OPEN SEASON by Reavis Z. Wortham
February 25, 2017
February 25, 2017

Problem Varmints: a Solution to Cabin Fever

T his is March, and by now deer season is a distant memory or a recurring nightmare! It depends how your season went. For me, it keeps me up at night if that tells you anything.

In my neck of the woods, at least for me, the whitetails were pretty elusive. And I was not alone. Most of my friends had the same sad story. The places that produced deer in previous years have not been the same for the past two seasons now. Not only is it time to locate a new place to hunt, but we also need to find out what happened to the deer population. 

Being both a bow hunter and a hunter safety instructor, I have had many meetings with the conservation officers. During these meetings, I have asked what has happened to the population of deer.

I have been given many different answers ranging from bad weather years to just plain old bad luck. However, when I bring up coyotes, they simply shake their head and say there is no coyote problem. I disagree.

With more and more coyote sightings and fewer hunters actually hunting these varmints, I personally think there is a real, growing problem and one that needs to be addressed immediately. 

A good friend of mine, Nathan Jones, who once had his own hunting TV show called Wild Extremes, once filmed a six-point buck running under his stand being followed by a group of coyotes hot on his trail. It was winter, and the lake had frozen over.

Nathan explained that he heard a terrible commotion not far from where he was, and he thought the worst. He investigated and discovered that the buck had run out onto the ice and lost his footing. Needless to say, the deer suffered a horrible death. 

Some television shows let us see a shot taken near dusk. The hunter chooses to let the deer lie, and he will track it in the morning. Sure enough, when morning arrives he finds his nice big buck, and the TV show has a great ending to a fantastic hunt.

Unfortunately, that is not the way it works for all of us. I know that if I choose to look for a wounded deer the day after a late evening shot, I will find only a partial deer that has already been dinner for many coyotes.

Something needs to be done…and now!

After deer season is over, it seems as if varmint hunting is the perfect solution to cabin fever. So how do we hunt these critters?

I can tell you this, if you are looking for a hunting challenge, then give coyote hunting a try. These wary beasts are not the easiest animal to hunt. Although they can be seen during the day, the more they are hunted, the more nocturnal they become.

Not long ago I had the opportunity to hunt varmints with Ken Swenson on his ranch in South Texas. He explained to me the importance of scent control. Much like during deer season, we used Scent Killer Gold from Wildlife Research Center and sprayed that not only on our clothes, but also on our backpacks and blind and anything else we brought with us.

It is imperative that you do everything you can to keep your scent hidden. Always hunt with the wind in your face but sometimes coyotes will circle an area before coming in. That’s the reason for the Scent Killer spray.

The most common call used for coyotes is an animal in distress call. A crying rabbit coupled with a moving decoy is perfect to lure in a hungry coyote.

That doesn’t mean you will have an easy shot. The action will be quick and you must be ready at all times. It will not take long for these smart animals to figure out your set up and leave faster than they came in.

Some of my friends in New York have told me tales of horribly cold and long winters. That means the starving coyotes are searching for food, and they seem to respond to a call quicker.

I have to tell you, however, that when you hunt in those harsh conditions, it is difficult at best to sit still with the cold north wind in your face in sub-zero temperatures. No sir…not THIS child. I might have hunted them when I wore a younger man’s clothes, but not anymore, at least not in the extreme cold.

Here in Texas, our harsh winters, for the most part, are left for the panhandle. One thing is for sure, if we get any snow, it tends to be more of a powder and coyotes do not like to hunt in those conditions.

They will be found in the woodlots and will be a little easier to hunt. Or you might have luck hunting on the edges of a woodlot where the coyotes can see their prey from the darkness of the forest. As I said earlier, once they realize that their dinner is not real, they will be gone in a flash, so be ready.

As with any game you hunt, make sure of your target AND WHAT’S BEYOND! Also, you should try to get an animal to stand still for a second to make a humane shot.

I am asking all hunters who agree the coyotes are getting out of control, to take some time during the early spring to hunt some varmints and help take care of this problem. Turkey season is fast approaching, and it might be good to note that coyotes like turkeys, too. Just a little “food for thought.”

Good luck and I hope the hunting gods are with you this entire year. 

Have fun and hunt safe out there.


Email Lou Marullo at [email protected]

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