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Hunting the Elusive Wily Coyote
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Hunting the Elusive Wily Coyote

The eerie sounds of wily coyotes howling at the moon would give most people pause, but not most coyote hunters. With the ever growing coyote population and increasing presence in populated areas, hunting coyotes is becoming a popular sport, and some feel it is a needed sport to control the population.

More than ten years ago in the town of Spillville, we heard those haunting howls and days later our cocker spaniel was gone without a trace.

Others have this to say, “They go right through our yard. Too bold, especially when we have tiny pony colts.” Another exclaimed, “On a dark night, I can stand in our house yard and hear their spooky cries.”

The elusive coyotes can run up to 40 mph, and have amazing stamina, they are very wary with their excellent hearing and eyesight making hunting them a challenging sport.

On a side note, if you walk your dog in areas where there are known coyotes, be aware that in March coyote pups are born and the mother could get aggressive protecting her family. It is a good time to keep your dog on a leash.

We met up with around 100 coyote hunters, during one of the last of the year’s Annual Coyote Derbys last February sponsored by the Northeast Iowa Fox & Coon Club in Decorah. The contest is open to everyone; you just need to sign up as a team of two at Ace Hardware in Decorah beforehand. Each derby, (December, January, and February) is scheduled during the full moon to give the hunters an advantage, though some just hunt in the daytime.

One of the organizers and veteran hunter, Darwin Melcher from Decorah, said some use trained coyote dogs, some work with large groups of hunters and walk a planned hunt, some use calls, some hunt only at night, some hunt in the daytime during the continuous open season. Melcher’s group had the largest harvest with 22 coyotes. Fifty teams turned in a total of 71 coyotes. Darwin explained that the nice weather was a factor in getting so many coyotes.

Darwin noticed that there seems to be many more coyotes out there than two or three years ago. Traveling in packs or alone,he says they can kill the farmer’s livestock, as well as wildlife. He feels they are destroying the deer population because there are so many coyotes in our area. And because of that, many of the donated gifts for the derby drawings were from wildlife organizations such as Pheasants Forever, Whitetails, and National Turkey Federation.

“Although the Iowa Department of Natural Resources does not survey coyote populations each year, I believe there was a distinct increase in coyotes, say, over the past 6 years,” says Terry Haindfield, Wildlife Biologist for the Iowa DNR. “The harsh winters we had during 2006 to 2011 may have actually helped coyotes find prey and wildlife that succumbed to the elements. This in turn kept coyotes in better condition going into the birthing period in the spring, increasing their litter size.”

After serving 30 years as a wildlife professional in NE Iowa, Haindfield finds it interesting that coyotes have such an undeserving bad reputation, “Coyotes do not affect pheasant populations very much at all and there are actually “good” coyotes that don’t bother livestock and thus keep potential “bad” coyotes from invading the territory. Coyotes often get the blame for killing a calf when the coyote is seen eating an already dead calf albeit still born or died from some other cause. With that said, when a local coyote does inflict damage or death to small livestock, like sheep or calves, it is very important to trap or kill that coyote as soon as feasible to prevent further loss.”

No matter how you feel about coyotes, chasing the elusive wily coyote has become a popular sport with an increased population and a continuous open season in Iowa.

More about coyotes, hunting

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