When the phone rang, I found myself talking to a man who lives in the city of Charlotte, NC. He told me that he had talked to the folks at the NC Wildlife Resource Commission and they had told him to call me. He said that he had a coyote in his back yard and he was concerned about kids and pets in the area. I took is name and address and told him I would stop by later that day to meet with him and look over the situation.
I arrived at his place and he showed me around. It was an older neighborhood with lots of maybe 50 yards wide by 150 – 200 yards deep, Houses on the front 1/3 of the lots and most back yards were well kept for another 1/3 – ½ leaving a thick woods and brush area for the remainder. The neighbor had a small pond, puddle really, in her back yard and there were lots of bunnies. Cover, water, and an abundant food source. A perfect coyote habitat right there in the middle of Charlotte. A church next door with the toddler play area nestled next to the edge of the woods. A major mall just a few hundred yards away. Kids and pets playing in their back yards. Seemed like a conflict waiting to happen.
Being in the city, shooting was out of the question, but he advised me that loose dogs had not been a problem and he had no one frequenting his back yard but him. I told him it would take me a couple days to prepare some traps and then I would be back.
In many ways, trapping coyote is similar to calling and shooting them. You have to execute in a way that puts you in their territory, give them something interesting to investigate, allow them to approach in a way that is comfortable for them, and not get busted by what they see or smell.
Trap / Equipment Preparation:
You could also call this section ‘Beating the Coyote’s nose part 1’. The key is to remove your scent and to mask the smell of the trap steel. Keep all your tools in a place where they don’t come in contact with odors different than what the coyote would expect. Avoid touching them with your bare hands, getting sweat on them, etc. If he smells you, your aftershave, your lawnmower fumes, etc….. you’re busted. I have a barn I keep my stuff in.
Prepare traps, stakes, grapples and anything that will be part of the set by rinsing them in water to remove any loose dirt/debris, boil them in a mixture of water and ‘the works’ toilet bowl cleaner, rinse them in a bucket of water, simmer them in a trap dye solution [optional], and then coat them with wax [key]. I buy trap wax in bars from a supply outfitter and stick it in a pot of simmering water until it melts. It will remain on the surface. Place a trap in the pot so it is in the water below the wax and let it warm up to the temp of the water [minute or two]. Then pull it steadily out, up through the wax. A thin coat of wax will cover your trap and mask the smell of steel.
Here is a pic of my trap prep area….
A word on trap sizes. I have caught coyote in traps as small as 1.5. The trap I used in this situation was an MB-650 and I really like this trap for coyote. It has 4 coil springs, center swivel, offset jaws, heavy chain, etc. You can also beef them up with laminated jaws and the like.
Before you boil your traps, you will want to check them and tune them if needed. You want the pan to sit flat inside the jaws when it is set. You want the trigger to be hair set so there is little movement required by the pan for the trap to spring. For coyote, a little tension in the pan is desired as it minimizes the chance of the trap going off if a smaller critter enters the set and when the trap springs it will be against a foot that is pushing firmly down on it, so less chance of a miss.
LOL….. here is another place where trapping and calling are similar. Not in the equipment, but in all the possibilities. Each is neat unto itself, but put them all together and you need a pickup to carry them.
Here is a pic of what I had with me to make the set that caught the coyote above…
Double cross staking with 18” or longer stakes provides a solid hold in most soils. Keep a crow bar handy to get them out. Make sure you have a solid staking and/or grapple attached or you’re setting yourself up for disappointment or worse.
There are numerous commercially available baits & lures out there. Some are excellent and others aren’t. Dobbins is one that I have no hesitation recommending, but there are others.
I will typically use a good tainted fox bait. What I won’t do is use coyote urine. If I use urine on a set I use red fox urine. A coyote smelling another coyote’s urine may get wimpy, but a coyote smelling a red fox’s urine will get aggressive.
You can’t call them if they are not there to hear the call and you can’t trap them if they are not there to investigate your trap set. However, one advantage trapping has is that they don’t have to be there when you are and you have a much better chance of hooking up with a coyote with a larger territory that they travel over a period of days.
Get in the field and locate sign and travel routes. No sign….. no coyotes. I have scouted places that have appeared perfect but had no sign. I even set a few and guess what? I didn’t catch any coyote.
In this particular situation the scouting required was fairly limited and focused on determining travel routes and other potential non-target animal complications.
Part of your scouting should be aimed at locating your set locations. You might even create a good set location along a travel route. There are more types and ways to create a set than carter has pills [did I just date myself there?]. What I used here is one variation of a dirt hole set. It’s my most used and most productive set. I like to locate my dirt hole sets in the open and along travel routes, but not in them. My experience is that coyotes are more like red fox then grey fox when it comes to baited sets. They like to be able to see what’s around it and are less tentative about investigating it. This often results in a better catch by the trap. Another advantage of more open locations is it tends to reduce the number of non-target animals in your sets.
