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Eastern Coyote Control Method
One thing that becomes clearer every year that I perform eastern coyote control is that they are all individual. This factor can cause a problem for any control man that works on a daily or weekly schedule. Some coyotes act like we expect them to, while other coyotes obviously have not read the same trapping books that we have. No matter how good the set is, how natural well bedded the trap is, the lure and or bait combination, or how “right on location” we are, some coyotes refuse to work on our schedule. Most of my jobs are based on a 14 day schedule. Some are only 7 days. The slow to catch eastern coyotes can be a pain on a 7 day schedule and sometimes 14 days is not enough. We may get our target catch numbers, but that cautious eastern coyote can cause me to pull out what little hair I have left. At the same time, this is what separates the men from the boys in this game. The men are not men because they catch the coyote. The men are men because they keep driving on, learning new lessons to becoming a better trapper. The boys on the other hand will have excuses, blame the weather, and find reasons to run away from the situation.
Well blended snares, if allowed, are a great equalizer as are blind sets. The “slow” coyotes seem to walk by and look over at your set and keep trucking. Sometimes it might be that this individual is more nervous about any new thing in his or her territory. Some eastern coyotes will work a dirt hole and some will not. Some work different flat sets and some could care less about them. Like it or not some of these aggravating coyotes just need time and there is nothing that a trapper can do to “force” this coyote to do anything. Now I do have a set that seems to put a hurt on slow working coyotes. I find that by day 5-7, the coyote that would not play the normal trapping game is hooked into some brush, testing the drag, chain and trap. Is this a 100% set, 100% of the time? Absolutely not. There is no such in the coyote world, but this is one is a very high percentage set no matter where I trap.
This recipe has the ingredients to really pay off. Three traps on drags, large shovel or pick, hump or low bank, disposable stake and large natural bait. Let’s start with the location of the set. First, let’s give this set a name. Well how about, the “get’r done set” or the “grocery store set”? How about the “labor intensive set”? No, that one is not that good is it? I think we will call this the “OSWS” (old school wolfer set). Yep, that will work. The Old School Wolfer Set works because that’s what it is. It’s a set that works on the natural habits of the coyote. The set itself is very natural, causing very little hesitation. Since we just named this little beauty, let’s build one. The location needs to be on the active travel pattern of the coyotes. I don’t really worry about it being on a cross road or anything like that. I’m looking for the right ground features for this set to work to it’s maximum potential. What we are looking for is a small hump or bank along the travel way. I like to find one that is about 12-18 high and somewhat open. A tree or bush is fine. I just don’t want to have a wall of brush or thick grass on the top of the hump. If that’s all that I can find, then I will cut it down and rough up the ground.
Once you have your location, take your pick or shovel and dig out a slot that is 12-14 inches deep by 12-14 wide. The slot will have the front of the set that faces the travel way dug completely to the front of the hump or bank. It will look like a topless hole or cubby dug into the bank. Next, take the bait and wire it to a disposable stake securing it to the bottom of our slot. For bait use a deer head, whole deer ham, road kill fawn, half of a goat, small pig, whole beaver, groundhog, half a dozen muskrats, or my personal favorite, a breasted whole turkey. You get the idea. This set uses natural bait, no lure or commercial urine. For this set to work on the slow and wise ones, no commercial smells! To do so would revert the natural set into a set that may cause circling and standing back on you. The bait needs to be big, at least 6-10 pounds at a minimum. Large bait is better. Make no mistake that coyotes will always get wound tighter for a larger reward. If the temperatures are high, like in the spring and fall, then gut the animal when using a whole one. If the temperatures are not that high, like in the middle of winter, keep the guts in them. I add one thing to the bait if I know the bait is going to freeze solid. I mix ¼ of 80 proof Vodka to ¾ percent of glycerin and coat the bait with the mixture. What this will do for you is too keep the odor of the bait reeking in sub freezing temps. Sure coyotes will smell frozen bait, but by adding the anti-freeze slurry, the bait will be smelled sooner, resulting in a faster catch. Staking down the bait may seem like a pain in the butt, but it is very important. Coyotes almost always take their food away from the set to eat it. You may think that a deer ham or 50 a pound beaver is too heavy for a coyote to run off with, but it is not.
Once we stake down our bait in the slot, we are going to cover it with a combination of dirt and leaves, grass, or pine straw. We do not want to tamp down the dirt and vegetation. The goal is to cover the bait and let the natural odor filter out to the wind currents. The reason I like turkeys so much is that I can have a few feathers showing through the dirt. Great eye appeal. You can do the same thing with pulling some fur from your bait and mixing it into the top layer of the dirt.
You have two options when building this set. Keep your dirt scatter under control or make a big mess with a large dirt pattern that goes in every direction. I personally like to keep things under control with the dirt pattern. I want the covered slot to look fresh, but want everything else to look untouched. This way I can blend in the traps. Some coyotes will work natural ground with a well blended set much faster than a dirt pattern. I have and still will make a total mess around the covered slot if the ground is too muddy to blend in traps. I might also do this to mix up the sets if I am making this set more than once on a local population of coyotes.
Ok, we have our bait covered and now we need to add traps for the set to do its job. If possible, I always use three traps on drags. Like it or not, some coyotes work sets from the back and some from the front. Setting only one trap is cutting out a certain percentage of coyotes. Why would any trapper cut down his percentage? Yes, it does take a little more time to set three traps, but with this set up you are basically making three sets. If you use drags, you can take more than one coyote at this set. One trap is placed about 14-16 inches from the front of the set. This trap is placed to block up the front of the set from the travel way. If possible, blend in the trap and have the drag entrenched under the trap. Then on the back and to the side direction of the slot, blend in a trap 10-12 inches away from the slot. One trap is on the left and right of the slot, up on the hump. These two traps should also be blended in, without a lot of blocking. The side to back trap placements will guard the set against the coyotes that circle and try to sneak up on the set. Once the traps are set, leave it alone. You cannot force a coyote to work this or any set, so don’t mess with it. Don’t think that this or that will make it better. If you are always messing with a set like this, you will cause a cautious coyote to keep back. Let them do their thing and they will get closer and closer to work the set.
