Once considered a denizen of the Western wilds, the coyote has learned to adapt to human encroachment and development to the point that these clever predators are now common both in rural subdivisions and many cities. Because these large dog-like carnivores pose a threat to livestock, pets and local game populations, urban residents invariably demand that they be removed, eradicated or eliminated. It’s not as easy as it sounds.
URBAN COYOTE BEHAVIOR
Saying that coyotes “adapt” to human activity means that these animals actually study our habits and learn to work around them. This is why urban coyotes are often seen roaming the streets and back roads in broad daylight after commuters have headed off to school and work. They disappear again when workers return home, and then come out again in the evening when all is quiet. This is why many folks don’t even know there are coyotes living among them until a favorite pet is taken or suspicious “dog-like” tracks are found near the cat’s dish on the porch.
THREADING THE NEEDLE
In order to fool urban coyotes, hunters must do some homework. The first stop is the state hunting regulations handbook, which reveals legal hunting times, safe distances from buildings, license requirements, etc. In some areas hunters may be allowed to hunt coyotes on private property with landowner permission, but laws vary greatly.
Next, hunters should call the municipal offices to find out about local ordinances. Firearms restrictions are likely and some municipalities even restrict or ban crossbows, bows and even airguns. While this may sound like bad news there is a positive side: Coyotes may be called from long distances (over 1 mile in some cases) so it’s all but certain there will be areas open to hunting near or just outside the city limits, meaning hunters must learn areas and the hunting regulations that apply. By working with local law enforcement officers, game wardens and town officials, hunters should be able to come up with a viable game plan.
URBAN COYOTE TACTICS
While it would be nice to be able to pick a spot, sit down and start calling, that is not likely to be the case in most urban settings. Keep in mind that not all residents of urban communities go to work or school during the day. Some are home and may be surprised by what sounds like a dying rabbit blasting away nearby. Avoid these places whenever possible, but if coyote sign (and complaints) are abundant it may be a good idea to visit homes within one-half mile of the calling site and inform householders. Expect questions, conflicts and concerns, and be prepared to counter them with the facts provided by local authorities.
Calling urban coyotes is sometimes easier than calling their wilder brethren because competition is stiff in urban areas (dogs, cats, foxes, other coyotes, etc.) and natural prey is usually scarce. Therefore, when a coyote hears that dying rabbit sound he’s likely to show up on the run hoping to get there before another predator beats him to a free meal.
It is good to remember that it is not necessary to wail on a call for endless hours nonstop — natural wild prey does not scream continuously. Doing so will certainly bother the neighbors and alert incoming coyotes that something is not right.
Real prey animals utter one or two loud, pitiful screams and then go silent. Do the same and then sit tight for up to 30 minutes, because it may take a coyote that long to negotiate street crossings, culverts, fenced areas and other urban obstacles.
However, be prepared for a coyote to show up unexpectedly in any direction. Although it’s normal for predators to work into range with noses to the wind, calling downwind is not always possible in urban situations. A coyote will use the prevailing breeze as much as possible but if obstacles block the way he’ll skirt them and come in from the left, right or even from behind.
Be ready to shoot immediately. A coyote could be sleeping in an old shed or drainage ditch just 100 yards away, or may be lurking on the other side of the neighborhood. Assume that he is close by and be ready for action. There is no need to continue calling or use decoys or other attractions because an urban coyote will know exactly where to go when he hears the call. Remember, coyotes make their living chasing down injured prey, and it’s nearly impossible to fool them. Call, wait quietly and be patient.
DRESS FOR SUCCESS
Camouflage clothing from head to toe is best for urban coyotes, including a facemask and gloves. Choose patterns that match foliage or soil color. Non-matching hues will catch a coyote’s eye immediately and may cost a shot.
Another option is to use a camouflaged ground blind or blind material that matches the surroundings. The advantage of blinds is that incomers are not as likely to spot hunters and may approach to within a few feet before realizing that they have gone too far.
Another option that’s useful for urban predator hunters is to utilize a treestand. In most cases a permanent ladder stand will be too unwieldy and obvious for most urban situations, plus there’s the risk of having it damaged or stolen between hunts. A climbing stand is an excellent choice because it not only puts hunters above the scent stream but also provides a sharp downward-angled shot, which is much safer in urban areas.
Also, consider hunting during the week to avoid complications with urban residents whose weekend activities may include jogging, mowing, strolling or cookouts. Very early in the day, the period from 9 a.m. to noon and then 1 p.m. till 4 p.m. will be productive in most cases. Certainly tailor hunts to existing conditions and situations, and utilize natural features (rivers, lakes, ponds, wildlife areas, parks and forests) where there will likely be fewer interruptions or complications by local residents.
Obviously, hunting urban coyotes will require some creative thinking on the hunter’s part. Do the homework, plan strategies that take advantage of human activity (or the lack of it) and tweak tactics as conditions (and the coyotes) dictate. Focus on areas where urban residents have complained about coyotes in the past and where quick, in-and-out hunts may be conducted without resulting in a rash of calls to the local 911 operator!
URBAN CALLING TECHNIQUES
There are several ways a coyote can be teased into range in urban areas. For example, one loud, long call will get the attention of any predator within hearing. It may take the animal close to an hour to close the distance but he will find you. Don’t call loudly and repeatedly for long periods; it’s not necessary, doesn’t produce any more coyotes and will annoy the neighbors.
Another option is to try a low-frequency squeaker call. Although it may be difficult for the hunter to imagine, a hungry predator can hear the soft squeaks of a mouse or chipmunk from a quarter-mile away. In winter, these predators can hear a mouse squeak under 3 feet of dense snow.
Because most squeaker calls are generally lower in volume it’s permissible to utter several frantic squeaks in continuation before putting the call down and getting ready for a shot. Again, it’s not necessary to call loudly and repeatedly for hours on end. They know where you are from the first squeak and they will find you. Just sit back, get ready and give the animal time to make its way into range.