The crunching of leaves suddenly disrupts the silence you’ve experienced while sitting for hours waiting for a trophy buck to show up. Anticipation rises as you turn around to encounter the buck of your dreams. Then, hope is diminished as you realize this is a furred-up coyote. Do you shoot the coyote or let it pass, hoping to get a future shot at a buck?
On the opening morning of the Missouri firearms deer season, I anxiously awaited for enough light to (hopefully) allow me to glimpse the first deer of the morning. As I began to feel the chill of a crisp fall morning, the sun began to nestle its way through the trees, slowly warming the leaves and melting away the frozen dew covering the forest floor. The frozen ground wasn’t the only thing that morning hoping for a warm-up from the rising sun. My body was beginning to shiver, and my feet started a gentle beat up and down on my stand platform trying to generate a bit more body heat.
Again, it was the first day of the anticipated firearms season, and I had collected several pictures of nice bucks in the area from months past. Those two things kept me in the stand to battle the cold and wait for the moment when I was hoping a buck would make his way past my stand, allowing for a shot.
After an hour of waiting and hearing random blasts of different gunshots all around the area, I felt that at any moment, it would be my turn. Suddenly, I could hear bouncing footsteps getting close. The sound was directly in front of my stand, which overlooked a long ridgetop through the oak timber. Finally, I caught movement in the sunlight. My excitement quickly turned to dismay when I realized that the noise and movement were coming not from a deer, but from a coyote. Even though I had been impatiently waiting in the cold for my moment at an opening-day buck, I quickly pulled up my rifle, found the coyote in my crosshairs and slowly squeezed the trigger.
Since I was a young teenager, I have had a strong passion for hunting and calling coyotes. Even though I love hunting mature bucks with a bow, rifle, muzzleloader or whatever other legal options I have, the passion for coyote hunting takes over when a coyote walks into gun range. That’s when a deer hunt often turns into a coyote hunt. I have researched the effects that deer hunters can induce when shooting a coyote while deer hunting. I have also read several hunters’ opinions on this subject; I wouldn’t say I liked their theories, and I can’t say that I agree with them. I am not a professional hunter nor a deer expert; however, I am a hunter who loves hunting coyotes and deer. What is the right thing to do when a coyote walks in while you are deer hunting?
Pros And Cons
The opening morning of firearms season, when I shot the coyote only an hour into the hunt, I continued to encounter deer just moments later, even with a dead coyote lying 40 yards beneath my treestand. Yet, I did not harvest a deer that morning.
A few years later, while hunting again in southern Missouri during the firearms portion of deer season, I debated whether to shoot a coyote that had stumbled into my area. With a snow-covered ground creating a dead-quiet morning, my heart kicked into overdrive as a huge coyote appeared from the tree line approximately 100 yards from my stand.
Again, the predator hunter in me had little hesitation about pulling the trigger. All I could think about was another thick fur hanging in the fur shed that coming winter. So, I did it again; the coyote dropped 80 yards just up a hill from where I sat. Because temperatures were in the low 30s that morning, I let the big male coyote lay where he had fallen while I kept hunting.
Not 20 minutes later, a mature buck came out of the same patch of timber with his nose to the ground in hot pursuit of any does that may have gone through the area earlier. After grunting, bleating, whistling and finally yelling “HEY,” the buck stopped. I slowly squeezed the trigger as the buck traveled 40 yards before crashing nose-first into the dirt. Having a nice mature buck down, and with a substantial male coyote lying near where the buck dropped, was icing on the cake.
The main concern for many hunters when debating about letting a coyote walk while in the middle of a deer hunt is the impact of the shot itself. Could the rifle blast spook nearby deer, or would the presence of a dead coyote alarm nearby deer enough to keep them from coming into close range?
In my experience, I believe that whether shooting a coyote is good or bad, that’s an issue that can only be determined by the hunter. I do not care if I don’t see another deer the rest of the morning after I shoot a coyote. If I didn’t want to shoot the coyote, or if I didn’t get enjoyment from taking it, I wouldn’t have done it. That’s my own belief.