I have never run a whole trap line with this set. It would take a lot of work and pre-digging to speed up the process. You would also have to have the bait frozen and ready to go. After saying that, I do think that this set would be the ticket for someone running a short line. It works very well and if one uses drags, it would be like running three sets per each set you put in.
What works so well for a set like this is that it is natural. It has eye appeal and a lot of nose appeal. The coyote will have to spend a lot of time around your traps to get the bait. One thing that I have noticed is that coyotes take a few days to work the set, but once they make their move, they work it with vigor. So if you’re wanting or needing to catch the old wise coyote that is walking by your dirt hole, give this set a try. You don’t make more money catching the cautious coyote, but you do gain confidence and self respect.
The catch cycle
The catch cycle will or should play a part in every trap line. The cycle I am referring to is not the many myths that run rampant in the trapping world. I am referring to the cycle that happens when a trapper starts to put pressure on the local coyote population. This is not the myth that claims that animals have a time period before they return to a location. I have heard everything from 3-10 days before an animal makes his rounds. There are several federal studies that show these myths to be fiction not fact.
Since I started chasing coyotes, a pattern or cycle seems to hold true everywhere I go. It was the same in the northeast, southeast, Atlantic cost to New Mexico and a lot of states in-between. This cycle is important in the manner in which you plan and manage your line.
The cycle is as follows: 3 days, 5-7 days and 5-7 days. Most of the time it takes about 3 days before a coyote line starts to really produce. Sure there will be coyotes caught the first and second day, but everything starts to click after 72 hours. In areas that are good tracking ground you will see a lot of coyotes simply walk by a perfectly good set. It does not appear that the coyote even breaks stride. I have no doubt that coyotes see and smell the set, but keep on trucking. Why this happens I do not know. It seems almost like the coyote does not like or trust something out of the ordinary. After a few days you will see the coyotes walk straight in on the set or circle it. That is, if the coyotes ever even works the set. It does not matter what kind of set, bait or lure you use, there will be a percentage of coyotes that will not work or will have no interest in your set. This is why it is so important to use different sets, baits and lures over the course of a trap line.
The first 5-7 day pattern is the fun part of trapping. Predators are waiting on you everywhere. This time period is where your money is made. The catch is good and life is as it should be.
The next 5-7 day period is not a fun one to work through. The catch falls off. You have to keep in mind that when you are tearing their butts up, you are sending shock waves though the local population. I don’t pretend to know what a predator thinks or understands when he sees his kin folk locked up in a trap. I just know that after about a week of seeing this, the surviving coyotes go into high alert and don’t work sets as well. So here is the understanding of such a pattern and then it is up to you to figure out how you are going to handle it. Option one is to suffer through it and wait until the catch goes back up. The second option is to move to new predators and start over. There are a lot of considerations that have to be kept in mind. The trapper’s time limits, season dates, amount of line and the amount of work to keep moving. I have come to two different ways of looking at this pattern and how I deal with it. One; use the slower time of the catch to set up a new piece of ground and start a new cycle of the animal’s behavior. Two; pull traps and head to new ground. Option two is the winner for the most amounts of coyotes over the long haul. By doing all this extra work I can stay in the sweet spot more days out of the month.
Every trapper has to look at the big picture of the season and decide what the best option for him or her is. More importantly you need to understand the pattern. Sure weather will and can play a part in this equation, but if you keep up with you start date and catches, you will see this pattern for yourself. This pattern is just another piece of the pie in regards to becoming a better fur taker.
EAST VS WEST?
If you get to talk to eastern trappers as much as I do, you will hear this statement over and over, “What works in the west does not work in the east!” Well, this may be true on a few realities, but for the most part, this is not true. I could say something here to stroke the eastern man’s feathers, but why? Just going with the normal politically correct easy response does no one any good. This statement about western methods not pertaining to the east is crazy. Just think about it. Who has been chasing and killing hundreds of thousands of coyotes since the turn of the last century-the western trapper? Coyotes in the east for the most part have never been a very big factor. Our current coyote population has only been high in most places in the last 20-30 years. Now in the west they have been chasing coyotes in a professional manner for about a century. In the east red fox was king. Most of the techniques of the eastern mentality came from the fox, not the coyote. Sure there were guys catching SOME coyotes. Just how many guys in the east were catching 100 coyotes a year, how about 500-1000 a year? In the west on the other hand, guys were trapping a couple hundred a month to over a thousand a year. The western concept of trapping coyotes came from trapping coyotes, not fox. This should get your attention if you were to decide to follow a style of trapping.
There are some differences in western trapping and they should be understood. These differences are NOT about putting steel to a coyote, but are different in other ways. Some of the differences are in laws, population, trap checks, weather, larger tracks of ground and equipment restrictions. I do have some reservations on bringing these differences to light. I fear some guys will use them to make themselves feel better about rationalizing their lack of numbers. With the right mindset, understanding about coyotes and work ethic you can take a large number of coyotes in the east, south and mid-west.
