Hunt the Carolina coyote rut

Coyotes of both genders will respond to calls as the breeding season approaches.

Breeding predators present great opportunities

Over the past 20 years, coyotes have taken a foothold in every county in the Carolinas. From livestock and domestic pet predation to population reductions in native game and non-game species, coyotes are well beyond becoming a nuisance. They are a real problem that needs an immediate solution. Increased hunting pressure may help curb depredation issues. Calling coyotes can be very effective at luring coyotes into range.

Coyotes are omnivorous and very opportunistic. They eat just about anything they can, including insects and vegetation. But the diet of most coyotes is made up of rabbit, various rodents, ground-nesting birds and other small animals. And newborn deer fawns are common delicacies for coyotes in the Southeast.

According to a series of studies conducted on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C., coyote predation was the leading cause of mortality for newborn fawns. The timing of fawn births perfectly coincides with coyotes raising their newborn pups. So fawns are the perfect choice for coyotes trying to feed the family.

But coyotes are active during their breeding cycle, and the peak of the coyote rut in the Carolinas is February.

While deer come into estrus each month during the breeding season until they conceive, coyote females only become available for breeding once a year, usually lasting between eight to 10 days. As a result, both female and male coyotes will become super active courting between late January and the first week of March, waiting around for the conception period to begin. The combination of courting and the cooler weather increases hunger and around-the-clock activity levels. Coyote hunters can expect to see increased activity throughout the month.

In addition to increased activity, coyotes are already quite the communicative species. They use various vocalizations to communicate for establishing territories and to interact with the opposite sex during the breeding season. As a result, coyotes are susceptible to calls, and females and males can be easily lured into range.

Typically, coyotes are monogamous and form lifelong bonds with their mates. Since females vocally alert their male counterparts when they are in estrus, the female mating call can stir up the woods and alert every other coyote around.

Fortunately for hunters, electronic calls are legal and can be very productive during the breeding season. Both male and female coyotes will respond to calls, especially the estrus whimpers made by the female. She begins to whimper when she is in season and ready for insemination. Obviously, males will come in when they hear the mating call. But other females will come in as well curious what other female is around trying to breed with her mate.

Luckily, both the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources allow for unlimited harvest and liberal methods of harvest, including night hunting and the deadly electronic mating calls.

Impound and imprint fond memories

Hunters and land managers spend countless hours planning and implementing food-plot and waterfowl- impoundment projects to make hunting seasons memorable. However, these projects can be memorable for wildlife as well ­— especially waterfowl. Flooded waterfowl impoundments with grain and native browse can provide a service to waterfowl and imprint good memories a year down the road.

Even though acres of flooded grain lured limits to happy hunters, ducks will slide back into these impoundments after the hunting season is over to eat, rest and spend the duration of the winter in the Carolinas. The last thing ducks will remember before heading back to their Canadian nesting grounds is the flooded grain they left behind.

Land managers should leave impoundments flooded until the middle of March or until the remainder of the birds leave the area and vacate the premises. After the remaining ducks leave, fields should be drained and dry in order to prepare the soil and a new crop for the next season.

A lasting impression:

Duck season may end in late January, but flooded waterfowl impoundments can help ducks of all feathers in February and through  March when they begin to head back north to their Canadian breeding grounds. The availability of food will give ducks plenty of nutrition for their big northward migration, and the location of impoundments may be imprinted on waterfowl, bringing them back in future seasons.

Jeff Burleson
About Jeff Burleson 1376 Articles
Jeff Burleson is a native of Lumberton, N.C., who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in fisheries and wildlife sciences and is a certified biologist and professional forester for Southern Palmetto Environmental Consulting.

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