Unfortunately, not every shot I take at a predator results in an instant kill. Sometimes a little tracking is needed to collect that fur. This year I’ve been doing well and haven’t had to track a coyote yet. However, the last time I was out, my hunting buddy hit a couple that needed tracking. Here are some tips that might help you track a wounded predator. And if you hunt long enough, I guarantee it will happen.
One thing I’ve found wounded coyotes do consistently is head for thick cover. They seem to feel there is safety in dense willows and impenetrable brambles, so they’ll make for that type of terrain immediately, not stopping until they get there. This makes it a tough call as to whether a hunter should use the old technique of waiting an hour to do any tracking, or follow up immediately. With coyotes, I’ll normally go after them as soon as possible in hopes of getting a second shot before being outrun.
And yes, a wounded coyote will outrun you. And if they make it to the thick stuff, you’ll be on hands and knees when you go in after them. It won’t be much fun, but you have to do it. They also like old den sites, large brush piles or even the culverts under roadways. If they make it into those kinds of holes, recovery usually isn’t possible. About the only suggestion I can make here is this: If you know your terrain well enough and can guess where the coyote is going, it might be possible to get ahead of it.
Your best friend when tracking a shot coyote is snow. Coyotes bleed red and snow is white; it doesn’t get any better than that. If the blood trail is extensive, odds are good you’ll recover a predator. But never underestimate how tough coyotes are and their ability to keep going. If the blood trail is light, odds are they will clot up quickly and that red path will vanish. When it does, you’re likely out of luck again, even if there is snow. Unless you’ve just shot the only coyote in the country, the hit animal’s tracks will soon blend with others and it will be lost.
A hunter’s best course of action is to prevent wounding altogether. Besides being a skilled shot and using a rifle that is sighted-in properly, the most important thing is to be willing to shoot the coyote again. I always tell my hunters, “If after you’ve shot him once, the coyote still has two good legs under him, shoot again.” I follow that rule myself, and I’m sure it has saved me a lot of tracking.
My list of bad days includes those times when I wound predators and they get away completely. I beat myself up rather badly when it happens, but if you’re an ethical hunter, that’s the way it should be.