Jay and I were sitting on a high knoll overlooking a huge meadow, probably 80 acres surrounded by cedar and pin oak trees. We were watching a game feeder about 300 yards away in the early evening. Deer began to filter into the meadow, some of whom were working their way to the feeder. But we weren’t hunting deer tonight. It was late in the Texas deer hunting season, but we were just checking out the health of the herd and hoping to spot a hog, a coyote or a bobcat. We had already spotted one bobcat but he was headed into the bush at about 100 miles per hour ahead of our truck.
We were at the ranch working on a joint project that Jay and I had started. We began a few years ago to chronicle some of our more humorous hunting exploits as BobNJay.com. We were working on some promotion and videoing some YouTube skits. Our day was pretty full with the filming and strategizing on how to promote our fledgling operation. But we are hunters, after all, and couldn’t resist getting out at least a bit in the evening.
The evening was cool, but to my Michigan sensitivities is was really quite pleasant. Not the below freezing or even below zero of my home at this time of year. The sky was clear, and we watched ducks trying to decide if they would land on the pond below us or find another spot to paddle around.
Jay and I had sighted in his 700 Remington .308 earlier in the day in hopes that we might be able to ambush a hog. The feral hogs were a never-ending problem on Jay’s ranch. They were incredibly destructive of the habitat, highly competitive for forage with the deer and would monopolize any of the game feeders. They produce three litters of piglets each year and keeping them under control is a constant struggle. So here we sat hoping to get a crack at one.
The deer continued to fill the meadow below. We could watch as many as 30 deer at a time, and there would be anywhere from 2 to 6 deer vacuuming up the feed around the game feeder at one time. Tonight, I was the designated shooter, while Jay was glassing the field for our intended prey.
“Oh, my gosh,” whispered Jay, “there’s a lion!” After a couple of seconds, he continued, “No it’s a bobcat, but that’s the biggest bobcat I have ever seen. He’s coming down to the water.”
I was trying to reorient my position when Jay lost the cat as it eased into the brush alongside the water. We never saw it again.
As darkness fell, we had three owls fly over our heads. I am wondering if they had spotted some of our movement and decided WE might be prey! We ran out of light but was able to watch more deer filter into the meadow through our night vision equipment.
We called it quits about an hour after dark. The deer looked healthy, and they weren’t disturbed by any hogs or other predators. After all the cold of northern Michigan, being outdoors on a beautiful night like this and watching scores of deer was like a little bit of heaven.
The next day, after another grueling day of filming, laughing and writing we needed another outdoor fix. We opted to try for a coyote or bobcat. I think Jay couldn’t get that cat out of his brain, so with a couple hours of daylight left we headed out to see of our predator call would bring something in.
Coyotes especially are really hard on the early fawns. While not as prolific as hogs, it is hard to stay atop the coyote population as well. Bobcats, too, will take early fawns and sometimes even yearling deer.
As we did yesterday, we selected a high vantage point that would allow us to cover a lot of territory, but in a different area from where we were the night before. Since I had one the wrestling match to be the shooter last night, Jay would be on the long gun and I would be carrying the .223 short range piece tonight.
We cranked up the remote caller with a distress call of a rabbit and settled in to see if something would cross the valley in front of us to come to the call. We hadn’t even called for more than about 7 minutes, when at the periphery of my vision, I spotted a coyote looking over our setup. He was looking right at the remote call, when I spotted him and he was only about 60 yards away. No way could Jay realign for a shot without spooking the animal. I whispered, “Coyote”, and threw the .223 up to my shoulder. Too late! The Coyote had figured that the jig was up and he was headed out of there.
He passed behind two cedar bushes, not at a dead run, but not just creeping away either. Hoping to catch him as he cleared the second cedar and before he got into the heavier bush, I swung the gun to the 7-yard opening. As hoped, he cleared the first two cedars at a trot heading toward heavier cover. If he reached that next cedar, he would be gone. I had maybe second and a half to locate and snap a shot. At the crack of the rifle, the coyote dropped out of sight and Jay shouted, ”You nailed him!”
It happened so fast I wasn't sure I had really connected, until we covered the 60 yards or so and found him. Any time I hunt and harvest an animal, there is this tug of war within me about taking wildlife. This time was no different. I was happy to have taken one fawn killer out of the population, but never-the-less, somewhat saddened at taking the coyotes life. Balancing the health of the deer herd against the number of predators will always be a win/loss proposition. On the whole, this coyotes hide will remind me of that balance as I display it in my man cave.