A Coyote Hunting Misadventure
By Troy Adams
I should have known things might go a little haywire when on my way out to Eastern Montana I rounded a corner doing 75mph on the highway, and ran over a black cat. There was no time to react; stupid cat was right on the side of the road and decided to dart under my tire instead of run the other way. There wasn't a house for miles out there and so I guess the world is less one stray cat. However I think he put some kind of curse on me.
The next morning Cory, my partner, and I are in a new area to both of us for coyote hunting. I howl and we get a response about a mile away. We close the distance and set up to call. I turn on the CS-24, start with a howl, mute the caller and then attempt to start a sequence. Push button, nothing, push again, nothing. Cuss caller, push button again, nothing. Walk over to caller and see low battery light flashing. Now I'm not happy as I'd just charged the batteries the night before. I have more batteries but they are back at the truck. So I tell Cory I'm just going to have to hand call this set. I sit down, and do my best versions of a coyote pup having the stuffing’s kicked out of him. At about the 10 minute mark Cory tells me not to move and he's got a coyote spotted. The darn thing came in to our hard left and we were facing more to the right. Eventually Cory was able to swing around and drop our first coyote of the trip. It was a nice big, reddish colored female. Who needs electronics anyway?
We head back to the truck and I change out the batteries and get the CS-24 behaving again. (Guess I like using electronics.) We set up on our second stand and in about 10 minutes or less a coyote comes screaming in right on the trail we just walked in on. It caught me a little off guard because I wasn't expecting it from that direction. I can't get it to stop and it smells the caller, and then takes off straight away. Cory has it dead to rights in his scope. I'm expecting him to shoot when I hear a loud CLICK! His firing pin dropped but the round did not go off. I can hear Cory swearing and messing with his rifle. I'm trying to concentrate and line up on the coyote, but I'm more than a little distracted wondering what Cory is doing. The coyote stops higher on the hill than I wanted and my shooting sticks are topped out. I can't get real solid but try a shot and miss. Now both Cory and I have something to cuss about.
His RRA Predator Pursuit rifle is frozen solid. Safety, trigger, and action won't budge. He ends up pulling the pins, and pulling the rifle apart. He finally gets it working again. We still don't know why it malfunctioned, but Cory isn't too happy with his rifle at the moment. We stomp back to the truck as neither of us is very thrilled about not putting that coyote on the ground.
We get to the truck, shake off the fail, and head for the third stand. Just as we are pulling through a gate we hear a loud thump. I look at Cory and ask, “What the heck was that?” Cory looks out his window and sees that he's run over a wooden post. It had snapped in two. The upper half has a large spike that drove itself into the side wall of the front driver's side tire on Cory’s Chevy pickup. We jump out, and Cory gets a jack under the truck ASAP. In our haste we failed to notice that we had the jack turned the wrong way to attach the handle and now the weight of the truck is on the jack. I ended up having to pull the truck forward to get the jack out so we could reposition it. We removed the flat tire and put the spare on. We lower the truck only to discover the spare is very low. Not quite flat, but not far from it either. Since we are in the middle of nowhere and a long ways from any help we had to make a decision. We decided it's best to just head back to Cory’s house and get a better tire. So we end up playing tire repair shop during a couple hours of prime morning calling time.
The post and spike.
By the time we get everything all back in order it's near noon and the wind has picked up. We head back out with spirits a little low due to the wind, but decide to forge ahead anyway. We make a couple stands in the wind and get no takers. The wind is getting worse and our spirits even lower. Cory makes the comment that if I weren't visiting he'd probably just head home. I knew how he felt as I would have done the same thing if I were home, but I wasn't, so we kept going.
Troy with nicely furred female coyote that has a white tipped tail.
Cory takes me to a neat stand overlooking a beautiful little brushy ravine that has a pond right in the bottom of it. I start calling and right away we have a big coyote headed our way. We can see that he has mange because of his hairless rat tail. He checks up at around 75 yards and Cory puts a 55 grain Ballistic Tip through him. The coyote takes off at the shot and over the rise where I can't see him. I stand up, find him in my binoculars and see him flop over on his side. His tail is giving the last wag or two before he dies.
About this time Cory says get down, there's two more. I drop and we call for a while, but they decide they don't want to play the game and eventually leave. My partner gets up to go collect his coyote. I watch him go and expect him to pick it up any second where I last saw it. He can't find it. I join him, and we look for 20 minutes. No sign of it anywhere. We still don't know what happened to it. All we can figure is it may have crawled off. The grass was really tall as well, making it very difficult to search. We sure could have used Tony Tebbe's dog Gunner on that search. In fact there are times every year I wish I had a dog to help track down wounded coyotes. We are disappointed we didn't find it, but what can you do? We decide to press on and go make a few more dry stands.