We all hear that the west has more coyotes. This makes them more competitive and easier to trap. Well guys, I hate to bust that bubble, but for the most part it is not true. For that matter, most of the time, the east today holds far more coyotes per square mile than the West. Before you burn this issue, I will admit that there are parts of the west that hold a lot of coyotes. I have seen in the southern New Mexican desert a very large population. When you talk about coyote population in east vs. west, you have to take into consideration the coyotes per square mile. Most of the west has a population with a family group that averages about 12-18 per square miles. A lot of the west has a population of a family living on 20 or more square miles. Plus in the west there are a lot of areas with no coyotes at all. Unlike the east, in the west there are a lot of large tracks of ground that do not support very much wildlife. Now back in the east we have a lot of coyotes. The south now holds probably as many coyotes per square miles as most of Texas. I have not found any studies that really get into the average coyotes per square mile. I have talked to biologists and have suggested such a study. All have said the same thing; the land is too varied to get any type of a scientific base line and consistency. The east has old growth, new growth, hard woods and pine forests. We have mountains and rolling hills. We have crop land, high human population areas, both wildlife managed and unmanaged land. On the other hand, places like Montana, Wyoming, Kansas and Texas have hundreds and hundreds of miles of the same type of landscape and vegetation. Because the west has a more consistent terrain, a base line is easier to establish for population study. So basically, we in the east have no studies to tell us how many coyotes we have per square mile. We can look at different reports that states may keep about how many coyotes are taken or trapped. Spend a little time on the internet, or you can talk to the state biologist in the states you are interested in to see if they keep such records. What you will find is that most of the east has a massive coyote kill when the prices are up. You will also see that most of the east and mid-west states take more coyotes than western “coyote numbers” states. I don’t know how states track and get this numbers, but it is interesting to look at. The numbers show a lot of coyotes being taken, but few “numbers men” are known in these states. You hardly hear about eastern guys taking 100-300 coyotes, but more coyotes are being taken state wide. Common sense would tell you that there are more trappers taking fewer coyotes each. The thing to keep in mind is that the coyotes are there to take.
I will admit that there are parts of the east that have low coyote numbers, but this is changing and rising every year. In Maryland, northern Virginia, southeastern Pennsylvania and some of the states on the cost in the New England area, there are few coyotes. The rest of us have a nice coyote population to work with. To put things in perspective, if the coyote population in the east had a family group of coyotes per 18 square miles, you would for the most part only have 2-12 coyotes per 18 square miles. If an eastern trapper is honest, he would have to admit that coyote sign is not hard to find. Most side roads have tracks and scat on them. Likewise, the next road over and trail has the same. This can be repeated on the adjoining property. I cannot say what our population is in the east, but I can go off of my catches in the east. Over the last few years I have seen a pattern on my control lines. On about 1,600 acres, I seem to average 21 coyotes. Now keep in mind that this is what I kill, not what is there. I know that I am not taking 100 percent of the coyotes. 1,600 acres translates to 2.5 square miles. Now that equals to 8.4 coyotes per square mile. To add injury to the idea that the west has more coyotes than the east, I don’t catch that many coyotes per square mile in South Texas. In South Texas on my average ranch of 4.68 square miles, I take 31 coyotes. This is 6.62 coyotes killed per square mile. Plus in Texas I have a lot of high fence to work with that helps whack the coyotes pretty hard. I have heard that West Texas has a population of 8 coyotes per square mile. This has been thought to be the highest coyote density in the country. So we need to be honest with ourselves, if I’m catching about 8.4 coyotes per square mile then how high is the real coyote population in the East? These numbers are from several locations in different states in the east. Is everywhere in the east going to have this many coyotes per square mile, no. But if you cut it in half, we still have almost as many coyotes as in South Texas. Randy Smith in the mid-west has taken over 20 coyotes in a day for several days and around 180 in a couple of weeks. I know that in Main about every road I looked at had coyote sign on it. Bill Bailey sure has no problem taking nice numbers of coyotes in New Hampshire in a short amount of time. Montreal Valantine in Louisiana takes way over a 100 coyotes for the live market and he is in his eighties. Bob Went in Indiana, when he was trapping coyotes in Indiana, took large amounts of coyotes for the live market. I know of a live market trapper in Georgia that takes 300-400 coyotes a year. Slim Peterson and Bob Young also made some amazing catches of coyotes in only a few weeks. Matt Jones can put 6-8 coyotes in the truck on most days on public ground in KY. I have trapped some of the same ground as Matt and where he traps has low coyote numbers, but it does have good access. On some large fish farms in Mississippi there is a live market trapper that regularly takes 45-65 coyotes on about 2,000 acres per year. This is an unusual food source, but it is repeated across much of Mississippi. So to say the west has more coyotes than the east makes no sense to me. I have no doubt that 30-40 years ago this was the case, but times have changed.
Population densities are a complex subject. The densities are based off of what the population is on average in an area. What makes this complex is that this number is always changing and evolving. On wet years or the year after a wet year, the coyote population will usually go up. On wet years there is more plant life which means there should be more rats, bugs, fawns and rabbits. Mother Nature makes a correction in the birth rate of predators because there is more food and water. During long droughts there is less cover; prey animals and coyote birth rate is lower. The coyote’s habitat is in constant flux. It may get better or worse. There could be fires, logging, different farm crops, no planting on a farm and human expansion that could push the coyotes out or into a smaller environment. Some years a population density can really be affected by control work, fur trapping pressure, sport hunting and disease. Plus not all of the ground in an area will hold the same amount of coyotes per square mile. I have been in the mountains with old growth hard woods and the population was low. Now just 10 miles away in the valley, in farm country, coyotes were running down about every farm lane. Today we have a new breed of land owners. Some are tree huggers and let things grow wild for the environment. Until this turns to old growth there will be a lot of cover which results in more coyotes. Also in the last 10-15 years, hunters have turned into land managers and manipulators. They grow food plots, perform controlled burns, cut old growth, make clear cuts and keep a lot of edges and cover for different game. These places can hold a tremendous, but sometimes artificially high, number of prey and predator animals.
Some reasons some of the west has such of a low population of coyotes is because the land does not support a lot of prey animals, there is a lack of water, bad soil conditions and poor vegetation. I personally believe the opposite is the reason the coyote population has been exploding in the last few decades in the east. The coyote has it made here. There is plenty of water, cover, food, and people who don’t want to kill animals.
