The Coyote-Takers Calendar: FEBRUARY
A month-by-month look at coyote habits.
By Martin W. Duke and Renee’ Nolan
The intensity of the coyote’s annual breeding cycle is in full swing in early February and diminishes greatly toward the month’s end. It can be the most action-packed time of the year for the predator hunter. The younger males, which are not yet paired, will sheepishly come around to the call looking for a potential breeding opportunity.
This is not the time of the year for any aggressive coyote vocalizations, which was last month. This is the time for submission, passiveness and desperation, for coyotes know the breeding clock is rapidly closing. They either want to be with other subordinate, non-breeding males that have joined up to lick their wounds from the older, more aggressive breeders, which have won their mate, or they are courageous singles still out carefully looking for that chance encounter with a non-paired female.
Much time in the field in January listening to the coyotes’ competition provided opportunities to hear the all-night-long female howls. Also, various challengers would have been heard, but their howls lacked the persistence of the females’ voices. This month is the time for trying to sound like those ready females, just not with the continual commanding voice of last month, but with one that allows spacing, paced, perhaps two or three howls per five-minute periods. Ideally, it’s best to keep the downwind view open or have it covered by a trusted partner with a shotgun. In the south, our “turkey guns” with No. 2s or BBs are big medicine on sneaking-in coyotes. Sneaking in is exactly what will be happening if the responder is a younger male. He does not want to boldly encounter a dominate male who has already engaged a female. He wants to sniff ahead from the downwind to make sure Mr. Wile E. Sr. is not in the area.
In most states, fur-bearer season ends Feb. 28, if not before. If coyotes have been taken out of the area already, it’s an opportunity to use that prey distress to attract a fox or the big prize of a bobcat. The fox is not an exceptionally bright creature and is easily called. Chances are, if a lot of coyotes were in the hunting area, the coyotes would have already eaten the foxes, anyway. The bobcat is a totally different animal. Being primarily an ocular hunter, it can initially be attracted by sound, but it wants to see where it is going and what it is pursuing. That is unlike the coyote, which never goes anywhere its nose hasn’t gone first.
Successful deer hunters know the importance of scent control and have many strategies for masking human scent from deer. However, once downwind, there is nothing that can be done to keep a coyote from smelling humans, and once it does, it is game over. Conversely, our skin’s butyric acid is not a big worry to the bobcat, but if it sees you move, then it is game over, and that is as far as it will advance. Its Achilles heel is that it doesn’t know what that camouflaged mass is sitting under that tree, so it will often take a seat and stare at that mass while trying to figure out if it is friend or foe. During that time, a hunter must move slowly and deliberately, while watching the cat’s body language. Chances are better than average that its fur may become the hunter’s.
Winter is almost over, and hunters are already seeing flocks of turkeys, either bachelor groups or hen groups pecking about. Every predator taken now saves some eggs and hens this spring. Going after coyotes vigorously during their deep winter rut makes them easier to call and easier to see, provides hunters with prime fur, and it saves game animals’ lives.
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