Mortality studies conducted by state game agencies are shedding some light on the impact coyotes have on deer populations. The findings reveal a truth long suspected by much of the hunting public – coyotes, or song dogs, are killing machines.
This in itself isn’t such a big deal, until their populations start to increase. More canine bellies to fill means fewer prey animals on the horizon, it’s really that simple.
And worse, coyotes have benefitted somewhat from the anti- and non-hunting public’s distaste for wolf hunting. Once-common, coyote-killing contests have suddenly turned about as popular as Hilary at an NRA fundraiser. A few states have even tightened up restrictions on hunting and trapping coyotes recently.
The truth about the crafty coyote is he doesn’t need any help from the bunny huggers. He is a survivor, and even in states where there are no restrictions, and hunters and trappers are encouraged to take out as many as they can, they still thrive. In many ways, coyotes are similar to feral hogs. You pretty much can’t hunt them into nonexistence.
You can, however, hunt them enough to keep their numbers in check. This is even better when complemented by a good trapping plan, but that’s not possible for everyone. If you’re going at it simply as a coyote hunter, especially a newbie looking to encourage a little extra fawn survival come next May, there are plenty of options.
AR-15s are extremely popular in America right now, which in itself is awesome. The downside to that is that newcomers to coyote hunting might think their AR is God’s gift to eradication of coyotes. It might be, but for most newcomers a bolt-action rifle in a fur-friendly caliber would be a much better bet. Plan on one good shot, not 25 while a coyote is trotting out of your setup.
This isn’t meant to say an AR isn’t a good choice for certain setups, because it certainly can be. But the predator hunter who sets up correctly with a highly accurate scoped rifle and waits out an approaching coyote for a high-odds shot, will learn a lot about what they like to do, and just as importantly, what they don’t like to do. For hunters looking to set up in tight cover or hunt at night, a shotgun can also be an excellent choice.
Of course, you probably won’t find too many song dogs in range of whatever weapon you choose if you don’t have a good call. Some predator hunters prefer mouth-blown calls for the inflection they can put into their sequences, and there is no arguing this is a benefit. The rest of the predator hunting population would do well with electronic callers.
Today’s calls are usually pre-loaded with dozens of different types of sounds, are built with quality speakers to truly project into the great beyond, and are operated remotely. This is key, because it takes the eyeballs off of the hunter to some extent and allows for you to set up with the wind more in your favor; nearly every approaching coyote will come in from downwind.
A couple of other items always worth carrying are shooting sticks and a good cushion. Shooting sticks offer an obvious benefit of being able to hold cross-hairs steadier on target. A good cushion will keep you still longer, which is necessary considering that coyotes often approach unseen to the point where the landscape appears dog-less and suddenly, Wile E will be looking at you from a drainage ditch 75 yards away. If you’re shifting due to numb-butt, he’ll bust you and leave every time, which brings up a last point – time per sit.
Some hunters say 20 minutes per calling session will suffice, and out West that’s a decent bet. For the rest of us, 45 minutes is a much better time frame. Some coyotes come charging in, others take their sweet time. Give them a few extra minutes to make their way into range and you’ll collect more fur.
Good Hunting Ground
Arguably the best thing about hunting winter coyotes is that access is much easier to come across than it is for deer, or nearly any other critter. While it’s nice to remove coyotes off of your immediate deer ground, that might not be a property large enough for several setups.
Talk to the neighbors immediately after deer season ends. Ask permission to spend a few mornings or evenings setting up on their place to take out a few deer killers. Some folks will turn you down, but many won’t. They’ll welcome a little predator control and if you do succeed in taking a few song dogs out, you might find yourself with an invitation to deer hunt some new land. And if not, no biggie. You’ve still had the chance to help out the deer herd and have some fun during the dead of winter.