December 2006
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For Cattlemen: December is Ideal Time to Deal With Pesky Predators

 
  Females will often den on the south side of slopes just above a creek or stream.
By John Howle

December may find you hip deep in hay as you feed cattle this winter. Hay feeding season can also serve as double duty for being an ideal time to get a shot at coyotes foraging for food in the open pastureland. Grab your favorite rifle, and be prepared for a quick shot at these pesky predators this winter.

Hay Rings

Many of us who regularly feed round bales of hay in the winter use hay rings. These hay holding rings keep livestock from tromping the hay into the mud and it keeps the forage clean from animal waste. However, these circular, steel hoops make ideal hunting blinds for passing coyotes.

First, allow the livestock to eat the hay inside the ring until there’s about two feet of hay remaining in the ring. Next, burrow out a place in the center of the ring so you can lie in the prone position. The middle braces in the hay ring make ideal shooting rests for holding your rifle steady as you squeeze off a shot. The hay remaining in the ring provides ideal cover for the hunter.

The hay ring doesn’t alarm coyotes because they are accustomed to seeing them throughout the pasture. The key is to remain perfectly still because coyotes are experts at detecting the slightest movement. This technique works best late in the evening after the cows have eaten and headed for higher ground for the night. I once had to leave my blind because a hungry, Black Angus bull didn’t want to share his hay for a hunting blind.
 
The author shows a coyote harvested from his family farm.  

Old Barns and Sheds

Any structure on your farm that safely allows you to stand underneath can serve as an ideal shooting blind for coyotes. If the loft of your barn overlooks a field or there’s an old tool shed in a remote corner of your property, these spots provide concealment, and that’s what you need to effectively get coyotes within range.

One technique I’ve used is to get behind hay in the loft of a barn and play an animal in distress call on the lower level. The hayloft gives a clear view of the field, and the coyote will be focused on the area where the sound is coming from. In addition, any shed on a remote part of the farm can provide ideal cover. Simply remove an old plank providing enough room to slide a rifle barrel through.

Coyotes are fairly regular in their habits of running the same trails. If your shed is in range of one of these trails on the farm, simply sitting and waiting can result in a productive shot. Fire up a small propane heater, and you can stop the cold winds of December while you wait on coyotes.

Tractors and Trucks

Coyotes often find forage in open pastures in the late evening. Rodents such as rats and mice enter the fields and eat seeds and undigested grains from livestock droppings. Next to rabbits, rats and mice are top choices for coyote winter foods. If they run out of these small mammals, they move onto small livestock, and that’s money out of the farmer’s pocket.
 
  A hay ring half full of hay makes an ideal coyote shooting blind.

In addition, coyotes will often eat cattle droppings for the folic acid present. Much the same way a domestic dog will chew grass, folic acid in plants acts as nature’s Tums heartburn medicine. With this in mind, keeping a rifle handy whether you are on the tractor or in the truck can give you the needed time to dismount and discharge a quick shot at open field coyotes.

A truck equipped with a safe gun rack or installing an after market gun rack in the cab of a tractor can keep the gun in easy reach. Racks can be purchased that allow the rancher to safely keep a gun inside the cab, behind the seat in a truck, or on the handlebars or back rack of an ATV. This mounting procedure allowed me to take down a large coyote while feeding round bales of hay last year. Those precious seconds that I was able to remove the gun from the tractor rack and set the sights on the coyote’s shoulder meant that there was one less predator on the farm.

 
Any shed on remote areas of the farm makes a useful coyote blind. Remove a plank so the rifle barrel will slide through.  
Checking Fence Lines

December is an ideal time to check fence lines because most of the leaves are off the trees, visibility is greater, and it’s easier to spot places in the fence that need repair. December fence checking is also an ideal time to scout or even get a shot at roaming coyotes. Walking the fence with a rifle approaching from the downwind side can give you the element of surprise when taking shots at coyotes.

Coyotes can often be found sunning themselves in pasture edges on cold, December days. Approaching from downwind helps prevent you from being winded and can give you an additional second or two for an accurate shot. I once approached a coyote from downwind and watched as he harassed a newborn calf. The mother cow bellowed and turned on the coyote, then, the coyote would attack the calf from the opposite side. I watched this episode for at least 10 minutes, but unfortunately, I had no rifle with me that day.

December is a productive month for coyote hunting because it removes animals before they go into the January/February breeding season. Once bred, the females will occupy a den usually on the south side of a slope, often, with a stream at the foot of the hill. This is so the pups won’t have to travel far from the den for water.

If you harvest a few coyotes in December and think you hear 20 ringing their chorus in February, realize that two coyotes can sound like 10 because of their many vocalizations. Use December as your double duty month for both farm work and coyote hunting. You’ll be glad you did once spring calving season rolls around.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.