Predators — Close, Closer and Closest

Making the most of every situation.

Predators — Close, Closer and Closest

The rancher was right when he told me he had coyotes working a bull elk that had died in the middle of a huge hay meadow — evidently from a poorly placed shot. The carcass was in a foot of snow, 600 yards from the nearest bit of cover and being hammered by the voracious canines. He’d missed several long shots at the coyotes — made almost impossible by the wind — which had put them in full-time skittish mode. 

I spent a half-hour glassing the area and another hour getting some trapping stuff put together at home and met the rancher the next morning. As per instruction he followed exactly in my snowmobile trail as I drove past the carcass and made a trail leading directly away from it toward the closest creek where the coyotes had already made a trail. I then repacked the trail, letting the rancher lead after advising him to stop when I said to and to stay on his machine. 

I stopped and leaned off the back of the snowmobile, and partially blocking the trail with heavy weeds I had lugged along I hung a snare in place tied to a three-prong drag. I repeated the process 100 yards farther along the packed trail, and when I got to the creek, I picked the most-used trail and hung a third snare. I’ve always figured a single set of tracks through the brush, under a fence or along a trail means little, but more than one set of tracks is a drawing card and worth some serious consideration for a trap or snare set. 

The snares blanked out the first night they were set, but we got 6 inches of snow the next morning and the hotwired rancher called and said he could see two coyotes flouncing around in the snow. The third snare had also taken a coyote the first night.  

After dispatching the prime coyotes, I pointed out a couple new snare locations on the trail as we made a couple more trips back and forth to pack it back down and I left the rancher several snares and wires ready rigged. Over the next couple weeks, he caught four more coyotes and stated emphatically that snaring added a whole new dimension to his coyote hunting — adding to his working knowledge of the canines and thereby increasing his hunting success. 

A couple years back, I spent the winter in Elk City, Idaho, adjacent to the Selway and Lolo wilderness areas, world famous for elk hunting … before wolves were reintroduced in 1995, that is. Twenty years later, the elk were struggling to hold their own, moose hunting season was gone and the wolf population was over 800 percent above the original population goal. 

One of my recent acquaintances in Elk City was a deputy sheriff and wolf hunting buff who picked up every roadkilled elk or deer and deceased livestock critter he could get for wolf bait. On one trip, I rode with him to check his snares and traps. He had caught a prime female but said the wolves were getting warier by the day. He had several carcasses that were almost totally decimated, but one elk carcass situated on a small point extending into a warmish spring caught my eye, and I asked if he had any No. 4s and drags handy. Within a half-hour, much to Mike’s surprise, I had three coil spring traps firmly bedded under 6 inches of water a couple feet out from the carcass, scent free and totally invisible — a location Mike had never given a thought to for a wolf set. Two days later he showed up at the house with a huge black male wolf that he was going to get tanned and tell buddies he caught it in a beaver set. Never hurts to think outside the box. 

When I get serious about predator hunting, I mix and match to take advantage of every facet of a predator’s likely actions — from getting hung up in a snare or steel trap to giving me a long-distance standing shot at the most distant critter first and foremost, where the critter and its companions have to cover a lot of wide-open space to get to safety. If a spooked predator decides to take the path of least resistance when escaping and follows my laid out packed trail it is going to end up within rock chucking distance of my prebuilt, downwind shooting blind. Throughout the years, a lot of fur has ended up in my fur shed because I had a predator call or two in my daypack when trapping, or a couple snares to slip into place when I located an unbeatable location during a hunt. 

I’m not sure whether it takes more skill to get a predator to put its foot down on the 2-inch pan of a trap, stick its nose through the center of a snare or call it in and position it for a broadside shot. But having the foresight to mix it up can’t help but increase your success!


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