Predator Management In The Dog Days

Predator management should be part of any good whitetail management plan. These weekly tactics, ideas and suggestions from Trapper & Predator Caller can help you with your predator problems.

By Tom Austin

The Romans coined the phrase dog days — diēs caniculārēs — for the warmest part of summer. Sirius, the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog), was called the “Dog Star,” and the Romans believed the star was the cause of the hot weather. They sacrificed dogs to appease Sirius.

When the dog days hit again this year, my advice is to do as the Romans did and sacrifice a song dog or two.

Game Plan

Coyote management should be a year-round part of a deer management plan. (Photo: TPWD)

Last summer, I phoned my cousin Josh to tell him I was taking my calling gear to the cabin over the Independence Day weekend and had an extra seat in the Rhino if he wanted to tag along. Josh had been living in Argentina for two years and just recently returned to the states. He was thrilled to join me.

We donned our camo quickly and left the cabin in the dark of night. Twenty minutes later, we were overlooking a giant meadow of wild flowers of all varieties. A small stream wound through the lush green meadow, giving half a dozen mating pairs of sandhill cranes a perfect place to nest. Their hollow, gaunt cries echoed across the valley for miles.

Neither of us had ever called there before, but we knew it held coyotes along with antelope, elk, mule deer, whitetails and moose. Even the occasional black and grizzly bears passed through the area.

On Stand

Without saying a word, we skirted the treeline of the meadow and waited for the sun to give us ample shooting light.

No wind whatsoever made for a calm and eerie start. We situated ourselves 20 yards apart with our backs to each other trying to cover all avenues of a curious coyote. I quietly hung the Foxpro another 30 yards away and 7 feet off the ground with the handle slung over a broken branch of a slender lodge pole pine tree. Anytime, you can elevate your sound, you can make it stretch farther and seem louder than if it were on the ground. All that was left was sound selection.

Summertime coyotes usually have a brood of youngsters nearby. During the years, I’ve learned that fortunately for us, coyotes can’t count. A coyote pup in distress sound will often times get Ma and Pa streaking in to rescue Junior even though they’re not missing a single pup. A protective breeding pair also might think there’s an intruder in their midst and respond with hackles up ready to defend their turf.

Armed with this knowledge, I started the stand by selecting “coyote pup distress” at my lucky number 13 on the volume setting. After just three minutes of continuous play, I heard a familiar bark of non-domestic sorts. I continued to play pup distress for another minute while I cautiously raised the binoculars to my eager eyes.

Another bark followed the first, accompanied by a challenge howl. The howl allowed me to pinpoint the location of the grizzled dog with my binos. It paced back and forth as if it dared not cross the invisible boundary at its feet. My left hand slid slowly down to my knee finding the Foxpro remote. A quick press on one of the preset buttons and the caller challenge howled back to the coyote. The song dog barked and huffed and challenged again continuing to pace at the invisible boundary.

I knew I had to make the coyote feel threatened to shake it loose. If I challenged it again twice as loud as before, I could fool the coyote into thinking I wasn‘t backing down from a fight. To a coyote, louder means closer, which makes me more of a threat than before. I quickly ramped up the volume to 30 and challenged right back.

It was on!

The coyote charged toward us like it was shot from a cannon with ears pinned back. We readied ourselves. As the coyote closed the distance, I switched sounds to flying squirrel distress and let the caller play softly, just loud enough that I could barely hear it. The coyote slowed to a fast walk and started to hunt for the sound.

At 60 yards, the coyote stopped and its piercing yellow eyes looked up the tree for that mysterious flying squirrel. Josh shouldered his bolt-action rifle and rested the crosshairs on the coyote. His 55-grain ballistic tip from the .22-250 anchored the old male without another step.

Josh turned, looking at me while his trembling hands tugged off his facemask, and said with a quivering voice, “That was amazing!” Knowing hehad been unable to hunt while living in Argentina, I questioned him about the last coyote he shot. He humbly replied, “Never, that was my first.” It’s been 19 years since my first coyote, but I still remember like it was yesterday, and I was honored to be a part of Josh’s first, too.

