Walk on the Wild Side

Brad Harvey: With turkey season’s end, what now?

May 6, 2014 

With the closing of the 2014 turkey hunting season, a few of us are bummed at the thought of having to wait until September before we can take to the woods again when deer season rolls around.

What if I told you that there is good reason to get back out there now and throughout the warm months and that it can be some of the most fun that you’ll ever have hunting?

Every farmer around here can tell you that coyotes have been running around here for years.

Although native to the West, these nasty critters were first spotted in the Palmetto State in 1978 and, in the years since, have expanded both their numbers and territory to the point that they can be found in all 46 counties of South Carolina.

Many stories have attributed their arrival to a supposed program initiated by our Department of Natural Resources in an effort to control the deer population but the agency has always said that’s not the case.

According to a press release on the subject that DNR put out a couple of years ago, their official word was, “Contrary to popular belief, DNR has never released coyotes in the state for any reason, including deer management. Nevertheless, coyotes have been illegally imported into S.C. for hound running and this practice may have accelerated the establishment of the species in the Palmetto State. However, the establishment of the coyote into S.C. was inevitable, as the coyote has expanded its range to the extent that it occurs in all of the continental United States and much of Canada.”

These vermin are having a hugely negative impact on our overall deer population by preying on fawns and, obviously, a few pets are being lost here and there as well. This is enough to make me despise them.

There are a number of misconceptions about these animals. One of the biggest is that these are “pack” animals that live within their own social hierarchy, much like wolves.

That’s not true. What often appears to be a pack is just a family.

Coyotes tend to stay with their mate and produce regular litters of around a half dozen pups on average. These pups will often stay with the parents and help take care of the next litter until they’ve reached breeding age, which comes at about two years.

Much like their domestic cousins that we keep as pets, coyotes are fast growing, so even a yearling can look like an adult.

Adult coyotes are medium sized and weigh 20 to 25 pounds with the males being the largest. They have slender muzzles, bushy tails and erect ears.

For some reason, most think of them as being either gray or tan in color. They are, but they also come in pretty much every other color in the spectrum as well. I’ve seen some that are as black as coal but have also witnessed a few that were as white as snow.

The sounds of these animals are quite distinctive, consisting of dog-like barks, yelps, yapping and the familiar howls that the old cowboy movies made famous.

These extremely proficient predators possess great strength for their size, coupled with some serious speed and endurance.

Despite the fears that most people have, there isn’t one single report of coyotes attacking a human in this state. That said, losses of young calves and domestic house animals do occur on a pretty consistent basis.

In their natural habitat, they mainly live off of rats, mice, squirrels, birds (including wild turkeys) and their eggs, rabbit, deer and carcasses that they happen upon but the expansion of their range into neighborhoods has changed the diet of many.

Like most any animal, an easy meal is impossible to pass up. Dog and cat food and cans of household garbage are easy pickings for them and they’ve learned just what to look for.

It’s this adaptive nature that has them being noticed much more within neighborhoods and as long as these easy meals can be found, they’ll stick close to these areas, ready to snatch the tossed out leftovers from last night’s supper and even the family pet should the opportunity arise.

So, how can we get rid of ‘em?

In all honesty, we can’t. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that we can do to curb their numbers and, thus, their impact by going after them.

If, like me, you’re interested in taking out as many of them as you can, here are the basics of what you need to know to be legal about it.

• In S.C., there is no closed season for hunting coyotes on private land during the day, but a hunting license is required.

• Night hunting is allowed with certain restrictions. You can find those on the S.C. DNR website.

• The use of electronic calls is illegal.

• If you live in the county, a hunting license is not required when shooting coyotes within 100 yards of your home. If you live in town, it’s still not required, but you can bet that firing that shot will have blue lights flashing in front of your house in a matter of minutes, because most municipalities outlaw shooting within the city limits.

• Trapping is a viable option to help reduce coyote numbers. The season is open annually from Dec. 1 through March. 1

• Those suffering losses from coyote damage can apply for a depredation permit from DNR.

• No license or permit is required to trap a coyote on your property within 100 yards of your home.

• All trapped coyotes must be destroyed and may not be relocated.

Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at www.bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors.

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