Conservation and Trapping News

Understanding coyote behavior makes for better hunting and trapping
Mar 18, 2022 09:06 ET

[Reprinted from original]

One of the biggest keys to being a successful coyote trapper or hunter is to understand coyote behavior.

Understanding the yearly life cycle of a coyote is crucial to putting up more fur. This article will outline a year in a coyote’s life cycle as well as tips and tricks to put in your arsenal for different times of the year while hunting or trapping coyotes.

The coyote breeding season usually runs from late January through February and can run into March. During this time of year, adult coyotes are looking to form pair bonds and breed, often traveling long distances to find a mate. Hanging snares on travel ways and trails is usually very effective during this time of year.

After the females are bred, the pair will start to look for den locations to raise pups. Calling during breeding and denning season can be a very effective tool. Focus on coyote vocals such as howls, breeding sounds and whimpers. For those of you who use footholds in the winter, this is a good time of year to use flat sets with coyote gland lure and urine.

Next is the whelping and rearing season. Pups in our area will usually start hitting the ground in early to mid-April. Some pups from the previous year will mate and some will not. Those young females that do not mate will often attach to the family and help raise the new year’s pups.

During whelping season, the coyote’s home range will decrease to only one or two square miles. Once May comes around, the pups will be moving around much more and starting to eat solid food. As the pups grow, the adults will move them into new locations, oftentimes shelterbelts, taller grasses or even crop fields. During this time of year, location is critical when trying to trap or hunt coyotes. You have to get inside of their small home range. Parental coyotes will be very territorial. This is a good time to try howls, challenge vocals and pup distress when calling.

If trapping during this time of year, use territorial sets such as flat sets with coyote gland lure and urine. When doing a dirt hole, try a curiosity lure or bait. Keep in mind this is an extremely difficult time of year to trap and, you will more than likely not be harvesting near the numbers as in the fall or even winter.

The last season I will talk about is the fall, which most people call fur season. Pups will usually start to disperse anytime from September to when breeding season starts. The pups now will be about full grown and will start to hunt and travel on their own. This is a great time of year to get traps in the ground and start calling. This is the time of year when coyote numbers are high.

During fall, the pups will be searching for new home ranges. Most of these pups have never seen a trap set or heard anyone call at them. Due to this, they are much easier to outsmart than the adults.

This time of the year, I would focus more on dirt holes with food-based lures and baits along with also putting in a few flat sets. When calling, try out some animal distress sounds such as rodents, birds and rabbits to have those hungry coyotes come running to your call.

Keep in mind that coyote fur will start to prime up in the middle of October, and the fur will usually be good through December and most of January, depending on the winter. During the cold and snowy months, coyotes can often be seen sunning themselves on snowbanks and rock piles. This will make them much more visible and they can occasionally be snuck up on or called at to improve your odds of harvesting some fur.

Good luck and happy hunting.

Aaron Hunt is a wildlife damage specialist with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks.