Do you ever get the feeling that you might not have as much control as you thought your big brain and opposable thumbs gave you? I had one of those moments after a recent hunt.
I failed to tag a deer during the November firearms season. So I was highly motivated to put some venison in the freezer during the antlerless portion. That made it extra hard to sit in my tree stand and watch three deer stroll across a nearby pasture, where I don’t have permission to hunt. The delectable does were almost out of sight when they suddenly turned tail and came bounding straight into my woods. One stopped just 35 yards in front of me and became the answer to my venison shortage.
As I climbed down from my tree stand, I got another answer … to the question of what had panicked the deer and sent them into my lap. Coyotes began yapping and then went into full howl across the neighbor’s pasture. Aha, I thought, they are hopping mad because I got the deer they were after. I imagined their howls translating to something like, “Hey, that’s OUR deer! Go find your own, you lazy human!”
I enjoyed the notion of having “poached” their deer until later, when I recalled watching the same family of coyotes hunt rabbits. They encircled a brush pile, and when they were all in place, one jumped smack into the middle of the pile, hoping to flush a rabbit. At the time, I was struck by the similarity of their tactics and those I have used so often when hunting rabbits.
A deer represents a lot of food for a family of coyotes. But bringing down a healthy, mature doe is a risky, low-percentage gamble for a predator that averages less than 30 pounds. There’s a good reason why rabbits, mice, and rats make up most of coyotes’ diet. Gut piles left by deer hunters are a big nutritional windfall at this time of year.
So I have to wonder if maybe those coyotes knew exactly what they were doing when they chased the deer in my direction. Maybe they looked at those deer and thought, “What’s our best chance of getting the choice bits from one of those critters?” I also wonder if their howling might not have translated more accurately as “Hot, dang, he got her! It’s liver and kidneys for dinner tonight!”
Now I feel sort of like a highly evolved can opener for coyotes. I’m okay with that. I’m just glad to have a seat at the table in the game of life. Even I’m only a pawn.