By Camo Candace, Faces of Hunters Contributor
Coyote hunting season does not close in Texas, which creates opportunities for sportsmen to predator hunt year-round. Overpopulation of coyotes has led to numerous problems for farmers, ranchers, and wildlife. As hunters, we can help mitigate these issues and protect species that suffer heavily from predation by reducing the number of coyotes and other predators which are now overpopulated due to human activities.
I made a statement on Twitter one night while hunting hogs that if the hogs didn’t show up I would work on varmint control and reduce the raccoon population. I was met with some resistance from a hunter who told me that if didn’t intentionally set out to hunt raccoons then I shouldn’t shoot them. I was confused by this and returned with the following proposal to him: If you are deer hunting and a coyote shows up, would you shoot it (if legal and open season)? He said no because he was deer hunting not coyote hunting. My opinion and response back was that he was actually doing a disservice to the wildlife by not seizing the opportunity to reduce the predator population because he didn’t explicitly set out to intentionally hunt coyotes.
In January of 2013 I was with my husband in South Texas helping a land owner with a management hunt of whitetail doe. As we watched two does enter the sendero, my husband propped his rifle up to take a shot but stopped immediately. There were two coyotes creeping up on an unsuspecting healthy doe, planning their attack. We immediately made the only decision that seemed logical – instead of shooting the doe he killed the largest coyote of the two. Although the doe ran off, we felt good with our decision. We were hunting over 5,000 acres and the opportunity was there, so we took it.
There has always been conflicting information surrounding the population and effect of coyotes; some argue that they are necessary to keep whitetail deer herds down by preying on the diseased or weak whitetail (although evidence is accumulating showing predation on full grown deer) and others conclude coyotes dramatically reduce fawn populations. The amount of information available to support or discount either side is vast so I won’t list a slew of numbers here, but regardless which side you are on, one thing remains true; there must be a balance. The Texas Parks and Wildlife allows an open season on coyotes and hunters should actively pursue them to help keep that balance.
There will always be a cycle of predator and prey in nature but when a disproportionate number exists, other problems invite themselves in. A growing coyote population will certainly lead to an increase in fawn deaths, but can also affect the quail and turkey populations by destroying nests. A shock and surprise factor struck my workplace when a notice was sent out about an increase in coyote population and to avoid them. Their presence in the parking lots and surrounding buildings had increased enough to raise safety concerns for our large work force as well as homes with pets and children.
I hope this quick look will entice you to review your own predator populations in your state and learn how you can help. Try not to get lost in the specific numbers, especially when introducing new hunters to predator hunting; focus on what you can do in your area to maintain a balance and protect our hunting heritage.