Like embarrassing relatives or low-information voters, several things are true about coyotes in North Carolina:
• They are here to stay;
• No amount of effort (outside a nuclear bomb that wipes out everything) will get rid of them;
• They live in the countryside and cities;
• They’ll eat just about anything;
• Poison doesn’t work in getting rid of them, and besides, it’s illegal to poison coyotes;
• People often hear them howling.
Several other characteristics are confined only to coyotes (not uncouth relatives or low-info voters):
• Keeping pets outside at night isn’t a good idea with coyotes in the neighborhood;
• In five eastern N.C. counties, they’re off limits to trapping and hunting, but Tarheel State residents may hunt or trap them at 95 other counties;
• Coyotes often kill calves and/or deer fawns during the spring birthing season;
• Hunting and trapping actually have few tangible effects on coyotes, but they may be the best tactics to keep them at bay;
• Night-hunting with lights and calls is about as ineffective way to hunt them as daylight hunting.
The state’s most-knowledgeable coyote hunter is Chuck Taylor of Stem, a southern Granville County community just north of Butner. Taylor, 42, founded the N.C. Predator Hunters Association in 2007.
“I probably started hunting coyotes around 2000 or 2001 as a hit-or-miss thing,” he said. “Like everyone, I’d kill a coyote every so often while I was hunting something else, usually deer.
“Then I figured, if I can hunt coyotes successfully, it’d make me a better deer hunter. If you understand how cunning a big whitetail is, a coyote is that much better. A coyote is an adversary at the highest level of the food chain.”
In its seven years, NCPHA has grown from two (Taylor and Jonathan Cawley of Corinth) to more than 300 members.
With coyotes now established in all 100 North Carolina counties, hunting plays a role in trying to prevent them from targeting valuable-to-humans food sources.
“Hunting in daylight can be effective, but it teaches coyotes, which are very intelligent animals, to come out at night to avoid being hunted,” said Perry Sumner, a N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission biologist. “Plus at night, it’s easier to spot them without them seeing you.”
The Commission installed a temporary rule Aug. 1, 2012, that allowed hunters to target coyotes at night with the aid of lights.
“That’s helped a lot,” Taylor said. “The legislature passed a suppressor rule, too.”
Suppressors — “silencers” in the common vernacular — reduce the report of a rifle.
“Now we can get in a herd of cattle at night,” Taylor said. “Before, you couldn’t do that because the gun would make so much noise, it might stampede the cows and even make them abort calves.”
The spring calving season “is like ringing a dinner bell” for coyotes, Taylor said. Large cattle operations don’t like losing their next generation of beef to predators. A cattle farmer from Iredell County spoke told the Commission at a public hearing that he supported night-hunting of coyotes because he had lost $26,000 worth of calves to them.
Taylor has a key suggestion for better coyote hunting.
“It’s mostly about scent control,” Taylor said.
Coyotes normally approach what they think is food and circle downwind to detect foreign smells. In preparation, Taylor and Cawley spray their clothes, footwear, hair, guns and caps in no-scent solution.
“Camouflage is a double-edged sword,” Taylor said. “Regardless of what you wear, you have to think of UV (ultraviolet). Everyone washes their clothes in “Tide,” but it has UV enhancers; it’s standard (in detergents). But it makes your clothing glow like a (neon) sign to coyotes. Even your skin produces a natural UV reflector to protect you from the sun. Coyotes can see the sun bouncing (light) off the moon that bounces off your face. If you watch Duck Dynasty, it’s why those guys wear face paint.”
But before Taylor grabs his .223-caliber AR-15 or shotgun, he scouts areas for “dogs” — the nickname coyote hunters use.
“If I was new, the first thing I’d do would be go to a game land or to farmers or cattle ranchers and ask if they had a problem with coyotes or were seeing them,” he said. “Then I’d go listen.”
Best times are an hour before dawn, twilight and the first hour of two of darkness.
“I’d also go out in the middle of the night to see if they’re in your area,” Taylor said.
