Here in the Midwest, coyotes breed from January through March, with the last week of January, up until about St. Patrick’s Day being prime time. That’s March 17th for you unfortunates of non-Irish descent.
Many coyote hunters, this one included, usually experience the best hunting of the winter during the coyote breeding season. There are a number of reasons for this. Increased daytime movement is the biggie. This is the time of year when it is not uncommon to catch a lone male, or often a pair of coyotes, moving across a section in broad daylight. The lone males are likely young males out searching for their first encounter with the females of the species. Since they have no idea what they are doing or how to go about this mating game, they have to do a lot of traveling while searching for a receptive female. One tracking study found some young males traveling 100 miles or more before settling down. A coyote can get into a lot of trouble traveling distances like that, trouble like ending up in the crosshairs of your scope, for instance.
Most of the doubles taken on coyotes each winter, are taken during breeding season.
Pairs are most often mature males and females, which have gotten together each winter about this time for many years. Some males are faithful partners, sticking with the same female not only through the breeding season, but helping to raise the pups as well. But some males and even some of the females, tend to stray now and then. This explains why some females have litters, which have two and sometimes three different fathers.
Coyotes Pair Up in Breeding Season
I’m not sure why pairs travel so much in the open during the breeding season, but the fact that they do increases our odds of spotting and then stalking them, or if hunting with a group having a “for sure target” to push instead of having just tracks to go by. Callers can set up ahead of the traveling pair and simply ambush them if they pass within range, or hopefully call them into range if their route has them passing out of rifle range. I’ve always found howling to be more effective than animal distress calls in this situation.
Coyotes are territorial and when that male out for a stroll with his girlfriend hears the challenge of another male, odds are good that he is going to come over to investigate. If for no other reason, to show off for the female I suspect. You know how guys are. Most of the time, the female will come along with him. I guess she just wants to watch while “her guy” put’s a whuppin’ on the intruder. The majority of my “doubles” while calling have taken place during the breeding season for just this reason.
Speaking of a coyote packs territory, up until just recently, I thought that a packs territory had well-defined boundaries, which they aggressively defended against any intruders. But again, recent tracking studies using GPS collared coyotes have shown that this is often not the case. Territories often overlap along boundaries or at prime hunting locations.
Since territorial boundaries here in the Midwest are often roads or at least parallel roads, this is just one more reason to walk deep into sections before setting up to call. Howling along lines where territories overlap may not get much attention because the resident pack is accustomed to hearing the neighboring pack with whom they share the boundary. But get deep into their home territory, and those same howls will often get some swift responses. I’ve long made it a habit to get at least one-third of a mile off of the road before setting up to call, but I did it because I know that coyotes often get shot at from the road and being intelligent critters, quickly become “road shy.” Now I have another reason to go deep when the coyote breeding season is in full swing.
Get out there as much as you can these next six or seven weeks. The breeding season is the time to make up for lost ground.
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