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Coyote: easily North America's most adapt predator, they require all a hunter's skill to be successful.

Old Wile E. Coyote is North Americas most widespread and numerous predator, now found in various densities throughout the United States, including southern Alaska, Canada at least up to treeline, and throughout Mexico. In the pioneering era, the coyote was primarily a Western animal, and though the coyotes existence was known, it wasn't properly identified to science until 1819 by taxonomist Thomas Say in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries the coyote seems to have profited from the extermination of the wolf. The two closely related species definitely compete, but the coyote competes poorly against the much larger wolf. However, in the last few decades the coyote has continued to expand its range, now fairly common throughout much of the East and, surprisingly, is now well established south of the Panama Canal in Central America.

The coyote is an extremely effective predator, responsible for significant livestock losses (primarily domestic sheep and goats, though fully capable of taking calves and horse foals), and, in many areas, is a major factor in fawn mortality with deer and especially pronghorns. In urban areas, where coyotes are generally not hunted because of safety concerns, they quickly lose their fear of man. Coyote attacks on humans, mostly children, are uncommon but do occur, and coyotes are a major threat to pets.

From the hunters standpoint, however, the coyote offers wonderful opportunities! Seasons are long, if not year-round; bag limits are unusual; and license requirements are generally very basic. Wildlife departments and landowners are generally happy to have coyotes hunted, but even against constant pressure, the coyote holds its own. It's said that a coyote population can withstand as high as 75 percent mortality and remain stable. Realistically, pressure from sport hunting is unlikely to reduce coyote numbers. The coyote is simply too smart for that.

The primary "on purpose" hunting method is calling, although running coyotes with greyhounds is still practiced in some areas. When I was a kid in Kansas, large-scale coyote drives were popular. Hunters gathered at a rural church and literally surrounded entire sections, driving in to the center with shotguns only. I haven't heard about this method for decades, but a lot of coyotes were taken that way. Unlike the more secretive bobcat, with coyotes the good old chance encounter is actually pretty effective. Deer hunters on stands will often see coyotes--at any time of day--and in open country coyotes are often encountered in mornings and evenings.

Calling, however, is generally the most effective technique. Coyotes respond to standard predator calls, such as a dying rabbit or fawn in distress. Howling is sort of "advanced calling" but can be very effective. Unlike many species, one of the challenges to calling coyotes isn't finding one that will hear you. If you choose your ground well, there are probably coyotes within earshot. In the summer and early fall, maturing pups are most gullible, but it's pretty much an article of faith that a coyote fooled once will not be fooled again ... so don't miss.

NATURAL HISTORY

In North America the coyote pretty much takes the place of the Old World jackal, although the coyote is more predator and less scavenger. The Latin name is Canis latrans, and there are actually 19 subspecies identified. This is generally based on size and color, although, excepting for isolated populations (as on islands), there are broad intergrade areas and considerable variation. In general the coyote is a medium-sized canine with males averaging 18 to 44 pounds, females smaller at 15 to 40 pounds. Northern coyotes tend to be larger than southern coyotes, with Northeast coyotes probably the largest of all.

The primary unit is a family group of females and pups, but unrelated coyotes will temporarily form packs to bring down larger prey. A half-dozen coyotes encountered in the woods is a frightening sight, as well it should be. Prey is pretty much anything a coyote can bring down. Smaller animals from mice to rabbits (including ground-roosting birds) are a staple. Preying on healthy, mature deer is unusual, but anything in between is very much fair game.

Coyotes pair up in the winter, often before mating actually occurs. There can be competition for a female, but once the female selects a mate, the coyote, unlike the wolf, is monogamous. Litters averaging six pups are born after 63 days gestation, usually in the late spring. By July pups are weaned and that year's den is abandoned. Coyote pups are generally mature at about nine months.

The coyote is the most vocal North American mammal, even more vocal than the wolf. At least 11 different vocalizations have been identified in the general categories of alarm, greeting, and contact Those last two categories, plus distress sounds of prey animals, are the sounds coyote callers use against them.

BEST HUNTING OPPORTUNITIES

Wherever you can find a place to hunt! Eastern coyotes are notorious for cleverness, and the coyote is certainly most difficult to hunt in close cover, so the more open country of the West and Midwest probably offer the best opportunities.

SHOOTING AND SHOT PLACEMENT

Although hardly a large animal, the coyote is extremely tough for its size. Shoulder and behind-the-shoulder lung shots are most effective in anchoring a coyote. Some experienced hunters prefer .17- and .20-caliber centerfires because exit wounds are reduced, but I personally prefer medium-velocity .22 centerfires like the .222 and .223 Remingtons. Of course, it depends on the methodology and the country; in close cover, coyote callers often prefer shotguns with coarse shot (B, BB, and No. 2).

COYOTE FACTS

POPULATION

Across their huge range, it is not possible to even estimate the number of coyotes, but certainly they roam into the millions.

MOST EXPENSIVE HUNTS

For coyotes, there really aren't any expensive hunts. That said, many outfitters across North America offer off-season coyote hunts, and this is a good way to take a cram course in how to hunt them.

LEAST EXPENSIVE HUNTS

Get a call, learn how to use it, and get out there!

DID YOU KNOW?

"Coyote" comes from the Nahuatl tribe of Mexico word coyotl ("barking dog"). It was adopted by the Spanish by 1780, though not used in English until 1824. Our current spelling of "coyote" wasn't standardized until the 1880s.

Coyotes can hybridize with wolves and domestic dogs. DNA testing suggests that the Northeast coyote is largest because of considerable wolf in its genes.

The largest coyote known was killed near Afton, Wyoming, in 1937: five feet three inches nose to tail, 75 pounds in weight. (Was there a wolf in that woodpile?)
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Title Annotation:SPECIES Spotlight
Author:Boddington, Craig
Publication:Petersen's Hunting
Date:Mar 1, 2016
Words:1097
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