For most people, the months of January, February, and March are very slow periods for hunting. The fall and winter hunting seasons for deer, elk, moose and other big game animals are generally over, but the spring seasons for animals like bear and turkey haven’t started yet. So what do you do? One way to continue hunting, while at the same time having a positive affect on future big game populations, is to fill this gap between hunting seasons by hunting predators. In this case, I’m specifically referring to coyotes.
Though they were originally limited to the western states, the removal of the wolf from much of its historic range has resulted in the spread of coyotes to virtually every state in he Continental United States. Fortunately, most states have very lenient laws regarding hunting coyotes since they are generally considered pests or varmints instead of game animals. Local laws vary, but in many areas there is no closed season or bag limit for coyote and hunting at night and with electronic calls is legal.
Another benefit to hunting coyotes is that it may give you access to additional land for big game hunting when the fall and winter roll back around. Private land owners, especially farmers and ranchers, are generally not fond of coyotes because they will readily prey on livestock and even pets. Landowners that are hesitant to allow you to hunt popular species of big game on their land, such as deer, may allow someone to hunt coyotes in order to have some assistance in helping to protect their livestock. If you build a good relationship with the land owner by helping control the coyote population on their land, they may even allow you to continue to use their land for big game hunting later in the year.
Coyote hunting also serves a useful purpose for wildlife management. Coyotes in the majority of the United States have very few natural predators (other than wolves) and generally receive little hunting pressure from humans. This often leads to very high coyote populations across the country. These high populations put tremendous pressure on the populations of both large and small game. While a coyote will rarely be able to kill a healthy, full grown deer or elk, they will readily kill and eat fawns and calves in addition to small game like rabbits, grouse, and quail. Hunting coyotes during the late winter and early spring can help to thin their populations before the spring and early summer when the young of most game species are born. This will reduce the mortality of the young and lead to higher game populations in following years.
Notice how I said thin, not eliminate the coyote population. Coyotes are very intelligent and will readily adapt to hunting pressure. The more you hunt them, the more difficult they will become to hunt. Due to this, it is virtually impossible to exterminate coyotes once they get established in an area. Even so, it is good to have a small coyote population because they do fill an important niche in nature by killing old and sick animals as well as eating carrion. They will also help keep the game population from getting out of control and over-browsing the habitat. So while it is beneficial to hunt them, you can have too much of a good thing when it comes to coyote hunting.
So in addition to being fun in itself and providing yet another good reason to get out and enjoy the outdoors, hunting coyotes can contribute to larger and healthier small and big game populations in your hunting area. It is also a great opportunity to hone your general hunting skills as well as give you a good opportunity to test out equipment and see if that new bow you bought really is the best compound bow for your money when the chips are down.
Additionally, coyote hunting can also lead to more doors being opened for hunting during the fall and winter by helping you build good relationships with private land owners by helping protect their livestock. I see that as a win-win-win situation for everyone involved, except the coyotes of course.