For others, I think it depends on how the coyote population disturbs the deer population. If the number of coyotes is harming a deer herd, then yes, I say the coyotes should be shot. However, as a predator hunter, I’ve learned that shooting one coyote does nothing for a deer herd. In fact, shooting one could actually make it worse. Many veteran predator hunters will agree that when one coyote is taken out of an area, one or two more will replace it within a few days.
One of the reasons I often shoot coyotes while deer hunting is because I know that soon after deer season is over, I will spend the rest of the winter hunting, calling and trapping coyotes. Shooting one during deer season gives me a head start on my predator management efforts. However, if you intend to shoot one coyote to save the deer herd, you should probably let it walk on through. The only way it will save deer is if you have a continued predator management plan for the remainder of the year.
If an area has a high population of coyotes, I must disagree that the smell of nearby predators will spook deer out of the area. The smell of a coyote is a familiar smell to nearby deer. I have had several encounters where I’ve shot a coyote, then moments later, had deer walk by without them giving any attention to the dead coyote.
Predator Hunters Only
In recent years, I have had a few hunting buddies with the same passion for predator hunting as mine tell me that they look at deer hunting season as a time when shooting a coyote can be a bonus to an already successful deer hunt.
My ALPS Outdoorz backpack always hangs within reach on most deer hunting excursions while I’m in my treestand. Inside my pack are the standard deer hunting necessities, such as binoculars, rangefinder, grunt call, extra gloves and a couple of snacks in case my stomach wants to try to cut my hunt short. However, I also always carry a few small predator calls in case the deer hunting is slow. That lets me decide if I want to try to call in a coyote, or if one is making its way through, I want to try to coax it into shooting range.
I have carried calls such as the FoxPro Smokin Gun Howler diaphragm call, which is a small mouth call that can be used to howl, bark and whine like a coyote. It also lets you create tiny rodent squeaks to grab a coyote’s attention to get them closer into close range. Over the past three years, I have also kept the Pocket Prey Call inside my pack for times when I’m in my treestand and I’m trying to draw a coyote closer.
For many years, I always thought it would be ideal to keep my electronic predator call sitting out away from me while deer hunting in case a coyote came by. The Pocket Prey Call is a small hand-held electronic call that provides three predator calls at the push of a button. The small battery-operated call allows hunters to have rabbit magic, dueling fawns and jackrabbit distress sounds ready to play in the spur of the moment without having to pack a heavy electronic caller.
As mentioned earlier, whether you should shoot a coyote when deer hunting solely depends on whether you will be disappointed if a deer spooked after that. There is no scientific explanation of when or why a deer would spook from a hunter’s shooting a coyote while deer hunting.
Packing along a few small predator calls, almost as an encouragement for coyotes to walk by, is only for predator hunters. So, if it makes you happy, don’t hesitate.
Check Out Two Portable Predator Calls
Pocket Prey 3 Sound Predator Call
The Pocket Prey 3 Sound Predator Call is an ultra-portable premium electronic game with three copyright-protected sounds: Rabbit Magic, Dueling Fawns and Jackrabbit in Distress.
The Pocket Prey predator call is designed to draw predators within bow or rifle range. It includes the only copyright-protected rabbit and squirrel call sound that triggers paternal instincts and draws them within feet of the call. The ergonomic design has four audio levels and is optimized for maximum portability and power. Retail: $149.00
FoxPro Smokin Gun Howler Diaphragm
The Smokin Gun Diaphragm Howler is part of FoxPro’s complete line of coyote diaphragm mouth calls. The versatility that diaphragm calls have allows the hunter to let out a howl or distress quickly on the stand. The Smokin’ Gun howler is a two-reed, regular frame design offering various coyote vocalizations. This mouth call is easy to use and has excellent volume capabilities. The Smokin’ Gun howler creates a variety of standard coyote vocalizations, such as howls, barks, distress, yips, chirps, whimpers, and challenges. Retail: $14.95