Calling the Herd

We made a couple more stands within a 5-mile radius and had nothing more to show for it except for wet boots and a plethora of mosquito bites. It was starting to get hot and sunny so we decided to make one more stand before heading back to the cabin for a warm breakfast.

As I searched for our final stand I noticed a fence line where 50 or so head of cattle were grazing as they headed for shade on the opposite side of the meadow. Whenever I find a herd of beef in a rural area, I know there’s a pack of coyotes somewhere near its flanks. Generally anytime, day or night, you can bet at least one coyote will be within a mile radius of the herd.

The reasons are simple. Coyotes are opportunistic by nature, and the hotter the weather, the lazier they become. Cow pies contain a lot of nutrients from undigested grains and seeds, making for a quick-and-easy meal anytime. There’s also plenty of other vermin and fowl that pick and peck through the cow pies, always giving a coyote something to fill his belly.

We hid the Rhino and made our way to an adjacent patch of shade overlooking the herd. As I placed the Foxpro on a bolder 30 yards in front of us, I noticed a doe antelope grazing toward the same shade half a mile away from our hide. Cattle and antelope together in the same meadow assured me that we had made the right choice. There had to be a coyote out there somewhere.

Coyotes have great eyesight and hearing, so concealment of your setup is paramount. (Photo: TWRA)

We sat resting our backs against a couple more boulders trying to break up the outlines of our 6-foot plus frames. Again, I chose coyote pup distress at lucky number 13 on the volume. We gritted our teeth through the harassment of the pestering mosquitos for nearly seven minutes while raising the volume a few notches every couple of minutes.

Suddenly, I saw a white flash a half mile out moving fast. I peered through the binoculars again to see the same doe antelope sprinting at full tilt cross the meadow directly toward us. It was then that I noticed a pale coyote 100 feet or so in front of the antelope coming hard for the Foxpro caller.

The coyote was coming for the pup in distress and the speedy goat was chasing the coyote. Evidently some bad blood existed between these two and the antelope wasn’t willing to take it any longer. We watched as they closed that half mile distance in less than 40 seconds with the antelope gaining on the coyote every step. When the coyote was 150 yards in front of us, the antelope took one giant stride and landed with its front hoofs right on the coyote’s back. The coyote rolled, scrambled to its feet, and turned to bite the antelope on the nose with impressive precision.

Now what?

The antelope retreated a few yards while the coyote came loping in towards the Foxpro again. The caller was still playing the mournful sound of a hurt and frightened coyote pup. The antelope quickly rejoined its pursuit, causing the loping coyote to shift gears again to a run.

I muted the volume in an attempt to slow down the chargers, but the coyote went right past the Foxpro, veering toward me with the antelope just a few yards on its tail. I frantically grabbed my rifle, separating it from my shooting sticks and welded my cheek to the comb. To my dismay, I looked through the scope to find that it remained on 7 power. In all the excitement, I forgot to twist it down. I quickly cranked it down to 3 power and glanced up to see the coyote just 20 feet away with the antelope at 30 feet.

I voice barked as I found fur in the scope and let the hammer fall on my single-shot .204. I missed, and the coyote made eye contact with me, kicking dirt in my face as it changed direction with the antelope in tow. The pair had looped in front of us quartering away when the coyote hit the nitrous oxide switch. “Kill him, Josh” escaped my lips without thought as I fumbled for another round.

Josh pulled through on the coyote’s nose and sent the ballistic tip via airmail. I heard that familiar pop when polymer and lead connect with muscle tissue and looked up from my gun to see the coyote doing acrobatics across the ground.

The antelope didn’t miss a beat and stomped on the already lifeless coyote as it came to a rest. It circled again and came back for one final tap dance on its apparent mortal enemy with its hind legs. The antelope stood there as if to say, “That’ll teach you to mess with me.”

Josh and I looked at each other and started to laugh. Still reeling from what had just transpired before our very eyes, all I could think to say was “Hey Josh, that was amazing!”

Go Calling

Coyote hunting has afforded me some great memories shared with great people. That’s something that I just can’t seem to get enough of and never tire from. Most states allow coyote hunting 365 days a year for a reason. Check your local game laws, dust off your calling gear, apply some Deet and celebrate your independence by doing a little calling during the dog days of summer.

Tom Austin is beating the heat in northern Utah and beyond.

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