A friend texted from camp in Oklahoma one day last October: Guy shot a nice buck, but coyotes found it before we did, meat half gone.

Another text from him two days later: Coyotes got another buck, this one in less than an hour and during middle of day…just like on the blog.

A month earlier here on my Big Deer website, I had blogged about how coyotes were seemingly finding and devouring bowshot deer at an alarming rate. I asked people to share any such predator stories they had. Hunters from North Carolina to New York to Kansas wrote and confirmed that the new coyote dilemma is very real. Two examples:

—a buddy of mine arrowed a 160 class buck one evening last year and went back the next morning…the coyotes had eaten it all…

–shot a doe one morning and watched it die in the field…30 minutes later two coyotes circled downwind and walked right up to my deer…had to yell and scream to get them away…wild to see how quickly they can get on that smell and sense a free meal…

We have always had to worry about the predators, especially when debating whether or not to leave a buck with a questionable hit overnight. In the past, coyotes would gnaw on a few of those deer, but most of the time you’d find your venison unscathed.

Don’t count on it these days. Coyotes are thicker than ever in many areas, and they are getting more aggressive. Back to that text from Oklahoma: Coyotes found and ate that buck in the middle of the day and in less than an hour.

Why the New Coyote Dilemma?

Simple fact: There are more coyotes in the Eastern two-thirds of the country than ever before. And in this region, from Minnesota down to Texas and east to the Atlantic Ocean, is where 95% of the whitetail hunting occurs. With record numbers of coyotes roaming the fields and woods where millions of us hunt, man-predator interactions are bound to happen.

Does that mean that after we shoot a deer, we ought to change the way we track it, or else a coyote might get to it first?


Tracking Deer: New Thinking

John Jeanneney, a New York breeder of top blood-trailing dachshunds, tracks more bowshot whitetails in a season than most of us will in a lifetime. In his book, Dead On!, John says it’s time to re-think our tracking strategies. With most arrow hits, even marginal ones in and around a buck’s vitals, John says to get on the blood trail and go. No more waiting 30 minutes to several hours. And no leaving your buck until the next morning. John and his dog-tracking colleagues from across America have compared notes, and they report that 35 to more than 50 percent of deer left overnight may be lost to coyotes.

Missouri biologist Dr. Grant Woods concurs. “Coyotes readily recognize a wounded deer as an opportunity to get a quick and easy meal,” he said. “It is often better to begin trailing soon after the shot, especially if coyotes have been seen or heard during a hunt.”

Key on that: If coyotes have been seen or heard… Say a yote runs under your stand one afternoon, or you hear critters howling and yipping nearby. Either is a fairly common occurrence in many areas these days. Later you shoot a buck and the hit was lungs, or near money. Get on that track as fast as you can. If it’s getting dark, get a buddy and lights and go.

There is one exception. Both Jeanneney and Woods say that on a gut shot you’re still better off waiting ten hours or so, or even overnight. “Even if coyotes are in the area, it’s best to let the deer expire and take your chances,” says Woods. “If you push it and the animal jumps from its bed once or twice, it is actually more likely to attract coyotes as it spreads more blood and scent over a larger area.”