Eastern Coyotes: The Changing Face of Hunting the Howlers Changes Again

By Mike Bleech

Knowing how eastern coyote hunting
has evolved will help you succeed!

Eastern coyote hunting can be done year round

Winter, spring, summer, fall — coyotes offer year-round hunting in many states. (Photo: Mike Bleech)

Soon after coyotes became abundant in the Northeast, coyote hunting contests proliferated. Serious hunters were anxious to take part in the opportunity to fill the hunting gap through winter. And being big and ferocious adds a lot to the allure of the eastern coyote.

Most hunters who participated in the early contests used calls, put on drives or still-hunted. Success levels were low, but coyotes as heavy as 75 pounds turned up. And no wonder — research shows that the big eastern coyote carries Canadian wolf genes.

At first, many people who saw eastern coyotes figured they were seeing coydogs, produced from the mating of coyotes and domesticated dogs. Since domestic dogs are a food preference for coyotes, matings are rare.

Time has dispelled some other misconceptions about eastern coyotes. One is their origin. It has now been well established that coyotes migrated to the Northeast both south of the Great Lakes and north of the Great Lakes. Those that migrated north of the Great Lakes were the ones that acquired the wolf genes. This is probably the main reason eastern coyotes are larger than those in the West.

First success usually came when deer hunting

With coyote hunting being so new to the Northeast, it’s logical that hunting methods and tactics would go through some changes before the passing of too many years.

Eastern coyotes first peaked in population in the Northeast

When the coyotes first peaked in population in the Northeast, many hunters shot them while deer hunting because hunters in the woods caused coyotes to move. (Photo: Steve Sorensen)

With the new predator, hunters faced a real learning curve. During the first few years eastern hunters shot coyotes incidentally as they hunted deer, because numerous deer hunters afield got them moving. In the early coyote hunting contests, most hunters were not yet ready to lay down the cash for a coyote-specific rifle. The hunters who brought coyotes to check stations used their deer rifles.

Specialized firearms brought more success

That soon changed. A survey of successful hunters entered in coyote hunting contests during 2007 indicated that hunters were switching to proper coyote hunting firearms. One contest that listed cartridges shows that successful coyote hunters used the 12 gauge shotgun most commonly, and deer rifles secondarily, but dedicated varmint calibers including the .22-250 Remington and .204 Ruger were starting to show up more.

Competition spawned new methods

Hunters using dogs in the hunting contests accounted for more coyotes than other hunting methods, but callers still had half as many on the coyote list.

Soon hunters were bringing dogs which had been bred for hunting coyotes into the region. They discovered that coyotes would often turn on the hounds that had been used for fox or raccoons. Running coyotes with dogs had long been done in the Southeast, but those coyotes are smaller, like coyotes in the Midwest and West.

Flash ahead seven years, to 2014. In some contests all of the coyotes were taken by hunters using dogs. It appeared as though callers could not compete with dogs, so many hunters gave up participating in coyote contests. Some gave up hunting coyotes altogether.

Calling re-emerged

Not all callers gave up the game, though. Because not everyone can keep dogs, a fair number of hunters worked hard to get better at calling. Other non-dog hunting methods were developed. All of this started to show in coyote hunting contests as callers became more competitive.

Thanks to coyote hunting contests that collected information about the tools and methods used by successful hunters, we can watch how the tactics and firearms have evolved. And now that coyote hunting in the East is an established sport, more and more hunters have special coyote rifles, and in many cases shotguns.

Camouflaged hunter looking for eastern coyotes

Proper camouflage seems to be more effective when snow is on the ground than at any other time. On a blustery day like this, a camouflaged hunter virtually disappears. (Photo: Mike Bleech)

Conclusions

This data is slanted in that all hunters reporting were successful coyote hunters, at least in the corresponding hunting contests. This makes the conclusions more valid than they would be if a random sampling of coyote hunters were questioned for our purposes.

1. Shift to shotguns and varmint rifles

Information about a total of 74 successful coyote hunters from coyote hunting contests during 2014 shows that 29 used one of the typical coyote hunting rifle cartridges. Another 21 used 12 gauge shotguns. Traps accounted for a few of the coyotes in contests which allowed trapping.

2. When hunting with dogs, use shotguns

An increasing percentage of hunters using dogs successfully have started using 12 gauge shotguns. This makes good sense. Shots at coyotes while using dogs are likely to be running shots. Over the past few years, ammo manufacturers have developed shotgun loads specifically for coyote hunting.

3. Get familiar with coyote hunting technology

Everything about coyote hunting has changed. Products dedicated to varmint hunting have proliferated on the market, due almost entirely to the eastern coyote. Electronic callers, visual attractants and scents are all being used by savvy hunters.

Getting a proper start is a lot easier now than it was just 15 years ago. Coyote hunting will never be easy, though, and that makes success all the sweeter.


About Mike Bleech:

mike-bleech-outdoor-writerMike Bleech has been a full-time freelance writer/photographer since 1980 with more than 5,000 articles published in more than 100 publications. He is the outdoor columnist for the Erie Times-News and the Warren Times Observer. Over the years he has become an expert at hunting the Allegheny National Forest and other public lands, and an accomplished trout fisherman.


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