Hunter Attacked by 'Dead' Coyote

What started as the retrieval of a dead coyote suddenly shifted into a life and death struggle between two predators.

Hunter Attacked by 'Dead' Coyote

Skip Van Buren of Michigan was fortunate this coyote that attacked him didn't do worse damage.

Rural Upper Peninsula of Michigan resident Skip Van Buren found out the hard way that you should never assume a coyote is dead until you confirm that is the case.

When he lifted the head of a coyote he shot in September, the predator attacked, biting him several times and knocking him to the ground. If the canine had not been seriously injured by the bullet that dropped it, the animal could have killed Van Buren.

If you are a coyote hunter or plan on coyote hunting in the future, this is a story you are going to want to read. You can benefit from the lesson Van Buren learned without having to go through the pain and suffering he has.

Van Buren is a serious predator hunter. He’s put on seminars about the subject and has sponsored plenty of predator hunts. He’s killed numerous coyotes without any problem. But, the incident on Sept. 23, 2015, caught him totally off guard.

Van Buren was watching Canada geese in a large field near his home that day when the flock suddenly raised a racket and took off. Suspecting hey’d been spooked, he started glassing the field with binoculars and eventually spotted a coyote feeding on something nearby.

Van Buren used a rangefinder to determine the distance  and grabbed his .17 caliber Remington rifle with a bull barrel. The coyote was about 280 yards away. The rifle was sighted in for 300 yards, so he knew exactly where to aim. When Van Buren squeezed the rifle’s trigger, the coyote dropped in its tracks.

Van Buren assumed the coyote was dead, but he grabbed his binocular and looked to make sure it wasn’t moving. It was still, so, once again, he thought it was dead. He grabbed a leash to put around the dead predator’s head to drag it out of the field. Van Buren decided not to drive into the field, to avoid damaging the crop planted there.

It took Van Buren 15-20 minutes to walk to where the coyote lay. There was still no sign of life, so he grabbed the coyote’s head and started to lift it to put the leash around it. That’s when the coyote came to and immediately tried to bite his hand.

Fortunately, Van Buren had wrapped the leash around his hand so it wasn’t hanging loose. It’s a good thingbecause the leash prevented the coyote from biting that hand. But the coyote wasn’t about to retreat. It was in defense mode, growling and circling, looking for an opening to bite again.

What started as the retrieval of a dead coyote suddenly shifted into a life and death struggle between two predators. The fact the coyote was still very much alive and appeared ready and able to take revenge on the hunter was not good news. Van Buren had nothing to defend himself from the coyote’s vicious jaws.

Instinctively, Van Buren kicked at the coyote to try to keep it away from him. The predator took advantage of the exposed limb to clamp on. Van Buren was only wearing tennis shoes, which provided no protection from the predator’s teeth. The coyote bit through the right shoe and into his foot.

The coyote also sunk its teeth into the back of his lower right leg and his rear.

“I found out how a coyote brings a deer down,” Van Buren said. “They don’t open and close their mouths. They bite down and hang on. It felt like my foot was in a vice.

“The coyote eventually got me on the ground, and I lay there exhausted from trying to fight him off. Fortunately, my bullet had done some damage and he was hurting. I could tell he was breathing heavy and he was also tired by the time I went down. I stared into those big yellow eyes as he laid on the ground nearby, growling at me.

“If he wasn’t injured and he managed to bite me in the neck when I went down, I would have been a goner!”

Fortunately, Van Buren was able to roll away from the coyote and get up. He then hobbled back to his house. When he reached the house, he grabbed his rifle to shoot the coyote again. He was having a hard time steadying the barrel, but he made his best effort as the coyote started to run off. Amazingly, that bullet hit the coyote in the neck, killing it for good.

“Someone from up above must have helped out on that shot,” Van Buren said, “because I was having trouble aiming.”

The male coyote weighed a little more than 37 pounds, which is bigger than average, but not a record. Skip said he’s shot coyotes weighing as much as 42 pounds and has seen some shot by others that weighed 50 pounds. 

“I should have carried my pistol with me when I went to get that coyote,” Van Buren said. “That 25-grain hollowpoint bullet from my rifle was traveling at 4,000 feet per second. It must have stunned that coyote enough to temporarily knock it out. When I grabbed his head, he woke up.”

Van Buren said his bullet hit the coyote in front of the shoulder instead of behind the shoulder, like it should have, and that’s why the predator wasn’t dead.

Van Buren cleaned his wounds but waited until the next day to seek medical attention. By then, puss was oozing from the puncture wounds. He should have gone to see a doctor as soon as possible. He also had to undergo a series of painful rabies shots to protect himself from that fatal disease.

It wasn’t until a month after the incident that Van Buren found out that he tore the meniscus in his left knee while kicking at the coyote. Both of his legs are still bothering him. He now walks with a cane.

Van Buren will never assume any coyotes he shoots in the future are dead. Nor does he plan on approaching one that’s down without a gun. That’s good advice for all coyote hunters.


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