also contributed to the increase in smaller predators including coyotes. However, a decline in the habitat of their prey species has had an opposite influence so no serious overpopulations have occurred.
In many areas there has been a boom in coyote numbers. It is important as land managers that we regulate their numbers just like we regulate our whitetail numbers. In my view a coyote is competing with me for the deer on the property, and I want to do the deer management on the land, not the coyotes. If I run into a coyote while I’m out on my property with a bow or a gun in my hands, I’m shooting without hesitation. In addition to trapping and calling, this will at least keep them honest and their numbers in check.
The coyote may be found in all states (except Hawaii), Canada and Mexico. Coyotes are very vocal animals, in fact, its Latin name “canis latrans” means barking dog. Clever and very adaptable, they can live almost anywhere including farmlands, forests and urban areas. Adult coyotes can range in size from 20lb western desert dogs to 50lbs in the northern plains and eastern mountains. The average coyote I trap in the southeast is 25-35lbs with the occasional big male weighing 40-42.
Coyotes are opportunistic feeders and although their diet mainly consists of rodents, birds, rabbits, and other small mammals, they will eat virtually anything when they are hungry and times are hard including new-born fawns. Normally a lone hunter, coyotes will often hunt in packs during the late winter when food gets scarce. This is usually the time of year when farmers and ranchers have trouble with coyotes attacking sick or young livestock. Coyotes can live up to 15 years in the wild and aside from some western and northern states with larger predators; they don’t have many enemies except for man and each other. Coyotes are chiefly nocturnal, but may be active by day. Adult males have large territories that typically range from 15-25 square miles; adult females typically occupy areas of 6 to 10 square miles. The availability of food affects the territory size.
Tracking, stalking slow, sitting over a carcass/bait or drives may all produce at certain times, but calling is by far the most popular method of hunting coyotes. Either with an electronic caller, a blown into call or by mouth, howling or imitating an animal in distress is a proven method no matter where you reside. They have uncanny eyesight, hearing and smell so certain steps must be taken if you wish to get close. Some like to try and locate a coyote with the use of a “howler.” This call will imitate their barks and shrill howls. Ideally, you want a response. Then, judging by the distance you either move closer or set up. Let me caution you, coyotes are very curious animals and they can cover a lot of ground fast. More times than I care to admit I’ve received a response to a howl and tried to move closer but end up being busted as the coyote runs into me.
Trapping can be a very effective way to reduce numbers but trapping can take some time to learn. Meticulous detail in trap preparation must be made to reduce foreign odors at the set. Scent free gloves and boots should be worn when making the set to reduce any chances of spooking coyotes with human odors. You can’t be 100% scent free so taking time to make sure the set is irresistible to a passing coyote is important. Trapping coyotes is not as impossible as many people make it out to be, but it does take attention to detail in several key areas to be consistently successful in trapping numbers that make a difference for your property. Coyotes can be very challenging to hunt and trap because of their ability to learn from past incidents and their uncanny wariness and stealth. Though they can cause trouble in more ways than one, give the wily coyote respect. He is the craftiest of predators and will survive the cruelest of environments and situations.
Would you like to learn more about improving your hunting and get discounts on the products you need? Learn from the experts by joining the new Mossy Oak GameKeepers Club at www.gamekeepersclub.com. Or call 844-256-4645.