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Coyote Surprise

by Chuck Goodall

Coyote taken by the author Chuck Goodall. The spring gobbler season of 2001 was a season of firsts for me. For one thing this is the first time the turkey hunting bug bit me so hard, I went hunting almost everyday. The first day I let my friend John Crowder, borrow my shotgun, as his was at the gunsmiths shop. I carried my camcorder hoping to capture John harvesting his first gobbler on videotape. Well, needless to say, the Old Tom had other ideas and all we got on tape was a lot of gobblin’. That rascal stayed just out of shotgun range and I came down with a bad case of Gobbler Fever! After the first day the Handi-Cam remained at home, I’m sorry to say.

Saturday April 28, John and I went to Roane County near Walton. This was my first time hunting this property, and as the shadows around me began turning into trees and boulders I realized that I was sitting right on a well used deer trail. I thought about moving up the hill a little above the trail, then I remembered I was after turkeys not deer and decided to stay put.

A major tactical error, you should always go with your first instincts. I made a few soft yelps at first light, five minutes later I caught movement coming up the trail, at first I thought coyote. As it got closer it was obviously a bobcat our eyes met at about 15 paces. He immediately turned and vanished like a ghost, leaving me feeling very stupid. I was hoping for a coyote because there is no closed season on coyotes here as there is on bobcats.

None the less, I was very pleased to see my first bobcat in the wild! The sad thing is a coyote would have nailed me in the middle of that trail also! I should have moved above the trail for several reasons; better cover, better view, thermal currents travel up in the mornings. In addition, my chosen quarry, turkeys, and coyotes both frequently use well-worn game trails.

Coyotes in this part of West Virginia are relatively new phenomena. I have seen five in the wild during the last ten years or so. I’ve tried calling several times with limited success, over the years I’ve lured in many gray and red fox. I’ve wanted to bag a coyote in the worst way. Because of this and the fact of the continuous open season, I have begun carrying my predator calls with me everywhere I go. I’ve known several people who have shot coyotes while hunting other game. Don’t get me wrong I would definitely take every coyote I happen across, although it would mean more to me if I was hunting specifically for coyotes. Whether I’m hunting deer, turkey or whatever when I take out those calls and start making like a wounded rabbit I’m Huntin’ Coyote.

Since Mr. Coyote has invaded my hunting territory, I have noticed seeing a lot less game. Hunting in packs it’s easy to see how at the very least they put a lot of pressure on all prey animals. It’s no big secret the drop in fur prices and the stigma that now befalls anyone who wears furs has been responsible for the greatest increase of predators in modern times. This is truly a shame the fur trade built this country and is as much a part of our heritage as is hunting.

I’ve noticed an incredible increase in the number of raccoons, fox, and coyotes killed on the roads seemingly increasing more each year. I’m sure it’s not just in my locale. The DNR states there is a direct correlation between road kill and numbers of game. This makes sense the more you see killed on the highway the more there is in the wild. Lately there have been numerous and scattered reports of rabies, lymes and other diseases. We are in danger of an epidemic, which could endanger prized hunting dogs as fleas, and ticks spread most diseases. I believe we desperately need to reduce predator numbers.

Thursday morning, May 3, found me sitting in the gently rolling hills of Teays Valley in Putnam County, WV. waiting for daylight. I was straining my ears hoping to hear a gobbler as I had almost every morning the last two weeks. After about an hour, I had heard only one gobble and it was so far away I wasn’t sure about it.

Chuck shows us the teeth on this nice size coyote. Again, this was the first time I had hunted this area. I decided to take a little walk and I noticed what appeared to be an old home site. There were several patches of Easter Lilies, foundation pillars, and a couple of spruce trees (the kind not native to this area) on a big flat knob of the ridge. Judging from the amount of undergrowth, my guess is the old house had still been standing twenty-five or thirty years ago. I walked over the hill maybe a hundred yards and sat down under a huge oak tree at least five feet in diameter. In the first fork of the tree about twenty feet up there was an old tree stand rotting away. I wondered what history this great old oak had witnessed in the past two or three maybe even four hundred years.

As I sat there imagining the Native Americans, the Frontiersmen, Revolutionary and Civil War battles, not to mention the countless dramas of nature that have unfolded before this single oak tree. It suddenly hit me, it was perfectly still, no wind, and conditions were perfect for predator calling. I was totally camouflaged in the shadow of the huge oak with the sun at my back. Why not, I thought, I might as well give the old wounded rabbit call a try. I cut loose with six or seven pleading calls then paused, about two minutes later five or six more wails then total quiet.

I was raising the call to my mouth to start the third sequence when I saw a flash of brown pass between two trees maybe eighty yards away. All right, I thought to myself, could this be my first coyote? As the coyote passed behind some vegetation I shouldered my Browning Gold Hunter 12-gauge 3.5-inch magnum and eased the safety off. Forty yards, thirty, twenty, close enough I thought as I pulled the trigger. He jumped several feet in the air and then kicked a couple a times and that was it. I had taken my first coyote, a big male (approx. 40 pounds) and what a shame I didn’t get that on videotape. He’d came in like on a string never knowing I was there. I believe he would have passed within three feet of me had not the two ounces of copper plated four shot ended his predatory career!

I couldn’t help thinking that the old oak had played an important role in the morning’s events, maybe fate or something else had lead me to that tree. I felt the spiritual presence of hunters from the past. As a warm feeling of peace and satisfaction filled my soul I looked up into the tree and thought to myself, "Just another small drama of nature and the ancient oak tree bore witness."

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