Dog Daze

Photographing the Sullivan County Federation of Sportsman's Clubs coyote contest was one thing, but I really wanted to be able to enter it with a coyote of my own. Problem was, I woke up the morning of my scheduled hunt, looked outside and knew I was in for trouble. The wind was howling, and blowing up to 60 mph most of the day, and the snow squalls were heavy. Temperatures were in the single digits with that wind chill factor. Fosterdale Motor Lodge, came recommended as a place where I'd be able to warm up after a day in the woods. They are one of the few motels open during the winter. The efficiencies are small, but clean. Click HERE to see Day 1 of the hunt.
On my way to meeting my hunting partner for the day, retired school teacher, Harvey Dickens (Woodridge, NY), I passed Stone Arch Bridge Historical Park. The water was churned up, brown and moving fast; another sign of the tough winter they've had up the Catskills this winter. Still, it was a beautiful sight which will hopefully be even more beautiful in a month's time when trout season opens. It seems a long way off, however.
Farmlands and forests filled this semi-rural area; a time and place that has not yet seen the end of its days. I was hopeful that we'd spot some coyotes.
Wildlife appeared everywhere. Turkeys were scratching high on ridges, too; though too far away for the lens I had at that moment. The Catskills support healthy herds of deer, flocks of turkey and, from a trappers' standpoint, they trap everything from red fox, to gray fox; otter, mink, muskrat, raccoon, beaver and fisher. Harvey has even called in bobcats.
One of Harvey's first and favorite spots to set-up was on some private land. There's a particular spot where a draw cuts through two ridges. Harvey has often set up on one of those ridges called in coyotes there. The ridgeline of trees looks down into a draw and provides good cover. The coyotes, if they're around, will edge their way into the draw curious about his calls.
Before setting up, Harvey, who has been calling in coyotes for over 30 years and takes about 50 to 100 pelts per season trapping, quickly surveys the woods looking for immediate and telltale signs that coyotes have recently been through the area. He's a trapper, too, and out there in all kinds of weather, nearly daily checking his traps.
The odds are not certainly in the coyote's favor. As Harvey explained, it's not unusual to make twenty or so sets before you actually get to see a coyote and maybe then take a shot. The set-up takes only a few minutes to do, but after several calls and fifteen to twenty minutes, it's off to another spot.
With the heavy snows that the Catskills experienced this past winter, snowshoes were a must. And for the uninitiated, snowshoeing is work. I stand 6'1", probably 220 pounds, and I do go to the gym, but Harvey put me to shame. I was humbled by his agility and speed on snowshoes. Everything else we needed for the hunt, other than a rifle, was kept in a knapsack.
With total camouflage from head to toe, we settled down to our first set. Coyotes are famously cautious, however, curiosity iis their shortcoming which is why electronic predator callers are popular. Dying rabbit squeals work well.
With the introduction of electronic calls, Harvey explained that coyotes can get conditioned to the same calls. Manufacturers mix the calls up and are constantly fine-tuning their sounds, but Harvey feels adding mouth calls, in combination with electronics, helps to distinguish his set from others. On occasion, while in the woods, he's actually heard the exact electronics being used a half-mile away.
Mouth callers add an element of distinction with the electronic callers. There are many good manufacturers out there, Quaker Boy is just one of many.
Decoys can also be used to bring in coyotes. This battery-operated decoy waves a tail back and forth and can be picked up by a coyote 100 yards out. Combined with the electronic speaker, not too far away, it's nearly another perfect way to hunt coyotes. Along with calling in New York State, you are also allowed to bait for coyotes and hunt them with dogs.
Harvey's choice of firearm is a Savage .223. There are a number of other very popular calibers that are used too, to include the .243, the .22-250, even the .22 magnum. And in some cases, shotguns are used, too.
Once the set-up is made, throw your cushion on the ground, get comfortable and prepare to call.
Calling, whether electronic or by mouth is an art form. Here Harvey uses a duck call to create a "distressed animal" sound. Mixing it up with electronics is a winning combination.
Call and sit still. That is the strategy. But, be vigilant. Coyotes will often circle the source of the distressed animal call and more than once hunters have been caught off guard with a coyote coming in too close for comfort. While having dinner with friends one night, one tale was shared of a hunter dozing off in the woods waking up to five to six coyotes circling the hunter on the ground.
With blowing snow, Harvey had to check his scope frequently for a clear sight picture.
Your ultimate objective, of course, is to bag a coyote. Harvey skins and prepares a lot of his own pelts, perhaps 50 to 100 different ones a season; others prefer to bring the animals directly into a fur trader. Usually they'll pay you something for the pelts and do the work themselves.
As cute and snuggly as these animals may seem, it's important to remember that they are considered an over populated species and even in the lower parts of the state, sightings are becoming more frequent close to human populations.
While at one time, you actually could make some pretty good money from coyote pelts, nowadays prices are down.
But there still is a market for furs. Warren Krum, and his wife, Barbara, of White Sulphur Springs, N.Y., is perhaps the 3rd or 4th largest fur trader in the United States. He needs no website, no advertising, no word of mouth. He's just known. He buys and sells at auction, and also works closely with the trappers in the upstate area. Warren's facility was the official weigh-in station at the recent 4th Annual Coyote Hunt hosted by Federation of Sportsman's Clubs of Sullivan County from 2/18th through 2/20th.
Skinning and preparing pelts is an art, as well. A slip of the knife, ending up cutting through the pelt can devalue it in seconds.
Mink, a short-haired animal, seem in less favor nowadays than the longer haired animals such as fox, coyote, even beaver. But the market for any of these pelts fluctuates like the stock market. Right now, mink is not in favor with buyers and the per-pelt price is down. Muskrats pelts, believe it or not, are more valuable now than mink and can pay $8 to $10 per pelt.
Of course some hunters enjoy their trophies mounted. This particular mounted fox was just recently finished by taxidermist Tim Kautz (Jeffersonville, NY), one of the younger, and up-and-coming taxidermists in the area. His work is quickly becoming very well recognized.

jumping dog

While we're on the subject of coyotes, don't forget to upload your submission for the Great Coyote Photo Contest like this one sent to us by Web user rkaraev. There are only a few days left to enter.

They might not be listed as "big game" in the regulations, but calling in a coyote on a bitterly cold winter's day will put any hunter's skills to the test.