A dog is man’s best friend and that generic title includes the ladies, too. That friendship can extend from the front yard to the coyote hunting fields as well. Summer signifies the best time to utilize dogs as tools during a coyote hunt.
Coyotes are inherently territorial and protective during the spring and summer months as they defend den sites, and pups from perceived dangers. If you send a seasoned dog into one of those territories it has the motivation to lure a coyote into rifle and oftentimes shotgun range. Coyotes may even catch sight or smell of you, and ignore the human element as they try and keep the canine danger at bay.
Hunting coyotes with dogs is not new. While living on a ranch in central South Dakota I routinely saw pickups loaded with greyhounds jostling down ranch trails in hopes of catching a coyote in the open. When the ranchers spied a coyote they tugged on a rope that opened the doors to a crate holding the whining greyhound racers. Referred to as coyote coursing, the greyhounds took up the chase using both visual and scent cues with eventual hopes of running the coyote down. Most successful hunts end with the greyhounds tearing into the caught coyote, thus ruining pelt profits, but the tactic is successful in coyote management.
Today most coyote hunters utilizing dogs engage in a tactic referred to as tolling. This concept utilizes a dog to cast, roam and lure a coyote close to the shooter. You initially bring a coyote into the area using distress sounds or coyote vocalizations. Once a coyote arrives the dog goes to work. A dog teases and taunts as the coyotes position themselves to defend home, and family.
Animal damage control officials have utilized this strategy for several decades. The late Randy Roede specialized in using dogs to address problem coyotes. In a past interview I did with him before his and his wife’s untimely death, he stressed the importance of always having a tolling dog trained and prepared for warm-season coyote issues during his tenure working with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks.
“I always have a decoy dog at the ready, especially when I’m dealing with problem coyotes in the spring and summer,” Roede said. “It’s an effective way to target specific coyotes with guaranteed results.”
Other professional coyote getters agree and that’s why so many on the recreational side have included dogs into their coyote hunting regiment. One of the most notable is Levi Johnson, a Montanan who caught the dog bug early and today shares his adventures under the title of “Doggin.”
My best experience with tolling came when Johnson invited me and my son Cole< to join him in central Montana for a June coyote hunt. On the first day Johnson’s dog tolled perfectly and my son tipped over six coyotes the V-Max way before the afternoon sun heated up. That’s hot coyote action!
Some hunters use a single dog while most professionals use a pair of dogs to bring a coyote closer. Most breeds will work and the sex of the dog doesn’t matter either.
“It’s much more than getting a family dog. I have countless and countless hours of training, and money into these dogs, including feeding and housing them,” Johnson said. “You also have to be able to understand your dogs in a split second. You need to know what’s going on with your dogs or you could shoot one accidentally in the rush, or it could get hurt in the coyote encounter.”
Hunting warm-season coyotes with a dog is a unique experience. If you do decide to focus on coyote hunting in the warm-weather months with dogs you’ll also get another reward. You will potentially be saving extra fawns that can aid to future recruitment of regional big game populations. That’s a great bonus for any hunter and for future hunting generations.
If you ever get the chance to join a hunt utilizing experienced coyote dogs in the summer I wholeheartedly suggest you drop everything for a hunt like no other.