As an avid hunter, I spend many days of the year doing some type of hunting, and my favorite of all has to be predator hunting.
The definition of a predator is one that preys, destroys, or devours an animal that lives by predation. This includes coyotes, foxes, bobcats and even raccoons.
The purpose of a predator is to control prey such as mice, rats, rabbits, moles, etc. Whereas, the purpose of hunters is to be a conservationist. One of the keys to wildlife management is controlling the predators.
Controlling predators is a must in managing a good population of wildlife. No matter if you’re a deer hunter, turkey hunter, or a small game hunter, if you do not control the predators, there will be nothing to hunt.
For instance, a baby fawn’s most dangerous predator is a coyote. I once read where a biologist had performed a study over a den of coyotes. Throughout a month-long period, one female coyote was pictured on a game camera bringing seven different fawns into the den to feed her pups. With numbers like that it obviously doesn’t take long for a deer population to start decreasing.
The same goes for the wild turkey, whose biggest predator varies from coyotes, bobcats, and raccoons. A raccoon doesn’t get as much attention as a predator, however, when a hen turkey lays her eggs during the late spring months, a raccoon can destroy a nest by grabbing up three to four eggs at a time.
That goes back to my previous point that it doesn’t take long for a turkey population to start hurting if you do not eliminate some of the predators.
When practicing good predator control, I think it is key to realize we do not want to go out and eliminate every predator there is. We want to “manage” the population, we want to have predators because their purpose is to control the prey such as mice, moles, rabbits, etc.
However, the predator has to be controlled. Think of it this way: If we, as hunters, didn’t control the predators, what would? There is no animal that naturally controls predators such as coyotes, bobcats, foxes, and raccoons — except for humans.
There are basically two ways to control predators. You can call them in with the sounds of other predators, like the howl of a coyote or by using the sounds of the prey that they feed on, such as a rabbit in distress.
The other way to control predators is by trapping, either with a live cage-style trap, or with a snare or a foothold trap.
Calling coyotes is a popular sport across the country, which means most people have heard the various ways of calling coyotes, foxes, or bobcats. Basically, you go out and make the sounds of a free meal by using an electronic game caller or by using hand-held calls that make the same distress sounds.
When making the sounds of a rabbit in distress, a rodent in distress, or a squealing bird for example, a coyote, fox, or bobcat will come in looking for the sound and grab up a free meal.
One of the most popular ways to manage the raccoon population is by hunting with dogs. Dogs will track the smell of a raccoon until the raccoon goes to the top of a tree. The dogs will then bark at the trunk of the tree until the hunter arrives to be able to harvest the raccoon with a small-caliber firearm.
If you enjoy calling in predators like I do, there is a way to call in raccoons as well. On most electronic callers you will usually find some types of raccoon sounds, such as “coyote and raccoon fight.”
Those sounds are listed on the caller for the very reason of calling in a raccoon. Since a raccoon is not notably known to respond to prey in distress sounds, they will respond to sounds of other raccoons.
One of the best tactics while calling is to find where the den trees usually are. It may take some time scouting your timber to find a den tree but once you do, place your electronic caller out in front of you and begin playing the fighting sounds.
A raccoon will usually come running in to see what the commotion is about, giving you the opportunity to make the harvest, usually with a shotgun. By using a shotgun, you are less likely to damage any fur, so that you can harvest it.
Another tactic to use when calling raccoons is to find a food source, such a corn field, where you know raccoons will be feeding nearby, then do the same calling sequence as when hunting near den trees.
By doing a raccoon fight near a food source, it simulates two or three raccoons fighting over a meal. Again, other raccoons will respond to see what is going on.
Predator hunting is one of the fastest growing sports. It is a fun, fast-paced, full of action type of sport and best of all it helps to improve our wildlife population in whole.
I encourage everyone that hasn’t had a chance to try this out, to do just that. As explained, there are a lot of options when it comes to what predator to hunt.
By Heath Wood
(Heath Wood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)