Bows, Arrows, And … Predators

The set up seemed perfect. My wife Shannon and I were hiding under the overhanging limbs of a thick, mature mesquite tree. A ridge rose sharply a few yards behind us, and an overgrown wash cut the landscape 40 yards in front of us.

Following the washbed for miles was a long, wide draw that undoubtedly held a coyote out on the early morning prowl. Our plan was this. Using an electronic predator call that emits the shrieks and squeals of a jackrabbit in the final moments of life, we hoped to lure a predator, any predator into range of my Hoyt bow.

Shannon packed her battle proven .22-.250 as insurance against hung-up dogs or any escapees following an errant close encounter. We chose our position on that morning for a few reasons. First and always foremost was the wind direction. It was blowing straight toward our truck, following the route we used to access the area.

Coyote Sign Near Wash
The wash bank showed the tracks of coyotes traveling through this natural corridor with regularity. With our slightly elevated hiding place we hoped to spot approaching players before they were in bow range. The brushy wash was going to have to be crossed by the varmints and while crossing they would drop out of sight, allowing me to draw my bow. Once the creek was crossed they should appear in easy bow range in front of my bent bowstring and sharp broadhead … hopefully.

The call cut the morning silence with the spine tingling tones of a slow death. I could almost visualize the dying rabbit and thought to myself that I could not refuse the sound if I were out for a morning hunt, and liked my meat raw and warm. After a scant 45 seconds, Shannon gave me the signal for, "Here he comes!" The large and lanky male was trotting through the greasewoods 150 yards out with his eyes seeking the source of the sound. At 75 yards he entered the wash and we lost sight of him. My string was back, anchor point solid as I awaited the slam dunk shot. I waited … and waited before Shannon hissed, "There he goes!" Tail tucked and sprinting away as straight as an arrow, he presented a fairly easy shot for her scoped rifle. The 55-grain bullet flipped him over into a kicking pile of dust as my sniper of a wife cycled the action of her rifle. Apparently, once hidden in the wash, he had circled to the downwind side of us and caught our scent and wasted no time in getting the heck out town. It had almost worked for him … almost.

Hunting coyotes with a bow is very tough, but excellent practice for big game.

Four stands later, we found a set-up similar to the first and we chose it for the same reasons. Wind direction, coyote sign, and a terrain feature that provided a chance for me to draw my bow undetected. This time the mangy, younger songdog made his appearance at about the 4-minute mark. He was coming in from straight up wind and had to negotiate a low rising small hump in the landscape before the moment of glory. As the tops of his ears went out of sight behind the hill, the bowstring found the tip of my nose. When he reappeared, he quickly turned and stopped at 25 yards. The arrow sizzled across the gap and blew through him quartering away like a knife through warm butter. He evaporated in a teeth-gnashing instant but I knew he would not make it far. And he didn’t, he was dead as a stone 40 yards beyond the hill.

Opportunity For A Cat
The big mule deer buck had been winning the duel for five days straight. My treestand perch overlooked a small pond that the beast was using on a nightly basis. His nocturnal activity was obvious due to the fact that every night he laid down huge fresh tracks at the water’s edge. As the sun plummeted toward the horizon on the final evening, the shadows lengthened across the water.

A flicker of movement signaled that I was no longer alone. My heart flipped over in a brief moment while trying to focus through the brush on the mystery visitor. The big bobcat materialized slowly as he cautiously surveyed the waterhole. Clipping my release to the string loop, I waited for my chance. As his confidence built, he lowered his head to quench his thirst, presenting a quartering angle. The bow thumped and the large tom launched straight up and almost into orbit. After his aerobatics and a short sprint he quickly came to rest. He was a heavy male specimen and I was darn happy to have taken him. Right at 20 pounds, his passing undoubtedly saved the lives of several fawns. In these days of declining mule deer herds, the deer need all the help we can give them. His winter pelt will also look good in our living room.

This big bobcat was a opportunistic harvest while deer hunting.

As stated above, in most of the West the game animals need all the help we can provide. Predator hunting serves many different purposes. It can be done year-round, providing a great reason to get out and hone skills.

To be a deadly archer, one must practice constantly, and abundant predators make for a very formidable challenge. Coyotes and bobcats are much hardier than the desert browsing species, and for every predator you harvest, you give several deer a break.

Don’t overlook these hunting opportunities waiting right out your back door or on the edge of town. They just might fill the holes you have in your hunting schedule.    

For a good selection of Predator/Small Game hunting gear, click here.

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