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Hounddogin' Coyotes

      It was almost full daylight when he saw the track. Joe had been driving the back roads looking for coyote tracks in the fresh snow that stopped falling sometime during the night. The pine trees where weighted down with the white stuff and in the woods the snow was over two feet deep. He slammed on the brakes and backed up to get a better look. It was a large coyote track, no doubt about it, and it didn’t have any snow in it. Another smaller track crossed the road up ahead. It was February, breeding season for coyotes and prime time for hunting them with the hounds. The section the coyotes had come out of was full of snowshoe hares, no doubt they had been taking full advantage of the big rabbits for their winter food supply.

          An hour later he pulled up to the old cemetery where the rest of the group had met to plan strategy for the day’s hunt. Mike was telling everyone about the coyote he had shot last year at 400 yards (in case they hadn’t already heard the story 20 times). When Joe told about the tracks he had found it was decided to give them a try. He had checked all the way around the 1 mile by 3 mile section to make sure the coyotes hadn’t crossed into another section and they hadn’t.

          Back where the tracks had crossed the road Blue, the best jump dog in this part of the state was turned loose along with another proven veteran of many chases. Both dogs opened immediately and began trailing away from the road at steady pace. Three younger dogs were turned into the track and quickly disappeared into the woods to join the race. All the pickups but one sped away to cover places the coyotes were likely to cross. Joe stayed behind listening to the dogs. He heard them jump the coyote about a half mile in and the chase sped away to the south.

          When Joe reached the south road he realized that Blue wasn’t with the other dogs. He got out the tracker and tuned in Blue’s collar. The strongest signal came from back to the east, the direction he had just come from. He rounded the corner just as the coyote came out to the narrow road up ahead. The coyote decided to run down the road to try and put some distance between himself and the blueticked hound that was on his trail. Joe sped down the icy road as fast as possible. When the coyote jumped off the road into the woods Joe nearly went off the road also trying to get stopped. Blue came running down the road, stopped just long enough for a curious glance at the pickup parked sideways in the road, then followed the trail the coyote made into the woods. Joe opened both doors on the dog box and turned loose the only dogs he had left, a pair of year old running walkers that had only been in on a couple of coyotes. Blue’s deep baying was soon joined by the chopping voices of the two young dogs as they disappeared into the pine forest.

          Joe called the others on the radio to let them know what had happened. He found out the first coyote had crossed safely into the section to the south and was now heading west. Joe decided to stay with Blue’s coyote. Two hours later and two miles further west the first coyote crossed a field and Mike dropped it in it’s tracks with a single shot from his .243 from two hundred yards away.

          The big coyote that Blue and the running walkers were chasing had made a complete circle of the section he was in without showing himself and was now back in the pines the snowshoe’s liked. The coyote had been breaking a path through the snow which slowed him down. The running walkers were gaining on him because they could follow his path, Blue wasn’t far behind them. Joe put on his snowshoes and headed into the trees to try and head them off.

          Joe found a small clearing and settled in to watch as the hounds came closer. It seemed like the dogs were coming right at him when suddenly he saw a flash of gray going through the trees 30 yards away. There hadn’t been time for a shot. The two running walkers came by hot on that coyotes heels. They were running by air scent now, heads up and moving fast.

          About 50 yards further Joe heard the dogs catch the coyote, their trail barks changing into a frantic baying. When Joe got there he saw the coyote bayed up under a blow down. Jake, one of the running walkers got brave when he saw his master and moved in close to the coyote. The coyote darted out from under the branches of the blow down and caught Jake by the ear. While Jake was howling in pain and trying to get loose Blue decided to take advantage of the situation. The big blue dog jumped on the coyote and clamped down on the back of his neck with all of the strength he had in his jaws. Joe moved in and quickly dispatched the coyote, ending the fight to the relief of Jake.

          Joe dragged the coyote back to the road after settling an argument with Blue over who the coyote belonged to. When he got to the road the rest of the group was there waiting for him. All of the dogs had been loaded up and Mike was telling everyone who cared to listen about the shot he had made. They discussed turning loose on another track, but it was decided to rest the dogs and meet again the next morning at the old cemetery.

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