HUNTING COYOTES WITH “HUMAN HOUNDS” (March 6/98)

When Wayne Downey asked me if I was interested in running coyotes with him my first question was, “Are you going to use your hounds?”

His reply puzzled me. “No, you’ll see how we run them when we get out,” he said.

He could have said, “Yes, we’re using hounds but not the four-legged kind,” and I really would have been mystified.

Later Wayne explained that running coyotes with hounds was unproductive and they had stopped doing it. “Put a hound on its track and a coyote would often hit out for 10 or 12 miles or end up somewhere on the North Mountain. We wouldn’t get the dog back for days and it was dangerous as well. Sometimes the coyotes would run along the shoulder of the road.”

Because of the futility of tracking coyotes with his big hounds, Wayne had worked out an uncommon hunting method. And while it may not be as exciting as working the hounds, I discovered on my first “coyote running” that it was effective.

Wayne hit upon his unusual hunting method by while snowmobiling. Discovering fresh coyote tracks going into a woodlot and none coming out, he had his son follow them. “I told him to make lots of noise and I drove around to the far side of the woodlot to see what would happen,” Wayne said. “Out came the coyote on the run.”

After a few trials runs Wayne found that by lining up several hunters along the edge of a woodlot, he could run coyotes out to them. One hunter acts as the hound, pushing through the woodlot from the opposite side and actually baying and barking like a dog on a track. I chuckled when Wayne told me about this, but he said it “really got the coyotes moving.” In the last seven or eight years Wayne and his sons, Wade and Ryan, have bagged at least 20 coyotes using this method.

In Kings County the terrain is broken up by small woodlots. The home base of the wolf-like coyotes that spread into the Annapolis Valley decades ago, the woodlots are ideal to run using Downey’s method. “Most of them hold a coyote or two,” Wayne said, “and we’ve had as many as five come out when we’ve run them.”

Coyotes have sharp eyes and a hunter on a stand must conceal himself and keep movement to a minimum while a run is taking place. By mid-afternoon we were on our fourth run and Wayne had put me on a stand where I could watch an opening in the woodlot. There were coyote tracks on the snow along the edge of the woodlot and it looked promising. “We’ve run them along this side before so watch the field and the woods,” Wayne said.

Minutes later I was alone. Wayne was stationed farther along the edge of the woods out of gunshot range; another companion watched a point where the woods thinned out. At the opposite side of the woodlot Wade Downey imitated the voice of a slow working hound, an imitation I’m sure would have fooled many an experienced houndsman.

Wade had closed to within several hundred meters of our stands when I heard a shot; seconds later another shot. “It’s coming straight at you,” Wayne shouted.

I heard the coyote coming before I saw it. Then it was running by me out in the open and I brought the shotgun up.

Some coyotes will run to 50 pounds and over. This was a male of 48 pounds and its coat was in superb condition. “Living off the fat of the land,” someone remarked. Wayne skinned the animal that evening and prepared the hide for tanning. In the coyote’s stomach, along with partly digested apples, was evidence that someone was wondering what had become of their pet dog.

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