Coyotes

If you are born in Idaho a few decades ago on a ranch you start your life not liking coyotes.  I think after the nurse gets done slapping you around the next thing she will do is show you a picture of a gun and a dead coyote. Coyotes are just not liked by hunters or ranchers. I think the main reason is no one seems to be able to exterminate them like they did with the wolves a hundred years ago (only to see the wolves reintroduced and protected). Simply put coyotes are great at surviving right next to people, or way away from people. They are very good hunters and I’ve watched a pack take down a large healthy mule deer even though the deer was much bigger than any of the coyotes. They prey on about anything domestic from younger cattle, down to house cats, and of course the family dog. Growing up we witnessed a single coyote lure one of our dogs over the hill only to have the pack waiting to kill it. We had a few dogs disappear and I think this strategy worked well for the coyotes and bad for our ranch dogs. The coyotes seem to find plenty of stuff to eat in the spring and summer, but the winter is the time you will most likely have issues with them eating Fluffy or Fido. I spent a lot of time hunting coyotes in my younger days.

When it comes to hunting with a GWP coyotes can always become an issue. In the winter when the coyotes are hungrier they will actively seek out your dog while you are hunting and if there is an opportunity they might go after them. I have not had a dog killed by coyotes yet (I have had one was killed by a wolf) but I have had some close calls with coyotes. One thing that I have noticed is the coyotes rarely go after two dogs even if the coyotes are in a pack, but even a single coyote will go after one dog if you are hunting with just one dog.  I’m not sure why this is, but I have noticed it many times. If you have a young GWP and it comes across a coyote scent it will most likely take off tracking it. I don’t use my e-collars often, but if I know the dog is tracking a coyote I will use the collar as a deterrent.

The first encounter with coyotes was on a chukar hunting trip with Cruiser when he was about ten months old. This was the days before I had tracking collars, or e-collars and Cruiser was starting to run pretty big. One time I remember seeing him way down below me probably 600 yards away rolling across the flats and then I saw five coyotes starting to circle him. I whistled and called but he didn’t turn, when I shot my shot gun in the air he stopped, but didn’t come back. Four of the coyotes took off at the shot (ones that had probably been shot at by other hicks like me). I shot three more times and the other coyote took off and Cruiser came back. That week I bought the gun I still use mostly today while hunting with my dogs, a double barrel 223 Rem, 20 gauge combo over and under. It has been very useful over the years shooting, skunks, porcupines, and coyotes at a distance while running dogs before my dogs can get involved.

The worst time to deal with coyotes is in the spring around March to May when they have the litters in the dens. The male and female will both go after a GWP and even take on a couple dogs. They get very protective of their young like most wild animals. I had many encounters when I was training and conditioning dogs for field trials and running in the spring. One trip in Idaho I was running Cruiser off the horse and he was on the ridge on one side of a small canyon while I was riding the ridge on the other side. Somewhere in the canyon below us there must have been a coyote den because the male coyote was running up the hill at Cruiser and didn’t seem mind I was yelling at Cruiser to come. Cruiser didn’t even know he was being tracked and he came running over with the coyote right on his heels. I jumped off the horse and I only had a blank gun to fire in the air. About all that did was scare my horse. I grabbed Cruisers collar and the coyote stood with its hackles up growling at about ten yards. I had been within a couple feet of coyotes when I used predator calls to call them in, but never an aggressive one that close. I was able to lead the horse and Cruiser out without having the coyote come any closer. I started packing some kind of real gun after that and I had quite a few times when I had to direct the dogs away from coyotes I could see at a distance during the spring training sessions.

One day Cruiser and I got into two different pairs of denning coyotes. The 1st pair I watched Cruiser working a small rock ledge about two hundred yards out and then I noticed a coyote in the rocks below and just ahead of him. I bailed off my horse and got my 9mm pistol out. By the time I got ready to shot in the air Cruiser was a few feet above the coyote and they were in a stare down. I shot once in the air and the other coyote come out of the den and both of them took off running across the desert. Obviously these coyotes had been shot at before. We made a turn away from that spot and after I had ran Cruiser about two more miles I could see another coyote sitting on a rock watching Cruiser running through the shallow draw below. About the time I was thinking of getting off the horse the coyote took off like a bullet towards Cruiser. By the time I got on the ground I looked up just in time to see the coyote T-bone Cruiser and both of them went rolling down the hill in a cloud of dust. I was shooting in the air by then and the coyote took off one direction and Cruiser didn’t even seem to mind as he just went back the direction he was going before he got side swiped.

