Driftless Outdoors: Season of the Song Dog

By Captain Ted Peck

Some species would survive — even prosper — in the wake of nuclear holocaust. Topping this list would likely be cockroaches, crows and coyotes. Coyotes sightings in northeast Iowa were rare back in 1961.

Prospects of nuclear war bringing decimation to human populations worldwide are more likely now than they have been since the Cuban missile crisis of 1961.
Some species would survive — even prosper — in the wake of nuclear holocaust. Topping this list would likely be cockroaches, crows and coyotes.
Coyotes sightings in northeast Iowa were rare back in 1961. Sightings are almost as rare today, even though coyote populations have skyrocketed in the Hawkeye state since JFK was in the white house — probably because these wily canines have skulked silently here from South Dakota and other western states over the past 60 years.
South Dakota conceded domination to these “song dogs” by designating the coyote as the state animal. Coyotes are now Iowa’s most common furbearing canine according to DNR biologist Vince Evelsizer. Mid-January is peak of the coyote mating season. Love calls from these nocturnally vocal critters echo across valleys in the Driftless every winter night.
Last year the DNR reports over 18,000 coyotes were harvested by Iowa hunters and trappers. Song dogs are undeterred by this loss to the corporate pack. They have an innate sense to replace their fallen brethren and produce as many pups as the environment can stand. Natural propagation of the species is based on several factors, including rabbit and other small mammal populations.  Gardeners here in the Driftless will tell you 2022 was year of the rabbit.
The DNR has determined coyote litter numbers are somehow driven by the amount of howling activity during mating season.  Litter size varies from 5 to 6 pups up to 12 to 16 per litter driven by these factors — and others known but to the coyotes.
There are few restrictions on coyote harvest. They can be taken year-round, around the clock with no limit restrictions.  The most efficient way to lure these predators into the kill zone is with a thermal sighted rifle and electronic caller at night.
Those serious hunters who have trouble justifying thousands of dollars required to purchase this gear can still find success by setting up downwind from the ambush point, hiding in cover like a fence line at dawn or dusk with an AR platform shooting a fast, flat-flying bullet like .223 caliber. In heavier cover a shotgun loaded with #4 buckshot might work. Effective camo clothing and remaining statue-still are also part of a successful hunt.
Luring coyotes into range in the first place is perhaps the most critical variable. This time of year a howl call might pique a horny song dog’s interest. Or not. A wounded rabbit call might work, provided the coyote has never been fooled by this tortuous sound before. Conventional wisdom says you’ll never fool a coyote the same way twice. I’ve had great success with an electronic injured woodpecker call. This awful noise is like comparing a wounded rabbit to the vocals of Celine Dion.
Frequency and volume of calling is critical to success.  Start soft, calling for a couple minutes with 10 minutes before the next attempt.  If a coyote decides to investigate, you’ll likely see it coming within 45 minutes. Those without thermal sights usually have time for just one “sit” at dawn or dusk.
Back in the ‘old school’ days before electronics I had fair success with a crying baby squeaker torn out of one of my daughter’s dolls. The sounds coming from Emily when I attempted this evisceration would have probably been a more effective coyote lure. But my wife insisted she was too young and it was too cold to take her hunting at that time.
Coyotes are ruthless omnivores. They would certainly attack a human infant without benefit from overwatch. Family pets left outside, especially at night, are in definite peril from marauding coyotes. Death loss from coyotes on calves is a serious problem for farmers during calving time in the spring.
Coyote predation on deer is also an issue, especially with bowhunters. A poorly placed shot requires giving the animal time to die before tracking. Even a well-placed shot doesn’t ensure a hunter will get to the deer before coyotes do.
Several years ago I arrowed a big doe which ran about 100 yards across a picked cornfield, crashing into the brush. I waited 20 minutes then got out of the tree stand to go tag her about 9 a.m. Coyotes got to her first, opening her gut and munching on the hindquarters. This description may be too graphic for some readers. The natural world is a brutal environment. 
Song dogs thrive in the northeast Iowa outdoors. Like honey badgers, coyotes don’t care. 
It’s just a matter of time before Hollywood discovers the money-making potential of coyotes –beyond Road Runner cartoons.
Giant earthworms? Snakes on a plane? “Night of the Song Dog” may be coming to Netflix soon.