The day is starting to wind down and we have time for maybe one or two more stands. We set up overlooking a large area of river break/bad lands looking stuff. The wind has settled just a little, but still blowing harder than I like. Just minutes after I start calling, Cory spots a coyote waaaaaaaaay out there. Eventually it commits and starts heading our way. The majority of the time it is out of sight. Fifteen minutes have passed and I'm starting to worry that maybe it has circled down wind and blown out. I decide to try a little pup in distress and suddenly there she is just 50 yards away, but behind some heavy brush. She drops into a deep ravine and disappears. She's close, but I can't see her. Cory makes a few kissing sounds and I see ears 25 to 30 yards away above the grass. One more kiss and she pokes up high enough for me to see her chest facing me straight on. I drop the hammer on her. It felt darn good to pick her up for a picture or two. She was a beautifully furred female. She was unique in that she had a white tipped tail. This might be common in some areas, but pretty rare most places I hunt. In fact, I can only remember killing this one and one other that had a white tipped tail.
We head back to the pickup. I'm actually feeling pretty good considering the conditions and the setbacks from the day. I guess I shouldn't have let me guard down because less than a hundred yards from the truck I step in a badger hole. I couldn't see it because of the tall grass. I go down hard and twist my ankle pretty good. I get up and hobble to the truck. We make one more dry stand and call it a day. In the back of my mind I'm thinking, "Stupid black cat, why did you have to run under my truck and curse this hunt?”
The night before we called Mitch (a young coyote caller neither of us had ever hunted with before), and told him to meet us at 6:00 am the next morning. At 4:57 am the next morning my phone goes off with a text. I'm like "what-the", who is texting me at this time of the morning? It’s Mitch. He's waiting for us on the highway. Apparently he forgot about the time difference between where he lives and where we were, or maybe he just can't tell time. I don't know, but I do know I wasn't completely awake. I tell him to take a nap and call Cory in a half hour. At 6:00 am Cory and Mitch show up to pick me up. I had to ask Mitch if they taught him how to count on more than one hand where he's from. He mumbled something about not wanting to hold us up or be late. I will give him this, he was NOT late. However, if given a choice between a partner being really early or late, I will take early every time. So it's all good.
Cory and Mitch with Cory’s big male coyote.
We head to my favorite ranch to hunt coyotes. It has always produced. In fact normally there are so many coyotes coming to the call one is almost shooting out of self defense. The wind is calm, sky has a few clouds. Everything is perfect. Shortly after arriving I howl to get a location on where to set up for our first stand. No response. Hmmm, that's odd, usually there are so many coyotes howling back you can't have a conversation with your partner. We decide to go make a stand anyway.
On the way in Cory and I are debating back and forth where we should set up. Mitch chimes in where he thinks we should go, but I finally argue enough and get my way. After all I've been hunting this ranch for 15 years and I knew where the coyotes had come from in the past. Besides what could this youngster know? We set up, Mitch calls this stand. I figure let him call the first stand and get humbled right away. However shortly after he begins calling he spots coyotes. They head our way until they see the pickup and leave. Why wasn't the truck hid better? Wel,l because where they normally come from they didn't. However Mitch had expressed some concern before setting up that the coyotes would see the truck. I wasn't worried about it because they never come from the direction he was concerned about...never until that morning. They came right were Mitch said they would and not where I thought they would. Chalk one up for the youngster.
Meanwhile, I'm over there trying to clean egg off my face. We make a couple more stands in primo places and can't even get a coyote to take a peek at us. I'm starting to worry about that cat curse again. Then, finally, on the fourth stand one comes charging in from way out. He's packing the mail, and then suddenly, he pulls up at 600 yards and sits on his butt. We have the sun low and behind us; it is right in his eyes. The wind is in our favor. I have no idea why he checked up. He eventually turns to leave and I hit him with pup in distress to try and shake him loose and get him to come our way. Instead he blows out of there like a scalded cat running dead way. Man, I can't win!
We call a little longer and nothing shows. We make a long dejected walk back to the truck. We head down the trail and make another stand overlooking some hills. This time we get lucky and I call in a nice male that Cory slams to the ground with his 22-250 (the AR is retired for now). I keep calling and spot another coyote 400 yards away sitting on its rear. I hit it with some pup squeals and it comes charging down the hill headed right for me. It has to cross a little valley and disappears. It should pop up any second about 200 yards away. I'm ready and I'm going to let it have it as soon as it shows itself. Plus I know neither Cory nor Mitch has seen this coyote yet. They are both quick on the trigger so I figure I might just get this one if spot it first. In my mind, I'm thinking "double baby". Nope, for whatever reason it never shows up. I have no idea where it went. Very strange to have one charge like that and not close the deal. Sucks actually! At this point I’m starting to hate cats even more than I originally did, and I don't like them at all to begin with. Really hating black cats in particular.