Hunters often use a locator call, much the same way as crow calls used by turkey hunters.
Taylor likes a “horn howler,” a small, open-reed, bullhorn-style call that reproduces a lonesome coyote howl. Another call mimics a fire-truck siren.
“The siren call is a MP3 electronic recording I turn wide open,” he said. “The high pitch makes ’em whine. It helps to have a calm night when the wind’s not blowing much.”
Like most effective coyote hunters, Taylor is a run-and-gun hunter. He and Cawley set up where they know coyotes should be and place a Fox Pro electronic caller in a field with a “Mojo critter” — a FoxJack decoy — to add movement.
They’ll often try to find a tree stand or climb into a tree because scent remains on the ground, unless it’s extremely windy.
“I ask new guys to think about sitting on the ground and how much they see, then I ask if they’re a deer hunter with a tree stand,” Taylor said. “A coyote always comes in upwind. He wants to hear what attracted him, then he wants to smell it, then he wants to see it. If you can, climb into a tree and get as high as you can be comfortable.
“A coyote is always looking forward, so he rarely looks up. It’ll be harder for him to pick you up and it gives you an elevated platform. You also can see what’s behind you.”
If no coyotes approach in 20 or 30 minutes, Taylor and Cawley are off to another spot.
Hunting at night is a little different. Usually it’s done on the ground with shotguns.
“You’ll often get coyotes busting out right next to you,” Taylor said.
Whenever he’s coyote hunting — daylight or dark — Taylor tries to contact a local game warden to let him know where he and Cawley will be so the warden won’t think they’re deer poachers.
As for weapons, Taylor said there’s no right or wrong.
“Hunters should use whatever they’re most comfortable and accurate with,” he said. “For people starting out, I tell ’em to use their favorite deer rifle.”
His favorite is an AR-15 varmint rifle chambered for .223. On top, he has a 3.5x10, 50-mm Leupold scope with an illuminated reticule. Taylor said he’s thinking about getting a red-dot scope. “In a low-light situation, the lower power allows it to draw in more light.”
At night, coyotes often may come within 10 yards of a shooter and a caller, who usually are no more than 20 feet apart. Taylor and Cawley may carry a rifle and shotgun.
“Sometimes you need a shotgun,” Taylor said. “I like one that will handle a 31/2-inch shell with No. 4 buckshot, because it’s got 54 pellets. If you don’t have No. 4s, then 00 buckshot will blow through brush.”
Cawley said they may use a green or red light to scan a dark field.
“It lights up their eyes,” he said. “You can see them 800 yards (away). But you don’t want to shine the light directly in their eyes; shine it just above their heads. It’ll catch their eyes in the halo. When they get within 100 yards, that’s a good distance to light them up; they’ll stand still.”
Taylor said expectations caused by watching television hunting shows are a problem.
“Coyote hunting in North Carolina isn’t like that,” he said. “You don’t set up and call, wait 10 minutes, then get overrun by dogs. That’s out west where it’s flat land and food resources are so few and far between. You get lots of coyotes coming to (distress) calls.”
Taylor, well, tailors his calls to the time of year.
“It’s like fly fishing,” he said. “You have to match the hatch.”
Because coyotes burn a lot of calories, cold weather forces them to move more to find food. For example, a wounded rabbit or fawn in distress call may lure coyotes, but Taylor often changes standard food-source calls.
“If I’ve run through my cottontail calls, I’ll change to a jackrabbit,” he said. “A coyote often will come out of curiosity.”
If he thinks coyotes may be ready to mate, he’ll use a lonesome female call.
“I lean away from challenge or dominant (male) calls,” he said. “It’s one thing to have a coyote coming in wanting to eat versus wanting to fight. If he wants to fight, he’s a little more alert. If he wants to eat, his guard usually has dropped a little.”
Most coyotes taken by hunters are teenagers.
“The alpha male hangs back and sends in the juveniles,” Taylor said. “He sits back and watches and waits to see what happens.”
Just like an old pro coyote hunter.