We also need to keep in mind that a coyote’s home range has nothing to do with property deeds, property lines or the trapper’s permission slip. Let’s say you have a farm that is 1,500 to 1,600 acres. That’s a little over 2 square miles. Let’s also say that you have a population of 5 coyotes per square miles. You should have 10-12 coyotes on this property, right? Well this could be the case, but probably not. There is a good chance you might have two family groups that border on the property. You could just as easily have 3-4 coyote families where their territorial boundaries connect on these 1,500 acres. So in reality you could have 15-20 coyotes to work with. Plus we cannot exclude the coyotes that cross boundaries. During breeding season, dispersal, natural crossings and the hunting grounds on and around the property, you could have 20-35 or more coyotes to work with. These numbers are more realistic over 2-3 weeks to several months. You might just have the 10-12 coyotes to trap, but this is not what I have found over several eastern states and during different times of the year. The abundance of food is a major factor in smaller home ranges-they don’t have to travel as far to get food. A coyote does not burn the energy to cover 18 square miles for the fun of it. A coyote covers this amount of ground to feed his stomach or the stomachs of the pups. Coyotes seem to work only as much as they have to. I am sure that if you would take food to them they would only cover enough ground to pee on some bushes and perform a little pleasure killing.
Trap check laws
The west does have a major advantage over most eastern states in the form of trap check laws. You will find a lot of 48 hour, 72 hour and no law on trap checks. Like it or not this is hard to overcome. A 24 hour trap check will always loose to a 48 hour trap check. A 24 hour trap check will get its feelings hurt against a 72 hour trap check. Now a 24 hour check will get its brains smashed in when it goes up against a 5-7 day trap check. In this regard, most trapping ideas have been based on the advantage of a longer trap check law. This little fact is often over looked when an eastern trapper makes judgments on his style of trap line management. It is easy to do. Where have most of the coyote numbers men been from? Where are the big predator photos’s made? Where have most books and videos on predator trapping been made? Where are the big names in the coyote world based out of? Where have most of the wolfers, and their knowledge, been written about? The west! That’s right, the information and tactics have come from states that have never had to look at a trap every 24-36 hours! We can complain and whine of the fact, but it will do us no good.
Let’s take a look at some factors on a longer trap check. I know there are a lot of trappers who think that every trap should be looked at every 24 hour, no matter what the law says. Well, I am not going to try to change an opinion on this subject. There are many factors that may contribute to this attitude. I would have to guess that any coyote trapper that thinks this way is either a live market trapper or a man that forgot that the purpose for trapping is to catch the most animals in the shortest amount of time. I guess there is the chance that this attitude comes purely from the idea that performance trapping is not important. With modern tricked out traps, drags and shock springs an animal in a trap is not in any more stress in 72 hours than an animal in a trap for 24 hours. I have watched coyotes, cats, fox, coon and beaver with night vision, and the massive struggle and panic is not there. Most of the fight is over within 5 minutes. The problem with people is that we try and put ourselves in an animal’s situation. We have an imagination, we stress over the future. Animals don’t think or stress like we do. I am not going to pretend to know what is going on in an animal’s head. I can make a logical jump by watching them, that they are not worried or panicking. It is clear by the way they lay around like they are on an overstuffed couch or by how quickly they fall asleep. The struggle we trappers see as we pull up on an animal is because we are there.
The power of the extra days between traps checks acts like a force multiplier. What I am getting ready to say can be a factor or not. Some trappers in the west fail to see the gift that they have without a 24 hour check. Let’s use a realistic trap line and add the force multiplier. No matter what you have read by the super heroes that coyote trap, a good trapper will be able to run around 50-125 traps a day. In some of the desert public land areas, maybe a wild man could run 150. To keep this realistic let’s say a trapper can run 70 traps in a 24 hour period. From talking to many serious and honest coyote men this is about the average. This number would be a little high in most of the east due to gates, dead areas, cities, neighborhoods and all the land where you cannot trap. So every 24 hours a trapper can run 75 footholds. This means that every 24 hours he has the chance to have 75 chances on the coyote population that is on his trap line. If the same trapper was a go getter, he would lay out a second line of 75 traps on the next day for a 48 hour trap check. Now this trapper has 150 chances a night to catch coyotes and he is on more coyotes due to being in more family groups of coyotes. On a 72 hour trap check a trapper would have 225 chances. On a five day check the trapper would have 375 chances per night and again be on more ground and 5 times more coyotes. A seven day check would give the same trapper that is looking at 75 traps 525 chances per night and be on even more coyotes. Now the eastern trapper is still only at 75 traps, 75 chances per night to catch his coyotes and every coyote he takes is drastically taking his local coyote numbers down. Where the 48,72,120 and 166 hour check is on so much ground that each coyote does not take the next victim numbers down as much as the 24 hour check, with all things being equal. It is near imposable for 75 chances to compete with 375 or 525 chances. This does not end here. The numbers of days a trap is in play also gives any advantage to each trap having a better chance to hold an animal. Just think back on what your daily average is, now times this number by 2, 3, 5 and 7. If you could catch your weekly or even half weekly average every day, just how many animals would you be shipping to Canada? True, some traps will take more than one animal in a certain time period, but you get the idea. Let’s assume that our 75 traps are covering enough ground to have the opportunity to catch 50 coyotes. This will not be exact because not all ground will hold the same amount of coyotes. Every day on a 24 hour check you would have 50 coyotes that have the chance to get into 75 traps. On a three day check each night you would have 150 coyotes with the chance to get into 225 traps, and on a five day check you would have 250 coyotes that have the opportunity to step into 375 traps. This should put things in perspective for a man that wants and needs coyotes standing in traps, not waiting around for their turn.
