It goes without saying that hunting whitetail is by far the most popular form of hunting in the United States. People literally go crazy over the pursuit of a monster whitetail buck. People lose money and sometimes people could lose their spouse to the pursuit of whitetail. It is popular for a good reason, whitetail are plentiful and they have done extremely well inhabiting areas other big game species cannot. Every year as it gets closer to deer season, people will start posting their trail cam pictures on social media and some even form a “hit list”. Hunters start planting food plots, buying up large quantities of corn(places it is legal), putting up deer stands, and checking their bow and/or rifle to make sure it is ready for action. In a lot of cases, thousands of dollars per individual are spent each year to be as prepared as possible. Some make mock scrapes in hopes of drawing in an old ornery buck, while others may take a more subtle no trace approach and place no feed on the ground and hunt natural food sources to reduce pressure to the area. People go to great lengths to obtain the current years bragging rights and put some meat in the freezer. But in all my years, I rarely hear of a person taking out coyotes as part of their management plan. This article is about that monster buck you never saw or caught on camera because he never lived past being a fawn.
Deer have made a huge comeback in the United States and so has another species, the coyote. In the 1800s, it was unheard of for a coyote to be in any eastern state. They were mostly confined to western states west of the Mississippi. There is a ton of theories and controversy surrounding how they got to be so populated in the east. Some say the decline in the wolf population gave the coyote more territory. Others say the reintroduction of deer to the eastern states gave the coyote more prey. Regardless of who is right or if they are both right, the coyotes have come and they are here to stay. They have adapted and have become the dominant predator of the east. There really is not an area they cannot make themselves at home, whether rural or urban. They very rarely show themselves to hunters or people in general, which is one reason people do not think they affect their deer hunting…they assume there is none. Their dens are secluded and their territory is vast. One study has shown one pack of coyotes hunting range was over 20 miles. Here in Central Georgia, you will find a higher concentration of coyotes around any type of cattle or livestock farms. If you ever see any donkeys mixed in with cattle, there is a good reason. The reason being, calves need protection and for whatever reason, a donkey absolutely hates a coyote. Donkeys will not only guard but will actively go after a coyote and kick and stomp a coyote like he is performing the cupid shuffle at a wedding and enjoying every minute of it. So, calves have donkeys but who protects deer fawns?
One study in South Carolina along the Savannah river showed that 67% of fawns were killed by coyotes with most predation occurring between the birth of a fawn and three months old. There are a lot of studies that have been done and most are 50% or more of confirmed coyote killed fawns. In rare cases, coyotes have been recorded killing an adult deer but those cases are so low that they are insignificant to the deer population as a whole. So, does “planting them peas” every year give you a better shot at a nice buck or would hunting coyotes in the offseason? It is hard to argue with the facts but something can be done. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as planting a food plot. Biologist say that about 75% of the coyotes in the area have to be removed to really be able to make a dent in management. Mainly because of the offspring rate and amount of pups a female coyote can have each year. Coyote populations have to be managed by either hunting them or trapping them. Trapping has been the proven method for successful management of an area. In my opinion, hunting by calling them and with aid of light can be a good method; although, in a small area, tactics will have to be changed often. No matter how you decide to do it, I hope you take this information and use it to further help the deer population in your area. Besides, it’s fun.
Last modified: March 9, 2020