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Coyotes tough to track down

The alarm rang at 3:30 in the morning.

If I were going to work, the alarm sound would have made me a little nauseous. But this morning was different.

The purpose of this early start was to go coyote hunting. I convinced my friend Bob Fedor thathe would like getting a chance at shooting a wily coyote.

When I picked him up at 4:15, I'm sure he was rethinking this hunting plan.

When I proposed a coyote hunt to Jim Seymour, he was overjoyed. He is the owner of Southern Wildlife Enterprises, a 20,000 acre ranch that is one of Florida's premier spring Osceola turkey operations.

About 6 miles north of Polk City, we were ready to test our hunting skills against the craftiest creature in the woods: the coyote.

Hunting coyotes requires good camouflage, calling skills and excellent marksmanship. Coyotes are extremely wary and have sharp instincts.

We started using an electronic calling device that imitates a dying rabbit. The device was remotely controlled, which allowed us to place the call about 50 yards from our camouflaged position. After 30 minutes with no results we moved, set up, and tried again.

We moved at least half a dozen times and our calling didn't attract any coyote. We saw feral hogs, two deer and wild turkeys, but no coyote.

Jim confessed it was the full moon and coyotes normally hunt at night.

Coyotes are predators that also are known as little wolves and song dogs. They weigh 25-50 pounds and are found throughout Florida. They feed on a variety of animals: mice, rabbit, deer and nesting birds. The problem with coyotes is that they also feed on livestock, domestic cats and small dogs.

Coyote hunting is growing fast and is a year-round sport. Florida has a large population.

Jim Seymour is concerned about the heavy coyote population and how coyotes are killing nesting Osceola turkeys and their young. Additionally, coyotes often have rabies.

To hunt coyotes, a hunting license and permission to hunt on private land are required.

The terrain will determine whether to use a rifle (in open areas) or a shotgun (in heavily wooded areas.) The serious hunters I've known use small caliber 220, .223 rifles with high-powered scopes. These rifles have high velocities and are accurate up to a few hundred yards.

Though we did not bag a coyote, it was a good day. Watching the sun come up and smelling the wild flowers, listening to the songbirds and spending a day with friends was worth the trip.

_ Col. Larry A. Hoffman USA (ret) is an avid hunter. Call (727) 709-9396.