Best Trap Locations and Strategies for Trapping Coyotes
By: Casey Shoopman, The Management Advantage
One of the hottest topics in the wildlife management world is how to control coyote populations. Without a doubt the only way to come even close to balancing the predator/prey population is through the lost art of trapping. Like many people who lay awake at night trying to figure out how to pattern a mature deer, I lose sleep over catching coyotes. More importantly, how do I catch more coyotes without putting too much pressure on the whitetails we are trying to protect. There are so many factors to take into consideration. To be perfectly honest, there’s no way I can “teach” you how to catch coyotes by reading this article, but let’s go through some things to think about when implementing a predator removal program.
Coyote Trapping Timing and Strategy
First and foremost, there is a major difference in fur trapping and predator removal. When a trapper’s main goal is to obtain furs to market for sale, he must trap when those furs are at their prime. Those times can differ greatly depending on your location, but throughout the Midwest that timeframe is going to be between November 15th through January 15th at the latest. It is really up to the trapper to figure out when the fur will be at its best quality at that certain geographic location. The problem with the timing of this is, that’s when most landowners or lease holders are concentrating on deer hunting. Let’s be honest, no one wants to blow up their farm during the most exciting time of the year! Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing better than having a hot cup of coffee while running the trapline on a cold December in my home state of Illinois. Every coyote we take out is going to help the cause, however, this is where timing comes in to play. In order to boost your fawn recruitment, a trapping program needs to be implemented just before or during the fawn drop in your area. However, most Midwestern states trapping seasons go out before this can happen. This is where an alternate form of thinking comes in.
In the Midwest, especially this year, we have experienced a long, cold winter. Deer are yarded up and are trying to conserve energy as best they can. In my area, cover is at a premium, especially cover that is close to food. If you constantly have coyotes pushing deer around this time of year it can add a lot of stress on a herd. By going in and trapping in December and January you can alleviate a lot of pressure on your farm. A relaxed deer is a happy deer, and can also keep deer on your farm which will make you much more successful when shed hunting this spring.
Best Trap Locations for Coyotes
One thing I like to do when going in to a farm is to study an aerial map before actually setting foot on the property, not only to identify good locations to set traps, but also to figure out where the deer will be bedding and spending most of their day. The last thing you want to do is go in and run all of your deer out every day you go in to check your traps. This is where a high quality map comes in to play. I really like a map that has topography lines overlaying the aerial. Most of the time you can get a good lay of the land and stay out of sight and out of mind to any whitetail that may be bedding on your farm.
How Many Coyote Traps to Set on One Property?
One of the most asked questions I get is “How many traps should i set on my farm?” That can be a loaded question because every farm is different. The general rule of thumb is there will normally be 4-5 good locations per 500 acres. This may seem like a very small number but coyotes can and will cover a great distance in search of food or a mate during the winter months. You can certainly set as many traps as you please, but you will likely find there will be some very defined locations that year after year will produce.
These locations will be major travel routes, whether its several fence rows that intersect, roads that intersect within a block of cover, or something as simple as a tree out in the middle of the field. Again, this is where an aerial map will come in to play and you can usually identify those major intersections before even heading to the farm. Also, at every “location”, make sure you set multiple traps. This is where I think a lot of trappers short change themselves and try to spread out their traps too much. When I first started to learn how to trap I had a very experienced trapper tell me “If it’s good enough for one trap it’s good enough for 2, or 3, or maybe even 4 traps! Coyotes often travel in pairs or even a pack, and believe me when I tell you that there is nothing more exciting than pulling up on a double, triple, or even a quadruple catch!
Another thing to consider is wind directions when setting traps, and it can be often “over thought”. If you find a good location and only set one trap, if that coyote or coyotes happen to travel on the upwind side of your set, they may never know it’s even there. A lot of times when you try to cover that location with only one trap the wind can leave you scratching your head on where to put the trap. Your thoughts shift to what direction is the wind going to be tonight, tomorrow or even next week while that trap is in the ground. The easy way around this is to set multiple traps. Make your sets so that no matter what wind direction you may have, if they come thru the area there will be no way they can avoid finding them. For example, if you have two roads that make an intersection, set your traps across from one another so there will always be a scent cast where the animal will be coming from. If you do have a pair of coyotes come through, once the first one gets caught, the other will stick around for quite a while and most likely end up in the other trap!
Most of my work takes place in southern states where coyotes have been removed from the furbearer list or have no closed trapping season. This is where we can actually make a direct impact on fawn recruitment. For instance, Alabama has a very late fawn drop which can fall anywhere between July and September. We design a program to actually go in during that fawn drop to take out resident coyotes. This time of year they shrink their core area greatly and become very territorial. During this time of year there is no substitute for boots on the ground scouting. If you find coyote sign in the summer, odds are they are close. Set your traps on sign and in short order you will have a problem solved. It can be absolutely miserable to work in 100 degree heat, but the rewards can really pay off.
Honestly, I think coyotes are much easier to catch this time of year as well. Like I said, they become very territorial and do not tolerate other coyotes encroaching on their turf. This is where a good gland lure and a fresh bait come in to play. A coyotes home range is severely shrunk during this time of year so when you take out a resident coyote it takes much longer for others to move in. Essentially you are creating a predator free void within your farm that will allow your fawns to be born and mobil before they are literally eaten alive. Mother nature can be cruel, but we were are here to manage a predator that in many areas is a non-native invasive species.
If you are interested in trapping, welcome to the madness! This is just the tip of the iceberg! This is definitely a lost art and one to not take lightly. I am always learning every single day, and am not ashamed to bend the ear of someone with experience in the field. I highly recommend finding someone in your area that is a trapper and take a ride with them one day to see what it’s all about! If you get bored, check us out online at www.themanagementadvantage.com, or on Youtube, Facebook, or Instagram as well. We have a wealth of knowledge not only on trapping predators but all things wildlife management!