Hunting Coyotes to Save Deer

by Brian Weinreich


The facts are in, and coyotes are undoubtedly responsible for making a serious dent in deer populations. You can help: Just grab your predator hunting gear and get to work. Every dead songdog counts toward a better deer season.
I don’t need a reason to toss my Ruger American into the truck along with my predator calls and head to coyote country. It’s a great excuse to get outdoors, test my hunting prowess and boost my deer-hunting opportunities for the coming season. How does coyote hunting do that?Coyotes have to eat, too, and as their range expands from west to east, the burgeoning whitetail populations get high ranks from hungry coyotes. Sure bunnies, mice and voles still appeal to a coyote’s rumbling tummy, but they’ll ignore a hors d’oeuvre when leg of lamb—or deer—is on the menu. High densities of coyotes can spell doom for many game species, especially summer fawns and winter-weakened deer of any size.

If coyote hunting appeals to you, consider saving fawns from hungry coyotes as a first step. Fawn survival increases overall herd size and is referred to as “recruitment” by wildlife managers. Some states don’t monitor recruitment and analysis varies in other states, but steady or declining deer-recruitment statistics have raised suspicions that the eastward movement of coyotes might have something to do with it. The Quality Deer Management Association sees the warning signs and recently issued this statement: “In some areas predators may have little impact, but recent research in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina confirms that bobcats and coyotes can significantly reduce fawn recruitment rates.”

Other studies have independently confirmed this trend. A 6-year study from the Savannah River nuclear facility in South Carolina captured newborn fawns and fitted them with tracking collars. If the collar stopped moving for a significant amount of time, researchers investigated … and what they found was usually tragic. Eighty percent of all fawn deaths were associated with coyote predation.

Scat studies from around the country also indicate that deer make up a large percentage of a coyote’s diet; however, these studies can be misleading, especially when noting adult deer hair. Coyotes scavenge carrion from road kills, wounded deer, weakened deer and from accidental deer deaths. But what doesn’t lie is the fact that many studies—time and time again—spike with fawn hair from late June and into October.

Few can argue that coyotes prey on fawns and adult deer nationwide, but the problem with trying to control coyotes in a particular region is that unless the effort is year-round and annual, new coyotes will continue to infiltrate and fill the void of the previously removed coyotes. Plus, research shows that coyotes compensate for loss in the overall population with increased reproduction, increased pup survival and increased litter size.

In short, if you plan to manage coyotes to increase game density, it’s a 365-day job. Winter has traditionally been the peak time to hunt coyotes because that’s when their pelts are prime for sale, but with coyote numbers increasing and other wildlife populations suffering, you have incentive to keep hunting coyotes throughout the year.

Do you need a recipe for a coyote calling regimen that works almost anywhere? Think nonthreatening calls. Calls that don’t pique a coyote’s anxiety are your best option. First, open up any setup with a lone howl or the sounds of two coyotes proclaiming territory. Don’t get carried away, but use short, mournful howls that don’t sound aggressive. Wait for about 10 minutes for any curious coyotes to arrive, and if not, try a prey-in-distress call.

Calls that don’t pique a coyote’s anxiety are your best option. Short howls and prey-in-distress calls are perfect for starters. 

Focus on easy prey that all coyotes will be attracted to for a quick meal. An obvious call is the rabbit in distress, but rodent squeaking, songbird distress and chicken squawks also will attract hungry coyotes. During severe winter weather, a fawn in distress garners additional attention from coyotes looking for a big caloric intake.

You can add more confidence to your setups by including the sounds coyotes use to detect possible menu items. Crows and magpies often lead coyotes to carcasses, and these wary aerial surveillance systems provide them with the first line of defense to possible threats. I’ll often put up a crow decoy while calling coyotes and add a raucous chorus of crows for realism.

Coyote hunting can and should be an all-year endeavor if you’re serious about improving deer populations.

If you want to sound like a party is going on at your setup you can also use coyote yips, whines and growls to mimic coyotes fighting over food. Finally, close out your setup with another round of lone howls. Keep your eyes sharp: It’s not uncommon for coyotes to travel a mile or more to a setup, so waiting 30-45 minutes should be considered.

Coyote hunting allows you to collect fur coin and enhance your wildlife management strategy. What are you waiting for?



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