We make a bunch more stands with no luck to speak of. Well, other than spotting four coyotes out on a big flat, with one howling its brains out at us, and the other three completely ignoring us. They wouldn't budge and there was no way to reach them. It's around 3pm now and we try another set. As we approach the long valley, Mitch asks where I want to set up. I say in the bottom as the coyotes usually run right up the bottom. He glances over my shoulder to the hill above me and gives me a look like, "Well, if you say so." He's too polite to say what he's thinking though. Then he says he's going to sit a little higher up and call.
Troy and Mitch with the results of two days of hard hunting. Notice there is an extra-extra spare tire in the back of the truck.
Cory and I set up with Cory sitting higher than me and Mitch higher than both of us. Before Mitch starts calling, Cory suddenly spots a coyote drinking from a stock pond in the bottom of the valley. I sit there smugly thinking: "Ha, told ya they were in the bottom." I'm fully expecting the coyote to come loping right to me once Mitch starts calling. He calls and calls, and calls, and eventually the coyote makes an appearance. Where? Well right on top of the hill that Mitch had looked at before we set up. Cory shoots it and I start looking for something to wipe more egg off my face. Maybe a black cat would make a nice rag.
We have time for a couple more stands. It's been rough. Two coyotes and we've made a bunch of stands. On the third to the last stand Mitch has a coyote coming in, but it too goes into a low valley and never shows again. Really strange to have this happen once, let alone several times on the same hunt. On the second to the last stand I'm doing the calling. I'm laying on my back with Cory to my left and Mitch to my right.
I've been there 20 minutes and my neck is killing me because I've been holding my head up the whole time while scanning the area. I decide to lean my head back and arch my neck and back to stretch my muscles a little. As soon as the back of my head hits the ground I feel something move and hear BIZZZT! I'm instantly air born! I go from horizontal to vertical in a split second, spinning around as I jump up. There on the ground right where my head was is my worst nightmare, a baby FREAKING rattle snake!!! I'd put my head right on him. The only reason I can figure he didn't bite me is I had his head pinned down with mine. I have to say, that little bugger did not get a pass from me and is now fertilizer. I did my best Mexican Hat Dance/Stomp on him for scaring me out of 20 years of my life, which I will never get back! Mitch comments on how fast I went from laying down to standing up. Hey, even a fat old guy like me can move pretty fast when properly motivated.
We make one more stand, though my heart really isn't in it, and I'm as jumpy as can be. Corey is teasing me about looking like a dog spinning around three times before I sit down. However I did note both Mitch and Cory were watching the ground pretty close as well before they sat down. I call the final stand and it's dry. We decide to pack up and head home. On the way out the grass is so deep we can't find the trail and we have to blaze our own.
Suddenly the right side of truck drops about a foot and a half and comes to a halt. We have slipped into a deep cattle trail and we are stuck big time. Both the front and back tires on the passenger side are deep in the trail. The result is the truck is high centered on hard packed dirt. We are also a long friggin ways from any help or cell phone service. In short, we are in a bad situation and it could be very late before we get out. Mitch comments that he wishes there were some big rocks around that we could put under the truck. This is rolling prairie country and there are darn few rocks. However, at about the same time, we all notice a little eroded piece of earth and there are some big rocks exposed. We quickly gather them up and put them in front of the tires. Cory guns his truck, pops up on the rocks, pulls hard left and hops the truck out. Whew, I was very relieved as that could have been one long night. Stupid cat anyway, but it appears we made it out despite his curse. The rest of the night was uneventful, but wow, what a couple days of ups and downs!
So in two days my partners and I managed to only put 4 coyotes in the back of the truck. However, only one coyote truly got away unscathed that gave us any kind of opportunity. So that isn’t too bad. These coyotes were very hard earned, but persistence kept us from getting totally skunked. Despite some tough luck, things could have been much worse and I’m awful glad I didn’t experience getting bit by a rattle snake. On a positive note the company was great. I always have a good time hunting with Cory and I believe we made a new friend in Mitch. I’d hunt with either one of them again in a heartbeat. Next time though, you can bet I will listen a little closer when Mitch makes a suggestion.
An avid big game hunter, Troy Adams has been hunting big game for nearly 30 years. Combining hunting and photography has helped him preserve many great memories. When not hunting, photographing, writing, or spending time with his family, Troy is usually found working on his wildlife art drawings.