Trap opportunities per week, month and season in regards to longer trap checks is an eye opener. We will keep the same 75 traps for an example. In a week the 24 hour trap check gives a trapper 525 chance to catch a coyote. 48 hours will give the trapper 1,050 chances. 72 hours and the trapper has 1,575 chances and a five day check gives the trapper 2,625 chances. I don’t know about you but I will take the odds of 2,625 to 525 any day of the week. Per month the totals are: 24 hour check will be 2,100 chances. 48 will come out to 4,200 chances. 72 hour check will be 6,300 chances per month. A five day check will blow your mind, it is 10,500 chances. The numbers come out per four month season as follows: 24 = 8,400, 48 = 16,800, 72 = 25,200 and a five day = 42,000 chances per season. A trapper could trap everyday of the year on a 24 hour check and not come close to a man that runs 75 traps a day for four months as far as chances go. I understand that there is all kinds of ways to tweak my examples, but the fact will always remain the same a longer trap check is better for numbers and cost. The eastern trapper that looks at his traps every 24 hours has about the same in fuel cost and time as a man that looks at different traps 2-5 days before he see his first traps again. This may have seemed long winded and tedious, but it has a few important factors that the eastern coyote man needs to understand. One: long lining principles have been developed and perfected off of this longer check and force multiplier. Because of the extra days, more family groups of coyotes, extra trap nights and chances the “take the easy animals on easy location” was and is still used today in the west. Two: The distance and ground covered on the classic long line is mind blowing. On the conservative side you would have at least 100 miles per day on the odometer. So on five days this would mean a trapper is covering 500 miles to cover his traps on a five day check. If you study the real numbers men, they seem to have covered about 200 miles a day. This means on a five day check this trapper was covering about a 1,000 miles per five days. This means he was trapping the same as a line from middle Georgia to New York State. Since this is impossible to do on an eastern trap line, why are we trapping in a style that was based off of a 500-1,000 mile trap line? Keep in mind we are talking coyotes now, not water and bridge trapping. 100-200 miles a day is possible on a road line in the east, but a land line is a different story. In the east on a coyote line you may be running around on back roads, farm land and logging roads, but this is vastly different than making a 200 mile loop in prairie or desert country.
We have already talked about trap check laws. Again most of the west will have an advantage over the eastern coyote trapper. Plus you can’t forget that most of the west is more self reliant and the laws on the books reflect it. Most western states still allow a coyote trapper to use a coyote trap. So far most western boys have not had to be regulated to a coon size trap. Some of this is because of fox men that have never understood that a coyote is not a big fox. Most of the time, it almost seemed that trappers have helped the Anti’s with the sacrifice of a coyote sized trap to placate some group or train wreck in the paper. We will get to traps in a moment.
Guys in the west have not had to bow down to the restrictions of the cable restraint. Most of the eastern states have gone to cable restraints or no snaring. If is hard for a man in bad weather to use traps only and keep coyotes in the truck with a high daily average.
Most western states have longer seasons or no seasons on coyotes, the way it should be. Some eastern states have only 60 day seasons. In Missouri the fur buyers got together and worked with the state to shorten the season because trappers were catching weak necked coon while coyote and cat trapping. They cut the coyote season short, so short that the trappers won’t even get to trap hardly at all during cat breeding season.
I know this is a trapping article, but most of the west can use M44’s, better calling situations, airplanes and gunning from choppers. This simple fact is a fact that they do have more tools to use to kill more coyotes.
Now in this country today, everything needs to be fair or people get their felling hurt. So don’t worry, unfortunately the west’s advantage over the east is going down due to their own tree huggers, animals rights millionaires, politically correct politicians and wildlife agency’s that don’t want anyone but them to make money from managing wildlife. So the west is losing a lot of the advantages they now have in regards’ to their more liberal laws.
This can be a big difference between an eastern and western coyote trapper. Unfortunately the east can have way too many people. This combined with the fact that tracks of land are for the most part small to medium in size. If you have not trapped in the west before, this will be hard to comprehend. Most far west states have a lot of public BLM land, state and National Forest. In the east we have farms; in the west they have ranches. Some single ranches can be about 100,000 acres, the largest I know of is the King Ranch in Texas, it’s over 800,000 acres and it is private. Sure there are small tracks of land in the west, but for the most part they average several hundred to several thousand acres. Some Indian reservations are over 1,000,000 acres and with the right permits they will let you trap. Most reservations make their own laws, so they could even give you more freedom. Ed Ballew and I were in New Mexico several years back and our catch was starting to slow down, so we just picked up and found another 1,000,000 acres to play on. If we would not have liked what we found, we could have just picked another 1,000,000 acres to trap own. Except for the 24 hour check this was some nice long lining ground. Even with a 24 hour check, because we had no gates, easy driving and easy land access, we could cover over 200 miles a day.
Now the land situation that most of us eastern trappers have to work with is vastly different. Most of us work with 50, 100, 500 or if we are lucky a whole 1,000 acres. If you have the luck of the Irish you may get on reclaimed mining ground, a hunting club or a plantation that may have several to ten thousand acres. The term “access” has to be understood and will become more important latter on. Access is how easy and how much time it takes to get to and onto a piece of property. Not all property is equal. Some property has many gates to get in and get out of. A lot of property requires you to have to go though other property to reach where you have permission to trap. Because most of the east has small tracks of ground and because there is so much dead space between permissions, a lot of time is spent on the road to hit this farm and that farm with very little time on the ground trapping. Like I said in New Mexico, we were running 200 plus miles on a 24 hour check and all 200 miles was the actual trap line. None of our time was wasted running from one ranch to the next; we could have set every ten feet if we wanted to. The size of ground is small and the access usually not very good and still most eastern coyote men want to run like they had the large tracks with good access. I don’t know about you, but this may be a not so small problem with $4-$5 fuel prices.
