Deer are disappearing. Fawns, small game, livestock and even our pets, are being eaten alive by the exploding coyote population. Coyotes are one of the most adaptable animals in the world. Their excellent vision, sense of smell and hearing, matched with their ability to survive on eating just about anything, makes them irrepressible hunters.
The geographic range of coyotes was once limited to the Great Plains of North America, but since the 1950’s, the coyote range has expanded by more than 40%. You can now find coyotes throughout the entire continental United States. The boom in coyote population and geographic expansion is attributed to the loss of their natural predators. In the early 1900’s, wolves and cougar populations were decimated by ranchers in order to protect their livestock and families.
Western coyotes are slightly smaller than Eastern coyotes that are seen expanding throughout the Midwest. The larger size of the Eastern Coyote is a result of decades of breeding with Great Lake wolves which makes them bigger, faster, and hungrier, typically weighing anywhere from 20-55 pounds. Today, there are 19 subspecies of coyotes recognized, all of which are rapidly growing and expanding their territories. They will eat whenever there is opportunity, but need to average about 2-3 pounds of food per day, 90% of their diet is mammalian. Coyotes are omnivores, which means, they will eat everything from dog food and insects, to rabbits and full grown deer. Overpopulation of coyotes means less food in an area. For most animals, when there is a food shortage their population caps. Coyotes will travel up to 100 miles to find their next meal and are able to adapt to new habitats. Coyotes are very elusive, hunting and traveling solo or with their mate or pups. Part of their elusiveness is credited to their nocturnal nature, especially in urban areas like Los Angeles, CA. Yes, when we said they can live anywhere, we meant it. Coyotes are now prevalent everywhere from cities in Central America, all the way up the northern reaches of Maine.
For many hunters, coyote hunting is not something our fathers and grandfathers did. For people on the east and west coast, we didn’t learn tips from our hunting mentors. Now that coyotes are present in all 49 States of the continental US, it’s likely that coyotes have moved into your area. Whether you are a hunter who has shot countless coyotes, or you are looking to learn the ropes of coyote hunting, we will show you why you should hunt coyotes and share strategy to help you to be successful.
Why You Should Hunt Coyotes
MANAGE THE COYOTE POPULATION
Coyotes are predators with little to no competition, and without serious effort, their population grows substantially every year. Coyotes adapt, then reproduce. Most animals cannot continue to live if their food source is depleted. Coyotes, however, are resourceful and migrate to new locations with new food sources. They will eat pretty much anything from trash to cat food to full grown deer, and continue to reproduce.
If an area is overpopulated with coyotes, a litter may only consist of as few as 4 pups. In contrast, if an area has little to no other coyotes, a female coyote can birth up to 12 coyotes in a litter. The average lifespan of a wild coyote is 10 years, and they are ready to mate at 20 months. That means, a female coyote can potentially give birth to more than 120 coyotes in its lifetime, which left unchecked, can lead to exponential growth of the coyote population in an area. That makes hunters and trappers critical to keeping this population in check or coyotes will continue to find new things to eat, keep expanding their territory, and keep reproducing.
HELP DEER AND SMALL GAME POPULATIONS THROUGH COYOTE MANAGEMENT
Coyotes usually breed from January through March, with a gestation period around 60 days. As babies are born in the spring, male coyotes will hunt and return with game for the female coyote and her pups. What else is being born in late spring all across North America? You got it, whitetail, mule deer fawns, and elk calves. An extensive study conducted in Oklahoma found that “coyotes were responsible for 86% of annual white-tailed deer fawn mortality.” Since fawns aren’t as strong, fast, and tough as mature deer, this makes them a perfect target for coyotes to bring back to their families, or a first hunt for a coyote pup.
Coyotes need to consume about 2-3 pounds of food per day. The average whitetail fawn weighs 6-8 pounds, the perfect adult cottontail rabbits weigh 2.6 pounds on average. Coyotes generally eat animals smaller than them, like small game and rodents. However, in the winter, when those food sources are more scarce, they are likely to go after fully grown big game animals like deer, elk, and moose in winter months.
