Coyotes Taking Down Mature Bucks?

Trail-camera evidence is showing coyotes don't just target fawns in Georgia.

Daryl Kirby | February 27, 2013

The mystery of what happened to this Monroe County buck found dead with its nose chewed off (inset) was solved when a trail camera was checked. The above photo shows the buck stalked by a coyote near where its skeleton was found.

When coyotes first started expanding their range and numbers in Georgia in the late 1990s and early 2000s, hunters were told they don’t eat deer.

Then the trail-camera pictures started showing up. It’s hard to argue that coyotes don’t eat deer when you see pictures of coyotes carrying dead fawns around. Now, scientific studies confirm coyotes are killing significant numbers of fawns. However, reports from hunters that coyotes are hunting and killing mature deer have largely been dismissed. Once again, trail-camera pictures provide evidence of what’s going on in the woods.

John Fanning, a member of Hog Head Hunting Club in Monroe County, sent some photos of a huge buck found dead on the club, along with a trail-camera photo that clearly showed the buck being chased by a coyote.

“On Saturday, Oct. 27, one of our club members went to his stand for an afternoon hunt. There was a deer skeleton about 15 yards from the base of his ladder stand. It was rotting and nasty, so he cut the head off to save the rack and brought it back to camp,” John said. “After all the stories were told, we began our usual routine of checking trail-camera cards on the laptop computer. Low and behold, there is a picture of the dead deer still alive four days earlier. One look at the picture and it’s obvious what happened. A coyote is clearly visible stalking the deer across the food plot. The picture was taken less than 35 yards from where the skeleton was found.”

Was the buck sick or injured? We don’t know. That’s what most experts speculated two years ago when the famous Oklahoma trail-cameras photos, hundreds of them, showed a mature buck being taken down over the course of an hours-long fight with a group of coyotes. But we’re hearing from hunters who suspect mature deer—sick or worn down by the rut or just healthy deer—are being killed by coyotes.

“We definitely have too many coyotes. We see them occasionally, and we see tracks and scat all the time,” John said. “We only managed to kill two nice bucks and a couple of does this year between 12 guys. Before the season started we were very excited. We had lots of pictures of nice bucks in velvet all over the place. But when the season rolled around, the deer seemed to go almost completely nocturnal. After Thanksgiving it completely dried up. Even the nighttime pictures of bucks vanished.”

Another impact of coyotes-hunters can’t leave a shot deer overnight to recover the next morning. Mitchell Martin shot this buck in Fannin County. “I made a bad shot, so I went back the next morning to recover him. There was a half acre tore up. Coyotes stripped him clean!”

Marcus Ballard posted this Jones County trail-camera photo to the GON Facebook page with the comment, “Yodel dog searching for Christmas dinner.” It’s hard to tell if the deer being chased is a mature doe, but in late December, it sure isn’t a newborn fawn.

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