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On the Spot: Kayla Nevius Predator Hunting

On-the-Spot: Revisiting predator hunting

BY KAYLA NEVIUS/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Mar 02, 2018

We were almost down the mountain from a big deer hike when excitement filled our veins as we saw an animal run off in the distance. After a 20-yard dash, it stopped and starred back at us. I scooted my young self closer to my dad, eyes glued to the animal and whispered, “Dad, can I shoot it?” He replied, “No, we’re not going to shoot that. It’s a bobcat. But look through your binoculars at how cool it is!” Confused and anxious to pull the trigger on something after quiet a few unsuccessful deer hikes, I asked, “But why can’t I shoot a bobcat?” Dad explained, “Well, you have to have a tag to shoot a bobcat. Plus, we don’t eat bobcats anyways.”

coyotescanCOYOTES CAN WREAK havoc on deer populations when there are too many dogs in a concentrated area. Here, the author does her part in controlling the coyote population on a recent hunt.

As far as predator hunting went, this was about as close as I ever got. In fact, this is about the only time I can even remember seeing a predator while I was out hunting as a kid. I was raised hunting to eat what I kill. I learned from a young age the importance of gun safety and hunting strategy. I was as taught how to hunt, kill, deal with the death of the animal while obtaining it after the shot, and then how to properly clean and cook the harvest. All things I learned at a young age, and all things I’ve appreciated as I hunt now. I remember coming home from hunts being so excited to help my dad clean the animals and cook them. Dinner was always full of extra smiles those evenings as we got to talk about the hunt and enjoy the food we were able to provide from it. That has always been one of my favorite parts about being a hunter, and it always will be.

A few years ago, I started noticing some changes while deer hunting. The areas I’d been hunting my whole life had a different look about them. I wasn't seeing many deer anymore. In fact, I wasn’t even able to find good trails, tracks or sign in these areas. I remember finally finding some heavy trails only to realize they were covered in coyote scat, hardly without any trace of deer. Feeling discouraged as I hiked back down the mountain, things began to click. Dogs moved in, deer moved out.

CAPT. RYAN BLOCK and the author pose with a pair of early 2018 bobcats.

I remembered hearing about the amount of damage predators cause do to our valued game. I’d also heard people talk about hunting predators for population control, but it never peaked my interest… Until recently. Multiple years of pre-season deer scouting proved some of my old favorite spots had been overrun by predators. An exception to my strong values spoke very loudly to me. In that moment, I decided it was my obligation as a hunter to protect the wildlife I grew up loving. And so it began.

I’d mistakenly assumed predator hunting would be as easy as blasting a rabbit distress call and watching packs of coyotes charge right out into the open for me to pull the trigger on. Instead, there was a lot of trial and error involved. I shouldn't have been surprised that it was much like other types of hunting. Countless hours of research, months in the field, miles and miles of hiking and many cold, eerie nights with no success almost led me to give up. Finally, an occasional set of glowing eyes to interrupt the darkness or a howl in the distance started to boost my confidence. The excitement was short-lived as most of our potential victims were able to get away unharmed. Target species were finally coming in on a regular basis, but putting them down was another story.

Fast forward to this season. Bringing home fur has become a regular occurrence, but not without making mistakes and blowing opportunities almost every time out. Much like archery hunting, if one thing goes wrong, the animal gets away. All you can do is hope to learn and be more effective in the future. Many of the lessons learned hunting predators will sharpen your skills and make you an all-around more well-rounded hunter.

While in many areas coyotes seem to be the most abundant predator, we find ourselves targeting bobcats and foxes since we admire their beautiful coats. We are still opposed to killing an animal and just leaving it in the field, so we skin the foxes, bobcats and coyotes to keep their furs. I have also done some reading and talked to a couple people about possibly eating the meat from certain predators. Eating the animals I kill is still a high value of mine, so if it is safe to consume them I would like to do so. I’d heard great things about bobcat, and recently was able to try some bobcat jerky at SHOT Show. It was delicious! The next bobcat I kill is definitely getting eaten. My perspective on hunting predators has changed drastically, but I'm glad it has. Although I still have plenty to learn, I’ve started doing my part in controlling the predator population. So after this next deer season ends, I encourage you to pick up a call and do the same!

FOX COATS ARE beautiful and a nice reward to a successful hunt.

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