Coyote-Takers Calendar March

A month-by-month look at coyote habits.

Martin W. Duke | March 1, 2018

By Martin W. Duke and Renee’ Nolan

Like a proverbial tick on a dog’s ear, similarly joined in biology are coyotes and cattle. With the shift that happens in our outdoor world when spring practically bangs on our doors, the coyote world enters a period of change.

Mid-winter pecking-order fights and late-winter mating that make calling success easy give way to den establishment, pup birth and home centeredness, which make convincing them to approach any call tougher during March. Adolescent males, without partners or territories, aren’t reliably in predictable calling areas. When nothing seems to lure them, it’s time to hunt cow pastures, as coyotes will be there late winter and early spring for more easily acquired food.

Considering the statistical bell-curve and avoiding empirical statements, it’s reasonable to conclude that few calves are killed by coyotes, if only because coyotes are too small and momma cow is too big. Though it happens, it happens less than folks believe. It’s possible a sudden coyote presence close by could cause a brief herd stampede such that a cow breaks a leg or induces a miscarriage by the startling effort. Surely, some tails and ears get bloodied and tattered, but coyotes aren’t looking for a fight with heavy-weight bovine. It’s after easier and safer instant food sources, such as after-birth and calf poop, which are more nutritively dense than most things it has to work harder to kill. Though southern winters are rarely enduringly harsh, a coyote’s main food sources of mice and rabbits are less abundant and harder to find during our shorter days.

By strolling around fescue and avoiding being stomped to death, coyotes play a parasite role, instead of predator, and live comfortably until warmer, longer, bountiful days return. The life of a scavenger has fewer potential perils than being a predator—when it must hunt, engage and kill for a living.

Being a mutually beneficial endeavor, I make friends with members of the local Cattleman’s Association within a comfortable drive from my home. I promise to leave gates open or closed as I find them. I promise to not make ruts in the roads or fields and to guard their cattle like they were my own. Cattlemen are with their animals daily. They know what’s hanging around their pastures and are my best source of current field intel. Afterward, I surprise them by sending them a photo of each coyote I take from their pastures with their gate or cattle in the background. Home run!

Some successful strategies include keeping mindful of being an invited guest for purposes of coyote abatement, not to impress or share with anyone else. Tactically, learning the ranchers’ routines is important because the coyote already has. I park where he parks and try going at the same time of day the rancher routinely does. Lonesome howls are very effective, and I never use prey distress around cattle. Coyotes are territorial, and likely, a mature single or pair has claimed the pasture and won’t tolerate imposing intruders on their finite winter food sources. So, I use various young coyote howls or KiiYii (pup distress) and stay alert to where the cows are looking. If a coyote howls from the woods, then I give it a sharp challenge in return to trigger its territorial response. I can do this with my own voice, mimicking their sounds, which drives them crazy.

Once, while responding to my challenge bark-howl, I watched one come from 700 yards, constantly trotting across a pasture toward me. He knew exactly where I was. I shot him at 40 yards while he was bristled, headed directly to me.

By being a rancher’s friend, hunters will be an even greater friend to our game animals.

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