River Valley Outdoors
Dixfield hunter Rusty Daley, with a female Eastern coyote that he removed from a deer yard in Weld.
Protecting wintering deer has become a passion of mine, and hunting coyotes certainly goes hand-in-hand with that effort.
It’s not that I feel that coyotes are bad or evil – I think it’s very wrong to attribute any of these human traits to an animal. I actually think coyotes happen to be one of the most interesting creatures in this region.
Charlie Houghton, a Carthage hunting buddy, always says, “After all the animals on this earth are extinct, there will still be the coyote.”
Coyotes, never a natural part of New England, have learned to adapt and now flourish in this region. Wolves once roamed these parts, but were extirpated from the northeast over a century ago.
I think my friend Charlie has it right…I really don’t think coyotes could ever be removed from the Maine woods, no matter how many of the predaters hunters take from season to season.
Certain coyotes have learned to take wintering deer from the protection of deer yards – these are the predators I am choosing to eliminate. Wintering whitetails have enough trouble finding food, surviving the cold, and traveling in deep snow.
Coyotes that have learned to take their prey in deer yards stay don’t leave the area until the female deer finish dropping their fawns in the spring. When the little deer are born the coyote have a feast.
Biologists have found DNA from grey wolves in most all Maine coyotes. I guess, as the coyotes migrated from the West they mixed with wolves in Canada creating a “super” coyote.
This new coyote doesn’t just clean up the sick and lame whitetails anymore – a pack of coyotes can easily take down the strongest deer.
In his latest video, Hal Blood, the well-known buck tracker from Jackman, talks about finding dead moose with teeth marks and scars on their back legs. Coyotes take down ungulates by ripping their hamstrings and forcing the animals to the ground. The hungry predator immediately feeds on the animal while it is still alive.
Blood’s moose video can be seen on his website (bigwoodsbucks.com), and clearly shows evidence of coyote predation on a moose that one of his clients took during a recent hunting season. In the video, Blood points to the downed animal’s back leg and shows the scars from a coyote attack.
What I’m trying to get at here is that the Eastern coyote is very different from the Western coyote most of us have learned about. Mixing with wolves has changed the way this animal hunts, but more importantly to hunters – the breeding habits of this new coyote has also been changed.
For years, hunters have been told that when coyotes are removed from an area, the remaining animals reproduce at such a rapid rate that they almost over-populate that particular region. Biologists recorded this kind of reproductive phenomenon with Western coyotes.
Now that the Eastern coyote has mixed with the wolf, their breeding habits indicate more of a similarity to the wolf. This change does away with the old myth that states hunters only increase the coyote population by hunting them.
But, like I mentioned earlier in the column, I’m not out to exterminate the coyote. I just want to control those unruly few that have learned to take struggling whitetails from their deer yards.
Coyotes that roam the woods keeping rodent populations in check can continue on, doing their part in the natural world.
I’ve been hunting coyotes with hounds with a group of excellent hunters from Carthage. We have formed a group called Western Maine Coyote Control and can be followed on Facebook at Coyote Hunters of Maine.
On a recent hunt, Dixfield hunter, Rusty Daley, dropped his first coyote while hunting with Bill Houghton’s hounds. After running the hounds all morning, Daley said the dogs pushed a female coyote right to him on a snowmobile trail in Weld.
The proud hunter commented that, “…one more deer killer has been removed from the woods.”
A week ago our hunting party found two bloody whitetail remains scattered in the woods in the same location, with all signs pointing to the fact that coyotes had taken down the healthy deer and had a meal.
Daley’s right – when Eastern coyotes get removed from deer yards, wintering white-tailed deer maintain a healthier herd.