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New hunting challenge: calling coyotes
Mar 06, 2013 4:45 pm
Out in the corn stubblefield an electronic gadget swished a “varmint” tail back and forth, while back in a brushy fence row Bundy Johnson and Zac Knowles shrieked, snarled and squealed.
Their predator-calling duet sounded like a pack of crazed coyotes doing dreadful things to some unfortunate critter.
Suddenly, far across the field, appeared a coyote. He was trotting over to see what all the fuss was about – and maybe share a rabbit breakfast.
Then a shifting breeze carried a whiff of human scent his way. The coyote immediately disappeared into a nearby treeline. That was the last we saw of him.
I was invited on a recent coyote hunt with Bundy, Zac and Zac’s dad Craig on their Robertson County farms. We met at daylight and hunted until 10, and although we didn’t get a shot at a coyote it was a fascinating outing – one that more and more Tennessee hunters are experiencing.
“Coyote hunting is becoming extremely popular,” says Zac, whose Springfield-based ZK Ranches guide service (615-642-5867) draws clients from throughout the state. “They’re probably the smartest animal there is, and the hardest to hunt, and that makes them a prize trophy.”
A winter coyote pelt is thick and luxuriant. It makes a unique trophy and also fetches a good price on the fur market.
Coyotes originally were found primarily in the West and Southwest, but over the years they expanded their range into other regions. During the past decade they have become increasingly common sights throughout Tennessee, from urban centers to rural farmlands.
Wherever they go, they cause problems. In cities coyotes – attracted by garbage and pet food left outdoors – are known to prey on cats and small dogs. In a few documented cases they have attacked humans. In rural areas they create similar concerns in addition to preying on poultry and newborn livestock.
Much of a coyote’s diet is rodents, which means they help control mouse and rat populations, but they also take a toll on rabbits. They kill deer – especially fawns – and wild turkeys.
Because coyotes can be a nuisance, farmers and rural landowners usually allow hunting on their land. Experts like Zac and Bundy have it down to a science.
They set out their tail-fluttering varmint decoy, then hide nearby and start calling. They use a variety of mouth calls to mimic the wide range of coyote sounds.
“The idea is to attract their attention and make them curious,” Zac says.
Coyotes can hear the high-pitched calling from almost a mile away, and no two respond exactly alike. Some come racing across an open field, while others slink along brushy fence rows and other cover. Bundy carries two guns – a scoped rifle for long-range shots and a 12-gauge shotgun for close-ups.
“You never know which it’ll be,” he explains.
They don’t hunt long in one spot – 15 or 20 minutes -- then move to a new location.
“If they’re going to come in, they usually come in right away,” Bundy says.
On our recent hunt we tried four fields in which Zac and Bundy have killed coyotes this year. We stirred one, and it was too smart for us.
“It’s a challenge,” says Zac. “That’s what makes it interesting.”