COYOTES SPREAD DISEASE
Coyotes contract various types of disease and then spread them when they roam or come in contact with other animal species. Canine hepatitis and canine distemper are among the most prevalent diseases found in coyotes. When Canine Distemper is inhaled by our domestic dogs it has a high mortality rate. Rabies and tularemia can even be transmitted to humans and other animals. Coyotes often carry parasites which include mites, ticks, fleas, worms, and flukes that can turn into flesh eating mange.
We talked to Bobby Mills, a retired game warden with 24 years in the law enforcement division of the Michigan DNR, acting as a Senior Detective. He is also an avid predator hunter. He explained to us that “Tuberculosis is contracted through coyotes feeding on infected animals, like bears and raccoons, and they contract to other species.” He speculates that “In NE Michigan especially, potentially CWD is spread through feces and urine.” Bovine Tuberculosis is an epidemic in whitetail deer. A study conducted by the US Department of Agriculture in Colorado reported that they “sampled 175 coyotes in the bovine TB-endemic area. Fifty-eight tested positive, and infection prevalence by county ranged from 19% to 52%”. Since male coyotes travel up to 100 miles in search of food, and can carry any sort of disease with them, it makes it hard, and at times, nearly impossible, to manage and quarantine infected coyotes.
HONE YOUR HUNTING SKILLS IN THE OFF SEASON
Coyote hunting makes you a better hunter because to successfully hunt coyotes you need to be aware of every single aspect of the hunt. From the camo you wear, to the movements and sounds you make. Hunting coyotes forces you to become a part of wildlife; to be the top predator. On top of that, coyotes are fast learners, adapt quickly, have great eyesight, and an impeccable sense of smell. If they pick up your scent, or identify your call as fake, your hunt is ruined. They recognize you as a threat and adapt to avoid your hunting strategy. This makes them one of the smartest, most challenging animals to hunt. As hunters, ourselves, we understand coyotes are extra cautious of their surroundings, which challenges us to hunt smarter. You must outsmart all of their excellent senses. You must camouflage yourself, make just the right call, and stay down wind so they don’t smell you, with the goal of getting close enough to get a successful shot at this small, quick predator.
KEEP HUNTING YEAR ROUND
In many states, coyotes can be hunted year round. In April 2016, the state of Michigan opened up its coyote season to 365 days a year, with no kill limit. “The key reason, for me, is extending my hunting opportunity. Coyote hunting keeps me out and helps alleviate the postseason (deer hunting season) blues. Ice fishing didn’t cut it for me. – and so, I started hunting coyotes with a centerfire rifle, that allows me to get out and be active while having a positive impact on hunting as a whole,” said Bobby Mills. Coyote hunting is a great way to stay outdoors and active during the “off season.” You become more familiar with the area, walking and getting to know the terrain better than ever. While you’re out after coyotes, you are also able to scout for other wild game, like turkeys. When spring turkey season begins, or even deer season, you will be better prepared. You will be more alert than ever and your ears will be listening intently, your movements smooth, and your eyes on the lookout.
Key Components & Strategies for Hunting Coyotes
Whether you are hunting coyotes who have never experienced hunting pressure from humans, or coyotes who know exactly what to smell, look, and listen for, predator hunting requires sound strategy to locate, hunt, and successfully shoot coyotes.
Coyotes inhabit many different terrains. However, they spend a lot of their time hunting in open areas as opposed to hardwoods, so when you e-scout, look for fields, swamps, creek beds, and easements you can use to get in undetected. HuntWise is the only hunting app that shows phone numbers along with landowner names and boundaries. If you identify coyotes on a parcel of land you can learn who owns it and gain their contact information in a matter of seconds. Farmers are usually aware of any coyotes impacting their livestock and welcome the help eradicating the issue. Hunting public land is also a great way to get on coyotes, many mobile hunting apps, like HuntWise, show public lands boundaries. When you are scouting a property to hunt, identify any houses, barns, buildings or other dwellings where people could be at least 450ft around the hunting area. Know the possible places your bullet could end up. Shooting from an elevated location is a good way to shoot into the ground is a good way to avoid this. Safety is always paramount.