So what was all this about, the differences between the west and east? Maybe, we eastern coyote trappers should trap for our area, not for an area 2,000 miles away. Sure the west does have its advantages in some areas. Ok, they have more land; the south west does have better weather, for the most part better laws, less people, better access, so what! The worst thing you can do about the differences is fall back on them as excuses and reasons to stay in a low catch bracket. I will admit that when I am in the west I will use every advantage of the laws and vast tracks of the land. When I’m in the east I still take a lot of coyotes and so can YOU! This may be hard to swallow and a hit to some eastern trappers, but you can catch more coyotes in the east per trap and trap night than most guys in the west. Just think about it a moment. In most areas in the east that have a decent coyote population, you can average just 2 coyotes a day. Some days will be more and some less, but 2 a day is very doable. Keep in mind that there are a lot of men that can take 6-20 coyotes a day and this is in the east in good country. This is 60 coyotes a month and 120 in a 60 day season. The trapper in the west that traps hard and averages the same 2 coyotes a day will have 300 for his five month season. 300 sure does sound sexy compared to 120, but is it? Let’s not forget that pesky 2, 3 to 5 day trap check. If the western trapper is a hard charger and sets lines every day between checks, his average between traps and trap nights go way down compared to an eastern trapper. On a 3 day check the western trapper will have out 225 traps, 675 trap nights between checks and will be on at least three times as much ground. The eastern trapper will catch the same coyotes with only 75 traps, 75 chances between checks and 1/3 less ground. Now before someone in the west gets his or her feelings hurt, this is only a simple, basic break down to prove a fact. I have already explained the need for extra traps, trap nights and extra ground being due to a lower overall coyote population.
So if you are this eastern trapper with 75 traps on a 24 hour check with only a 60 day season, should you feel inferior to a western trapper with 300 coyotes? I personally see no need for it, but instead of being satisfied with 120 coyotes, why don’t we strive to meet the 300-500 coyotes a year and feel just a sexy as the western men.
Since there is a difference between the east and west, let’s trap for our area, the east. We have fewer trap nights and sets to work with during our 24 or 36 hour trap check laws. Our permissions will not grant us a large amount of access during our entire 24 trap line. For the most part there are more animals that survive the commercial trap line than fall victim to it. We have to work with 20-45 inches of rain or sleet, snow and freeze-thaw during the winter. So let’s learn to trap for these facts, not for the factors of the west. It is simple really; learn to catch more of the coyotes that are on our smaller tracks our ground. Set enough traps to accomplish this. Learn how to make sets and manage our smaller trap lines to be more efficient with time, energy, fuel and expenses. Once you start getting with the program, YOU could be on your way to becoming a numbers coyote man or even an Eastern Wolfer.
True Facts about Coyotes and Wildlife
We were working on a Texas hunting ranch that was also a deer breeder. The year before we were called in, the ranch was hit hard by predators. The ranch had turned loose a stock trailer of black buck deer. The purpose of the black bucks was to get a nice herd established on the ranch for future hunting. Within just a few months the black bucks were nothing but a painful memory and a substantial waste of money and time. The coyotes and cats ate very well until the black bucks were gone.
To add insult to injury, predators found a way into one of the ranch’s breeder pens. It was a wet year and the cover was up and thick. The ranch manager had a hard time counting each doe and fawn in the pen, so the exact number of fawns inside the pen was not known. They did have 13 artificial inseminated doe that had some high powered genetics that showed great promise. The ranch manager went into the pens every other day to check on the fawns and doe. Then on a nice sunny South Texas day, the ranch manager had trouble seeing any of the deer from the fence perimeter. So he went into the pen. A nice day turned extremely ugly in a hurry. All 13 doe were dead, most were eaten. No fawns where found alive. It almost seemed that the fawns where packed off to outside of the pen. He could not find many fawn parts or bodies inside of the pen. In just two days, 13 inseminated doe and 9-15 fawns were lost.
This land owner did somewhat try predator control. He had a ranch hand set snares in the fence when he had time. The ranch hand did the best he could, but he only caught 17 coyotes in the fence in a year’s time. He had no foot hold traps or knowledge on how to use them. His snaring technique was the same as we see all over Texas. The snare he was using was the same kind that is found in feed stores all across Texas. We came in and caught more coyotes in five days than he did in 365 days. He is a great ranch hand; he knows deer and exotics, but not trapping and professional snaring.
It is depressing to really think about how much this ranch owner lost in money and time due to predators. He lost the cost and travel to buy the black bucks. He lost out on the revenue he would have received for the hunting fees and the lost revenue by not raising the fawns from the black bucks for future income. He had a lot of money on the killed whitetail doe, plus the cost of artificial insemination. In the controlled pens, he should have had a minimum of 1 fawn survive from each doe. He lost all of the future income from the fawns (hunting, semen, and building up genetics, deer sales and the chance of having put together the monster buck of his future). The true cost that the predators cost him was easily over $100,000.00. Professional predator control only costs a very small percentage of his losses. I hear the same kind of story all over the country. This type of gambling is no different than what happens in casinos in Vegas every day. The only difference is that the predators are the “House” and they have the odds in their favor.
Another true story:
We trap on a property in North Alabama that has been under intense quality deer management for more than 15 years. To say this is a show place or a class room setting for deer management is an understatement. It is half hardwood mountains and half bottom land. The mountain side of the property has several nice managed food plots that are thick and lush. The ground is separated into hardwood, clear cut growth, big pines, natural grass fields and new growth pines. The bottom land is loaded with food plot after food plot. You will find heavy cover, ponds, creeks and a nice beaver swamp. This property is for the personal use of the landowner for the purpose of growing a great deer herd. It has been managed by one of the best known biologist in the QDMA, plus a fulltime biologist student from the University of Georgia. The deer program and the property is first class.
Even with the entire management program in place that gives the deer plenty of cover, water and groceries, this property had a very real problem. After many fawn censuses, fawn recruitment was way down. This is hard to imagine, because this property is beyond text book managed. The low fawn recruitment was due to the explosion of coyotes and bobcats that are growing in number all across the country. His fawns were getting eaten before they were old enough to have a fighting chance. The fawn census told the story. His census showed he needed 100 doe to raise 14 fawns. So 76 out of 100 fawn were falling to predation.
