American hunters have fallen head over heels for coyotes, just as they have for whitetail deer and wild turkeys.
Hard-core hunters chase deer and turkey year-round, scouting, studying, dreaming, practicing, building, and yes, hunting. On a quickly growing interest level, so do coyote fans.
Just look at every outdoor publication on the news stand this month. The covers are coyote, the features are coyote, the advertisements are coyote. There are even varmint-only periodicals focusing year-round on predators and especially on coyotes. And it’s all about late winter, prime time for ’yote hunters.
No wonder, coyotes have overrun Ohio and nearly every other state. In fact these sneaky meat eaters can be found, seen, and heard in every county, township, and most towns across the Buckeye State.
For the most part, coyotes live an invisible life, but in recent years they are showing themselves as bold neighborhood bullies as they adapt to city life. Their proliferation is legendary, their reputations as top predators equally so, and their ability to cleanse a landscape of anything else with fur on it evident.
It was in 1981 that a staff written editorial in the Toledo Blade claimed that coyotes and crows were overrunning the area. It prompted a state legislator to propose a bill to encourage the control of the unwelcome varmints.
Readers saw the news as laughable and the legislation died in a gaggle of state house giggles.
But western Ohio residents weren’t giggling in the early 1900s when sightings of a wolf were reported. It wasn’t long until a huge hunt was organized.
A massive gathering of men surrounded a 10-mile square on a cold January day then closed the trap to a one mile square where the wolf was actually seen but escaped, running with hounds hot on its trail which was lost at some point.
A second attempt was planned for a week later. This time, the trap worked and the wolf fell to a battle line of shotguns as did one of the participants who was shot accidentally.
Mistaken identity. The wolf was mounted and displayed in a DeGraff bank where people could view what may have been a large coyote.
In the 1980s, a knowledgeable Ohio wildlife official was able to examine old photos of the wolf which he determined to be most likely a coyote.
A smattering of wolf stories emerged as the decades passed with most of them probable coyote stories gone wild.
By the 1930s, livestock owners, especially sheep farmers, were experiencing losses accounted to coyotes. In the 1940s, the numbers of coyotes increased but many wildlife officials speculated that much of the increase could be attributed to a coyote’s willingness to interbreed with domestic dogs. The term coydogs came in into every discussion about coyotes.
In the 1950s, coyotes were still listed as a rare species in Ohio, but farmers who were losing lambs thought differently. By then, the presence of coyotes was being felt in several Ohio counties.
Too often, officials claimed that these “prairie wolves” were simply pets that escaped or were somehow imported by careless owners. That was then and this is now.
Today, coyotes are everywhere. They are intelligent and adaptable. Efficient hunters and clever killers, they eat what is available. Farmers sometimes have trouble keeping barn cats around, puppies disappear, ground hogs and rabbits are gleaned, and smaller rodents like field mice provide meals for these opportunistic and beautiful predators. And yes, they kill lots of whitetail fawns.
So why the attention to coyotes right now? Because this is the best time to hunt them as they search for slim pickings during this barren time of the year and look for and compete for mates.