When I was living in South Dakota and training in the Black Hills during the spring and summer I got into many coyotes. I didn’t get into very many out on the prairies, but the hills were full of them. Now that I live in Wyoming I seldom see one out in the flat lands, but the Big Horn Mountains are full of them. I think in both cases the ranchers are able to see them and keep them thinned out in the low lands to some degree, but in the timber areas the coyotes are real hard to find.

In all the dog/coyote encounters I have had I think I have only had a handful of points on coyotes where the coyote was not aware of the dog or me. I have never been able to shoot a coyote over point. I think the most logical reason is most likely the coyotes know of you and your dog’s presence way before you know they are in the area. It can be hard to sneak up on a coyote. Like always you have to have perfect weather conditions, and be extremely stealth if you want to get close without them knowing.

Riot has her tail down while on point. She normally has great style, but this time she was pointing a coyote about 20 yards away. Ralph is backing about 100 yards behind her.

Riot has her tail down while on point. She normally has great style, but this time she was pointing a coyote about 20 yards away. Ralph is backing about 100 yards behind her.

A few years ago me, my brother, and Bruce Mueller from Wisconsin were hunting some public lands in Southwest South Dakota. The area we were hunting had some sharp tails, and a few huns, lots of rattlesnakes, and lots of coyotes. I had waited until December to hunt there (rattlesnakes don’t like cold) and I had been in the area with a dog Harry a couple times before this trip. Harry had found a small covey of huns in the same location on a ten acre flat ridge both trips before. I hadn’t shot any of the huns because the population was low in the area, but I still worked them for Harry who was green broke. On the trip with my brother and Bruce, Harry went up the ridge and I followed, but he pointed in a different location, and in a different direction than before. I just assumed the huns had actually moved a little ways. When I got to the top my brother called me on the radio and said Harry was pointing a coyote that was just over the ridge. Bruce and my brother were across the canyon trying to direct me and I thought for sure I would get a coyote over point, but it put the slip on me and even with the two of them directing me I couldn’t get a shot.

A couple days later while Bruce was still out hunting with us we ended up in north central South Dakota hunting for some pheasants, huns, and sharp-tails. The three of us were working down a small canyon with Bruce’s dog Jim. Right off the bat I missed a chance at a couple roosters Jim had pointed because I shot a tree on the flush, and I was afraid I had blown the best chance of getting a pheasant. It was late season on heavily hunted public lands and I knew the other pheasants in the area would be on high alert after the shooting. We continued down the east to west canyon with Bruce in the bottom, my brother on the south side ridge, and me on the north side ridge. About half way down Jim started to track. I was thinking the wild pheasants were just running along ahead of him. My brother could see him and was watching as well. Jim would track for twenty yards then lock up for half a minute, then track again, then point again. Jim did this for probably three hundred yards. My brother called on the radio and said we needed a blocker because the pheasants had to be running ahead, and the cover ended at the bottom of the canyon. We never saw a single pheasant run or fly at the end, but a coyote took off out the bottom when Jim got about 50 yards from it. A blocker would have not expected that.

Some people see the good in coyotes. I have some buddies I grew up with in southern Idaho who farm large tracks of land along the desert. They have lots of coyotes on their property and used to shoot any on sight. Even though they are avid bird hunters they don’t shoot any coyotes. They know the coyotes take out plenty of pheasants, quail, and chukar, but they leave them alone because coyotes are great at controlling the rodent populations as well, and the rodents are much more destructive to their croplands.

I have a lot of respect for the coyote as a fellow hunter, but that doesn’t mean I like them. If I’m hunting with a GWP I’m always looking out for coyotes because your GWP might be the hunted in some cases.

On October 13th, 2013 I finally shot a coyote over point.

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