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Illinois hunting and fishing

Coyotes and white-tailed deer have been co-existing for ages. Chris Young/The State Journal-Register.

Unfriendly competition: deer hunters share timber with coyotes

December 05, 2010 at 07:04 AM

The State Journal-Register

Nobody likes competition.

Sure a little competitiveness can be healthy and keep you on your toes. But in the woods, hunters do not welcome the presence of other predators.

This fall, at least some deer hunting conversation has turned to the presence of coyotes and what that might do to a buck’s normal routine — and a hunter’s shot at success.

But the state’s deer biologist says the coexistence of the white-tailed deer and the coyote is part of the normal routine.

Mike Fulk of Lincoln is one hunter who expressed concern about the number of coyotes he’s seen.

“For me, bow season was terrible,” he says. “For one thing, there are so many coyotes in our area that I saw nearly as many coyotes as I saw deer.”

Fulk says he saw coyotes chasing deer by his stand, and says he is concerned their presence disrupted the usual routines of deer in his Logan County hunting area.

“I couldn’t pattern anything,” he says of the practice to learn a buck’s habits and set up a hunting location to take advantage of that daily routine. “There have been a lot of people complaining about them. They definitely are the next things on the list to go hunting for.”

Paul Shelton, forest wildlife program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, says white-tailed deer and coyotes have been putting up with each other for ages.

“You have to remember that coyotes in Illinois are part of ‘the usual patterns and routines,’ and both deer and coyotes have adapted to the presence of the other on a year-round basis,” he says.

Matt Law of Litchfield says he shot a coyote that appeared to be chasing a young buck.

“A four-pointer ran under my stand, and I thought maybe a bigger buck was chasing him,” Law says. “But it was a coyote.”

Law took the coyote with his bow.

“(Coyote hunting) is our second fun thing to do after deer season,” he says. “We do a lot of coyote hunting and they are all over the place.”

Hunters and trappers take about 7,000 coyotes a year, according to DNR. Hunting is allowed all year.

Like deer, turkeys and other Illinois wildlife, coyotes were almost eliminated from the state a little over a century ago.
But they have made a strong comeback.

Law says his son Brian counted nine coyotes at one time during a hunt this fall, but adds that he doesn’t think their presence is a big issue.

“They might mess with the newborns in the spring,” he says. “In the spring time it might have some effect, but as far as them tackling the big ones, I don’t think so.”

According to a Chicago-area study cited on the Illinois DNR furbearer Website, white-tailed deer make up 22 percent of a coyote’s diet. Small rodents accounted for the highest percentage, amounting for 43 percent. Fruit, rabbits and birds were the next most popular food items.

An Iowa study of winter eating habitats showed rabbits were most popular at 51 percent. Mice accounted for more than a quarter of the coyote’s diet and other mammals added up to 8 percent.

Shelton says coyotes will take advantage of an opportunity, especially if a deer is sick or injured.

“There are two times of year when deer constitute a significant part of coyote diet,” he says. “One is in the late spring-early summer, when for a several-week period, recently-born fawns are susceptible to coyote predation.”

Hunters may be surprised to learn they are responsible for second period of the year.

“And two, during the deer hunting season — particularly late-November through early December — by-products of field dressing almost 200,000 deer are left for coyotes and other scavengers to clean up.”

Shelton says it is not beneficial for coyotes to burn valuable energy trying to target deer as a food source.

“They tend to be pretty ineffective at it,” he says. “And both the deer and the coyotes know this.”

Chris Young can be reached at 788-1528.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Mike, i’m in Lincoln.  Lets do some coyote hunting in February!  I’ll be ready

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/05 at 04:25 PM

Certainly the predator prey relationship is a part of the natural world, but over the past decade I’ve seen some changes regarding our Illinois coyote population and habits.

As habitat has improved over the past 20 years thanks to CRP and landowner habitat improvements, prey species for coyote (rabbit, mice, etc.) populations have increased. This has been a boon for coyotes, and I’d venture to say we have never had the population number of coyotes we have today.

It is incredible how quickly they can reduce the rabbit population due to increased mouths to feed. I assume our local coyotes have learned to compensate by hunting as a pack, including doing deer drives using standers and pushers. I’ve documented this behavior for educational television.

Certainly weak/injured/newborn fawn deer are prime candidates for predation understandably.  This category also includes formerly strong mature bucks weakened by the rut naturally, which also then fall prey to coyotes in the winter. I’ve seen plenty of very healthy deer being harassed by coyote packs. In Northern Illinois, the past 2 winters have been more severe than usual, and these conditions benefit coyotes preying on healthy deer.

One of the neat features of coyote biology is that as population numbers are reduced via intensive hunting and or trapping, litter size increases. The way I look view it though is by intensively killing coyotes in late winter, we can limit the number of individuals alive and preying on spring fawns.

This is a very complex subject and worthy of a book for complete coverage, but I thought I’d touch on a few additional points.

Bob Coine
Building Whitetail Paradise

Posted by Bob Coine on 12/06 at 09:22 AM

  Thank you for the great perspective, and for sharing your knowledge of the subject. You are right, that it is a subject for more study. Thanks again! Chris Young

Posted by Chris Young on 12/07 at 12:37 PM

I think that some of the current coyote population can be attributed to the deer hunting ground leases. These leases have excluded coyote hunters from a lot of ground. The hunters with dogs that killed the most coyotes, especially late winter when it can have the most effect do not have access to hunt lerge tracts of land that they need anymore. In addition, they have excluded other hunters that always were inclined to whack a coyote when they saw it. I believe that this is resulting in an older population of coyotes due to all these properties becoming refuges for them. Older animals are more efficient predators and pass that learned predation on to their offspring. This can take the form of pack hunting or individuals that have learned that certain doe behavior means a fawn is hidden nearby. The coyote is one of the most adaptable animals on earth to start with and then you add in addtional years to their lifespan and that addtional learned material makes them even more efficient and productive.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/08 at 09:07 AM

Like Bob said above, it doesn’t do any good whatsover to shoot coyotes. The population will be replenished right back to the same level the next year. That makes it a sport of killing just for fun which may or may not be justified, it depends who you are. Therefore it boils down to nothing more than entertainment and fun, you won’t actually accomplish anything.  Enjoy it while you can the hunting video industry is in the process of ruining it. In a few short years between the video industry and the politicians our deer herd will be mediocre to poor then there will be someone behind every tree after the only thing still plentiful, the indestructable yote! Get ready to fight over yote hunting spots next!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/09 at 06:52 PM

Yep…we got lots of coyotes and also lots of deer.  Pheasant population is down and I’m guessing that due to all the flooding that covered the CREP this spring and summer.  No young birds…all adults.
I had a newbie come down for shotgun season.  You should have seen the sad look on his face when I told him about our No Shoot rule on coyotes.  Then, on Saturday, he comes back to camp all excited to tell about how 2 jet-black coyotes worked the field he was hunting and then passed within twenty yards of him.
Coyotes aren’t hurting anything.  They are part of the natural order.  Sure, go ahead and shoot the ones getting into livestock or pets, otherwise, leave them alone.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/11 at 09:04 AM

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