greening up in January

I had a late start this morning counting against me but with a little cloud cover on my side I figured we might have a good chance at seeing some action today. I was with my buddy Don who was hoping to get a shot at something with a new 20ga over under that he had received as a birthday gift the night before. We were heading into an area that I had some success with the previous week and figured at the least we would get a shot at a fox or two.

The other thing up against us on this morning was the fact that this was the long weekend for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The road on the way out that usually is totally empty, aside from some cactus and snakes, looked like a gypsy camp. The first mile of the forest road looked like it had a higher population density then most cities in the Phoenix area. I was starting to doubt my decision to come out here.

Eventually we had to drive about 2 miles down the river bottom further from the highway then I had planned just to get free of the campfires. This took us into the far end of the canyon where I had not been before, but I felt like we were sufficiently clear of any campers.

Our first stand was in my typical coyote cover. A mix of cactus, creosote, and thin mesquite. I had a half dozen open shooting lanes from where I was sitting out to a slight incline 50 yards in front of me. My buddy set up on the other side of the low tree I was using to break up my silhouette and my caller was setup about 35 yards right in front of me.

Started the stand with the DSG cottontail, then switched to Platinum Fox, about 8 minutes in I changed to the Bay Bee Cottontail. Just as I was about to shut off the caller 15 minutes in a small Coopers Hawk buzzed my decoy. I usually see that as a good omen, and I really love watching these birds so I let it run a few more minutes. He circled all around us a few times making some noise and trying to figure out what it was looking at.

Still running the call 5 minutes later, watching this hawk, I saw some movement on top of the rise about 80 yards in front of me. A reddish coyote was coming in and froze on the hillside looking right at my decoy. In a smooth motion I shouldered my R-15, put the large reticle of my Nikon Coyote Special right over its shoulder and squeezed the trigger.

I had run the call longer then I had planned and it paid off big time. A coyote on the first stand, my day was made no matter what. As I was standing up to collect my prey the hawk that had been circling dropped out of the sky and sunk its talons into my decoy. The big bird wrestled with it for about 30 seconds and even flapped it wings a few times trying to pick it up. Don and I both started laughing and the bird took a few hops towards us before flying away.

 

I shot from the yellow spot in the upper right. I am tagging the coyote on my GPS.

We drove up the canyon a few hundred yards after this and hiked in for our second stand. I repeated the same call pattern and at about 10 minutes I saw the back of a coyote coming in to the call. I got my rifle ready and waited for it to clear the horizon but it never came. I tried turning down the caller and cranking it back up, but never had another response. The only thing I can think is that it circled down the sleight wash we were sitting above and winded us. Still I was pretty happy seeing 2 coyote on 2 stands.

By now the campers were waking up and we were starting to hear machine guns and motorcycles in the distance. It sounded like they were filming another sequel to Mad Max. There was plenty of room between us but to be safe and to increase our chances of calling something in we headed even further down the canyon away from any traffic. Also to be safe I decided to trade in my 223 for my 12 gauge, I really can be paranoid.

Another mile down the road it started to look like we weren’t in Arizona anymore. The river bottom here had a canopy of mature mesquite with thick green grass coming in below. The tree cover was thick enough that it was easily 15 degrees cooler here and we were in shade the whole time. The thick grass muffled any noise from our boots and I was fairly optimistic about our next stand although it was only about a 100 yard walk from where we had parked the truck.

The thick green grass under the mesquite kept us cool and muffled our footsteps on the way in.

Started the same song on the caller, DSG, Platinum fox, then bay bee cottontail. During the bay bee cottontail I saw some movement to my left. There was a good sized coyote that I could just make out on the other side of a big cat claw bush. It stop just opposite of the bush from me and I could see was its head. It took a quick look at the decoy then turned and looked right at me through the thick cover. I had not moved an inch at this point and have no idea how he made me. The only thing I can think is that he was suspicious of me before I saw him and was just double checking.

Until he looked at me he was on a beeline for the decoy and that would have put him right in line with my buddy and his new 20 gauge loaded with #3 buck. But he froze looking in my direction and looked like he was about to back out of the area. I raised my 870 and fired at him with a load of Hevi-Shot Dead Coyote T shot. This dropped him in his tracks.

Coyote number two. Taken with the 870 and T shot just under 30 yards.

Over the next hour or so we put in two more stands and called in another small coopers hawk and three big angry bulls, nothing to shoot at.

By the end of the morning I had two ‘yotes, and between stands Don shot a good sized jack rabbit. It took us about an hour and a half to get them all skinned out and cleaned up. Nothing beats time spent outdoors with a good friend. All in all a pretty great day.

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