Coyote hunting with hounds is different, exciting

The author travels to northwestern Minnesota with his son to chase coyotes with hounds and work on hitting a lightning-fast targets.
Coyote hunting with hounds is different, exciting

Growing up in the 1980s in Minnesota, we hardly ever encountered coyotes. Foxes were abundant, but seeing a coyote was a huge surprise and killing one was a rarity.

Tate with a big coyote after a good cast and chase. (Photo: Michael J. Breuer)

Now, coyote numbers in Minnesota are so high some groups of hunters gather every weekend in winter to hunt them. Our state even has coyote-hunting contests throughout winter. It’s so popular that people are training dogs to aid in their hunts.

The problem with hunting coyotes in Minnesota is most of the state is covered in trees, and laws prevent using lights to aid in night hunting. Hounds eliminate the need for night hunting and solve the problem of trying to entice coyotes out of large groves of trees.

Last winter my 9-year-old son and I decided we were going to find someone who had dogs trained to hunt coyotes join them for a day afield. As a trapper, it only took a few calls to hear rumors of several guys who were dog handlers.

We contacted one from northwestern Minnesota named Mike Carpenter. He owns two running Walker foxhounds: Duke and Bandit. They are trained to pick up a coyote track and flush the coyote from its daytime hideout.

After chatting with him about his success and passion for predator hunting, we had a plan in place.

Off to the hunt

I packed the truck with a variety of guns and ammunition, some warm clothes, good boots and plenty of snacks. My son and I were headed north, and all my son could talk about was how excited he was. When the alarm went off at 6 a.m. the following morning his excitement was a little less visible. We met Mike just after sunup at his farm and quickly started pushing toward some farmland he had permission to hunt.

Fifteen minutes into our hunt we spotted a coyote in a field. With some on-the-fly planning and lucky shooting, we had a coyote down. My son and I were elated, and every bit of tiredness was gone. The trip could've ended there and we would’ve been happy, but we hadn’t even been properly introduced to the hounds, and we had more work to do.

Gracie Hannon with her first coyote after a fun run. (Photo: Michael J. Breuer)

A few miles up the road we met up with a few other hunters as well as another dog handler, Todd Hannon, and his daughter Gracie. They own Chester, another Running Walker Foxhound. These three hounds would be our eyes and voices for the remainder of the day. They would also be the workhorses we needed to find and flush coyotes from their winter hideouts.

Running Walker Foxhounds are a relatives of the original English Foxhounds, bred solely to scent, track and hunt down fox. They are extremely stubborn and live to hunt. Their handlers told me how they were not well versed in terms like “come” or “heel,” and that hunting with them was more of a follow-the-leader type of program, with the dogs being the leaders.

The dogs were cast in the first spot we tried, meaning we didn't have a fresh track for them to hunt; we sent them into a patch of woods hoping they'd find one on their own. The first spot was empty, but it gave us an idea of how things worked. Mike ran a Garmin Alpha and all three dogs were collared. We were able to watch the dogs on the GPS, seeing where they were located in the dense brush and grasses, and which way they were headed.

Spot two was yet another grove, but this time we had tracks running into it. The dogs were let loose, and within minutes the barking began. The dogs were going crazy, and as the barking and howling became louder, Mike told us to get ready. Watching the dogs on the GPS, we could tell roughly where the coyote would exit the grove, and sure enough, along with its mate, it did. Shots roared from my Savage Lightweight Varminter-T in .223. We had another two coyotes in the truck.

Things went on like this until close to the end of the day, with a few coyotes getting away, and six ending up in the bed of the truck. The dogs had run moe than 12 miles tracking and chasing coyotes for us. But we had another push in us, and the dogs weren’t done showing off.

Deep snow presents a challenge for the hearty predator hunters but with the help of the hounds, some coyotes and foxes were brought to hand. (Photo: Michael J. Breuer)

Another hard cast and success

One of the final spots we hit was a long deep coulee. As soon as Mike set his dogs in its frozen base he said he could smell fox. Shortly after, the dogs began sounding off, a shot rang and someone yelled, "Fox!" I quickly grabbed my Benelli 12 gauge, loaded it with Federal No. 4 buckshot and dropped into the coulee, as the fox was headed back our way.

Sure enough, a beautiful red fox came around the corner and I was able to place a decent shot on it. But it still had enough gusto to try to make a run for it. I was in no position to run after it, with snowdrifts up to my thighs. Luckily the dogs came to my rescue, baying the fox and eventually finishing the job. Truly amazing to watch, and proof that dogs are beneficial while hunting predators.

Hunting coyotes and fox with hounds is definitely an art, and it’s not for everyone. We experienced dogs getting bit, shots far more challenging than the average hunt presents, and a little bit of blood. On the other hand, we saved a lot of next year’s fawns, helped out several farmers and aided in keeping the coyote population in check. With a female coyote having five to nine pups each spring, it takes a lot of hunters and trappers to put a dent in their ever-growing population.

I’ve predator hunted off and on my entire life. Mostly as a youngster, spending time on backroads with my old man looking for fox on fencerows or in rock piles. I remember one day in particular. We found a fox sunning itself near a rock pile in the middle of a field. As we snuck up on it, the fox took off like a bullet.

We shot through both of our magazines trying to down that fox and I don’t think either of us touched it. Back in the truck, I told my father , “That was awesome!”

Our trip with Mike and his hounds brought back memories of those days. It also made me look forward to future trips with my son, especially after we got the red fox and my son tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “That was awesome!”

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