Some North Carolina hunters believe a mature whitetail buck is the most difficult game animal to hunt. Others think a wild turkey gobbler is a tougher challenge.

But neither of these targets match coyotes in terms of wariness. 

With a sense of smell equal to deer, eyesight and hearing that surpasses wild turkeys and a deeply-wired dislike of revealing themselves to humans, the members of the canis latrans clan are ghost-like creatures, rarely seen or heard in daylight hours.

Yet they live among us in every habitat type. 

Once rare in North Carolina, the coyote population has exploded, and today, coyotes cost farmers thousands of dollars in livestock losses. They regularly snatch dogs and cats from suburban yards. Hunting them requires dedication, a willingness to spend money and hours waiting, at night, using calls to lure them into gun range.

“It’s a challenge,” said John Alden of Iron Station, a town in Lincoln County. “I didn’t start hunting coyotes until eight years ago. I was unsuccessful at first, but I got hooked. Now I only hunt coyotes, not deer.”

His uncle, Mike Alden, instilled in him a love of being outdoors, as they hunted squirrels, doves, groundhogs, ducks, crows and deer.

“He taught me the fundamentals,” said Alden, whose first electronic game call was “an old Johnny Stewart tape player.” 

“I killed three (coyotes) when I was at Western Carolina University. I spent all my extra time coyote hunting and read a lot of books about how to hunt them. I’m still learning.”