Have you been watching the weather lately? Folks from Texas to the north sure have been and it’s not because of the beautiful rainbows. Downpours and flooding, not to mention possible tornadoes, have been keeping many glued to reliable weather forecasts. Texas broke May records with nearly 9 inches of rain and Oklahoma crushed it with more than 14 inches of rain recorded in May. More is on the way.
For summer predator hunters the abundant moisture (sorry California) is already causing issues. Some of you may be experiencing washed out roads, muddy inaccessibility and possibly even varmint migrations. Just as irritating is the vegetative growth. You may not even be able to see a summer coyote approaching your setup because of the explosion in grasses or the massive clover jungles.
Take a breath and think good thoughts. Conditions like these provide habitat for the main course on most predators’ menu — rodents. Vegetation now will mean more rodents later and that could equal more predators down the road in a damp zip code. Why? Research has noted that overall population density and food abundance can affect litter size.
Studies show that predators like the fan-favorite coyotes dine on rodents the majority of the time when they are present in large densities. One study revealed 42 percent of a coyote’s diet consists of rodents with a variety of other items rounding out the rest. Mice, voles and the likes make up the bulk of that diet when opportunity knocks. If you live in rodent-rich country, coyotes are more than likely taking advantage of the little snacks that oftentimes weigh a scant few ounces. To fill their gut they need a supermarket with stocked shelves. Abundant rains should ensure that outcome and more targets for your Hornady bullets.
Summer is an ideal window to scout for areas that may blossom in rodent abundance. What you snoop for depends on what region of the country you reside. In brief, look for dense native grasses, brushy briars and overgrown vegetation. These habitat zones provide food and shelter for rodents and attract hungry predators.
When I believe coyotes are on a rodent diet the first element I keep my eyes open for are ungrazed pastures free of livestock. Pastures, meadows and grasslands that are free of cattle provide the best in vegetation to support thriving rodent populations. Although cattle grazing can be good since it mirrors fire and promotes revitalization, it can leave an area void of cover creating a drop in rodent densities.
On publicly-owned tracts land managers often put parcels in a rotation where they are allowed to rest every other year. This is a policy in play on most national grasslands and some national forests. Check with their respective offices. And although the perception may be that public lands are overhunted, don’t bet on it when it comes to predators, especially those attracted to rested parcels. Ranchers also rotate pastures allowing some to rest and others to be grazed.
A government program with a boon to wildlife has been the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). This program takes highly erodible farmlands currently in production and replants them to native grasses. Although its claim to fame has been a benefit to birds such as pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and waterfowl, the thick cover it provides is favorable to rodents, thus attracting predators such as hungry coyotes.
You may be cursing the rain today as you purchase your second or third sump pump, but remember, more rain today could lead to more predators down the road. Think happy thoughts!