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Managing Coyotes

January 11, 2017
By Ralph Scherder - OV Times Hunting Editor , Ohio Valley Outdoors

Coyotes are a hot topic in the eastern United States. Coyotes could be credited for the fact that predator hunting is the fastest growing segment of the outdoor industry. The reasons why are numerous. They're a worthwhile adversary. Their keen senses are second to none, and fooling them consistently is a feat worth bragging about. More than anything, though, coyotes have become public enemy number one because they often prey upon the resource we covet whitetail deer.

Winter months are hard on whitetail deer, and coyotes certainly don't make it any easier. Deep snows and harsh weather can make food scarce, which results in weakened deer that become more susceptible to predators. It's often said that coyotes only prey on the weak, but that's a bit of a misnomer, I believe, because I've also witnessed them running a perfectly healthy deer until it became weak. In packs, coyotes can be relentless.

Coyotes pose the most threat in the spring fawning season. During its first few months of life, a fawn is an easy meal for any coyote. It's no coincidence that fawn recruitment rates across the country have gone down while coyote populations have steadily gone up.

Article Photos

The author with a nice eastern coyote he trapped in his home state of Pennsylvania. “Learn these basics of trapping and you’ll catch coyotes. Master them and you’ll catch lots of coyotes.”

By their nature, eastern coyotes are warier than their western cousins. It's said that during their migration east, coyotes interbred with Canadian timber wolves so that what we have in this region today is a physically larger, and smarter, version. The average coyote out west, for instance, weighs 20-30 pounds. The average here is closer to 30-40 pounds.

Although you can call in and kill the occasional coyote, trapping is still the number one method for controlling populations. Here in the east, trappers will always harvest more coyotes than predator hunters, period. If you're serious about providing some relief to your local whitetail population, you may want to consider buying some traps and learning how to use them effectively.

Coyotes are big, powerful animals. Use at least a #2 coilspring trap with a few modifications such as the addition of swivels near the trap. Straight out of the box, with no modifications, the MB-550 is perhaps the best coyote trap on the market. If you're new to trapping, this should be your primary choice.

Fact Box

Coyotes pose the most threat in the spring fawning season. During its first few months of life, a fawn is an easy meal for any coyote.

When I buy new traps, I like to soak them overnight in degreaser. Dawn soap works great. Next day, rinse them off and, once dry, wax them. The first step to coyote trapping success is scent free equipment, so always make sure to store your traps in clean containers and always wear gloves when handling them.

The first step in catching coyotes is finding hot locations. Old woods roads, long brushy rows, or where tractor roads intersect are all possible locations. Look for tracks and scat in those areas. If coyotes are around, sign will be easy to find.

Making a set that will catch coyotes is an easy process. Dirthole sets are the most universal and effective set for catching almost any critter, especially coyotes. Dig a hole about three inches in diameter and about six inches deep and at a 45 degree angle away from you. I prefer to dig the hole in front of some sort of backing such as a small rock or clump of weeds to prevent the coyote from working the set from behind.

Next, dig out a small bed for the trap in front of the hole. Coyotes are relatively long-legged animals compared to fox, so the trap should be set farther back away from the hole to catch them. The standard distance is about nine inches from the lip of the hole to the center of the trap pan.

Make sure the trap is bedded solidly. Often, the difference between a miss and a catch can be attributed to how well your trap is bedded. It should be solid enough that a coyote could step on one of the trap's jaws and the trap should not wiggle. To achieve this, I use small flat rocks under each corner of the trap, if necessary, or pack dirt tight around the jaws.

This time of year, freezing-thawing conditions are the bane of trappers. Always use antifreeze such as glycol to keep traps functioning through all types of weather. Glycol is a thick liquid, so I mix it in a 2:1 ratio with water so that it won't clog my spray bottle. Once the trap is bedded, I give it a good dousing of glycol.

Next, sift dirt over top of the trap, just enough to cover it. Make sure no small rocks or debris are in the dirt pattern that could possibly prevent the trap from functioning properly. I prefer the dirt pattern be level over the trap, then I spray it again with a heavy dose of glycol.

As a final touch at each set, I take a little bit of the surroundings (leaves, grass, etc.) and use it to blend in the edges of the dirt pattern. Sometimes I even sprinkle a few blades of grass directly on the dirt pattern so that the set looks natural, as if it belongs, and was made by another animal.

Bait should be placed in the hole and then shove a few leaves down the hole as well so the coyote has to work to get to it. Almost any prepared predator bait on the market will work. Most places that sell commercially prepared lures and baits will also provide recommendations on how to use those lures and baits. Don't hesitate to ask questions to find out which combinations are most effective.

This time of year, gland lure and urine work very well when placed on the top lip of the dirthole. They appeal to a coyote's territorial nature. Also, mating season is approaching, which means they will investigate where other coyotes have placed their scent to figure out if there's any competition or potential mates in the area.

One of the biggest mistakes trappers make when pursuing coyotes is that they walk up to their sets when checking them. Remember, coyotes have tremendous noses. They can smell where you've walked hours after you've been there. For that reason, I only get as close to a set as I have to to see if I've caught anything. Any human odor near a set must dissipate before a coyote will feel comfortable enough to work it and get caught.

Learn these basics of trapping and you'll catch coyotes. Master them and you'll catch lots of coyotes. I've known trappers who've taken a dozen or more coyotes from a single farm in a season. That's a heck of a lot more than you'll ever get predator hunting.



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