The Coyotes Frozen Highway

Late on a mid-January afternoon, I headed out to try to call in a coyote in my home state of Minnesota. Other than in the West and Southwest parts of the country, where coyotes are much more numerous than here in the Midwest and in all states east of the Mississippi, I’ve found that calling in the middle of the day is usually a waste of time. When I call evenings, I try to make two sets, one in the hour prior to sunset and another during the hour after sunset.

Other than in the semi-arid states in the Southwest, coyotes are accustomed to traveling along small rivers, creeks and drainage ditches at all times of the year. In the intensely farmed regions of our country, these strips of habitat often afford the coyotes with the best hunting in the area. Mice, voles and cottontails abound along many waterways, and these are three of the coyotes’ favorites. But there is also the chance that they might catch a pheasant, wild turkey, muskrat, raccoon, possum, or even a beaver along the waterway. In the spring especially, when the does are dropping their fawns, they add venison to the list. And, of course, fish. Coyotes don’t fish, but they will scarf up any dead fish they can find. So, as you can see, to a coyote, a waterway is just a very long buffet line.

Most of the year, the coyotes hunt along and through whatever cover exists along the banks. But in the winter, when even moving water freezes over, the coyotes use the ice as their own private highways. They use these icy highways, to quickly travel between the best hunting areas along the waterway. Don’t worry; they know exactly where the hot-spots are located.

Clancy's The Coyotes Breeding Season 1-14 Foto 04 n011
A friend of the author’s and two coyotes.

Young male coyotes, looking for their own territories, use waterways to quickly check out the real estate looking for a vacancy. And during breeding season, males will use the ice while out cruising for hot females.

Nothing responded on my first set. I hiked back to the pickup, drove two miles, parked, grabbed my shotgun and walked about a third-of-a-mile into the section where I knew from previous years, there was a stretch where the cover was exceptional on both banks.

It was near full dark when I set up just on top of the bank, which in this case was probably four or five feet above the ice. From there, I might be able to get a shot at any coyote coming through or out on the edge of the bank cover, or traveling down the ice, which is what they normally do along waterways.

I prefer a shotgun for these set-ups, because if the coyotes come through the cover on top of the bank, a rifle is pretty much useless. For years, I carried both, but that is a lot extra work, and I rarely do that anymore.

I had only been calling for a few minutes, when a coyote came on a dead-run straight down the middle of that farm-country stream, hoping I suppose to get to that dying rabbit before another coyote beat him to the prize. At 30 yards he ran head-on into a swarm of four-buck.

I climbed down off of the bank and walked to where the male coyote lay. Kneeling on the ice, I ran my hand through his thick winter coat and just admired him for a minute or two. To me, the coyote is more than just a predator. He is a tenacious, sneaky, intelligent animal which has not merely survived, but thrived despite everything man has done to eradicate the species. I admire that kind of toughness.

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