It's not a new discussion, but a recent email directed to me from an avid reader on www.predatorxtreme.com brings up the question. Should we be shooting coyotes in the so-called offseason? First, what is the offseason? I consider the late spring, summer and early fall the offseason for coyotes. It's the time period prior to when furs are prime and traditional fur taking would take place. With the value of furs spiraling for years the hunting of predators has leaned more toward recreation and management than as a moneymaking venture. That may change with recent spikes in fur value, but for some, management trumps fur value any day of the year.
Here's the argument the email sender laid out and it does have merit:
"Those of us in CA and AZ that are in organized predator-calling clubs set aside the spring and early-summer months as a no-hunting period during the pupping season. All the clubs in CA stop hunting from March 1st until July 1st, and later, during this critical period when the pups rely on both of their parents. We treat this as an ethical matter. As a practical matter, most of us don't even start hunting until about Labor Day because the desert is just too hot. During the summer, pups are dumb and too easy to call. If one were to shoot one, it would not be gratifying whatsoever. Pup dispersal occurs around the first two weeks of September in this area. I know the AZ clubs have this same prohibition, but it might vary by a month
Now, we are not against depredation hunts for wayward coyotes during this period, but just not hunting them by sportsmen. I can't tell you how much we love all sorts of critter hunting. But if you shoot even one of the parents during this prohibition period, the pups will die. Who wants that? We just don't shoot nursing moms or dads that are trying to rear their pups. Sportsmen generally don't shoot game animals with young. I know coyotes are classified as non-game, but we treat them as game animals. They are great animals and they deserve our respect."
The reader does give value to management or "depredation" hunts. That makes perfect sense, especially if you follow some of the latest data coming out of the Southeast where whitetails are beginning to feel the pressure from relatively "new" coyote populations. According to the Quality Deer Management Association (www.qdma.org) new evidence coming from scientific studies on Southeastern whitetail herds indicates higher levels of coyote predation on fawn during the summer months. Several of these studies now report that fawn recruitment rates have fallen from a historic average of 0.9 to 1.2 fawns recruited per doe to 0.4 to 0.5 or less. This equals a decrease of more than 50 percent in deer herd productivity and will ultimately affect harvest and future management goals.
So what do you think? Should coyotes be hunted in the "offseason" or given a break to ensure more calling opportunities in the winter months?