Mixed emotions about killing a coyote in Pennsylvania

A little over two weeks ago I was at camp in Tioga County for the senior antlerless deer hunt – yes, I’m at that age now. On the last day, a Saturday morning, I sat on the ground along the edge of a harvested bean field with a large section of dark woods to my left.

I was rested against a large oak tree, waiting for full light with the hope that a doe might walk into the field during the morning hours.

As the field began to brighten somewhat, a rustling noise sounded close behind me. A gray squirrel, eager to start his daily search for sustenance, was digging through a leafy cover that obscured his meal. About a half minute later the rustling sounded again, and by habit, I cast a look back.

This time I saw a coyote coming my way at a steady pace.

The wind was in my favor, angling away from the toothy predator. I raised my rifle and made a short huffing sound. The coyote stopped in his tracks and looked directly at me. He was close, extremely close. Looking through the scope, which I had set to the highest power from watching some deer at a great distance the night before, and into dark woods, I wasn’t even sure I had him in my vision field.

Seconds later, the coyote moved two steps forward and stopped again. Surprising as that was, I looked over top the scope and thought I had the crosshairs on him.

I shot, and he took off quickly down through the shadowy forest. He ran out of sight, and I was convinced I missed him.

I stayed sitting and hunted deer for a couple hours. Then I gave up on that and walked to where I had shot at the coyote. Blood, hair and parts of his intestines were spread on the ground. I followed the trail, surprised at his blood loss along with parts of his digestive system. He had run about 90 yards with a huge hole on his side before his life ended.

A large male, with dark eyes, outsized sharp teeth and deep black coloring highlighting his body fur and tail at spots, he was beautiful in his own way.

I always believed it would be easy to shoot a coyote. I had missed one years earlier with my bow while hunting the mountains of Centre County, and always thought that pride and accomplishment would swell over me if ever I killed one.

Yet as I stood looking over that lifeless predator, I confess to mixed emotions. His eyes seemed sinister and looking directly at me. In my mind I briefly thought him another predator, just as myself, merely on the move for food when I purged life from him with my rifle.

I thought, too, of his incredible strength to be able to run such a distance with matted scraps of his guts clinging to the underbrush along his trail to death.

Since that time I read much about coyotes. They certainly affect deer numbers. They kill fawns. They also will kill mature deer, even large and healthy bucks. This has been well documented. They are also spreading quickly, and increasing their numbers.

Many authors of articles I’ve recently read say the best practice to limit the consequences of their predatory abilities to keep after them year-round, that even killing one may eventually save a fawn or adult deer somewhere down the line.

I’m sure this is true, and as I now sit here writing this, I feel certain I will again squeeze the trigger or release the arrow that ends the life of a coyote.

I’m just not sure I’ll feel that great about doing so.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, PenBlogs, Pennsylvania – Ron Steffe

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