Since I purchased the farm 10 years ago, it seems the coyote population in the Southeast has exploded as fast as Larry’s belt buckle at an all-you-can-eat China buffet. At first, coyote sightings were a novelty around the farm. We were used to seeing them on Saturday morning cartoons and in Native American folklore, but we really knew nothing about them. Their arrival brought more questions than answers. What effect will these dogs have on the deer herd? How do these adaptive predators fit into the overall land management equation?
To answer these questions, I sought help from the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia. As a graduate of Georgia Tech, it was hard to go ask the Bulldawgs for help. But desperate times called for desperate measures, and I figured I wouldn’t have to pay the students–it was all in the name of science!
Joking aside, I don’t care where they went to school. These guys are on the leading edge of research. Heck, they have a Deer Laboratory at the school where Mossy Oak camo is worn more than lab coats. So, from day one, we knew that if we were going to pick these guys’ brains, we’d also have give them a resource to study this stuff and help us to get some of the answers. We try to be open to just about anything they want to do, and allow them to use our land as a research resource.
Today, we’re heavily involved in research programs to answer questions about coyote predation. The university brought all this fancy equipment out to farm–it looked like the stuff my cousin uses to hunt bigfoot. With radio collars to track coyote movement and cameras to monitor den sites, we hope light will be shed on whitetail predation once the study is completed.
I think we all might be a little shocked to see how many deer we lose to coyotes. All of us, except for Foxworthy Farm’s land manger, Glenn Garner, that is. As you can see in this video, Glenn has a motive for hating coyotes. Yep, when we have Glenn over for dinner, there’s one topic not to be brought up at the table, and it’s not religion or politics–it’s coyotes.
As the UGA Deer Lab specialists are tagging and watching the ‘yotes, Glenn’s running traps. We’ve trapped about 30 male coyotes this year. We’ve found that trapping is by far the most efficient way to put a dent in the population. They figure out the calling and decoying game pretty quick.
Glenn runs the traps hard during fawning season. The pressure he puts on the pack has led to a better fawn recruitment rate. During the years when we didn’t trap, we saw about 60-70 percent of baby deer growing up to be mama deer. When we started trapping, that number skyrocketed to 95 percent.
I’m a firm believer that hunters are the best stewards of our land and natural resources. We’re more educated and more concerned about the future of deer conservation than ever before. You don’t need a PhD to play a role in safeguarding deer hunting traditions. Get involved with your local high school or college’s biology department or join the QDMA. With the right information and valuable research, managers, landowners and hunters will be able to incorporate coyote predation into their deer herd and habitat management plans.