Volume IV, No. 2, Winter 1976
by Comer Owen
as told to Stephen Ludwig
Want to study coyotes? Start in with people. Their habits are a lot like coyotes. I'd say in one way, coyotes are better than people as a whole for they're much truer to their nature than people. Just like us, there's no place like home. If a family of coyotes are raised, some of that family will come right back to have their family in the same place. They've got regular denning sites for their families, but if they lost their pups whether it is on top of the ground, in the ground, under a house, in a straw stack or a hollow log, they'll never put them back there again. They learn from their parents just like my kids learned from me.
Male coyotes are truer to their mate than people are. A male will fight off other males. In mating season if an old male gets to the other male's female and runs from him, and the tail is the first thing he can get a hold of, why, he'll bite it off.
The average coyote don't-go into production until it's two years old, and the only coyote that's in production when it is a year old is a pup that's fed good and matured good. You take the average Coyote and they usually have pretty good sized litters and they work hard. There's nothing that will work as hard to produce his family as coyotes. And the old male coyote does more than the mother. You can take away the mother and leave him, and if the pups are big enough to eat, he'll raise every one of them or die doing it. I come on a den in the ground once, a mother and pups just born. I set back to watch. This old dog coyote come up. He'd eaten all he could hold and he come there and erupted up right there by the den. Everybody said it was for them pups to eat. They couldn't eat it for they was just hours old. It was for her. Her meal was a-waiting for her when she come out of there.
Coyotes produce fast if they've got a chance. I've got it somewhere in a magazine how many coyotes a pair of coyotes would produce over a period of ten years. According to government figures, and I believe it's true, one pair of coyotes and their pups would produce 5,366 coyotes.
You'll always find them on north slopes--they hunt the cool spots, I guess that's the reason. You take back in the straw stacks. If they put their family in a straw stack, it's round behind on the north side. You often hear about someone seeing an old big one on the hill sunning. They don't like the sun. They're on the cold slopes. They're not on the hot slopes.
Far as I know coyotes might have been here before man ever was here. I know they've been here all of my time or the rest of us. And the government since way back in the 1880's has paid a lot of money to destroy the coyote. They've hunted him by airplane and helicopter, they've hunted them by trail dogs, they've hired men to trap them and poison them, and there's been a reward over their heads up to two or three years ago. And here the coyote's multiplied many, many, many times faster than anything that you guys and me and everbody else has tried to produce.
The Conservation Commission goes on about what they've done to increase deer and turkey--which I'll give to them. But who in the world has increased the coyote? Nature's done it. They've not done it. I don't want the coyote destroyed. But they've got to prove to me that man can destroy the coyotes.
Coyote's will eat anything. They sleep in the daytime just like man sleeps night. They do their work at night and early morning. Now they don't get all they can eat, it could get bad here this spring. When man takes his share of wildlife, which is already real scarce, and persimmons are gone, there's nothing left for coyotes to eat. They have to live. They ain't no calf feeders out anymore. The farmers, cattle men, hog feeders, turkey feeders--they all had feeders out until now. They've none of them got them out, for they feed in a lot because feed's so expensive. Used to when you'd catch a coyote, all that used to be in their stomachs was calf and hog pellets. They got to eat. What is there for them to eat? Two weeks ago a woman called that the coyotes had eat the head off a calf before the mother had the calf. Yeah, I believe it.
There ain't much a coyote won't eat. You just mention it and they'll eat it, even shotgun shells, though they don't live on it. But the only thing I can't say I ain't seen them eat any of is frogs, though they put in a lot of time around ponds. Up at Stockton Lake I've had my dogs to trail in water till I'd swear they were trailing coons. But up there there's so many dead fish in the wintertime. The dead fish float up around the edge and the coyotes feed on them.
One day we saw six coyotes in a cow pasture. Coyotes ain't afraid of people, they're just suspicious. They ain't afraid of you, but they ain't got no confidence in you. And it isn't only around here they're so thick. The whole country's full of them. You travel down the interstate and if you watch close you'll see a coyote sitting on the side of the road watching the cars. Most people see them and think they're dogs. There's days I know my dogs catch lots of little coyotes that I never know about.
I trail coyotes with my dogs. I used to up to about three years ago, walk right through them woods with my dogs. They'd come out where I came out. I never lost them. If I go they'd follow me through. When I got to the truck, if they weren't there, if they didn't show up pretty soon, I'd know they'd jumped a coyote. I've got them trained to come to me. But not when they're after a coyote--I can't catch none of them.
You can tell if they're picking up a trail by watching them wriggling their tails. It's a different tail shake. They give it about half a circle. If it's a fox trail, they will wiggle their tail. When they get to running they give mouth. Hear old Maude? She's got a turkey mouth. It sounds like a turkey. We just wait and listen for them. But anymore you can't hear them far. There is no sound no more, cause there's so much interference. There's so much racket. I used to set over there years ago where we was out in that field and clear over here about a mile and a half straight through I could hear a dog run. There's just so much racket now. It's dogs, it's airplanes, it's cars, it's cattle. It's just some kind of noise. When they jump, there ain't no echo. For sound to carry you got to have an echo.
When they run you listen to hear where the dogs are and who's closest. You see, when one dog gets the scent--the wind brings it to him--he gives more mouth than this dog.