Even though he had the cover and food, the deer herd was in trouble trying to sustain itself. How do we know it was the predators? After an intense trapping campaign, his fawn recruitment straightened out. Now he has twin and triple fawns running everywhere. His return on professional predator control was an increase of over 150% fawns in one year. This was proven on the next fawn census. Now he will have more bucks on his land because statistically 50% of the fawns will be males.
More fawns that survive = more bucks on your property
It is a cruel joke that fawning season is the same time that coyotes need more meat to feed their pups. Each dominate male and female coyote has an average of 4-6 pups per year. So this family group of coyotes has to kill enough to feed 6-8 mouths. Fawns are easy targets and little energy is used to prey on them. Predators can take up to 75% of your fawn recruitment. Sure, thick cover helps, but if the predator population is high, they will still take a majority of the fawns. We have seen this time and time again.
You might not be hunting fawns this fall, but on average 50% of the fawns will turn out to be male. So the higher the fawn kill, the less available future bucks on your property. Ignoring this fact will affect your future hunting experience. If you’re a commercial hunting operation, the more bucks you can grow, the more hunts you can charge for. When quality deer management started a couple of decades ago, predator control was not prevalent in most parts of the country. The reason is simple, the fur market was high and there were a lot of trappers “fur-trapping”, not today. Plus the government used poison to try to keep the predators under control, not today. Today, coyotes and bobcats are at a ridiculously high number. So parts of the country that used to have very few predators are getting over run with coyotes and bobcats. This has changed the game of quality deer and wildlife management. The landowners that stay behind the times with predators are seeing a reduction in fawn recruitment on their property. Thus, they are losing their future buck crop.
Let’s look at some studies:
(Blanton et al. 1989) found, “MS, AL, KY and TN, fawning deer were the most frequent (74%) major food of coyotes”.
(Wooding et al. 1984) found, “MS, AL (71.4%) fawn deer are the major food of coyotes, predation could potentially impact white-tail deer recruitment.”
(Bartush et al. 1981) “Fawn loss by predators commonly exceeded 70%”
(Cook et al. 1971) found, “coyote predation accounted for 79% of fawn mortalities”
(Epstein et al. Roberts 2007) found, “bobcats were responsible for 57%-82% of fawn mortalities”
(Stout et al. 1982) found, “154% increase in fawn recruitment following 2 years of predator control”
(Bartush & Lewis 1981) “fawn mortality of 90% has been reported, due to coyote predation”
We at Predator Control Group were involved in a study with the University of Georgia in 2008; we increased the fawn numbers by 186% in one year. This also increased the future buck population by 93%.
Fur trapping vs. Control trapping
As a wildlife manager you will have to make a decision between a “fur trapper” and hiring a professional trapper. The fur tapper will probably trap for free, this is tempting. The fur trapper can catch predators. He might promise the moon, but is it realistic? The professional trapper also catches predators and he charges money. Controlling predators is his business and his reputation. Let’s look at the difference between a fur trapper and professional control service.
The professional understands that catching a “few” predators, does little good for the purpose of true wildlife management. Most professional services have years of experience in what it takes to take a high number of predators per square mile. The reason I use the term “per square mile” is that the “per square mile” number is the goal of any true professional. A fur trapper may take 200 coyotes a year, but this does little good for a wildlife management plan. These predators are mostly caught over a very large area, 100-300 miles. So the reduction of a specific predator population is barely touched. The “per square mile” catch of a fur trapper is usually lower than one predator per square mile. In this case, the result of predator control for a specific property is almost nothing. Study after study clearly shows the magic number needed for optimal rewards is 70%-75% removal of predators. This number will be different for every property, but not the percentage. Local predator numbers can change from just a few miles away. Today with the high and growing predator numbers, this 75% of predators can be as high as 10-12 per square mile. So 1-2 coyotes per square mile is truly a joke as far as real predator control is concerned.
Professionals live from their ability to make a high “per square” catch. Most of the time they have more of a predator killing education then a hobby trapper does. You will also find that these professionals have better equipment and use more killing tools than pleasure trappers. Professional trappers play for keeps, and know the predator’s habits to the tenth degree.
Fur trappers are a great resource to wildlife. They help keep fur bearer numbers under control and healthy. They can help out land owners on a small scale. The reason the fur trapper has such a low “per square mile” is because the goal of a fur trapper is to catch as many animals in the shortest amount of time. To do this, the fur trapper traps several different properties and catches the easiest and quickest caught animals and then moves on. If the fur trapper stays on a property once the easy animals are caught, he starts to lose money. His expenses keep increasing as his catch drops. Plus this is how fur trappers are trained. The goal is to have a large fur take, not a high “per square mile” catch. To make a high “per square mile” catch, strategy and tactics are vastly different from what most fur trappers understand or care to perform. All the extra work involved in true predator control would turn the fun of fur trapping into hard work.
Keep in mind that the fur trapper gets his money from the fur market which changes every year. So the fur trapper has to catch the high priced fur to make money. In other words, the trappers may spend all of his time on say otter or raccoon and not your predators. Or he may just spend a token amount of time on the animals you have him on your property to trap. This may or may not be the case, but it is just another thing to keep in mind.
It is up to you to understand predator control and make sure your trapper understands the difference between fur and control trapping. Then he has to be agreeable to the commitment that is required to make a high “per square mile” catch.
Frequently asked questions:
1. Will the coyotes just move back in to a trapped area, as soon as the trapper leaves?
A: We do not find this to be the case. Coyotes really only cross territory line two times a year. This is during the coyote dispersal. This usually happens in September and October. The adult coyotes kick out this year’s pups to find a new home range. The second is during breeding season, Jan- Feb. They will move around, but not nearly as much as during dispersal. So coyotes don’t make the move to find new a home range as soon as there is a reduction in the local population. This fill-in could happen if the trapper only catches a few coyotes or leaves before most of the coyotes or cats are caught. So the coyotes were not caught and removed for other coyotes to move in. Most fur trapping is done during the fall. This is during the tail end of the dispersal. So a lot of the coyotes that are caught are not living on the property anyway. This could give the land owner a false impression that the coyotes moved back in. In reality most of the coyotes caught this time of the year are just traveling through.
