If you’re looking to keep your hunting skills sharp (and to come up with another excuse not to mow the lawn), do yourself and your resident whitetails a favor this summer and try coyote hunting. This is also a fun and inexpensive way to scratch that itch we all get leading up to the opening of deer season.
Let’s face it—spring turkey hunting provides a welcome fix after languishing through the winter months, but by mid-summer, most of us are busting to “go predator” on something. A worthwhile something is coyote hunting. Fortunately, coyote hunting is open year-round in many states, and that’s particularly good news in the eastern U.S., where coyotes are an invasive species with negative impacts on historically indigenous wildlife.
A University of Florida-supported study published in 2016, for example, looked at whitetail fawn mortality in the Red Hills region of Florida and Georgia, and concluded that predation was the leading cause of death for fawns 12 weeks of age or younger. And that coyotes accounted for 74 percent of that predation, followed by bobcats (16 percent) and, of all things, invasive fire ants.
By helping to keep coyote numbers in check during the summer—particularly in early summer, when whitetail fawns are quite vulnerable—deer hunters can make a difference in promoting year-class survival rates of the local deer population. It also gives us a chance to break the summer doldrums and keep our hunting skills honed in preparation for fall.
Same Predator, New Game
Understandably, summer coyote hunting has its own nuances compared to the colder “fur season.” Females become more localized as they raise their own litters, and with a more generous food supply close at hand, coyotes are keen on staying in cool cover during the day and holding tight to water sources. As a result, it’s the cooler hours around dusk and dawn that will deliver the most action for the predator hunter. If your state allows night-hunting for coyotes, so much the better.
That said, a coyote’s need to hunt doesn’t abate, and the same basic sound-scent-sight strategies coyotes use to find prey in the winter are the same ingredients the coyote hunter must exploit at this time of year.
Skirting the Edge
Lush vegetation does present some extra challenges for the summer coyote hunter. Reduced visibility in the cooler north slope woodlands that coyotes favor during the day means timber setups are best where you can identify frequented water sources, such as cool creek bottoms or large seeps with fresh coyote tracks. Better yet, focus on the same fields and open country that make for good coyote haunts in the winter.
The difference this time of year, of course, is the tall grass, which makes spotting a slinking coyote a challenge. That’s why fresh-cut fields are tops. Not only can you see to make the long shots, but cut fields tend to draw coyotes looking for remnants of critters that may have been mowed over or groundhogs, mice, moles and other meals-of-opportunity previously shielded by the tall grass. Keep in the good graces of farmers so you’ll know when they’re cutting hay. They might even give you a heads-up on when they see some coyotes in their fields.
Coyotes usually hug the field edges, making use of heavy cover to close the distance to their prey. Hunters who can find good edge cover with maximum elevation—always being mindful of wind direction—stand a good chance making their coyote setups work.
Sounds and Scents
Coyotes are masters of divining meals through sound and scent, and both must be factored into the equation if you plan to put a dent in the local coyote population. With all of the newborn critters on the scene, young animal distress calls can be highly productive. Young rabbit distress calls are always on the coyote hunter’s menu, but so, too, should be fawn distress calls and bleat calls during the summer months. Fawns represent a big bang-for-the-buck meal to a coyote, so consider these must-haves in your shooting vest.
As for scents, these are often the deal-sealers for coyotes coming to a call, as they help to verify in the dog’s mind that what they’ve heard is close by and worth checking out. Some summer coyote hunters like to employ a quality, all-season doe urine scent, such as Wildlife Research Center’s Select Doe Urine or Golden Doe in combination with fawn calls to let a coyote know that a good meal is close by. A more generic scent approach that can also pique a coyote’s curiosity when using small animal distress calls is Coyote Juice or Predator Sniper Hunting Scent. Applied to hanging wicks or fence posts, these scents work as a natural predator attractant that can bring a curious coyote in a bit closer, or stop them long enough to take a well-placed shot.
On the flip side, scent can also be a deal-breaker when hunting coyotes, as coyotes that smell you on the wind will be gone before you can blink. Thus, the same scent management strategies that you employ during deer season also apply to predator hunting. Being summertime, of course, means that the scent-elimination job is a lot tougher.
Starting the morning or evening hunt by washing with scent-elimination soap, donning camo that’s been washed in scent-elimination detergent, and then spraying your clothing and gear with scent eliminator before walking into the field will go a long way toward making you scent-invisible to coyotes. We tend to favor the Scent Killer Gold line of products for this because these cover all of our scent-elimination needs. Additionally, Scent Killer Gold is available in Field Wipes that we can stuff in our packs. After setting up in the field, a quick wipe-down of our arms, face and neck ensures that all of the sweat we worked up won’t create a big stink once the action starts.
Although coyotes have been a part of the natural balance in Western states forever, they are recent interlopers east of the Mississippi, and depending on who you talk to and the research examined, their presence is increasingly impacting historical game species for the worse. How many fawns will coyotes kill in your hunting area this year … who’s to say? There’s a good chance, though, that one of those fawns could be the fantastic buck that might have walked beneath your treestand 4 or 5 years from now.
Now, there’s some incentive to get out coyote hunting and bust a few summertime song dogs.
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