Written by: HuntWise

A super wary, elusive, and ever-adaptable predator, coyotes are one of the most pervasive creatures in North America. Coyotes will eat almost anything. They hunt rabbits, rodents, fish, frogs, and most importantly, deer. In the field, coyotes enjoy keen vision and a strong sense of smell. Coyotes can run up to 40 miles an hour. In the fall and winter, they form packs for more effective hunting.

In the United States, coyote populations are at an all-time high. This increase gives way to a decrease in deer populations and an increase in diseases such as heartworm, mange, and rabies. The practice of coyote hunting protects livestock, controls populations, and helps farmers and ranchers, along with the ecosystem as a whole.

To deer hunters, coyote hunting challenges hunting ability, promotes hunting practice in the off-season, and protects vulnerable wildlife. In many ways, hunters are on the front line of managing the ever-expanding coyote population. Here are five reasons you, a deer hunter, should consider heading out to the field in the off-season for a coyote hunt.

1. Manage the Coyote Population

The absence of large predators such as pumas and wolves, in most parts of the country, leaves coyotes with few natural predators. Mortal enemies of the coyote, like mountain lions and wolf packs, are sparse in the traditional landscape. Thus, coyotes have taken advantage, starting a wide expansion. Native to the western two-thirds of the United States, coyotes began dramatically expanding their range in the early 1900s. Since then, coyotes have increased their habitat across North America by 40 percent since the 1950s—twice the rate of any other North American carnivore—and now they exist in every U.S. state but Hawaii.

A study by the journal ZooKeys maps out the expansion of coyotes across the continent in a period when most other mammal species have been declining.

Predator species, like the coyote, often aren’t as visible as other wildlife, but their numbers are exponentially increasing. Biologists study and track animal populations, and adjust management goals accordingly. Where a species’ population is increasing, harvest goals aim to maintain healthy numbers. For example, in Michigan, the coyote population is at a historic all-time high, and the Department of Natural Resources has said expanding the season to year-round will give landowners more tools to control local populations.

2. You Can Hunt Them Anywhere

Coyote hunting is available in nearly all 50 states with almost a full-year season and no-kill limit. As winter rolls in and the whitetail season closes out, deer hunters can hone in on their glassing, calling, and shooting skills with coyote hunting throughout the off-season.

Although coyotes can be hunted throughout most of the year, the best time of year for hunting coyote falls during the winter seasons. As winter progresses, coyotes become less nocturnal in their search for food. They also tend to travel together more in the winter than they do in the warmer seasons. Traditionally, coyotes prefer open land over forest. Due to the fact that bigger predators could better sneak up on them in forests and kill them over territory and competition for food.

Coyotes are not just rural animals either. They have adapted to live within human habitats and made urban and suburban spaces their own. There are large populations of “urban” coyotes in cities like New York City, Chicago, Seattle, and Los Angeles. While coyotes push into more heavily populated areas, urban coyote hunting has begun to increase in states across the country.

No matter the season or location, coyote hunting presents opportunities for growth as a hunter.

3. Help Deer and Small Game Populations Thrive

Predators like coyotes have significant impacts on game and livestock populations.

In the spring, as coyote pups are born, male coyotes hunt and return with game for the female coyote and her pups. At the same time, whitetail, mule deer fawns, and elk calves are born. Throughout the season, coyotes are the largest source of fawn mortality. In various studies, high coyote populations have given way to high fawn mortality rates. Coyotes can take a heavy toll on whitetail fawns. At least one study found that coyotes can eat as many as 75 percent of the fawns born in a single spring. Possibly a result of increased coyote numbers, deer populations are declining in many areas of the country.

Coyotes negatively influence deer populations. The elimination of coyotes has been known to double the survival of fawns. Coyotes are the number one fawn killers in most places and their numbers are exploding.

No one should question the coyote’s hunting skills. They can also kill adult deer. The Ministry of Natural Resources documented four different coyote packs killing moose in central Ontario during the 2008 and 2009 winters. If coyotes can take out adult moose in certain situations, they can certainly target mature adult deer.

4. Coyotes Impact Deer Hunting Strategy

When the weather is cool, a common practice for whitetail bowhunters across the county is to leave "gut shot" or poorly hit deer to either die overnight or recover fully from a superficial wound. Across several states, hunters report coyotes on the kill just minutes after they have taken down a deer.

In areas with strong coyote populations, bowhunters can no longer leave their wounded deer overnight. The adaptable nature of coyotes has allowed them to become proficient at tracking deer that are wounded by hunters.

John Jeanneney, one of the deer recovery experts in the country, who also breeds blood tracking dachshunds who recover thousands of whitetail per year, reports “50 percent of their next day recoveries in coyote dense areas have been fed upon by coyotes.” For the majority of bowhunters, following deer immediately after a hit will be a radical change in practice and strategy.

5. Stay Active Throughout the Offseason

Coyotes are smart, opportunistic, and stealthy. These animals have extremely keen eyesight and, like any animal coming to a call, are looking hard for its source. Largely, coyotes are very skilled at staying unseen, especially in the east where thick woods and dense undergrowth provide excellent cover. You may see a few every deer season, but you are likely just seeing a small fraction of what’s out there.

Despite this, coyote hunting is not as hard as it is made out to be, and is an excellent opportunity for deer hunters to hone in on playing the wind, scouting, and calling. Coyotes are hyper-aware of their surroundings, which challenges deer hunters to shift their strategy, and hunt smarter. Through coyote hunting, deer hunters become more familiar with their hunt area, by walking and getting to know the terrain better. While after coyotes, hunters are also able to scout for other wild game, like turkeys.

Coyotes are spreading fast and furiously. While coyote hunting challenges hunting ability, promotes hunting practice in the off-season, and protects vulnerable wildlife, for many hunters, coyote hunting is not something our fathers and grandfathers did. Whether you are hunting coyotes who have never experienced hunting pressure from humans or coyotes who know exactly what to smell, look, and listen for, coyote hunting requires a sound strategy. Now that coyotes are present in all 49 states of the continental US, deer hunters are at the forefront of managing the ever-growing population across the entire country.

Are you interested in a toolset to help with coyote hunting? The HuntWise app is designed to take your hunting experience to the next level. With updated satellite imagery, topographic maps, a range of base layers, and species-specific forecasts, you can step up your coyote game.