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The endless hunt of never-ending coyotes

ost hunting seasons have a start and ending date.

Coyote hunting is one of the few continuous open seasons. The reason for this is a never-ending supply of what some consider a scourge upon the earth and many others consider to be a fine game animal.

They are not so great to eat. It is all about the hunt.

Coyotes are both scavengers and predators. If they get tired of waiting for something to die, they will go out and kill their next meal. They are not extremely particular what they eat, whether it is dead or alive.

This is where they have a conflict with humans. Coyotes that move to cities live on mice and rats, which is a good thing, but they also like to eat cats and small dogs. In the country, they eat the same natural foods, but also find hunting sheep and calves easier to kill than most wild animals.

In our area, there are several loosely knit groups of coyote hunters that go after their chosen prey whenever the opportunity arises and especially when a hunt is requested by a farmer that is suffering predation loss.

My son, Damon, has recently become affiliated with one of these groups. The way they do it, coyote hunting is neither easy nor cheap, but a heck of a lot of fun.

There is a fair amount of equipment required to be a proper coyote hunter. The 4x4 truck being foremost in importance does not really count as strictly coyote equipment, because a person can use the truck for many other activities such as deer hunting, turkey hunting and fishing. They even come in handy for checking the cows and going for groceries when the roads are bad. Nonetheless, a person needs a good truck to carry the dogs, guns and electronics.

One or more guns are necessary to properly hunt coyotes. A 10- or 12-gauge is good for shots up to about 75 yards and a good rifle from farther out. Most people have a good shotgun for turkey or pheasant hunting and the average hunter has at least one deer rifle that would work well. Becoming well armed should not incur any additional expense.

The hunts around here are done with dogs. The dogs will track and chase a coyote for miles. To have the correct dog for the hunt may require a bit of a change in mindset. We all have a dog or two around the place but they more than likely would not do.

It takes a special type of dog to hunt coyotes. My fat Lab would have a heart attack and die trying to keep up with dogs bred for this. Coyote dogs are medium-sized hounds bred to run and keep on a trail. They bay to let the owners know where the coyote is going and have to be tough enough to fight if the coyote gets tired of running.

The hunt begins when a person leads a couple dogs into promising cover, which is almost everywhere, until they strike a track. Those dogs are released and the chase is on. When the coyotes direction of travel is determined, the other hunters will go to the next road and stop where he might come out. If they do not see it or get a shot, they will release another two or three dogs and pick up any that have been on the chase and are tired. Circling around the sections continues until someone gets the coyote or the hunters give up.

The dogs never give up. They love the sport more than do the hunters. This particular group of coyote hunters has been hunting this way for years. Anyone can get into the hunt with a bit of determination and the right dogs.

Over a the three-day New Year's weekend, this group got 19 coyotes. I asked one of them if they were ever afraid they would run out of their favorite prey. One hunter replied, "If we take out one coyote, two more move in to take its place."

It seems they really could have an endless hunt.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.