Feature Article

Dog Days

BY DURWOOD HOLLIS/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Jan 03, 2019

With big game hunting coming to a close, it’s time to refocus on coyote control

Now that we’ve ended the season on most big game hunting, it’s time to turn our attention to the burgeoning population of four-legged predators — coyotes! The time period of December through February is the primary coyote-breeding season. While the scientific community has told us that these animals are monogamous, which means that pairs are bonded for life, which has little effect on young nomadic males looking for receptive females. All of this adds up to a surplus of males constantly looking for love in all the right places.

completelycamouflaugedCOMPLETELY CAMOUFLAGED with the wind in his face, this hunter is ready for the shot.

While coyotes are primarily looking for enough calories to keep warm, their hormones are beginning to interfere with the search for food. As the dogs enter into the breeding cycle, they will respond not only to the sounds of prey, but also the vocalizations of other coyotes. In addition to the usual injured prey calls, young male dogs will also respond to the howls, yips and barks of others of their kind. Furthermore, if the coyote population has been regularly subjected to high-volume rabbit distress calls, in all likelihood they have been well educated in that arena. And smart dogs won’t respond to the calling efforts of hunters who haven’t learned to change-up their calling routines.

When you locate into a prime calling position, do so with a great deal of stealth. Coyotes are as dependent on visual clues as they are scent, so make your approach carefully. Since the animals prey on small mammals like mice, voles and ground squirrels, your initial calling ought to start out with those sounds in mind. Mix in as many other distress calls, like those made by wounded cats and small domestic dogs. Even turkey gobbles will bring coyotes on the run in areas where the big birds are present.

Make sure that you position yourself with the sun at your back and the wind in your face. And it’s a good idea to have some sort of background in which your outline can easily be camouflaged. If sitting still is a challenge, then try using a small pop-up blind to cover movement. A binocular is particularly useful in spotting distant dogs, but you have to use that optical enhancement like a microscope, rather than a visual broom. Spend time looking into cover, rather just scanning for movement. You’d be surprised at just how easy it is for a coyote to keep hidden, even when there’s little vegetation.

A BINOCULAR IS an important component of an effective predator hunter’s gear.

Since coyotes will key-in on visual clues, using some sort of optical stimulant like a motion decoy can bring dogs out into the open. You don’t have to get elaborate in this area, even a bird wing tied on a length of monofilament and attached to a low branch will attract coyotes as it twists and turns in the air. I have a friend who uses his small mixed breed pet dog as a decoy. The animal has been trained to bounce back and forth in front of the blind, all the while making a high pitch series of yips that coyotes can’t seem to resist being attracted to.

Another solid piece of advice is in addition to whatever rifle you plan on using, also keep a shotgun handy for those dogs that sneak in close and reveal themselves at spitting range. A dose of high bass #2 shot can usually resolve such a situation instantly. At times, more than one coyote will respond to calling. When such an event occurs, shoot the trailing dog first. When the closet coyote realizes something is amiss, you’ll have an additional shooting opportunity.

Hunting coyotes is a great way to not only hone your shooting skills, but also keep the balance between predator and prey at an optimum level in your hunting area. While predators like the coyote are an important component of any healthy habitat, too many dogs in a given region can also have a detrimental effect. Left unchecked, coyotes will overrun an area and branch out to preying on family pets and even creating potentially dangerous human conflicts. Trigger time is one very effective way to keep thing in balance. Good hunting!

wheneverythinggoesWHEN EVEYTHINGS GOES right you can have fur in the hand. PHOTOS BY RON GAYER

WITH THE RIGHT set and a proper target engagement, success is an afterthought.

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