Understanding a coyote’s life cycle can help you hunt, trap more fur

Aaron Hunt Wildlife Damage Specialist
Farm Forum

Do you enjoy coyote trapping and hunting? Have you ever wondered why, even if you are in an area with good coyote sign, you still find yourself being unsuccessful?

One of the biggest keys to being a successful coyote trapper or hunter is to understand coyote behavior. Understanding the yearly life cycle of a coyote is crucial to putting up more fur in the trap shed. This article will outline a year in a coyote’s life cycle, as well as tips and tactics to try during different times of the year while hunting or trapping coyotes.

For starters, the coyote breeding season usually runs from late January through February and sometimes into March. During this time of year, adult coyotes are looking to form pair bonds and breed. They can travel long distances to find a mate. After a coyotes breed, they will start to look for den locations to raise their pups.

Calling during breeding season can be a very effective tool. Focus on coyote vocalizations such as howls and whimpers. For trappers who use footholds in the winter, this is a good time of year to use flat sets with coyote gland lure and urine.

Next is the whelping and rearing season, and pups in the northeastern part of the state will usually start hitting the ground in early to mid-April. Some pups from the previous year will mate, and some will not. Those that do not mate will often attach to the family and help raise this year’s pups.

During whelping season the coyote’s home range will decrease to one or two square miles. Once May comes around the pups will be moving around much more and starting to eat solid food. As the pups grow, the adults will move them into new locations, oftentimes to taller grass or even crop fields.

During this time of year, location is critical when trying to trap or hunt coyotes. You have to get inside of their small home range, and it’s important to remember that coyotes with pups are very territorial. This is a good time to try howls or pup distress sounds when calling.

If you’re still trapping during this time of year, use territorial sets such as flat sets with coyote gland lure and urine. When doing a dirt-hole set, try a curiosity lure or bait. Keep in mind this is an extremely difficult time of year to trap and you will more than likely not be harvesting near the numbers as in the fall or even winter.

Fall and early winter are often known as the “fur season.” During this time the pups will be close to full size and can hunt and travel on their own, and they’ll usually start to disperse anytime from October to when breeding season starts.

This is a great time of year to get traps in the ground and start calling, because coyote numbers are high and young coyotes are often searching for new home ranges. Most of these pups have never seen a trap set or heard anyone call at them, so they are much easier to outsmart than the adults.

During this time it’s best to focus more on dirt holes with food-based lures and baits. When calling, try out some animal distress sounds such as rodents, birds and rabbits to have those hungry coyotes come running to your call. Keep in mind that coyote fur will start to prime up in middle October and the fur will usually be good through December and most of January depending on the winter.

For any information regarding your local trapping and hunting laws or if you are experience any coyote depredation, please call your local Game, Fish, and Parks Department office.