In this situation, I did not have a lot of choices to work with and while I generally don’t like to have my sets too close together, I decided on putting in two sets. Each was positioned about 5 yards off what I perceived as the travel route and given the confined space were only 25 or so yards apart. One to the left of the route, the other to the right. One in fairly open area and one along a thick hedge. Both were constructed in a similar fashion.
Making a dirt hole set:
I make my dirt hole sets in the shape of an egg, with the hole at the point and the trap at the back right edge. It is good to have some obstruction just beyond the hole so the coyote can not approach the set from the back and look into the hole. It doesn’t have to be a big obstruction. A tuff of grass, small bush, rock, log/branch, whatever. I do think that smaller is better and again you want the coyote comfortable that he can see around and you do not want the coyote to feel it is being funneled. Some critters can be funneled / guided into a set, but coyotes generally shy away from this kind of situation.
For coyote, I make my ‘egg’ big enough so that the pan of my trap is 6 – 8 inches away from the hole and 2 – 3 inches offset to the right. The key here is you want to have the pan located where the coyote will step when he goes to look to the bottom of the hole, so in some regards, the trap position is very much a function of the hole position or vise versa. The reason I offset the trap 2 -3 inches to the right is based on something I learned from a successful coyote trapper and I have found it to work. He told me that just as people are right handed or left handed, coyote are left footed or right footed and guess which is more frequent? I can’t really say that they are or they aren’t, but it’s hard to argue with success.
I use a set cloth and remove all the dirt in my egg shaped bed, placing in on the cloth and setting sod, stones, and other debris next to the dirt. I like the jaws of the trap to be flush with the ground and positioned with one of the jaws next to the cut edge of the hole. You need to dig out enough to accommodate your stakes, grapple if your using one, and chain. You can use the sod and other debris to fill in around these and save your dirt for just under the trap and sifting over it.
It is very important that your trap is bedded firmly. By that I mean it does not wiggle, wobble or move in any way. Depending on the soil and weather conditions I may use a trap cover or pan pad, but unless I’m expecting rain, more often than not I don’t. Use a ¼ inch sifter to sift your dirt over your trap and the rest of the egg. The result you want is about an 1/8 – ¼ inch of cover over your trap.
Making the hole and adding the bait is actually the last thing I do, so that I get it positioned where I want it relative to my trap. There are three dimensions to consider as you make your hole. All of them relate to one thing. You want the coyote to step on your trap pan in order to see to the bottom of the hole. The first is it’s diameter. The bigger you make this the more left to right options the coyote has to look down it. I generally make my holes with an extra stake, wiggling it around to end up with a hole with about a 1 inch diameter and dragging the loose dirt out of it up across the egg. Kind of like what you would expect to see if a critter was scooping dirt out of the hole with it’s paw. Careful not to let big items get over your trap. The second dimension is the angle of the hole. If you make it straight up and down, the coyote and approach it from any direction and look down it. If 90 degrees is straight up and down, I tend to make my holes with a 60 – 70 degree angle and aligned with the center of the egg, so his eye needs to be over the center of the egg to see in the hole. The last dimension is depth. Again, a shallow hole is easier to see down from a broader area. I like to make my holes 8 – 12 inches deep.
Put your bait or lure in the hole. If using bait, you only need a piece/scoop about as big as the end of your thumb and use a stick to poke it to the bottom of the hole. Take the stick with you when you leave and discard elsewhere and avoid getting bait anywhere else but in the hole. If you are using lure, put a few drops on a ball of dried moss or a cotton ball and again, place it in the bottom of the hole. If you just pour the lure in the hole it will have a tendency to absorb into the ground and not work as well.
Pack up your stuff and ruff up the grass that may have matted down as you made your set. You want all around the set to look pretty much as it did when you arrived.
A couple last points. I usually wear hip waders, rubber gloves and a face mask to avoid leaving more of my scent then necessary. You will always leave some, but less is better. I don’t wander around my sets. I walk directly to them, make them, and then walk directly away by the same path. The position of the set is such that the egg shaped bed is between the hole and the travel route. This allows the coyote to walk straight in and not require him to circle.
I like to check my sets at first light as much as possible. This minimizes the time the animal is in the trap, reduces the chances of a pull out, and reduces the possibility of others noticing my catch.
In this particular situation I was fortunate enough to have this nice male coyote waiting for me the first morning.
You can see how open it is around this set. Here is a close up of the catch.
As you can see, he would have been hard pressed to have stepped down much harder and a catch above the paw is what you want as they have a lot of strength and weight vs a fox. Clearly a large part of getting a solid catch is the set construction, but my view is that the openness of the location helps to get them to aggressively approach the set.
I should pause here and state that NOTHING I have said is written in stone. Every situation is different and you can have success with lots of different set locations and constructions. This is just one that obviously works and could be factored into your thinking.
Baker Wildlife Services.