Ranchland Stands Help Fool Wary Wile E.
By Gary Lewis
We were 100 percent on our East Biggs Unit mule deer hunt. My friends Ryan and John had filled their antlerless deer tags in two days. We stopped at the ranch house to say one last ‘thank you' before we headed for home. Our hostess suggested we stay another day and see if we could bag a coyote. That was an easy decision.
Early the next morning we left the bunkhouse, skirted the base of a hill and made our way west, looking for a place to set up and call. A half-mile later, we rounded a bend and, careful not to give away our intentions to any watching dogs, eased around the corner of a big haystack and slipped through the fence. With our backs to the hay, we propped our rifles against the rails. A small herd of cows grazed on the short grass along the creek. With a west wind in our favor, I began to call.
I like to use a mouth call, varying the tone, volume and duration of the calls to fit the situation. If there are plenty of cottontails in the area, I'll use a call with less variation, giving a series of short cries. If jackrabbits are more prevalent, I'll switch to a raspier sound. My jackrabbit instrument doubles as an imitation of a fawn in distress when I lengthen the cry.
Always call for at least 15 minutes. The sound carries and dogs may come a long ways to investigate, sometimes at a dead run.
After calling for 13 minutes, I began to think we weren't going to see anything. Then Ryan whispered, "Bogey. Three o'clock."
My eyes swiveled right and I saw the cattle had turned to face something coming in. Following their gaze, I focused on the predator. He had stopped. I blew one last call, and as he came on, found him in the crosshair.
Coyotes are the most common four-legged predators in this state. And it's not hard to find ranchers who are happy to see a few less on their property. During calving and lambing seasons, ranchers have the most to lose. Winter, when snow is on the ground, affords you your best opportunity to help reduce spring's livestock and wildlife predation.
In open-country, you'll have your best chances of spotting coyotes coming to your call. Head east of the Cascades and spend a few days hunting between the small towns from Bend to Burns and Arlington to the Owyhee. Seek permission from ranchers you meet along the way.
When you have the opportunity, use haystacks, old broken-down farm equipment, , fence corners, ditches or abandoned outbuildings as a blind. Rabbits make their living in such places. If a coyote has ever seen a human there, it was probably someone driving a tractor. Hide your vehicle well and walk in using the contour of the land to conceal your movements.
You can hunt cattle country coyotes on public land as well. Most eastern Oregon ranches are bordered by Bureau of Land Management property or National Forests. Pick up a BLM map to help you determine which land is public and which is private. Then stake out rimrock country and sagebrush-choked canyons adjacent to agricultural fields. Often, the predator will breakfast on the well-groomed private ground and retire to the badlands to rest. You can find him there and call him to dinner.