It’s been months now since I have been joking about coyote hunting. I went with my family with little to no interest in actually killing the said beast, only in the experience of getting out with my family and enjoying being in the woods.
Since then, it’s become personal. That day, we commented on the lack of prey, on the absence of anything in the area. Only a few years ago, the area we were hunting in was a mecca for deer, bear, turkey, grouse and other popular game animals. Hunters journeyed from hours away to hunt in this area and we all enjoyed the benefits of the bounty that nature supplied.
Then the coyotes arrived. Now, there are no prey animals in that area. What weren’t killed left. I’m always in favor of nature and supporting the law of the land, but this?? Is this normal? I am always the first to say live and let live, but is this natural? Are these animals truly occupying a niche left open or are they carving out a niche for themselves that does not exist in our eastern habitat?
All I know is that since our ridges began talking, and howling of things expressed but not yet done, my once wild-animal rich property has been abandoned. There are no deer. The happy family of turkey is gone. The squirrels are gone. The doves no longer beat their way across my viewshed. I go for months without seeing a deer and when I do, it is harried and driven, unhealthy and worried.
To top it off, my cat vanished. I love my big Manx cat – at barely a year of age, he is already a veteran of coyote wars and is relatively certain that he is the approximate size of a Bengal Tiger. When he didn’t show for breakfast, I declared war on coyotes. I stopped by our local gun store, bought three boxes of turkey loads, and waited.
I was rewarded by our ash pile. We’ve been spreading the remnants of our fires along with kitchen waste on the edge of our property for years. I stepped outside on Friday to gather more firewood and saw him, or her, sniffing around the ash pile: Regardless of gender, it was a coyote and it was in range. I slid back inside and inserted one 3.5 inch turkey shell into my shotgun…
It didn’t have a chance. I was knocked sideways by the recoil before I even realized it. Sprinting through the rain to verify a hit. It was definitely a hit. I lowered the barrel and attempted to shuck the magazine…it wouldn’t. I unscrewed the barrel and decided it was definitely not worth chasing a wounded coyote through the rain down the mountainside to verify a kill.
I found out last night from my brother James that I had loaded the wrong cartridges in my gun. 3.5 inch shells are NOT meant for my shotgun and I’m kind of lucky that’s all that happened. I dissasembled and cleaned the weapon and learned from my mistake.
The following day, I made my Dad proud and tracked the wounded beast though the woods, step by step. There are some things that never leave you, no matter how removed you are from the teaching. The tracks for the coyote ran out at the New River. I cast about up and down the river banks, but no tracks came out of the water. I wonder now, in the snow, about my shot. I hope he didn’t suffer, but I wish these beasts no good will. My fence is still not up.