Now that the major hunting seasons are over and until spring gobbler season gets underway, sportsmen can still pursue probably the toughest, most wary and wily animal in Pennsylvania. We’re talking about the coyote.
While most folks may never see a coyote, they are around and their numbers are growing. They’re even close to the city of Allentown. South Mountain and the wooded tracts off Constitution Drive harbor a few. And a friend trapped a couple behind Cedarbrook Nursing Home in South Whitehall Township. In the northern tier, the woodlands around Leaser Lake and Game Lands 217 off Route 309 hold several. In fact, during a post deer hunting season survey of local venison processing shops, Hartman’s in New Tripoli said that deer hunters in their area saw more coyotes than deer.
Coyotes are hated by sportsmen because they believe coyotes kill fawns, wild turkeys, grouse and stocked pheasants. Rural homeowners detest them because they can make a meal of their pet dog or cat. Farmers in particular often loose livestock due to coyote predation.
As for turkey’s, a few years ago I did a column on a Berks County hunter who shot a spring gobbler, and before his could retrieve it, a coyote grabbed it and ran off.
Seen on a TV show last week, a security camera at a North Carolina doctors’ office captured a coyote following a doctor into the back door of his office. The doctor thought it was a dog, but moments later the video showed the doctor quickly exiting his office with the coyote on his heels. Thanks to a scampering squirrel, the coyote spotted it and ran after it while the doctor made his escape.
Coyotes arrived in our state, says the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), back in the late ‘60s when they migrated from the Catskill Mountains in New York. From there they spread out but the largest population of them was in the Pocono Mountains. By the ‘90s, they occupied the entire state with the highest populations located across the northern half of the state.
Coyotes are often dog size weighing from 35-40 pounds and ranging from 48-60 inches. According to the PGC, their pelage colors range from light blonde, reddish blond, gray to dark brown washed with black and black. Generally though, coyotes are gray to a German shepherd coloration. Their legs are gray, tan and reddish with black markings or lines down the front of their front legs. The cheeks and behind the ears are reddish or chestnut colored. However, the PGC points out that blonde reddish and black coyotes may not have any noticeable black stripes on their front legs. Their ears are erect and their bottle brush tails are usually in a downward position. Normally, their eyes are yellow, but some with brown eyes have been found.
These descriptions easily fit a number of dog species, particularly the shepherd, so it’s easy to mistake a coyote for a dog.
Now that cabin fever has set in with the spring gobbler hunting season still some ways off, hunting coyotes can be challenging and it’s not easy. To seriously hunt them, avid coyote hunters shell out some serious money for electronic calls, lights for night hunting, small caliber centerfire rifles so as to not damage a pelt and other gear that is often needed. And all this for pelts that average $13.87 per the Pennsylvania Trapper’s Association at a recent fur sale. Most sportsmen, says Bob Danenhower from Bob’s Taxidermy in Orefield, have mounts, rugs or just pelts made from them.
As for their table fare, I tasted a piece of their meat and it has a metallic taste, perhaps because their easy meals are of mice and voles when they can’t get deer, rabbits, woodchucks and squirrels. But PGC studies of their scat have shown that birds comprised about 10 percent and insects, 18 of their diets. Plant material occurred in 50 percent with various kinds of fruits during summer months. Regardless, I don’t care to eat it again.
If you’d like to try coyote hunting but aren’t sure you’ll like it, Mike Huff, who operates Master Predator Hunting will take you out to lands he hunts for coyote, fox and bobcat. Check his website at www.masterpredatorhunting.com or call 610-703-5918.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.