December 01, 2016

Recent studies indicate coyotes kill at least one whitetail deer fawn per day in the 30 day period after fawns are

photo by Author photo.

born. Another central Pennsylvania

study shows coyote predation

accounts for 47% of fawn mortality in forested areas. Michigan’s Upper

Peninsula deer population is at an all-time low and much of the decline is

related to booming coyote populations…

It has been common knowledge among deer hunters that the coyote population has grown until they are a nuisance. If a hunter shoots a deer and it lays overnight, the next morning the backstraps, hind quarters and meat is devoured by packs of coyote. One U.P. fawn predation study shows 44% of fawns are killed by coyote within the first 20 days of birth. At this rate the U.P. deer herd will have a difficult time recovering and Michigan deer hunters are concerned about Lower Peninsula deer recruitment too. Formally abundant deer populations have declined, principally because of recent increases in newborn mortality rates. It looks like between coyote predation and poor management decisions, Michigan’s whitetail population is on a death slide downward. There is not much we can do about deer management policies from Lansing that perpetuate unlimited doe harvest and multiple buck tags. But many sportsmen are taking aim at coyote in an attempt to control booming populations and now is the perfect time to hunt them. Whether they are on a late season doe drive or purposely pursuing coyote, hunters are fast recognizing the need to harvest as many coyote as possible.

Ed Reihl from Beal City has been allowing coyote hunters on his property for several years. “Without their help the coyote population would be out of control. But by harvesting coyote we have better spring recruitment of fawn deer,” Reihl explains. “Some of the local hunt clubs have coyote weekends and every member is expected to participate and do their duty to control predators. Sometimes they use calls and set up, other times they use dogs and intercept coyotes trying to flee the hunting area. Last winter they killed 11 coyote in a 4 square mile area. That will give you an idea just how many coyote are in northern Michigan and the population keeps growing.”

Unfortunately last spring was a banner year for coyote recruitment and the population in mid-Michigan doubled overnight. Many females gave birth to four pups and ideal weather helped pups to quickly grow. Come fall breakup the young coyote separates from parents and in the Okemos and East Lansing area coyote are at an all-time high. In Okemos, Meridian Township management deer hunters are seeing coyote nightly, in just about every township park or woodlot and reporting sightings on Facebook. In some cases hunters are seeing more coyote than deer.

I was amazed last spring when coyote howls came from a neighborhood woodlot. The howls sounded like a coyote running after game and soon a young doe pranced across Lake Lansing Road. Minutes later I was astonished to see an adult male coyote with huge bushy tail dancing down the four lane paved street in pursuit of the doe. The scene got my blood boiling and for an instant I thought about waking the neighbors to the sound of my 12 ga. My point is it appears Michigan’s coyote population is fast booming and the impact on the deer herd will be profound. Hey, it is time we all take up arms and make an effort to fight back. Go coyote hunting soon!

Beginner predator hunters are a bit confused about tactics that work. But many are choosing electronic callers and motion decoys to hunt coyote both day and night. Electronic calls make child’s play out of attracting coyote and provide fast-paced shooting fun. Most modern calls run on batteries and are remote controlled. Hunters can select from hundreds of sounds including injured rodent, rabbit distress, fawn distress, coyote greeting, coyote howls, coyote frenzy and many more. Electronic calls are lightweight, compact, durable and have high output speakers and volume is controlled with battery operated remote. Several come with a motion decoy that looks like a crazy critter, woodpecker or cat tail that waves and spins to attract predators from short and long distances.

Electronic predator calls project sounds great distances and pull the wariest predators out of hiding, day or night. Just pick a setup location and place the call some distance between you and the speakers so incoming predators are not looking at you when they try to spot the source of the sound. Long range remote control helps you to adapt to varied hunting situations by allowing you to place the call away from where you are set up. Powerful speakers and experimentation with a wide range of sounds help you to become the ultimate coyote hunter at lightning speed.

Coyote are slippery critters and you need to give them due respect if you want to connect. Hunters are wise to use a stealthy approach to fool wary predators. When you select a calling setup, plan your entry with care and use terrain, brush, rolling hills or large trees to block your approach. Avoid slamming car doors or loud talking and load your gun with care, make certain to avoid being herd by predators before you enter the woods. Make every effort to stalk or sneak silently to setup locations and avoid breaking branches, crunchy leaves or snapping twigs as you move into position. Reaching your destination without alarming coyotes is key to hunting success. Some hunters use similar scent control used for deer hunting and spray boots and clothing with scent neutralizing products to stay somewhat scent free and help keep from being detected by the predators with ultra-keen sense of smell. Predator hunting right now is a great way to better manage your whitetail herd.

