Wily coyotes are howling, prowling
It is spring now, and summer is soon to arrive and the climatic charge to fish has taken steps forward.
Yet I wonder of what will occur this summer beneath the canopy of heavily greened trees and thick underbrush and the warm Southern nights, for I see trouble brewing.
Trouble, in this case, is spelled coyote and the brew is the impact these animals have on the population of game we hunt, livestock we raise and even domestic animals are not immune.
The current turkey season reminds me of early turkey seasons in the 1990s, when seeing a bird — let alone hearing a bird gobble or serenade — was almost a similar feat to actually harvesting a bird.
In the past few years, hunter and coyote interaction has increased and it is becoming commonplace to call a turkey and be answered by a fast-moving coyote. This hunter is concerned, and I wonder if we as hunters and biologists in this state even understand what our coyote population is and whether we are early, late or slow to tap the panic button.
Just a few nights ago, I counted seven howling coyotes, and that was only as far as my human ears could hear. What I have not counted this season is one turkey gobbling, and this assessment is shared by hunters with more experience than me. What we know, I believe, is only the surface in terms of how coyotes are affecting the chain we refer to as natural.
Pause for a moment, close your eyes, inhale, then exhale and think about where anyone remembers a bird referred to as the quail? Does anyone even understand that when it was too late, the quail were gone and great dogs became good dogs and then sad dogs and hunters from the quail days of our society are haunted by images of flushes and chaotically dispersing birds all because the quail population became virtually gone? Fingers point to farming practices, birds of prey, raccoons, opossums and, in reality, they all contributed.
But the turkey has resurged and inspired and challenged and is of the noblest birds to pursue, yet do we even know the impact coyotes are having or, worse, is it too late?
“They don’t gobble.”
“The four coyotes rushed in and attacked the decoy.”
“I called in two coyotes last week, the same morning, quick.”
Those quotes are just a few heard in recent days. There is concern that the birds have adapted to not communicating, which may affect how turkeys live, breed and survive. There is concern that hatched poults within the coming weeks will be pursued by a population of coyotes that is hungrier, bolder and smarter. Just last year, I discovered a nest after seeing a hen leave the area one afternoon. There must have been more eyes noticing this, too.
Two days later, I found the remains of the hen near her nest and all of the eggs destroyed.
I feel anger, honestly. Even though I accept the natural adaptation and cycle of life, I feel as though the mushrooming population of coyotes is growing and our best attempts to understand are perhaps too late. This may very well be an anomaly year and my own observations may not reflect that of the larger sampling of hunters.
However, I never knew what it was like to hunt quail. My fear is that should a panic button exist, I hope it is not too late to press it.
When I am standing on my porch at night, I hear the evidence all around me. Certainly, the local population of coyotes has no trouble howling.
Enjoy your time outdoors.
Reach Herald-Sun outdoors columnist Jason Hawkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.