The unknown scribe who came up with “the dead of winter” was a master with words.
Rock County’s rural niches could be the landscape on a distant frigid moon—or the real life experience of a post apocalyptic situation right here on Mother Earth.
With the exception of a lone crow en route to a distant roost the outdoors is silent as an unsympathetic sun is hunkering down behind the western horizon. Somewhere out in the almost darkness a lone coyote invites unseen kin out on a patrol.
Other canine voices join in; their eerie chorus celebrates another hunt.
Then all is quiet again as these wily scavengers venture forth in a never-ending quest for survival. Even though life isn’t easy, it’s good to be a coyote. There are few natural predators in this part of Wisconsin. With a total lack of culinary discretion, literally anything which can be eaten is on the table.
It is breeding season. The wily coyote isn’t thinking about procreation, but is certainly open to the possibility.
Cottontails, crows—and coyotes—are essentially the only options between now and turkey season for human predators. The DNR estimates there are 20,000 to 25,000 active coyote hunters in the state with about 2,000 licensed to trap these critters.
Coyote trapping season closes in less than two weeks, but hunting is open year-round with essentially no restrictions on time or weapons. Going after these animals is a great way to spend a winter evening in the outdoors. With a good quality coyote pelt bringing $25-$30, the long trudge across a barren field to the point where two line fences converge has even greater purpose.
Coyotes often respond to calling, especially this time of year when prospects of an easy meal are few. But adjectives like cagey and wary don’t do these adversaries justice. The term “amazing” is more accurate. Coyotes seldom make mistakes—and they never make the same mistake twice.
New digital callers have a vast catalog of chips to play a tune that has hopefully not fallen on coyote ears. These devices are definitely hard on human ears.
Failure to insert ear plugs will almost certainly send a hunter scrambling for the aspirin bottle once out of the field.
Some electronic callers are wireless. These are a better option than stringing a long wire from the caller to a megaphone, placed near a decoy that appears to be in excruciating pain that will end in an awful death.
Coyotes saver an opportunity to go Kevorkian on the hapless decoy. Like most long-legged canines, they can cover ground quickly if they want to. But almost supernatural caution can trump a growling belly and what appears to be a too-easy meal.
Even when the wind is right, you’re in full cammo, well hidden, still and scent neutral, coyotes are notorious for stopping just beyond the range of a 3½-inch magnum, super-choked scattergun loaded with hevi-shot.
Flat-shooting rifles like my 5.56-caliber Ruger can reach out and touch coyotes at a considerably longer distance, but when hunting at night, the shotgun might be a more-efficient option, even with a powerful spotlight to eliminate the target.
Being a consistently successful coyote hunter is almost as much work as being a dedicated waterfowler. Even when traveling light, the coyote hunter needs to bring considerable gear. The kit should include at least two manual calls.
Experience teaches anything beyond the simplest of tools will break when you need it most.
There is always a quarter-sized “squeaker” out of a dog toy and a diaphragm turkey call somewhere in my backpack. A backpack is much more ergonomic than toting a blind bag or small duffle.
This lesson comes home the very first time your coyote hunting efforts prove successful.
The trek back to the truck is colder, darker and several times longer when dragging a “song dog” out of the field.
But a nice check from the fur buyer brings a sense of satisfaction a non-predator hunter will never know.