Coyotes soon learn to run with the wind. They go the way the wind is a-blowing. That-a-way they can hear the dogs better and the dogs can't smell them as good. If they run into the wind, these dogs would climb right up on them, so coyotes run with the wind hitting them in the back. That gives them an advantage. He's got his ways.
The way you train the dogs is just take them out. I know coyote signs and I show them. And if a
dog is interested, why he'll just pick up after coyotes. Not every dog is a coyote dog.
A dog waits anxiously to go on a hunt. She has had plenty of time to rest up from the long hunt a week before.
Now, you just let them loose and they'll go till they pick up a scent, then they'll run the coyote. If they can't pick up a scent on the ground they hunt with the wind. Sometimes they lose the scent, and sometimes they cross over to another coyote's trail. They've run as many as three or four coyotes at one time. One dog will be running one and three or four dogs will be running another.
Now the dogs will run all day if they find a coyote--may run all day and night. One time we let the dogs out in the morning, and we ran a coyote all day and at twelve o'clock that night the dogs caught it. One of my dogs come in just last night. She was gone for a week without food and if I'd let her she would have come with us today. They won't give up. We couldn't call a dog in. They'll run right through fences, but not through multiflora rose. They'll give up a coyote through that. And when they catch him, they'll fight the coyote till they kill him.
The dogs always find their way back. That's nature. They come back, right where you turn them loose. They'll come back and wait there.
One thing I never do is put fresh dogs in with tired dogs. That makes the tired dogs work too hard.
I never whip a dog--don't believe in it. You can talk to him. I talk pretty rough sometimes, but it's much better to hurt his heart than it is his feeling. I argue that a dog would repeat a wrong by whipping it more than he will by not whipping him.
The coyote has only one predator and that's man. And a few dogs--dogs aren't if you don't train them. Now-a-days man isn't hUnting them so much. They're getting so thick I can catch coyotes in the same set of two traps. And that just ain't nature, but I've hit places where they are doggone thick. It's just like us people. There ain't no other place for them to go so they just got to stay together. It ain't nature. Now they're up here in town--right up in the city limits. My dogs run them right into Springfield. We run one into the zoo park. The caretaker killed it and called us to get our dogs. Once I ran one right into the bowling alley parking lot.
There are more coyotes now than a few years ago because people have just quit killing them. They used to, when the bounty was on them, if anybody could kill a coyote they would. And too, now so many people is hollering, don't kill, don't kill. You see it on television. Save the wolf! They think it's awful to kill one. We don't need them. Oh, I like to see them, but if you've ever seen what I've seen that coyotes'll do...I've seen a number of times with pregnant ewes and mothers of twin lambs, they cut their udders off just slicker than anybody can cut it off. And kill both lambs--eat most of them.
A coyote kills by attacking the throat and most times eats behind the front leg or rear of its prey. Right up there at Fair Play one day they delivered a calf from a cow. And she couldn't get up. She was paralyzed. I drove in there before daylight next day with the dogs. I looked out there and there stood a big old coyote close as that post right in the road. I didn't notice the cow at first. I watched the coyote and then saw the cow was still alive. Coyotes had just eat her hips. You could see part of a bone of her hind leg down where they'd eat that much, and her still alive. Yeah. The farmer come and killed her that day.
People that's having trouble with coyotes, why don't think they won't kill them. But I wouldn't give a dime to kill a coyote. I've killed lots of them. It ain't fun. I'd rather let you young boys go in to make the kill.
Lots of people talk about dogs and coyotes a-crossing. I've had people get mad at me. I've seen guys say, "I've seen them. I'm going to show you." But they never have yet. Out in the wild where they're free they won't do it. I think a dog coyote would kill his mate before he'd let a dog get to her. They'll do it. I've seen it. It isn't nature. If nature would let them cross, we'd of run out of coyotes or dogs a long time ago. A coyote is a fur bearing animal and a dog has hair. An example of this is its tail. Drop a coyote tail on a concrete porch, it'd bounce just like a rubber ball. But a dog, the hide is just like a wet rag--no bounce at all. My argument is you can cross a coyote to a duck or a goose as quick as you can a dog. It's as easy to cross fur and feathers as it is fur and hair.
Same as any fur bearing animal. You kill a coyote and until he starts to get cold, you throw him into the water, he'll float just like a duck. Fur won't wet as long as there's life in it.
And frost won't freeze in the north on wolf or coyotes, so their hide got pretty valuable for parkas. There ain't no frost will freeze on their fur. You go out here with hair or any other fur when it's frosty or when it's real cold, it will just frost up. But it won't do it to coyote or wolf hide.
A dog lay down on ice, he'll melt through. A coyote won't. You can't even see where they lay. You can take a pet coyote, I don't care how deep the snow is or how much ice there is, he'll go out and lay on it. Even if you have a dog house, he won't lay in the house. He'll go out and lay on the ice and snow. He don't melt it.
There's so many other species of wildlife that is as close as dogs and coyotes. They all belong to the dog family. People hear coyotes and think they're part dog. They ain't a coyote in the world but what'd mock any dog there is. But there's not a dog in the world that could mock a coyote. He can try it, but he can't get it done.
The only way I can see that the coyote situation is going to get any better is for man to kill one when he can or set traps for them. That's the only way. Otherwise the coyotes will just get thicker for they have no natural enemy but man.
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