If you are hunting locations with populations of rabbit try rabbit distress calls. Other choices are rodent squeakers and some hunters like to close calling sequences with rodent calls. Savvy hunters often mix coyote calls with rabbit calls and they increase the volume to draw animals from long distances and lower volume as they end calling sessions.

Some hunters stick with coyote greeting or feeding calls mixed with howls to pull brush wolves from swampy liars. Changing coyote vocalizations can bring fast results but give critters a good dose of each and wait several minutes before you move to a new calling position. Plan on hunting each setup location for at least 45 minutes before moving. Plan on beginning each calling sequence with soft tones before gradually turning up the volume to frantic and loud.

Select each calling position with care. Look for areas with enough cover to conceal your human outline yet offer visibility. Smart callers use an electronic decoy to capture the attention of approaching coyotes. This adds realism to your setup and focuses the attention of incoming predators on the decoy rather than you. The trick is to be concealed using modern camouflage clothing, boots and guns so you can move and aim without being detected. Wear white camo in snow, green when hunting conifers and brown camo patterns in brush, tall grass or around trees. Try to hide behind natural cover to break up your human form but keep clear shooting lanes in all directions.

When setting up on open fields select some form of natural barrier to your back. Tall grass, fence posts, large tree, brush, rock pile or deep ditches can be used to conceal your hide and at the same time give you clear view for open shots.

Always set up downwind of likely coyote hiding locations like swamps, standing corn, thick brush, fallen trees, cattails, cedar swamps and more. Coyote will frequently try to circle downwind of sounds that attract them or moving decoys; although sometimes they charge decoys full speed ahead and the shooting can be fast and furious. But the idea is to choose a calling location that prevents critters from circling downwind and picking up your human scent.

One thing about coyotes is they are always moving. Expect critters to penetrate your shooting zone from a variety of directions and they often come prancing past at moderate speeds. A sharp bark or yelp can stop them, get their attention and offer a stationary target.

Some hunters carry two guns, a rifle for long distance shots and a shotgun loaded with #4 buckshot, BBB’s or T shot for moving animals that prance into close range. Night hunters use rim fire rifles like .22 magnum or .17 caliber but the weapon of choice for most day time hunters is the .223 and .22/.250.

It is time for conservationists and savvy deer hunters to step forward and take an active role in reducing coyote numbers. The goal is to minimize fawn loses due to predation. We all should be actively involved in creating a healthy deer population with the highest newborn fawn survival rates. In addition if we hunt coyote now it will reduce predator numbers that could potentially kill adult deer during brutal conditions of winter.

I’ll never forget the grizzly scene of two adult coyote circling an adult doe stuck in deep snow on Larry Eifert’s farm south of East Lansing. The dogs waged their tales like they were playing or friendly but when the doe was not watching they would charge in, rip at the deer’s underbelly and soon I could see blood through my 10×50 binoculars. The doe tried to frantically run but the snow was deep and it had a crusty layer that supported the webbed feet predators and they would quickly cut off any escape and continue ripping the deer’ soft underbelly. Finally one dog went in for the kill and latched onto the deer’s throat as the helpless doe bawled at the top of her lungs.

I surveyed the kill scene the next morning. The deer’s hind quarter was partially eaten, blood covered the snow in every direction and to this day the appalling sight is a grim reminder that coyote can easily kill adult deer.

I set up close to the carcass made a few calls and soon the deadly duo came prancing my direction from a nearby thicket. They were probably thinking an intruder coyote had found their cache. I dumped the first with my 12 ga. at 20 yards and the second took a couple direct hits before it disappeared over a hill. I’ve never hunted out of vengeance or spite but in my book these two predators had it coming and they got more than they bargained for. To this day I still have dreams about the coyotes with gnashing teeth violently attacking the helpless doe.

I hate to portray coyotes as bloodthirsty beasts. They are simply predators and their job in nature is to kill but I’ve encountered coyote dragging fawn deer across open fields, seen them dance with fawn legs cradled in their jaws and witnessed a gruesome attack on a helpless baby fawn covered with spots. The sound of the bawling baby deer and the sight of the adult coyote ripping at its entrails made my blood boil. At the time I was hunting turkeys but quickly settled the 12 ga. sights on the predator and gave him a rump full of high power turkey pellets.

My point is this, Michigan’s coyotes are raising hell with deer populations across the state and herd recovery is dismal because of unchallenged spring attacks on fawns. Like it or not we all need to take an active role and wage war on coyotes. If you want more deer and turkeys it is time to get out your camo, predator call, grab weapon of choice and head outdoors. Please take time from your busy schedule to hunt coyotes soon.