Cow Country Coyotes
By Gary Lewis
Cow country coyotes are some of the best-schooled predators on four legs. Every day they observe the two-leggers walk the fields and ride out to the cattle. They learn to lie up in the sage or watch from the rimrocks, waiting until all is quiet before returning to the flats to hunt mice, ground squirrels and rabbits.
At calving time, they put their education to use. One rancher we talked to last year described finding the half-eaten remains of his newborn calves and colts. In the spring, he said, the coyotes turn their attention to antelope, mule deer fawns and elk calves.
Frost crusted the tops of the sagebrush. Ahead of us, the valley stretched flat and parched, studded with sagebrush, rabbit brush and yellowed meadows. We turned south toward Beatys Butte.
Our second stand was a low finger ridge that hid the truck and afforded an unobstructed look at the valley floor. My 17-year-old daughter Jennifer and Gary Madison, of Burns, backed up against a screen of sagebrush. I set up on the left to watch the back door.
Madison employed a woodpecker distress call and a decoy. Two minutes into the set, a coyote plunged into the open on my left.
Swinging the rifle and shooting sticks, I fumbled the first shot at 15 yards and caught movement further left. Another coyote. I didn't miss that one. But I missed the first one again with the third shot then barked to stop it and connected on the fourth.
Jennifer's coyote came late in the day. The predator bounced out of the sage and stopped behind a stand of sagebrush when I barked. When it took a step, Jennifer centered him in the crosshair.
Some of the best coyote hunting of the year takes place in August and September when young dogs find themselves hunting alone for the first time. In cow country, the best bet is to hunt the predators that haunt herds of deer and pronghorn or hang around the ranch meadows.
Slip over the top of a hill and stake out a setup with a view of the valley floor. Use a decoy to hold a dog's confidence on the way in. Instead of rabbit sounds, try fawn distress, calf bawls and bird calls.
Give cow country dogs about 20 minutes at each stand. If nothing comes in, pick up and try again a mile away. You can bet the coyotes are listening from the rimrock or out in the flats. And you can bet they are hungry.