There are some studies that show that coyotes fill back in a trapped area in a short amount of time. What the studies don’t say is how little the trapper reduced the local population to begin with. Having a non-professional trapper (college student) doing the control work for a study has to be kept in mind. So how many coyotes were taken out of the local population? This little fact seems to always get overlooked when a anti-control view is taken.
When we really reduce the local coyote population “fill in” is slow and manageable. Most properties go from say 25 coyotes to 3-6 the next year due to “fill in”. We have taken as many as 33 coyotes on 1,800 acres and the “fill-in” was 3 the next year and 7 after two years. Predator control is just like plowing food plots and filling feeders, to get the wanted results, work has to done each year. Predator control is not a once in a life time project, but neither is any other aspect of quality wildlife management.
2. We shoot a couple of coyotes or cats during deer season, shouldn’t that be enough?
A: This may help you feel better or even give you a sense of personal revenge, but it really does very little in the big picture. You will not get close to the 70% -75% removals of predators that are needed for maximum results. We say shoot every predator while you’re hunting, it can’t hurt. If you work with Predator Control Group, we don’t care who takes the predator out. Our goal is for you to have a successful management program.
3. We enjoy predator calling, so we are controlling predators aren’t we?
A: Not really. You can have fun and have an exciting time, but again you will more than likely fall short of 70% of the needed predator removal. Calling is a good tool, but it quits working after you do it a lot on the same property and on the same predator population. Coyotes especially smarten up to over calling. For this reason, calling will always fall short as a single approach to predator calling. Just like before, go have some fun. Every coyote that is not eating your wildlife is a good coyote. If you do use a professional predator service, let them know if you are calling on your property. Explain what type of caller and noise you have been calling with. Plus how often and when the last time you or someone else called on the property.
Stress is putting your deer on high alert
We have touched on this subject already. Before, we looked at how stress causes a drop in body weight and antler size. Now we are going to look at how the stress caused by predators can affect the landowner and hunter.
Friends and family
The more pressure wildlife gets from predators, the more nervous he is. So he will be on high alert at all times. He has to be if he is to stay alive. The effect is obvious from cost to cost. Wildlife will stay more to the cover and will not venture into the open. So the land owner does not see as many deer or other forms of wildlife that are on the property. This affects census counts and the information that is needed for real world management practices. Plus during the off season, the land owner, his family and friends can’t observe the wildlife on the property. Besides the fact that the animals are hiding in cover, they spook at any noise. So the sound of trucks, ATV’s and footsteps will send the wildlife into hiding.
The hunting of a stressed deer herd can prove to be a struggle. If wildlife takes off at every snapped twig or smell, just how enjoyable will the hunt be? I have talked to biologists that grow very big deer for their clients. Unfortunately, the land owner only gets to harvest one of these big deer every 3-5 years. They don’t just have one big buck on their property, they have several. The reason is simple, the deer are there, but they are on high alert. The landowner now has to have a perfect hunt under perfect conditions with zero mistakes, noise or human odor. This perfect hunting sounds good in a hunting magazine article, but it is not realistic. In other words, these land owners have trophy deer, but seldom get to harvest them and enjoy them.
Commercial guiding and hunting
As frustrating as stressed wildlife is to the landowner, how is it effecting the commercial hunting operation? Guides, ranches and hunting clubs make their money as much from the experience of the hunt as they do from the end result. Let’s face it; most paying hunters only get to hunt occasionally. So usually they are not the most skilled hunter. They are out of their environment in the brush. They make mistakes. They move around and make noise. This takes place when getting to and in the stand or blind. Stressed deer that are on high alert take off not to be seen by the hunter. His deer of a lifetime is sneaking off - not building the memory that turns him into a lifetime customer. Plus the more wildlife he sees, the better impression your property has on the client when is thinking of booking his next trip.
Sale of hunting property
Beside the pleasure of seeing wildlife, this could greatly affect the price or the speed in which a managed property should sale. If you decide to sale a hunting property, the buyer needs to see wildlife to seal the deal. You can have the lodge, endless food plots, good roads, statically place stands and nice cover, but if you have no or little visible wildlife, no sale. The buyer is dreaming of hunting and spending time with family and friends. He wants to be proud of his new property. He wants to impress his friends with his new wildlife oasis. The wildlife may be on the property, but if they are hiding, it does the seller no good. Just think of how you would react if you were looking at new hunting property with no visible wildlife = no sale.
Deer breeding pens
Most breeding pens are well built and have measures to keep out coyotes and bobcats. This is good and needed, because if a predator gets into the pen, then it’s game over. What is not usually taken into account is the stress that predators have from outside of the pen. You will notice that during coyote dispersal, your pens are a focal point for the traveling coyotes. The pens are a concentration of food odors. Plus when your deer are breeding and birthing, the pen again is a high concentration of odors and sight appeal. So the coyotes will circle and raise Cain on the outside of the pen. This is clear by the high amount of tracks, scat and kick backs that are present on the perimeter of the fence. This harassment can shake up the penned deer. It can affect the nutrition intake, resistance to disease and cause the deer to hurt themselves. If the coyotes get the deer running, well you know what happens when they come to the fence in fright. Plus if you need to dart the deer after they have been harassed, your job is harder and again the deer could hurt themselves. Stressed deer are harder to work with if they are on high alert.
Coyotes have learned that if they can get the deer on the run and head them toward the high fence, then the deer is trapped. When the deer is on the run and in a panic, they have a high chance of breaking their neck while jumping into the high fence.