Sports
Hunting the hunters
By Luke Clayton
Jan 28, 2023
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With the close of whitetail muzzleloader season this past weekend, deer season is officially closed with the exception of some ranches managed by Texas Parks and Wildlife where deer can be hunted through February. Itís now time to do some predator control and reduce the number of coyotes and bobcats. For many years, I thought that only coyotes took a heavy toll of newborn fawns in Texas but I know for a fact that full grown bobcats also kill fawns and occasionally grown deer as well.

I remember hunting down near Menard with an outfitter several years ago when I heard a very vocal struggle back in the woods near hunting stand that was unoccupied. Brush was breaking and I could occasionally hear a distinctively Ďcatí sound. I was positive a mountain lion was attempting to take down a deer.  After the evening hunt, we found a button buck that had been killed by a bobcat. Tracks were everywhere and the claw marks on the small buck clearly fit those made by a bobcat.  It appeared the cat had attacked head on, the damage was to the neck and throat area.

I keep trail cameras going year around close to my home and keep close check on activity around several corn feeders. I watched a mature doe several years that had distinctive markings on her throat. She was a regular at all the feeders and because of the white markings, very easy to identify. One day she showed up with fresh claw marks and what appeared to be puncture marks on her throat and shoulders. She had obviously been in a serious battle for her life against a bobcat.

I love seeing bobcats in the woods and my biologist buddies say that for every one I spot there are sure to be several more on a given tract of land that Iíll never see. I donít get a lot of opportunities to take bobcats while hunting deer or hogs, maybe a couple of opportunities a year but if given the opportunity I plan to help thin their numbers this year.

Because of their habit of hunting as a pack, coyotes can be lethal on a deer herd. I live on a few acres with other homes in fairly close proximity. A half-mile from my house is thousands of acres of wetland and a 50,000 acre ranch. Because most hunting close to home is for waterfowl, deer and wild hogs, predator numbers have been allowed to get out of control. Pets are occasionally attacked. A couple years ago, my wifeís pet goat was killed by coyotes about this time of year only 40 yards from our back door. Itís common to hear coyotes howling and occasionally spot them in the yard. Many hunters donít wish to ruin a deer or wild hog hunt by shooting predators.

Because of the many wild hogs in the area, itís not uncommon to witness coyotes killing young pigs, Iíve witnessed this twice in the past couple years, usually around a corn feeder.  A pack of three or four coyotes will surround a sow with pigs and when her back is turned, one will run in and grab a pig. I believe this steady diet of wild pork is one reason for the boon in coyote numbers, not only where I live but across much of the state. There can only be one dominant canine predator in an area. Up north where wolves are prevalent, coyote numbers are few. Where coyote numbers are strong, there are few foxes. Out in West Texas in sheep and goat country, coyotes have been trapped and hunted relentlessly for decades. You canít raise sheep and goats in areas with coyotes. But, grey fox numbers are strong and they have become the dominate canine.

The bottom line is that man has disrupted nature and the balance between predator/prey. Itís our job to keep these animals in check and as a hunter that equates to some late winter fun. Watching a coyote come bounding in to a call really gets the adrenaline pumping. Iíve had them almost run over me a few times in their efforts to Ďcatchí that rabbit or bird they were listening to! I once did a magazine article with one of the top coyote hunters in North Dakota and watched him bring in a coyote from a good quarter mile away with his super loud electronic caller. The critter never slowed his pace and came within mere feet of us. 

I use an electronic predator caller that works off a cell phone App and Bluetooth.  Itís called The Bullet by Convergent Hunting Solutions. I set it out in front of where Iím hunting and remotely control the different sounds and volume. Iíve used it effectively on not only coyotes and bobcats but wild hogs as well when using the different Ďhogí sounds. This type call is very effective because of its range and sound realism but mouth blown calls are also very effective.

Jeff Rice (left) takes aim at a distant coyote that Larry Weishuhn is calling with his mouth predator call. (photo by Luke Clayton)

This past summer, I watched my friend Larry Weishuhn aka. ďMr. WhitetailĒ use a mouth blown call to bring a coyote out of some very heavy cover but it was the squeaking sound he made by sucking on his fist that brought the song dog out into the open where our friend Kenneth Shepherd could make the shot.

When it comes to rifle choices, itís hard to beat a .22/250 or .223 for coyotes but your favorite deer rifle will suffice. I have a couple of predator hunting articles assigned this winter where I will be using a big bore air rifle and another for a crossbow hunt. Iíll probably do my calling from a tree stand when hunting with the crossbow. Oleí Wile E. Coyote is a bit too sharp to fool at close range from ground level!

Email outdoor writer Luke Clayton through his website www.catfishradio.org or lukeclayton1950@gmail.com