Around here, March marks the beginning of calving season, and with winter still prowling around like a hungry predator, cows are kept together, close to home, where they can be watched and nursed through spring storms. And any time you put a herd of calving cattle in one place, you’ll also have a pack of coyotes prowling the edges waiting for an opportunity.
City folk might think of coyotes as killing and eating calves, and while they’ll do that if given the chance, nature isn’t so humane. Coyotes will most commonly dart in and take a piece of a calf, as opposed to the entire animal. They will bite off the nose, rip off an ear or take the entire tail. And if they can grab a calf long enough for a real meal, they don’t kill it first and then start eating. No, they’ll just immobilize it and start eating the live animal. Is it any wonder coyote hunters become a cattleman’s best friend in March?
Coyote hunting around calving operations has its own technique, and these days mine usually includes setting up an ambush. The coyotes will be working the herd at night, but morning will find them headed for someplace that has shelter and where they can curl up in the day’s warm spring sunshine. Setting up somewhere between those two spots can be a killer plan for a hunter.
The photo attached is where one farmer I know does his calving. The picture is taken from about 600 yards away, along a fence line where I sit and wait for coyotes.
Last week I snowshoed into that spot well before dawn and waited for legal shooting light.
When my watch said “Go,” I put out two lonely greeting howls to let the world know there was a non-aggressive intruder near the herd. The vocal response was immediate and not long after, grey shapes started drifting my way in the pre-dawn light. A few more howls, some rodent squeaks and an occasional hurt pup ki-yi kept coyotes running all around me for the next half-hour. I saw 10 and killed 4 of them before the rest got the idea it was unsafe to take the usual route home.
They’ll be spooked for a few days, but you can bet they’ll be back. However, I will be too.
To make this work for you, find the area between a calving herd and where the coyotes lay up for the day. Keeping the wind in mind, walk in while still dark and set up an ambush. Then supplement it with a few non-aggressive howls. Rodent squeaks will bring them in close and after the shooting starts, ki-yis will often suck one or two back in. I avoid rabbit distress, as this late in the year you’re dealing with educated coyotes and it can just be a warning. Constantly watch to make sure there isn’t a cow immediately behind the coyote you’re shooting at, and keep some extra ammo handy.
These set ups have the potential to be one of the most productive things you do all season.